Basic Dutch: 50 ways to meet a Dutchman
Direct Dutch Institute recommends speaking Dutch as often as possible - even if all your Dutch colleagues speak English, and even if you only know a few words of Dutch.
To help you get started straight away, they offer some phrases to deal with the Dutch in day-to-day life. In this article: how to start a conversation.
Hmmm, how to start a conversation in Dutch? It’s quite hard to take the initiative in a new language, especially when it’s with a person you don’t know.
It makes life in the Netherlands so much easier, though, when you can just talk to anyone, even if it’s only small talk!
Step 1: Hallo, hoi or goedendag?
The most common ways to greet someone in Dutch are hoi, hallo (both informal) and dag (for both formal and informal occasions). Dutch people also say hi and hey to each other quite often, but to show you’re learning Dutch, choose one of the Dutch options!
If you want to be really polite, say:
› goedemorgen (good morning)
› goedemiddag (good afternoon)
› goedenavond (good evening), or
› goedendag (good day)
A little note about hallo: Dutch people say hallo to each other all the time, but some older people actually find it rude.
I experienced this myself years ago, when I worked in a shop: I greeted someone with Hallo and they replied "Ik heb niet met je geknikkerd!" Literally, "I didn’t shoot marbles with you," meaning don’t be disrespectful to older people.
Step 2: How are you?
Many international people say "How are you?" when they meet someone for the first time, not realising that it’s not common in the Netherlands to say this to a person you don’t know.
Once you‘ve made someone’s acquaintance, when you meet again, here are some options - from very polite to street slang:
› Hoe maakt u het?
› Hoe gaat het met u?
› Hoe gaat het ermee?
› Hoe gaat het?
› Hoe is het?
› Hoe is ie?
› Alles goed?
› Alles kits?
Step 3: Lets talk about...
When you want to move on to a topic, here are some excellcent Dutch standbys:
- The Weather!
Our favourite subject! Be happy about it or complain about it, but always exaggerate:
› Lekker weer, he?
(Nice weather, isn’t it?)
› Ja, het is heerlijk weer!
(Yes, the weather is lovely!)
› De wind is wel een beetje koud.
(The wind is a little cold, though.)
› Bah, wat een vies weer, he?
(Nasty weather, isn’t it?)
› Ja, echt rotweer!
(Yes, the weather is awful!)
› Benauwd weer is het, he?
(Damp weather, isn’t it?)
› Ja, het is heet en plakkerig!
(Yes, it’s hot and sticky!)
› Ik denk dat het gaat regenen.
(I think it’s going to rain.)
› Dat werd tijd!
(It’s about time!)
If that only whetted your appetite, in our previous article "Dutch for a rainy day" you can find more tips on how to start a conversation about one of Holland’s most common weather type: the rain!
A compliment always works! But remember the Dutch expression "Doe maar normaal, dan doe je al gek genoeg!" (Act normal, it’s crazy enough). Don’t overdo it; a simple compliment goes a long way.
And don’t be discouraged when Dutch women wave away your kind words. We are flattered, it's just that Dutch people don’t like to show it:
› Wat een leuk tasje is dat!
(Such a nice bag!)
› Dank je! Ik heb hem al een tijdje.
(Thanks, I’ve had it for a while.)
› Waar heb je die gekocht?
(Where did you buy it?)
› Hij is van H&M.
(It’s from H&M.)
› Wat een leuke schoenen!
(What a nice pair of shoes!)
› Zitten ze lekker? (Are they comfortable?)
Note: this is actually quite important for Dutch women...
› Ja, ze zitten onwijs lekker!
(Yes, they are very comfortable!)
There is nothing any parent from anywhere in the world likes to talk about more than their children. And the Dutch are no different.
In the tram, at the bus stop, in the shops... wherever small children are present, it’s always easy to start a conversation:
› Wat een mooie baby!
(What a pretty baby!)
› Hoe heet hij/zij?
(What’s his/her name?)
› Mijn dochter/zoon heet...
(My daughter/son’s name is...)
› Leuke naam!
› Hoe oud is hij/zij?
(How old is he/she?)
› Hij/zij is twee maanden/jaar oud.
(He/she is two months/years old.)
› Is het je eerste kind?
(Is it your first child?)
› Ja, het is mijn eerste kind.
(Yes, it’s my first child.)
› Nee, ik heb drie kinderen.
(No, I have three children.)
› Jongens of meisjes?
(Boys or girls?)
› Twee jongens en een meisje.
(Two boys and a girl.)
Step 4: Goodbye
Hopefully with these four steps you will be able to start a simple conversation in Dutch.
When you are finished, there are many ways to say goodbye. There’s a great many listed in our previous article "50 ways to leave a Dutchman" so you should be able to make the right choice.
Good luck and don’t be afraid to speak to a Dutchman!
Zsuzsa Jónás works for the Direct Dutch Institute, one of the oldest language institutes in The Hague! For more information, visit their website.
Still find it a little scary to speak Dutch? Join the Direct Dutch team and numerous expats going out in the streets and practise Dutch on Saturday, July 5!
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