Language tip: Learn Dutch for a restaurant

If you visit the Netherlands, you can prepare for situations that will definitely happen. You will eventually end up in a restaurant, right? And why not practise your Dutch while you’re there?

Because, sure, you can get by just pointing at the menu.

Or you could wave your card around to show that you want to pay. But that’s not the classiest way.

Going to a restaurant often goes according to a certain scenario. They ask your name, you say what you want, etc. It’s predictable. This makes it easier to prepare, because you know what to expect.

Making a reservation                 

Although nowadays it’s not uncommon to make a reservation online, it’s definitely possible that you will have to make a reservation by telephone. Especially if you want to go there on the same day.

  • Dit is restaurant [ … ] zegt u het maar     —     This is [..]How may I help you?
    • Hallo dit is [Bart]     —     Hi, Bart speaking
    • Ik wil graag een tafel voor 2 personen     —  I would like to book a table for 2
  • Dat kan, voor wanneer?     —     All right, for when?
    • Voor vanavond     —     For tonight
  • Oke, hoe laat?     —     OK,what time?
    • Rond 7 uur is goed.     —     Around 7 o’clock would be good.
  • Onder welke naam?     —     And in what name?
    • Bart / De Pau     —     First name / Last name
  • Staat genoteerd! Tot vanavond     —     Okay, see you tonight.
    • Tot dan!     —     See you then!

Arriving at the restaurant

Like I said, the good thing about this situation is that it’s pretty predictable. You can prepare yourself for the questions you’re going to get.

So when you enter, you can say:

  • Heeft u een tafel voor 2 personen?     —     Good evening. Do you have a table for 2?
  • Ik heb gereserveerd onder de naam ….     —     Good evening.I have a reservation under the of name of….      
  • Mag ik de kaart zien?     —     May I see the menu?


Ordering food can be done in a really simple way:

  • Mag ik […] , alsjeblieft     —     Can I have the .. , please
  • […] , alsjeblieft.     —      … , please (this is not impolite)
  • Ik wil graag […] , alsjeblieft     —      I would like the … , please

You can elaborate a little by saying:

  • Als voorgerecht wil ik graag…     —      For a starter, I would like the ..
  • Als hoofdgerecht wil ik graag…     —      As the main dish, I would like the ..

Asking for the dessert menu

  • Mag ik de dessertkaart zien?     —     Can I see the dessert menu?

Saying how it was

After the dinner, the waiter will probably ask how it was. In general, the most used sentence is:

  • Heeft het gesmaakt?     —      How was it?

You can answer with

  • Het was heerlijk!     —     It was delicious!

Asking to pay                       

  • Kan ik betalen?     —     Can I pay?
  • Kan ik afrekenen?     —     Can I settle up?
  • Kan ik pinnen?     —      Can I pay by card?

Tipping in the Netherlands

How much should I tip in the Netherlands? 

It’s difficult to say. Because unlike in some countries like the United States, here there aren’t really ‘unwritten rules’. However, leaving extra change or rounding up the bill in restaurants, bars and cafés is really common.

Sentence for tipping in Dutch

  • Maak er maar €.. van.     —      Make it €…
  • Laat de rest maar zitten.     —     Here, keep the change.
  • Het is goed zo.     —     Here, it’s fine like that.

I want to speak Dutch

Being in the Netherlands and learning Dutch means fighting for opportunities to speak Dutch. The Dutch love to speak English all the time. Especially in big cities or places with more international people.

Showing that you want to speak Dutch helps a lot. Here you can say:

  • Ik leer Nederlands.     —      I am learning Dutch
  • Ik wil Nederlands spreken.      —     I want to speak Dutch

Bart de Pau
online Dutch teacher & founder of the Dutch Summer School & Dutch Winter School