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Amsterdam | © Moyan Brenn / Flickr
Amsterdam | © Moyan Brenn / Flickr

10 Phrases You Need To Know Before Visiting Amsterdam

Picture of Tom Coggins
Updated: 4 December 2017
While everyone in Amsterdam might speak fluent English, there is nothing better than surprising locals with your knowledge of Dutch parlance. And, though the language is notoriously tricky, some common phrases are relatively easy to pick up. So whether you’re just visiting or looking to spend more time in the Netherlands, check out our top 10 Dutch phrases and learn how to speak like a local.

Doei! (Goodbye)

The most common parting remark in Dutch, you will almost certainly hear ‘doei’ every time that you leave a shop or bar. The Dutch aren’t sticklers for formalities, but always remember to return the call when you hear it directed towards you.

Gezellig, hè? (Cozy, right?)

Gezellig is one of those special words whose meaning is beyond translation. Often used as ‘cozy’, gezellig means much more than this English word can express. Imagine being in the company of close friends at your favorite café, chatting effortlessly around a table of drinks. That pleasant, comfortable, feeling is more or less ‘gezellig’; and by saying ‘Gezellig, hè?’ you welcome agreement — asking friends whether they find whatever you are doing to be ‘gezellig’.

This cafe is definitely 'gezillig' | © Jean-Pierre Dalbéra / Flickr

This cafe is definitely ‘gezellig’ | © Jean-Pierre Dalbéra / Flickr

Succes / Veel geluk (Good luck)

These phrases mean a little bit more than the English ‘good luck’. The Dutch use when they want to wish someone prosperity, and usually say ‘succes’ or ‘veel geluk’ after someone has told them about their current goals, or projects.

Kijk uit! (Look out!)

Any pedestrian who has strayed onto a bike lane will likely recognize this phrase; as cyclists bellow it while they swerve to avoid absent-minded travelers. ‘Kijk uit’ is also used as a general alarm, especially around traffic.

Bike lanes in Amsterdam | © Kismihok / Flickr

Bike lanes in Amsterdam | © Kismihok / Flickr

Mag ik een biertje? (Can I have a beer?)

It is rare to see Dutch people drinking anything larger than a 35l beer. Pints never made it to the Netherlands and many drinkers claim that a smaller glass keeps beer fresher. The word ’biertje’ is a diminutive of the drink — it means ‘little beer’, and asking for one will grant you a half pint in most cafés. If you’re still eager to have a larger drink, replace ‘biertje’ with ‘halve liter’.

Jopen beer

Jopen beer

Lekker bezig ! (Great job! You’re on a roll)

Literally translated as ‘nicely busy’, this phrase is used when someone is doing great work and is emanating success. Any level of accomplishment can expect this compliment, and friends will often exchange ‘lekker bezig’s after telling each other about their long yet productive days at work.

Het is stil aan de overkant (It’s quiet on the other side)

One for football fans, you’ll likely hear this being screamed from across pitches during Dutch games. This chant is directed towards fans of an opposing team who have stopped cheering and are now silent due to their team’s lackluster performance.

Ajax playing at Amsterdam Arena | © Ungry Young Man / Flickr

Ajax playing at Amsterdam Arena | © Ungry Young Man / Flickr

Waar is het feestje? (Where is the party?)

A common phrase chanted by party-goers eager to locate the heart of the festivities, the cry ‘waar is her feestje?’ is usually heard in crowded city streets or summer festivals. The phrase expects the reply ‘hier is het feestje’ (here is the party) from distant revelers, beckoning other groups towards them.

Eet smakelijk (Bon appétit)

While English speakers almost invariably rely on a french phrase to inaugurate meal times, the Dutch express their collective appetites with ‘eet smakelijk’. Literally translated as ‘eat tasty’ this phrase is used whenever people sit down to eat, and waiters are often heard saying it to guests at restaurants.

Doe Normaal (Just be normal)

While the Dutch are known for their sense of tolerance, they are also a restrained nation — believing that normalcy keeps the world moving at a steady, intelligible pace. ‘Doe normaal’ is used whenever somebody is acting a little bit too odd, and is usually accompanied by the reminder ‘want normaal is gek genoeg’, meaning: ‘because normal is crazy enough’.

Dutch phrases

© Ling Tang / Culture Trip