250 Dutch Proverbs – lesson 01

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Welcome to my video course “250 Dutch Proverbs”. I made a selection of proverbs and sayings that anyone who learns Dutch should know. The course consists of 25 lessons. In each lesson, I explain the meaning of 10 proverbs or sayings.Subtitles are available for each lesson. You just push the CC button in YouTube. The transcript of the lesson you find on Learndutch.org.

Let’s start with lesson 1, containing proverbs 1-10.

Proverb 1: “met de deur in huis vallen”

Literally it means, to fall with the door into the house. You say it when you want to go straight to the point, usually addressing something, which the other one does not expect. Often people, to introduce what is coming, say “om maar meteen met de deur in huis te vallen”. In other words, I just will come straight to the point. For example, if you borrowed someone’s bike while he did not know it, and you broke it. You can say, “Om maar meteen met de deur in huis te vallen, ik heb je fiets geleend en die is nu kapot”. Very straight.

You can also use it as a discussion starter. For example, you go to your colleague on the work floor, and you want to skip the “hi how are you, nice weather” thing. You say “Om maar meteen met de deur in huis te vallen, waarom heb ik jouw rapport nog niet?” Why you did not yet give me the report.

You can NOT use this expression, when you address a usual proposal. So if you go for a bike ride with your wife every weekend. You can not say while sitting together on the couch “Om maar met de deur in huis te vallen, laten we gaan fietsen”. No. But if you bought tickets to go to New York for shopping, you CAN use it and say “Om met de deur in huis te vallen, ik heb tickets voor New York!”.

Proverb 2: “voor een appel en een ei”

Literally for an apple and an egg. You can buy or sell something “voor een appel en een ei”. It means: for almost nothing. So you use the expression when it is very cheap. And as the Dutch are a trading nation, we love to tell it when we make a good deal. In some countries, people feel ashamed when they buy their stuff in discount periods or at discount stores – because it would stress a certain social status. But not in the Netherlands. The Dutch are proud in such situations, and they claim victory when they bought something for 1 euro, which normally costs 5.

Proverb 3: “Oostindisch doof zijn”

Literally it means, being deaf the Eastern-Indies way. It means that someone pretends not to hear something, but actually does. Maybe nice to explain the origin of this expression. Oost-Indië is what is currently Indonesia, which used to be a part of the Netherlands until 1949. It is believed, that the expression comes from the way the Indonesian leaders communicated with the Dutch. They pretended not to understand them, but actually they were more clever and knew where it all was about.

Proverb 4: “te diep in het glaasje kijken”

Literally, to have a look in the glass too deep. Which simply means: to drink too much alcohol. “Hij heeft te veel gedronken” is the same as “Hij heeft te diep in het glaasje gekeken”. An English expression, which is comparable: “he is in liquor”.

Proverb 5: “een held op sokken”

A hero on socks. This is just another word for a coward (in Dutch: een lafaard). Someone, who is afraid of anything.

Proverb 6: “blaffende honden bijten niet”

Literally: barking dogs don’t bite. Which is the same as in English, with the same meaning: those who threaten, very usually do not carry out the threats.

Proverb 7: “te veel hooi op je vork nemen”

Literally: to take too much hay on the hayfork. Which means, that you take more work than you are able to fulfil. An English equivalent would be: “to bite more than you can chew”. The Dutch, originally having a significant agricultural population, have actually quite some proverbs with its origin on the farm. You will notice that during this course.

Proverb 8: “een dief van je eigen portemonnee zijn”

Literally: to be a thief of your own wallet. I told you already about how the Dutch like good deals and financial advantages. Well, this expression proves this once more. Because, you say it to someone who does not take the opportunity of a special discount. So if you buy something at a supermarket, and you don’t use the discount card, which you get for free, the Dutch will accuse you of being a thief (of your own wallet).

Proverb 9: “hoge bomen vangen veel wind”

Literally: high trees catch a lot of wind. It means that people in a higher position, will get more comments and criticism. And with the internet and social media, this proverb becomes even more actual. Because anything a famous person says, directly is commented and criticised wherever. So if ever this course is frequently commented and criticised, it will be sign my tree is growing.

Proverb 10: “de aap komt uit de mouw”

Literally: the monkey comes out of the sleeve. It is actually the opposite of the first proverb that we dealt with today, of going straight. It is actually the cunning strategy to reveal your plans in a late stage, after having manipulated someone.

If try to influence the state of mind, by a long introduction, by pleasing him, by even doing a favour and then in the end you ask for an even bigger favour back… we can say “nu komt de aap uit de mouw”. Now it becomes clear to me…

And this proverb has its origin in the time of the street artists who really tend to hide a monkey in their sleeve… which came out at a certain moment.

And that’s it for today. You now know 10 Dutch proverbs. Don’t be a thief of your own wallet to let this course pass, which is even cheaper than an apple and an egg.

Do not forget to share this video on social media, and to put thumbs up in YouTube. See you back in lesson 2 of 250 Dutch Proverbs.