How Dutch Language Can Break Up a Marriage

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Me: I don’t get it.

Hubby: What is it this time?

Me: (pretending not to have heard that) How come that Dutch people use the same words for completely different meanings? And “zijn” is like the father of them all!

Hubby: Doesn’t it mean “to be”?

Me: Yes, to be, but also “are”, as in “we are, you are, and they are”. And wait for it, it also means “his”.

Hubby: “His”? Well, that’s a bit strange.

Me: You want to hear strange? They have the same word for “she” and “they”!

Hubby: What? Really?

Me: Yes! Do you thinks it’s because women are so important here that they used the same word as for groups? Hehe, women are a force of nature!

Hubby: Maybe it was the other way around. Maybe they forgot about finding a pronoun for women, so they said: let’s use “them” again.

Me: Yeah, right! Because Dutch women are so fragile and delicate, that is so easy to mess up with them…

Hubby: Hmm.. Ok, I got to hand that one to you.

Me: And you know what else I don’t understand? Why in a phrase with 2 verbs, the rule is that the second verb goes all the way to the end.

Hubby: How do you mean?

Me: Like in English – and any other of the languages we know – you say for instance: I’m going to buy groceries.

Hubby: Funny that you chose that phrase. It’s not like you ever do it…

Me: Pfff.. That’s not of importance here. Listen to me. So Dutch people say: I’m going groceries to buy! (Ik ga boodschappen doen). Why? How was this rule enforced?

Hubby: Maybe they were just practical. Place the second verb at the end so they focus on the last action.

Me: Maybe. Or maybe they forgot a lot back then and so they needed a way to remember what to do. So they placed the 2nd verb at the end of the sentence. Maybe back in the days weed was legal too and they smoked a lot. Yes, that must be it!

Hubby: I think you might be high right now…

Me: No, no, listen to me. I just had another breakthrough. Until I’ve learnt the language, I thought Dutch were so direct, up to the point of being impolite. But you know what? In fact they have a lot of diminutives in the language. Like: biertje (little beer), broodje (little bread), kopje (little cup), kadootje (little gift) and so on.

Hubby: Come to think of it, you’re right. I’ve never actually heard anybody ordering a big or regular beer. Haha, you see all these 2 m tall men ordering little beers.

Me: But you know what shocked me the most? The word “hospital”. In most of the languages, you just say hospital. But not here, oh no, no. Here is “ziekenhuis” – the house of the sick (people). What the hell? Did they think that calling it a house would make thing more pleasant? It’s even worse! Who would ever want to visit a house full of sick people?!

Hubby: You are crazy.

Me: Yeah, and if I were crazy, I wouldn’t go here to a mental institution, but to a house of the crazy, hihi. That actually doesn’t sound too bad. And did you know that they have some of the longest words in the world?

Hubby: I’ve noticed the long words. Who wouldn’t? I mean, they are endless. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to read one.

Me: The longest one has 31 letters! Try to say: “chronischevermoeidheidssyndroom” – cronique fatigue syndrome. (Of course, I didn’t say that out loud. I just showed it written in a book).

Hubby: Whaaaat?

Me: Yes, yes. They have a lot of composed words. The biggest problem is actually adjusting your eye and then your brain to read them out. Sometimes when I see a long word, I just give up. Thank good they have some words borrowed from French.

Hubby: Like what?

Me: Like paraplu (umbrella), bureau (desk or office), horloge (wrist watch), humeur (mood), jus d’orange (orange juice), pantalon (trousers), plafond (ceiling), retour (return ticket), trottoir (pavement).

Hubby: Oh, these might come in handy for you.

Me: Yeah, not if you were a German in the 2nd world war…

Hubby: Ha?

Me: A colleague told me that at the start of the 2nd world war, German soldiers would disguise themselves as a Dutch soldiers and sneak behind enemy lines. As the German and Dutch languages seem quite similar, Germans could pass as Dutchies with a bit of luck. But there’s one word that, if pronounced correctly, proves you’re really Dutch. “Scheveningen” (for your own good, don’t try to pronounce that). So this was the code word they asked suspicious looking soldiers, with a 100% success rate.

Hubby: Funny! Jeez, that’s a really difficult one.

Me: Yes, plus it is true what foreigners say about the hard consonant in Dutch. I do get pain in my throat after my Dutch classes, after pronouncing the “g” and the “ch”.

Hubby: Are you sure it’s not from the non-stop talking? …

Me: Ok, that’s it!  I’m never speaking to you again in my life!

If you want to have the pleasure of listening to some words in the melodious Dutch language, please listen to this short audio. So you understand my pain.

And if you want to know how my ass gets a virtual kick every time I study for Dutch, these are the regular phases I go through every time:

First I’m confident. How hard can it be?

First I’m confident. How hard can it be?

15 min after. Ooops, this is harder than I thought…

15 min after. Ooops, this is harder than I thought…

30 min after. The defeat. Ok, I’ll never learn it!!

30 min after. The defeat. Ok, I’ll never learn it!!



Iulia Cirtina

Julie is the editor of XpatGirls.com. She's a Romanian girl, stranded in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

For how long, she doesn't know yet. But what she does know is communication and psychology. already a bachelor in psychology, she is now also preparing to be a life coach. This is due to her genuine interest in people and the every day joy to be there for those who have questions about themselves. Working in communication for the last 4 years has helped her pursue the life-long dream of writing. But her secret love was and will always be painting, along with piano and shoes, because yes, every girl has her thing.

1 Comment

  1. Ana Maria Hayashida

    November 20, 2014 at 11:16 pm

    I don’t know what to say. I am really sorry that Dutch, European language, having Latin alphabet is difficult for you. May be you really don’t know what a difficult language is. Japanese has 3 alphabets: hiragana, katakana and kanji. Kanji contains about 2000 Chinese letters.Also, Grammar is very difrent than European languages.There are many foreigners (including me) who can speak Japanese. Why? because nothing is imposible if you really want.

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