Some useful things to say to your mother-in-law, in Dutch!
I always ask my students "What is one of the greatest benefits to you of speaking Dutch?"
Believe it or not they often reply, "So I can finally have a normal conversation with my Dutch partner’s family and... with my mother-in-law!"
So let’s dedicate this article to one of your most important reasons to learn Dutch: je schoonmoeder, your mother-in-law!
My beautiful, clean mother
First of all, if you translate schoonmoeder directly into English it doesn’t really make sense. Literally it means something like "clean mother", because schoon means "clean". Despite this definition she is probably not the one cleaning your house. Unfortunately.
But back in the day, schoon meant "beautiful", and schoonheid still means "beauty". The meaning is similar to the French belle mère.
A "beautiful" relationship
Just like in any other country in the world, schoonmoeders do not have a very good reputation. Many people openly admit that they do not like their schoonmoeder, and some people even claim that they hate her.
This fact also plays an important role in Dutch humor. Dutch people might say something like:
"Mijn relatie met mijn schoonmoeder is nu fantastisch. Ze leeft nu niet meer."
"My relationship with my mother-in-law is great. She’s not alive anymore."
You get the idea, right?
Sweet talking your schoonmoeder
Jokes aside, there are many cases where you actually have a good relationship with your schoonmoeder. And why not? After all, she gave birth to the love of your life!
So, if you like your schoonmoeder, here are some nice things you could say to her:
› Dank je wel voor je zoon/dochter. Dankzij hem/haar en jou is mijn geluk compleet.
Thank you for your son/daughter. Thanks to him/her and you, my happiness is complete.
› Jij bent voor mij als een moeder!
You are like a real mother to me!
› Hé… die mooie glimlach heeft mijn man/vrouw van jou.
Well... my husband/wife got that beautiful smile from you.
› De meest fantastische man/vrouw op deze wereld heeft ook nog de meest fantastische moeder!
The most fantastic man/woman on this planet also has the most fantastic mum!
Make sure that you sound sincere when you deliver these compliments, because if your schoonmoeder detects a note of sarcasm then you will achieve the opposite effect!
If you manage to have a loving relationship with the family of your partner, including your schoonmoeder, good for you!
But dealing with your mother-in-law may not always be that easy. Just like you would do in your own language, at some point you may need to set boundaries.
Here are some Dutch sentences that might come in handy:
› Nu is het genoeg!
› Oké, tot hier en niet verder.
All right, you better not go any further.
› Wacht! Je gaat nu te ver!
Wait! Now you're going too far!
› Wacht even lieve schat.
Wait a minute darling.
(This is the best sentence!)
› Dank je wel voor het advies, maar het is mijn/onze zaak.
Thanks for the advice, but it is my/our business.
› Stop! Dit is de grens.
Stop! this is the limit.
› Kunnen we over iets anders praten?
Can we talk about something else?
› De deur uit!
› Ja, sodemieter nu maar op!
Yes, sod off now!
Standing up for yourself
Hopefully you will never need to use the above sentences when speaking with your mother-in-law. But even if you don’t use them with your new relatives, you might need them in other life situations.
Knowing the right things to say during a conflict is an important aspect that many people overlook when learning a new language. I like to call it: "make sure you can handle a mother-in-law".
The deal-with-your-mother-in-law skill
Hopefully you understand that this skill does not only apply to your real mother-in-law. As a matter of fact, a "mother-in-law" could be anyone you find too intrusive. You could also call it "dealing with more challenging situations".
So here is the moral of the story: when you learn a new language, you shouldn’t limit your learning to just nice, polite things to say. It’s also important to know how to stand up for yourself verbally and to show people where your boundaries are in a gentle but assertive way.
Just be nice
So there you have it. Some compliments in Dutch, and a few (mildly rude) phrases to help you stand your ground.
But most importantly, always remember that if you say nice things to people (while being sincere) then chances are that they will appreciate it and say nice things back to you.
Hopefully one of these people will also be your mother-in-law :)
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