The Dutch and time

26 June 2018
door Regina Coeli

The Dutch place a great deal of emphasis on time. If you are not originally from the Netherlands, you may have to get used to the fact that the Dutch always arrive on time, do not want to waste it and plan their professional and private lives well in advance. This is also reflected in their language: the Dutch are direct in their communication (in order to save time) and often refer to time.

Where does this fascination with time actually come from? People in Northern Europe in particular have a monochronic experience of time. They see time as a linear concept: past—present—future. Time passes, so you have to use it prudently. In contrast, in polychronic cultures, time is subordinate to relationships. People from polychronic cultures often do several things at once and do not mind interruptions. Time is circular in their view.

Polychronic approaches to time are especially prevalent in Southern Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America, so Northern Europeans are really in the minority when it comes to their ideas about time.

The long list of Dutch idioms and proverbs includes many about time. If you want to show that you understand the Dutch, use one of the proverbs below now and then.

Tijd is geld
(Literally: Time is money.) If it takes a lot of time, it will cost a lot as well.

De tijd kent geen genade
(Literally: Time knows no mercy.) Time goes faster than you think.

Er is een tijd van komen en een tijd van gaan
(Literally: There is a time for arrival and a time for departure.) Everything has its natural end.

Goed bij de tijd zijn
To be abreast of the situation/ to be properly informed.

In een mum van tijd
In no time.

In geen tijden
In a long while.


There are also proverbs or sayings that urge the Dutch to be calmer and more patient.

De tijd zal het leren
Time will tell. Only after time passes will we know how it will turn out.

Komt tijd, komt raad
The solution will show itself if you leave things be for a while.

De tijd heelt alle wonden
Time heals all wounds. The passing of time makes things less painful.


There is, however, one expression that turns the whole Dutch notion of time on its head.

Gezelligheid kent geen tijd
When things are fun or pleasant, time no longer matters.

Language training at Regina Coeli in Vught

You are most welcome to follow Dutch language training at our institute in Vught. During an intensive individual language training you learn Dutch on your level and in your specific context. Read more about our Dutch language courses.

Do you require more information? Please contact us!


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