Learn small talk in Dutch

Making small talk is not easy for a lot of people. Making conversation about things which aren’t really important.  

Small talk in Dutch is called ‘over koetjes en kalfjes praten’ or ‘een praatje maken’.

Learning sentences you can use in these situations can be really helpful! Not only do you learn Dutch but you are also prepared for these social moments.

Make Dutch small talk on the street in the Netherlands

At our Summer School and Winter School we hand out badges which say ‘Ik leer Nederlands’.

You might think it looks a bit strange. But what I’ve heard from students is that the badge really works.

Yes, the Dutch like to speak English. But if they find out that you are trying to learn their little language, you will see that they are quite flattered. And ready to teach you something.

On the other hand, it might have the effect that they start speaking much too quickly …

My tip! Try to stick with Dutch and don’t fall back into speaking English. Because when you do that, switching back to Dutch is way more difficult.

How to start conversations?

So imagine, you are at a circle party with your colleague, and you are sitting next to his uncle or cousin. Where to start?

A favorite topic with a lot of Dutch people is the weather. Always a good one!

So you can say:

  • Wat een weer he? What awful weather, eh?
  • Lekker weertje he? What lovely weather, isn’t it?

Do you want to know more about Dutch weather? My lesson about the weather can help you with this

Ask open questions!

Closed questions, where the answer is only yes or no, make it more difficult to start a conversation.

So my advice, ask open question, with question words like:

  • Wie (Who)
  • Wat (What)
  • Waar (Where)
  • Wanneer (When)
  • Hoe (How)
  • Hoe lang (How long)
  • Waarom (Why)

Another type of open questions can be about hobbies

  • Heb jij laatst nog een goede film gezien?/ een spannend boek gelezen? 
  • Heb je al vakantieplannen? Wat heb jij in je vakantie gedaan?
  • Heb je voetbal gezien?
  • Woon jij hier of in de omgeving? Waar kom jij vandaan?
  • Doe jij aan sport/heb je nog tijd voor een hobby?
  • Ben jij muzikaal/speel je een instrument?

Small talk in business                                                                                                                  

You will probably need this at work. That is known to be the place for making small talk. So what to say?

At a meeting you can talk about the journey there and how it was.

  • Ben je met de auto gekomen? Did you come by car?
  • Heb je het goed kunnen vinden? Did you find your way all right?
  • Was het druk op de weg? Was it busy on the road?

An element of small talk is that it’s not about work, yet. So you can focus on things like the weekend or holiday

  • Heb je een goed weekend gehad? Did you have a good weekend?
  • We zijn alweer halverwege de week.. We’re halfway through the week already.
  • Bijna weekend It’s nearly the weekend.

Don’t be afraid to talk

What I have experienced with making small talk is that often you’re not the only one who feels a bit awkward.

Tip! Here you can use your background.

As someone who isn’t Dutch you can compare the situation with how things are in your country.

  • In mijn land regent het nu niet. In my country it’s not raining now.
  • In mijn land eten we meestal pas na 7 uur. In my country we usually eat dinner after     7  o’clock.

Try to avoid – taboos in Dutch!

Although the Dutch are known for being direct and like to talk about anything. There are some things you better avoid with people you don’t really know.

Dutch people in general don’t like to talk about:

  • How you voted in the elections
  • How much you earn
  • Sex

Good luck with these sentences!

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