Your 17 new favourite Dutch expression
“GO WITH THE BANANA”
“AH, ON THAT BIKE”
“NO MORE COOKIES”
Expressions are one of the most interesting things about a language, I think. At first sight they don’t always make sense. But they are fun.
Grammar, vocabulary and rules are important, but expressions often surprise you and can also be very helpful in a Dutch conversation.
In Dutch there are some common expressions that people who aren’t from the Netherlands find strange. But for Dutch people these expressions are used all the time in daily life.
- Over koetjes en kalfjes praten – To talk about cows and calves.
This means to chat about a few different unimportant things, in a casual way. A Dutch synonym is ‘babbelen’.
How to use it?
- Waar praten jullie over? (What are you talking about?)
- O niets bijzonders, over koetjes en kalfjes. (Nothing special, koetjes en kalfjes)
- De koek is op – We ran out of biscuits. No more cookies.
This means that everything is used up. And of course, not literally all the cookies or biscuits but the maximum achievable has been reached, that’s all there is to it. Often used at the end of a relationship.
The word ‘koek’ is often used in Dutch expressions. Other examples are:
- Dat is andere koek – That’s another cake.
This means, ‘that’s a lot different.’
- Vandaag heb ik 5 kilometer hardgelopen, dat was oke. (Today I ran 5 kilometer, that was okay.)
- Morgen ga ik 20 kilometer hardlopen, dat is andere koek. (Tomorrow I’m going to run 20 kilometer, that is andere koek.)
- Dat is gesneden koek – That is sliced cake.
That’s easy because you’ve done it before.
- Twee weken intensieve cursus? Dat heb ik eerder gedaan. Dat is gesneden koek! (Two weeks intensive course? I’ve done that before! That’s gesneden koek)
- Op die fiets – On that bike
This means that now you understand it, you get the point of a topic. Often when someone explains something and accompanied with an ‘oooooh’ before saying ‘Op die fiets’.
- Je moet dus eerst inchecken en dan kan je naar binnen. (You have to check in first and then you can enter)
- Oooooh, op die fiets (Oooh, on that bike!)
As you probably know, the bike is a typically Dutch item. It’s no surprise that there are more expressions with bikes.
- Wat heb ik nou aan mijn fiets hangen? – What have I got hanging from my bike?
This means: what is happening to me now? What’s all this? What is going on?
For example, when you were going out and then end up with a lot of people back at your place.
- Op een oude fiets moet je het leren – You have to learn it on an old bike
People used this in an official sort of way when they meant that teaching material is seldom new.
Nowadays its used more in a romantic way…
- Alsof er een engeltje over je tong piest – As if an angel is peeing over your tongue
This means that something is really delicious, this refers in most cases to drinks.
- Hoe is het biertje? (How’s the beer?)
- Alsof er een engeltje over je tong piest
- Je pik/lul/piemel achterna lopen’ – Chasing your penis
This one doesn’t leave much to the imagination.
It means that a man is only thinking about one thing and that is sex. He chases everything he sees.
- Dat is Peter. Hij heeft nooit een vaste vriendin. Hij loopt zijn piemal achterna.
- That’s Peter. He never has a steady girlfriend. He loopt zijn piemel achterna.
- Na regen komt zonneschijn – After the rain, the sun shines.
Very important to know this if you are living in the Netherlands. Not only is it true, but it also works the other way around on an average day. It’s like everything else in life.
If you’re in a bad situation, know that it will get better.
It’s similar to the next Dutch expression.
- Achter de wolken schijnt de zon – Behind the clouds the sun is shining
Good to know when you have the 10th day in a row of grey cloudy Dutch weather.
- Zand erover – Sand over it
You can say this after a conflict. It means that’s the end of it. Let’s forget about it and move on.
- Vergeet je feestneus niet – Don’t forget your party nose
This is something people say to you before you go to a party. Usually a bit ironically, “Put on a happy face!”
Relating to this you can also put on your ‘lolbroek’ (fun trousers), or a ‘grapjurk’ (joke dress) and ‘grapjas’ (joke jacket).
- Putting on your lolbroek, your grapjurk or your grapjas
All these expressions relate to saying that someone is ‘the funny guy’ or a joker. If someone makes jokes all the time you can say
- Kijk, hij heeft zijn lolbroek weer aan!
(Look, he’s wearing his lolbroek again!)
- Met de deur in huis vallen – Fall with the door into the house
An expression about something very Dutch:
To get straight to the point / immediately start talking about what one came for without preliminaries.
For example, in a bad news conversation:
- Ik zal met de deur in huis vallen, je bent ontslagen. (I will get straight to the point, you’re fired.)
- Bezoek en vis blijven drie dagen fris – Visit and fish stay fresh for three days
Not only fish but also your visit stays fresh for just three days.
You shouldn’t let guests stay too long because then you’re going to get annoyed by their habits.
- Men mag een gegeven paard niet in de bek kijken – Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth
This means that one shouldn’t complain about something he or she got for free. The proverb is often used when people complain about the quality of a product or service they received for free.
It’s generally parents who say this to their children if they receive something and they show that they don’t like it.
Have fun using these expressions.
Bart de Pau
online Dutch teacher & founder of the Dutch Summer School & Dutch Winter School