Typical Dutch humour and jokes
Telling jokes … You might not know this, but the Dutch love this. In this video you saw what is called a broken phone. You start with one joke and pass it through to the next. It was funny to see how it evolved.
In this blog I want to look at typical Dutch humour and jokes.
And not only so that you have something to say during a night out. Also because jokes and humour show how a certain culture is and tell you how the Dutch look at other cultures and stereotypes.
The way the Dutch make jokes is closely related to something I talked about earlier: being direct. The Dutch are known for being direct and this is also reflected in their humour and the way they make jokes.
In the Netherlands it is quite normal to use caricatures of race and ethnicity that are understood here as funny, while they can be deeply offensive to people from outside the Netherlands.
General opinion is: there shouldn’t be any limits on what you can say. “It’s just a joke.”
Typical Dutch things to say
The Dutch are used to saying whatever they feel. If you are offended or you’re not comfortable, they might say:
- Je moet een dikke huid hebben
- Je moet geen lange tenen hebben
This means that you shouldn’t take offence.
The freedom of speech is used here. This can be seen in the Zwarte Piet Discussion as well. It’s tradition, part of Dutch culture, to make jokes about others. And they can be quite harsh. But it’s not meant like that, it’s a joke. It’s for laughing.
Because, on the other hand, what is considered to be part of Dutch humour is that it is full of ‘self-mockery’. In Dutch culture it’s important that you act just like it is, so don’t act fancy or special.
- Doe gewoon dan doe je al gek genoeg.
So Dutch people don’t like to take themselves too seriously.
Famous Dutch comics
There are a lot of comics nowadays. It used to be more the kind of comics you see in big theatres with big shows. Often talking about social issues.
Now it’s really diverse. Some of the biggest Dutch comics (caberatiers is what we call them) are: Hans Teeuwen, Theo Maassen, Najib Amhali and Jochem Meyer. They are all known to talk about taboos and about different cultures.
If you are learning Dutch this is difficult to understand. Humour is often the last part of understanding Dutch. Because it has to do with understanding the words, but also about the way you say them, the intonation. And, also, with culture you have to know what they are talking about.
There is one kind of joke that everyone in the Netherlands knows, and this is jokes about Belgians.
What can you learn from these jokes?
The jokes about another group are a way to give the Dutch a feeling of superiority at the expense of another. Because if you choose a group to mock, at the same time you praise yourself for being smart and open-minded.
The jokes about neighbours are more good-natured, because, in practice, neighbours usually get along quite well. The Dutch actually don’t hate the Belgians at all. On the contrary; they find them their most sympathetic neighbours . That’s why Belgian jokes are mainly about the fact that our southern neighbours are a bit stupid.
These jokes should not be confused with racist jokes, because these kind of jokes are much more aggressive.
- Waarom neemt een dronken Belg zijn glazen af bij een alcoholcontrole?
- Twee glazen minder.
(Why does a drunk Belgian take his glasses off at an alcohol check?)
(Two glasses less.)
- Hoe houd je een Belg bezig?
- Zet een man in een ronde kamer en zeg dat er een zak friet in de hoek ligt.
(How do you keep a Belgian busy?)
(Put the man in a round room and say there’s a bag of fries in a corner.)
- Een Belg steekt een lucifer aan en blaast hem direct weer uit. “Zo”, denkt hij, “ik houd deze, want deze werkt.”
(A Belgian lights a match and blows it right out again. “So”, he thinks, “I’ll keep this one, because this one works.”)
So in the eyes of the Dutch, the Belgians are stupid. On the other hand, in the eyes of the Belgians, the Dutch are stingy and unhygienic. This stinginess undoubtedly has to do with the merchant spirit. The unhygienic part…. I don’t know.
- Een Nederlander (or as the Belgian say ‘Hollander’) werd gevraagd voor een donatie voor een verzorgingshuis.
- Hij gaf zijn vader en zijn moeder.
(A Dutchman was asked to make a donation to an old people’s home.)
(He gave his father and his mother.)
- Een Nederlander zegt tegen zijn vrouw: “Johanna, giet een liter water bij de soep, we hebben gasten!”
(A Dutch man says to his wife: “Johanna, pour a litre of water in the soup, we’ve got company!”)
Using humour in their swearing
The Dutch are known to swear and call each other names. There are some bad words. But they like to mix it up, and make it a bit funnier. A typical example of being direct and saying what you want, that might be a bit offensive, but should not be taken like that.
Maf is Dutch for crazy. It’s a more old-fashioned version of gek. And the ketel is a kettle. When someone is acting strangely, he’s a mafketel.
If this person is a man, you can also call him mafkees, after the Dutch first name Kees. The plural is mafkezen.
And no, there is no female version of a mafkees.
- Het grapje (the joke)
- De grap (the joke)
- De mop (the joke)
- Ik maak een geintje (I’m just kidding)
- Het is maar een grapje (It’s just a joke)
- Flauw (Not funny)
- Een grapje moet kunnen, toch? (You can take a joke, right?)
- Grappig (funny)
Bart de Pau
online Dutch teacher & founder of the Dutch Summer School & Dutch Winter School