Are you visiting the Netherlands soon? One of the best ways to connect with people and immerse yourself in the culture is by learning some essential phrases and keywords to help you communicate with the locals.
In this blog post, You’ll learn how to say “Hello in Dutch” and other helpful words to make your trip more enjoyable and comfortable. From basic greetings like “thank you” and “good-bye” to directions.
You don’t have to stress about mastering these words and expressions perfectly. Most locals have a good practical command of English and are not afraid to use it. You will be absolutely fine getting around by speaking English.
However, it will be much appreciated by many people if you make an effort to try. And some words are that simple it’s almost a no-brainer to use them instead, like “Hello” to “Hallo.”
A note of warning: be careful not to confuse Dutch with German. These are two different languages. And since Germany was the aggressor against this country in WWII, making this mistake is still not trivial to a Dutch person. Please do not try your best German with them.
If you want to know more about the Dutch and their culture, here’s a post you might also be interested in: “The Dutch Are Rude.” This is also where I talk more about the correct etiquette for the most akward Dutch greeting: “kisses on the cheek” as a casual and friendly way to say hello and goodbye to people you know.
It’s common to greet your friends, family and acquaintances this way, but you need to know how. Who do you give one? Since it’s used even at someone’s birthday at work among co-workers. It might feel customary to kiss everyone you’re meeting, but that is not so. It’s it three times or just one? And can you refuse? (Quick tip yes, reach out your arm for a handshake). It’s definately not the way to greet people you don’t know.
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Basic Dutch Greetings Like “Hello in Dutch” 👋
Here are different versions of hello and goodbye in Dutch when you want to greet someone. Make a good impression and show respect to the locals by learning these greetings. Which one to use depends greatly on the situation and time of day. Some are informal greetings, while others are formal greetings. “Hallo” is the most common one. Here are some greetings to get you started.
- Hallo – To say “Hello”
- Goedemorgen “good morning”
- Goedemiddag – “Good afternoon”
- Goedenavond – “Good evening”
- Goedenacht – “Good night”
- Tot ziens – “Goodbye”
Different Ways To Say Hello in Dutch
The Dutch hello = hallo is pronounced just as you think. The intonation is just slightly different than in English. If you want to say “Hi in Dutch,” which is more informal, you can say casually “Hoi,” but Hallo works just as well. Those are interchangeable.
In formal situations, you would use a different greeting depending on the time of day: Goedemorgen if it’s morning, Goedemiddag during the afternoon, and Goedenavond for early evenings.
Goedenacht is not used as a greeting between strangers but more in a more intimate setting, like bedpartners when they go to sleep, and it’s late, like after midnight. However, it’s rarely used. Slaap lekker is more appropriate (sleep well).
To say goodbye, “Tot ziens” is used in informal and business situations, restaurants, and stores. With friends and family, the way to say “Goodbye in Dutch” is: “Doei” or “Zie je later” > See you later.
Too much information? Don’t worry. If you know how to say goodbye and how to say hello in Dutch – “Tot Ziens” and “Hallo” – you’re good to go. Both work in formal and informal situations.
“Thank You in Dutch” and Other Courtesies 🙏
As a traveler, being courteous and expressing gratitude in a local language is always handy. Here are the words to learn if you want to say “thank you in Dutch” and other polite expressions:
- Dank u – “Thank you”
- Alstublieft – “Please”
- Graag gedaan – “You’re welcome”
- Pardon – “Excuse me”
“How Are You in Dutch” And Essential Sentences for Conversation 💬
Engaging in simple conversations with locals is a great way to learn more about local words and culture. Here are some of the most typical ones to help you initiate conversations, and of course, after that, you can switch right back to English:
- Hoe gaat het? – “How are you?”
- Goed, dank u – “Good, thank you”
- Wat is uw naam? – “What is your name?”
- Mijn naam is… – “My name is…”
- Spreekt u Engels? – “Do you speak English?”
- Ik spreek geen Nederlands – “I don’t speak Dutch”
- Kunt u dat herhalen? – “Can you repeat that?”
“How are you in Dutch” (Hoe gaat het) is a friendly way to start a conversation with a local, and you’ll hear this phrase a lot.
