Dutch idioms (the animal kingdom)

It’s time again for Dutch phrase of the week. The Shallow Man in his mission to assist expats anyway he can with integrating into Dutch society examines different aspects of the Dutch language. This week we’ll focus on Dutch idioms that use members of the animal kingdom in order to get the point across.

As we’ve seen with the post on Dutch swear words and Boeie  there’s a lot creative word combinations being used, especially by the young. Of course the English language also has its own animal related idioms. For example ‘don’t be a chicken’ or ‘she makes love like an animal’ are just a couple that spring to mind.

The Dutch language has a lot of expressions that involve animals. As an expat, if your objective is to convince a lovely Dutch lady to remove her Uggs, or get a Dutch man to leave his brown shoes by your door, then it won’t hurt to be able to whip out (not what you’re thinking) some Dutch idioms during the courting phase. (Which can last as long as at least two dates).

So in order to help you not only with your inburgering into Dutch society, but also to assist with affairs of the heart, here are some Dutch idioms of the animal kingdom. Success and admiring glances from your Dutch target of value is guaranteed.

Wat ik niet allemaal doe voor mijn lezers!

Wat een hondenweer

The Dutch and the British do have something in common,  I need to lie down. The Dutch just like the British, love talking about the weather. Actually, better said, they love complaining about the weather. You can say “wat een hondenweer” when it’s pouring with rain, which means that you can use this saying at least three times a week in the Netherlands. This is a great opening line to use to start a conversation with a Dutch person. Much better than “excuse me ik ben aan de beurt”. The Dutch find nothing finer than discussions about the weather. It’s also handy during a romantic date. “Wat een hondenweer, zullen we naar mijn appartement gaan?”


Dutch idiom 'honden weer'

Honden weer


Dat is geen kattenpis

You probably think that the Shallow Man is yanking your chain. I kid you not, “Dat is geen kattenpis” is a Dutch idiom. It actually means, that is not trivial, it’s serious. You can occasionally throw this Dutch idiom into the conversation and enjoy the effect. What’s nice about this expression is that it actually doesn’t really say anything at all. Perfect for those of you who are familiar with British English. Just as in English we often say things that are completely meaningless just to fill the void so to speak, for example, “I know what you mean”. The Dutch idiom “dat is geen kattenpis” doesn’t take any particular standpoint, but gives your conversation partner the feeling that you’ve seriously thought over what they’ve said and might even agree with them.

Anouk always took great care when preparing Oliebollen for her stand in Amstelveen


Example of how to use this lovely Dutch idiom

So you’re on a date with the Dutch Lion or Antelope of your dreams. Things are going nicely, when a black gentleman walks past in a three-piece-suit. Your date suddenly says “that reminds me”.  “De meerderheid is voor zwarte Piet (ik ook) en maar een heel klein groepje tegen? Waarom moet dit dan in een Westerse democratie toch aangepast worden? Dan blijf je toch lekker in Afrika of waar je ook vandaan komt”.

You can then reply: “Jaja….. Het is geen kattenpis…”

Your date: …..(????) eeh… Nee, dat klopt.

Hij/Zij is een mierenneuker

If there are children reading this, please cover your eyes. Mierenneuker literally means…..ant fucker. Now a cynic could imply that this saying perfectly describes the entire native population of Germany, but das ist nicht lustig! It describes a person that is incredibly precise. The polite version of this saying is ‘’Hij is Pietje precies’’. A salient detail is that you can make this into a complex and posh sounding substantive by saying:  ‘gemierenneuk’. Of course if you pronounce this incorrectly then that would be a real shame as you’ll then give the mierrenneukers another excuse to complain about something not being correct.

As the wise beyond his years Kasper Knaack pointed out on my Shallow Man Facebook page

Mierenneuker: someone that makes a big point out of everything. So someone that gives feedback like “you missed a comma in the 5th paragraph on page 33, please send me a new draft by close of business today” is a big fat miereneuker.

Grammar Nazi’s are usually mierenneukers

Een broodje aap

You can’t speak Dutch for longer than thirty seconds without the diminutive form ‘je’ being used. For example sletje, (often used by Dutch girls to describe other women that dress better than themselves) or kleine mannetje, borreltje and so on. Een broodje aap literally means a monkey sandwich. Een broodje aap-verhaal is eigenlijk het Nederlandse equivalent van urban myth.


Example of a common Dutch urban myth

Back in the eighties free videos were sent to every household in the Netherlands where a baby girl was born. This was supposedly a cartoon for babies, but contained lots of subliminal images of Ugg boots. Upon becoming teenagers the girls exposed to this video insisted on only wearing Uggs throughout the year.

So if someone tells you a story like the one above, you can say “Jeetje, het lijkt bijna wel een broodje aap verhaal!”. They will look at you with new-found respect and might even stay and have more than one biertje with you after work, as they’ll be so impressed met je fantastische Nederlands.

Learn Dutch idioms for success with Dutch women

Guys, when the Uggs are in the hall outside, you’ll know you’ve mastered Dutch


For other urban myths in het Nederlands, click here.

Zo. Hier komen jullie de week wel mee door! Blijf je Nederlands oefenen en houd van dit kleine land, ook al is het bijna altijd hondenweer en dat is natuurlijk geen kattenpis. Blijf wel uit de buurt van de mierenneukers als je weer aan komt zetten met het zoveelste broodje aap-verhaal.

The Shallow Man would like to thank my friends at the Koentact Dutch language school, for providing me with some examples of often used Dutch idioms.

No mierenneukers were hurt during the writing of this post.