The Shallow Man stands accused of being….shallow! In an attempt to explain to my readers the meanings of some often used Dutch phrases, I put together a post on the subject. This led to the following comment from a dissatisfied reader.
“This list is totally rubbish! Essential Dutch phrases and you add; ouwe graftak and kanker? This man indeed is shallow”
For the second part of my explanation of essential Dutch phrases, I’ve reached out to the readers of my facebook page and asked them to suggest some Dutch sayings. A big thank you to everyone that has responded so far. So below, as chosen by my readers are more essential Dutch phrases. I’m wearing my best Teflon jacket to deflect the criticism that will be coming my way.
The things I do for my readers!
Dat kan niet!
One of the first Dutch phrases learned by expats when moving to the Netherlands is ‘Dat kan niet’. If you’re lucky the word sorry might be in front of it. Common uses of this phrase are:
- You’re in an eetcafe at 15.50. There’s a sign that says that snacks are served until 16:00 You try and order a toasty, forget it, everyone knows that the creation of a toasty is a complex undertaking involving at least 27 cooking processes that can only be learnt as an apprentice chef in a Michelin star restaurant. “You want a toasty in ten minutes? Nee hoor! dat kan niet!”
- I was in a cafe in Harderwijk. Being brown in complexion and standing out somewhat due to being exceptionally well dressed as always, I decided that the best way to fit in with the locals would be to order a traditional Dutch pancake. They had many kinds on the menu with individual toppings such as bacon or cheese. Being somewhat hungry, I decided to ask the waitress for a combination of several toppings, to which the initial response was “nee, dat kan niet” I asked her why, to which she responded that she’ll ask the chef but shock horror, it would cost more money to order a pancake with multiple toppings.
- It’s a beautiful day, you’re sitting on a terrace of a cafe, you’ve been waiting for some time to be served. Your mouth is so dry that you’re seriously considering cutting your own throat as the taste of blood would be preferable to dying of dehydration. Finally, you see a member of staff, you look at them, they look at you and you start ordering, they respond by saying “dat kan niet ik haal alleen die glazen op”.
Hoe gaat het? nou ik mag niet klagen!
Ok, this roughly translates to, “how are you?” To which the person will respond “well I can’t complain” but as they say this, you have that sinking feeling as you know that’s exactly what they’ll do, start whining about how miserable their life, their wife and their pet cat is.
Leuk, along with gezellig, is one of those words that is overused in this country. It’s similar to the word nice in English. Some common uses of Leuk can be found below.
A Dutchman on holiday in the US for the first time and is told that there is a mandatory tip of twenty per cent. “Dat is niet leuk”
It’s a sunny day and you bump into your 21-year-old Dutch female neighbour, on her way out of the house. She’s wearing black leggings as pants complemented with a pair of white granny knickers underneath, along with a pair of boots often worn by soldiers in Iraq. Her hair looks as if it once housed a birds nest, but then a group of two winged krakers (squatters) had fought a pitched battle with the previous occupants and had now moved in. She asks for your opinion of her outfit and a new hairstyle, to which the only response is “leuk”.
More common than a cigarette hanging out of the mouth of a Dutch woman is the sign uitverkocht! Which means sold out. These signs are typically found in the following situations:
Everyday shopping at Albert Schwein
In Amsterdam, this chain of Dutch supermarkets is open till nine pm seven days a week. Fabulous. However, if you pop in there for say a loaf of bread, shower gel, even low-fat milk sometimes, they are sold out!
Bakeries that claim to open on Sundays till one
The Shallow Man, in spite of presenting a radio breakfast show, prefers to stay in bed as long as possible. So can’t help feeling somewhat short-changed when arriving at my local bakery at 12.30, to be told all the bread is uitverkocht! Due to this I have to go to Albert Schwein who often have the same problem.
To mobilize the Dutch masses retailers have realised that you need to have certain key phrases such as ‘korting’ and ‘goedkoop’ even if these are not true and in fact, the prices are the same as prior to the much-vaunted sale. To get around laws pertaining to this, there’ll be a small number of items on sale for less than the normal prices which will very quickly be uitverkocht.
Helaas kunnen wij niet veel voor u doen
This means, unfortunately, we can’t do too much for you.
Police stations in the Netherlands exist for two reasons.
- Somewhere for Policemen and women to drink coffee
- A place to hold people in the unlikely event that they actually arrest someone, which like a solar eclipse, happens very rarely.
If you have the impertinence to go to a police station in person to attempt to report a crime, you’ll be greeted with “sorry, helaas kunnen wij niet veel voor u doen” they’ll direct you instead to a police website. This is somewhat unfair as if you’re stopped by the police you can hardly say “If you want my address and license details please go to my facebook page, it’s all on there”.
Zeikwijf is a term for a whining woman. For example. “It’s such a pity that we can no longer call chocolate marshmallows negerzoenen, well I still call them that, I don’t care for political correctness”. The fact that no one gives a baboons bottom about the opinions of the person complaining doesn’t deter her at all. On and on she’ll whine, with the subject of discussion inevitably changing to my favorite not black man, Zwarte Piet.
Often used by Amsterdam makelaars while discussing their business. “Yes, an expat agreed to pay two thousand euros a month for a place that I wouldn’t let my dog live in. My wife yes, but not my dog, to which the response is “Goed Zo jonge!”
Also used by Dutch girls while cycling home at three am in the morning. “I had sex with Jeroen outside while his girlfriend was at the bar buying drinks, Goed Zo Noortje!”
No schwein were hurt during the writing of this post. If you have any other phrases that you’d like to see covered in the next part of this series, join the discussion on my facebook page.
Ha! Shallowman, these dutch phrases are already taught since they are kids.. I am witnessing this myself with my dutch nephew of 4 years old! of course not the curse words … I often hear 6 out 14 phrases you listed, from him .. !
Hahaha! Especially loved the part ‘dat kan niet’. I’m slightly embarressed that poor service in cafés is apperantly a typical Dutch thing… But it’s so recognisable!
“niet mogelijk” – the standard reply to most simple requests.
Funny you should mention “dat kan niet” but omit it’s far more frequent opposite “moet kunnen”. I’ll leave it to you to deal with this one in your next post, but of the two the latter is a far more frequent and also more significant expression. “Dat kan niet” has pendants in almost any language, but “moet kunnen” is so untranslatable that some years ago a British officer in the UKNL force was heard to use it on tv in an interview, because he could find no other way of conveying why he was there.
Ha!! Love it 🙂 Once I went to AH (or AS) and they were sold out of both bread and potatoes. Seriously.