Key Dutch Words For Questions and Directions 🗺️
Navigating the Netherlands is easier when you know how to ask for directions and assistance. When you learn these phrases, you’ll have a smoother travel experience:
- Waar is…? (Where is…?)
- Waar is een WC/toilet? (Where is a toilet/restroom?)
- Hoe ver is…? (How far is…?)
- Hoeveel kost het? (How much does it cost?)
- Hoe kom ik bij…? (How do I get to…?)
- Waar is het station? – (Where is the train station?)
- Waar vind ik? – (Where do I find)
- Links (Left)
- Rechts (Right)
- Rechtdoor (Straight ahead)
Asking For Help 🚨
Let’s hope you won’t need the following, but in case you do, they can certainly be helpful.
- Kunt u mij helpen? (Can you help me?)
- Ik heb hulp nodig (I need help)
- Ik ben verdwaald (I am lost)
- Ik begrijp het niet (I don’t understand)
- Ik heb een dokter nodig (I need a doctor)
- Bel 112 (Call 911)
- Bel de politie (Call the police)
- Ik moet naar het ziekenhuis (I need to go to the hospital)
- Naar het ziekenhuis – (To the hospital)
Other Handy Dutch Vocabulary for Travellers 🚉
And finally, let’s learn some various but important Dutch words that will be useful while navigating various situations during your trip:
- Toilet (Toilet/restroom)
- Treinstation (Train station)
- Luchthaven (Airport)
- Bushalte (Bus stop)
- Fiets (Bicycle)
- Restaurant (Restaurant)
- Hotel (Hotel)
- Winkel (Shop/store)
- Geld (Money)
- Pinpas (Debit card)
- Creditcard (Credit card)
- Pinnen (Pay by card)
- Museum (Museum)
- Kaartje (Ticket)
- Ingang (Entrance)
- Uitgang (Exit)
Local Menus And Other Texts 👨🍳
An app like Google Translate can be a great help when traveling to a country where you don’t speak the language.
Here are some practical ways to use this during your trip to Holland.
The easiest way to transfer text from English to Dutch is to check Google’s website. Select English as your source and Dutch as your target. Type in what you want to say in English, and you’ll get the Dutch translation.
This is the most convenient way to use it. The App offers more functionality like Speech, Camera, and Offline translations.
You can download the app from the App Store on your phone. Choose English, then type or speak what you want to say to get your translation.
The app’s camera feature helps with restaurant menus and road signage. I often use this function when traveling, especially in a restaurant.
Just point your camera at the text and see the English translation. Ordering food in a foreign country doesn’t have to be stressful, nor a game of luck.
The conversation mode in the app can help you hold a basic conversation in Dutch. Select English, start speaking, and let the app do its work.
It’s a little clunky. Since you have to press the speak button for whichever partner is about to start speaking, it won’t be a natural conversation.
But if there is something important, and communication is a barrier, then this could be the solution to help you have that conversation.
Another great feature of the app is that you can download packs, like English and Dutch, and then use the app offline.
If you don’t have an internet connection, this can be a lifesaver, but note it will only work for the main translation function.
You need an internet connection to use speech or the camera function.
I recommend always having enough data on your phone. Usually, a local SIM card is the best option for that. Read my article about the best SIM card solution for the Netherlands here.
“Make That The Cat Wise” Funny Dutch Sayings When Interpreted
Dutch has its fair share of unique expressions that can sound quite amusing when translated literally into English.
Here are a few examples for your enjoyment:
- Dutch Expression: “Maak dat de kat wijs”
- Literal translation: “Make that the cat wise.”
- Actual meaning: This expression is used when you don’t believe what someone is telling you. It’s akin to the English “Pull the other one” or “You’re pulling my leg.” In a playful context, it can also refer to local people speaking English awkwardly or with many mistakes, known as “Make that the cat wise English.”
- Dutch Expression: “Steenkolen Engels”
- Literal translation: “Coal English.”
- Actual meaning: This term refers to poorly spoken or written English, reminiscent of the times when Dutch harbor workers communicated in broken English with British coal ship crews.
