Matador Network

The mini guide to Dutch slang

Photo: Michell Zappa

Dutch can be a difficult language for foreigners to learn. Mainly because the Dutch use a lot of slang phrases. Here are some of the phrases you will most commonly hear in The Netherlands. Use a few of these and you’ll sound just like an Old Hollander.

1. “Doe even normaal”

Literal translation: Just do normal
What it means: Get a grip

In the Netherlands, it’s important to always be composed and to never make a big scene, even if you’re upset. So don’t get mad. Just be normal.


Literal translation: Typhus, tuberculosis, gosh darnit!
What it means: Curse words shouted in extreme frustration

I’ve noticed that when my boyfriend is playing video games, he’s not truly having fun unless he’s swearing at the screen. And swearing means yelling out the names of illnesses, especially those that people don’t get anymore thanks to vaccinations. Words such as tyfus, (typhus) and tering (tuberculosis) are commonly shouted, usually followed by Got Verdorie!!! (gosh darnit).

3. “Maar ik zit lekker…”

Literal translation: But I’m sitting delicious(ly)
What it means: I’m sitting comfortably

In Dutch, lekker means delicious. But it’s not used solely to describe food. Sometimes people sit delicious(ly): Ik zit lekker. This means that their chair is very warm and comfy and, more importantly, they don’t want to move. In Dutch, you can add lekker to any action to emphasize how nice it is. Ik ga lekker wandelen (I’m going for a nice walk), ik ga lekker zwemmen (I’m going for a nice swim), and so on.

4. “Vallen me je neus in de boter…”

Literal translation: Falling with your nose in the butter
What it means: You lucked out

The Dutch have a lot of unique and sometimes cryptic sayings or “uitdrukkingen” to describe daily situations. For example, when a person gets lucky without having done anything to achieve it, they have “fallen with their nose in the butter” or “viel met zijn neus in de boter.”

5. “Dat was geen gesneden koek”

Literal translation: That was no sliced cake
What it means: That sure wasn’t easy

The Dutch have a few phrases to describe how easy things are. If doing something was easier than expected, a Dutch person may say “That was a cat in a basket” “Dat was kat in een bakkie” or “that was sliced cake” “Dat was gesneden koek”. If it wasn’t easy, then it was “geen gesneden koek.”

6. “De aap komt uit de mouw”

Literal translation: The monkey comes out of the sleeve
What it means: Now we know the truth

The Dutch, in general, are very direct people. If you want their opinion, they will tell it to you with the utmost honesty. That’s hard to get used to for outsiders, as most western cultures often ask others opinions only when it is expected that the other person will agree with them. If a Dutch person has been dishonest and someone else finds out, then “the monkey has come out of the sleeve” or “De aap is uit de mouw gekomen.”

7. “Tot op de Dag van Vandaag…”

Literal translation: Until the day of today
What it means: Until the present day

The Dutch love their fries with mayonnaise, and the snackbar is where you go to get it. Some snack bars are local institutions that have been around for generations. “My father used to come here when he was a boy” said my boyfriend as we walked by an old snackbar from the 60’s. “And until the day of today, it still stands!” or verbatum: “Tot op de dag van vandaag staat dit snackbar er nog steeds.” (and yes, they use the English word snackbar).

Now you are aware of some of the slang that people in the Netherlands often use. Now you can sit deliciously in your chair, being normal, just like the Dutch.