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Dutch Language Tips to Make the Most out of Your Stay in the Netherlands

by Phoebe on 10 Sep 2018

Congratulations — you’re moving to the Netherlands! Whether you’re relocating to attend a university, take on an internship or seek employment, this beautiful country offers plenty of opportunities. However, you may be wondering if you’ll need to learn Dutch, and what language tips you can hope to find to make sure that you don’t end up saying the wrong thing to the wrong person.

Thankfully, the language barrier in the Netherlands is about as good as you can hope for, as that 99% of the Dutch population can speak English, especially if you’re staying in cities popular with tourists, students and young people, such as Rotterdam or Amsterdam. The Dutch people also have a wonderful way of taking notice that you may be struggling with finding the correct Dutch words and then switching over to English automatically. This is just one of the many reasons why the Netherlands is just perfect for internationals.

But hey, if you’re living in a new country, no matter how easy it may be to stick to using your native tongue, one of the best practical tips is to try to learn the language. Plus, if you’re hoping to acclimate to the Netherlands and its culture, there’s no better way to do it than by trying to speak Dutch with the locals.

Of course, you may be extremely busy with your new position or getting ready to start classes at the university, but what better way to stand out than by showing off your newly learned Dutch vocabulary? This informative guide full of language tips should help get you started, including simple phrases that you will use in everyday conversations and interactions.

What are you waiting for? Let’s learn a little Dutch!

Getting started

The Dutch language is made up of five vowels and 21 consonants, with the same number of letters as the English language. However, some pronunciations will be a little different.

Vowels

The vowel sounds in Dutch can vary primarily with pairings, such as the following:

  • oe - “oo” as in loose
  • eu - “uh” as in umbrella
  • ei - “ay” as in day
  • au - “ou” as in house
  • ieuw - “ew” as in brew
  • ooi - “oh-eye” as in boy pronounced as a long o

Consonants

The consonant sounds in Dutch can vary in singular letters, along with pairings, including the following:

  • g - “ch” as in Bach
  • v - “f” but stronger or "v" as in value
  • j - “y” as in yellow
  • r - is similar, but typically rolled
  • w - is similar but with lips between the teeth
  • sj - “sh”
  • ng - as in king
  • sch - "s" + Dutch "g"
  • nj - “n” sounds like onion

Common phrases

While you’re out enjoying the city, there are quite a few simple words and sentences that can really help you out. When you’re asking for direction to the bus stop, you don’t want to end up insulting someone’s haircut, do you? These common phrases are perfect for avoiding a misunderstanding.

Conversation

Some of the most important ways that you can utilize the Dutch language is in casual conversation, such as making introductions or asking polite questions.

  • How are you? - Hoe gaat het met u? (hoo khaht ut meht ew)
  • Good morning. - Goedemorgen. (khoo-duh-mawr-ghuh)
  • Excuse me. - Pardon - (pahr-dohn)
  • I’m sorry. - Sorry. (saw-ree)
  • Do you speak English? - Spreek je Engels? (sprayk yuh ehng-uhls)
  • It’s nice to meet you! - Aangenaam (kennis te maken) (ahn-guh-nahm) (ken-nis tuh mah-kuh)
  • My name is… - Ik heet… (ik hayt)
  • What is your name? - Hoe heet je? (hoo hayt yuh)

Directions

thought-catalog-547114-unsplash As we mentioned, almost everyone in the Netherlands speaks at least a bit of English. Yet, you wouldn’t want to find yourself trying to find your way home after a night out with friends, not knowing even a few simple phrases.

  • How do I get to the university? - Hoe kom ik bij de universiteit?
  • What is the best metro station for the … ? - Wat is het beste metrostation voor de ...?
  • Where is the closest bus stop? - Waar is de dichtstbijzijnde bushalte?
  • How far is the train station? - Hoe ver is het treinstation?
  • How close is the city center? - Hoe dichtbij is het stadscentrum?

Reading signs

When you’re in a strange city, one of the most confusing things imaginable is not to be able to read the signs around you. You don’t want to end up opening the wrong door in some situations, that’s for sure!

  • Bathrooms - Badkamers
  • Staff only - Alleen personeel
  • Stop - Hou op
  • Go - Ga
  • Entrance - Ingang
  • Exit - Uitgang
  • Registration - Registratie
  • Police - Politie
  • Information - Informatie

Eating out

eating out If you’re not familiar with the Dutch language, you can really order the wrong thing when you’re dining out. While your server will most definitely explain the menu to you when asked, wouldn’t it be nice to look smart in front of your new Dutch friends and know the difference between Bitterballen and Apple Pie?

A few basic things to know include:

Important mentions

There are always a few things that your server needs to know or questions that you might have, before your meal. Learning them in Dutch makes things easier, especially when there’s no room for misunderstandings.

  • When do you close? - Wanneer sluit u?
  • There will be four for dinner. - We zijn met voor het avondeten.
  • I have a food allergy to… - Ik heb een voedselallergie voor...
  • I can’t eat gluten. - Ik kan geen gluten eten
  • I am lactose intolerant. - Ik ben lactose-intolerant

Asking your server

Learning a few things to ask your server can be a great way to test out a few new Dutch words.

  • Is this sugar-free? - Is dit suikervrij?
  • What is this? – Wat is dit?
  • Can I see the beer menu? - Kan ik het biermenu zien?
  • Could I have the ketchup? - Mag ik de ketchup?
  • What are your specials? - Wat zijn jouw specials?
  • Can I have another drink? - Mag ik nog iets te drinken?

Shopping

open sign Shopping can be a very important part of life, especially when you’re replacing items that you didn’t have room for in your suitcases. Making conversation with store employees can be a great way to practice the language, and it can come in useful if the employee happens to only speak Dutch.

Grocery shopping

Many expats choose to cook their food at home when they move to the Netherlands, especially when they’re trying to stick within a budget. Here are a few helpful questions and words to learn:

  • How much is it? - Wat kost het? (vat khost ut)
  • Where is the beer? - Waar is het bier?
  • Chicken - Kip
  • Pork - Varkensvlees
  • Veal - Kalfsvlees
  • Fish - Vis
  • Beef - Runvlees

Markets

Many Dutch cities have markets, where you can find fresh fruits and vegetables, meats and a ton of bargains on other things that you may need to start your new Dutch lifestyle.

  • Do you have any bicycles? - Heb je fietsen?
  • Is this for sale? - Is dit te koop?
  • What is the price? - Wat is de prijs?
  • How fresh is the meat? - Hoe vers is het vlees?
  • Do you have change? - Heb je wisselgeld?

Health-related

hospital Unfortunately, during your time in the Netherlands, you may need to make use of your health insurance and visit a physician or pharmacy. The following phrases could be helpful:

  • I have pain in my … - Ik heb pijn in mijn …
  • I need medicine for a headache. - Ik heb medicijnen nodig tegen hoofdpijn.
  • I have a stomach ache. - Ik heb buikpijn.
  • Do I have a fever? - Heb ik koorts?
  • When can I go back to work? - Wanneer kan ik weer gaan werken?
  • Can I return to school? - Kan ik weer naar school?
  • I think it may be broken. - Ik denk dat het misschien gebroken is.

Now that you’ve learned a few basic Dutch phrases, that’s just one more thing you can check off your “Moving to the Netherlands” checklist. Of course, there are numerous other things that you’ll need to do before you relocate, or as soon as you arrive, so be sure to check out our helpful guide to the Netherlands, complete with additional pages on a variety of Dutch cities. Additionally, you can also go to Google Translate to hear spoken options for Dutch words and phrases.

by Phoebe on 10 Sep 2018
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