Making small talk in Dutch

door Regina Coeli

Despite Dutch directness, you’ll need to—if you wish to truly integrate into Dutch culture—be prepared to make a bit of small talk in Dutch. By being able to chat about any number of general subjects, you’ll connect with your colleagues, neighbours and business partners. It’s a valuable skill which you can quickly feel at ease using, because you don’t actually need a great deal of vocabulary for it.

Small talk during a formal appointment

The Dutch tend to get straight down to business in appointments. Informal, ice-breaking conversation takes place beforehand in the lift, while pouring coffee or while waiting for other participants to arrive. In these chats, you can expect questions like:

  • Was het druk op de weg? (Were the roads busy?)
  • Kon je het makkelijk vinden? (Did you have any trouble finding us/the place?)
  • Waar kom je vandaan? (Where do you come from?)
  • Hoe lang woon je al in Nederland? (How long have you been living in the Netherlands?)
  • Hoe bevalt het in Nederland? (What do you think of it here in the Netherlands?)

You should prepare for these kinds questions so you can answer them quickly, easily and naturally. They are an implicit way for the Dutch to see whether you fit in a bit, and can be especially relevant during job interviews.

Getting on informally with colleagues

You run into a Dutch colleague you don’t know very well at the coffee machine. What should you say? A popular subject is the weekend:

  • Fijn weekend gehad? (Did you have a good weekend?)
  • Bijna weekend! (It’s nearly the weekend!)
  • Nog twee dagen en het is weer weekend. (Just two more days and then it’s the weekend again.)
  • On Wednesday: De week is weer doormidden! (We’re almost over the hump!)

If you can see outside from where you’re standing at the coffee machine, you can always broach a subject dearly-held by the Dutch: the weather. They never tire of talking about it. Some examples:

  • Lekker weertje buiten. (Nice weather, isn’t it?)
  • If it’s raining, windy, snowing or unpleasant in any way: Wat een weer… (Isn’t this weather bad?) 
  • If the weather is bad and better weather is forecasted: Gelukkig wordt het beter weer. (Luckily it’s supposed to improve.)

Other things you can say:

  • Hoe gaat het? (How are you doing/ how are things going?) The most common answers are: Goed. (Fine.) and Ja, druk. (It’s been very busy.)
  • Zo, het is tijd voor koffie. (And now it’s time for some coffee.)

Practising at the coffee machine

To quickly learn to communicate in Dutch, the best thing is to learn the specific language you need for your own situation. Regina Coeli’s beginner’s programme focuses particularly on language for your everyday life. We often see a participant and language trainer standing at the coffee machine during a lesson to practice just these kinds of situations. This often leads on to a role play in giving someone directions or to role playing a job interview. Contact us for more information—learning Dutch is easier than you think!

Interested in following language training at Regina Coeli?

The Regina Coeli method ensures that you learn to speak a foreign language quickly and effectively. Our highly qualified trainers teach you the skills, vocabulary and grammar that you need for your specific situation so you can immediately start communicating in the language.

Do you require more information? Please contact us!

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