- Dutch Expression: “Nu komt de aap uit de mouw”
- Literal translation: “Now the monkey comes out of the sleeve.”
- Actual meaning: This is the Dutch way of saying “the truth comes out” or “Now we see what’s really going on.”
- Expression: “Het regent pijpenstelen”
- Literal translation: “It’s raining pipe stems.”
- Actual meaning: This is a colorful way to say it’s raining heavily, similar to the English idiom, “It’s raining cats and dogs.”
- Expression: “Helaas, pindakaas”
- Literal translation: “Unfortunately, peanut butter.”
- Actual meaning: This is a version of “too bad” or “unfortunately.” It rhymes in Dutch and is often used in a light-hearted or child-friendly context.
Dutch Is Not The Only Official Language Here
This country might be tiny, but besides Dutch, we also have Frisian—officially recognized and used in the Nothern province of Friesland.
Why is Frisian not just a dialect of Dutch? For example, Gronings – “the dialect spoken in the other Northern province” or Limburgs – “in the country’s far South.” These dialects feel like separate languages to most Dutch and locals alike too. But they’re not quite.
A language is often standardized, has a written form, and is typically used in government, media, and schools.
Frisian has been recognized because of the above. Frisian is also one of the oldest languages in Europe, and it’s closer to Old English than Dutch. If you went back about a thousand years, you’d find English speakers and Frisian speakers could understand each other pretty well! Isn’t that an cool idea?
Frisian has grammar and vocabulary that are distinct from Dutch. While Dutch and Frisian speakers find some similarities, there are enough differences to make them separate. It’s a bit like Spanish and Portuguese: they have similarities due to common roots, but they’re different.
Frisian is officially recognized mainly to protect and promote its use. In the province of Friesland, where most of the Frisian speakers live, it’s officially recognized alongside Dutch. This means it can be used in courts, schools, and government institutions within Friesland. The Dutch government did this to preserve it and its culture, recognizing its unique value and heritage.
So, if you ever find yourself in Friesland, don’t be surprised if the signs are not entirely Dutch. It could be Frisian. But don’t worry, Dutch usually will be right below it, and every Frisian speaker can and will instantly switch to Dutch when needed – “and most will do the same with English.”
Would You Like To Take Your Language Learning To The Next Level?
The above is more than enough knowledge of Dutch to have a fantastic vacation here. But maybe you would like to expand your knowledge of Dutch because you have Dutch friends and ancestry or are moving to this country.
My first suggestion to improve at Dutch is installing a training app like Duolingo on your phone. Great to learn more Dutch playfully.
Another modern and cool way to learn a new language is through exchange websites like Tandem and HelloTalk. Both allow you to connect with Dutch speakers who want to learn your native tongue.
This can be a fun and interactive way to practice speaking Dutch and make new friends. The apps are great for correcting your grammar so you can get used to the correct sentence structure.
When I started learning Swedish, I found a private teacher through Preply. I loved it. I met twice a week” with my teacher, a Swede living in Indonesia, and my Swedish improved by leaps and bounds. You can also find Dutch teachers on this platform.
Once in the country, plenty of schools offer Dutch for foreigners. A good starting point for finding one could be this post. Or, of course, join ex-pat groups and ask for recommendations from them.
Now that you know how to say – “Hello” in Dutch and other essential words and phrases, you are well-prepared for your trip.
As I said before, people generally speak English well, but learning Dutch words and phrases will make your travel experience more enjoyable and authentic.
Don’t forget to enjoy yourself; perfect pronunciation is not the point. It’s the effort that counts. Don’t be afraid to try. The Dutch people will appreciate you very much, and you’ll find they’ll be far more accessible than you might think.
And remember, handy apps Google Translate will bridge the gap if barriers arise.
Safe travels, and enjoy your time here!
Ps. Would you like to run your itinerary by me to ensure it’s perfect, practice pronouncing the words above, and ask any travel-related questions you might have? Consider booking a 1-1 video call with me to review everything in 30 or 60 minutes.
Which Dutch Words And Phrases Are Most Helpful?
I’d love to hear your thoughts: Did you learn any of these words in Dutch? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and let’s start a conversation 💬.
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