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Dutch Idioms and Expressions

Language is a major part of a culture. There are definte cultural differences that
come across in the way people communicate. We have often found it interesting to
see how concepts are expressed in Dutch. We have been including a Dutch idiom or
expression in our e-mail update each month. Even though we are no longer in
Holland, we are leaving this page on our website simply because so many people
found it fun and interesting!

'Ieder kaasje heeft zijn gaatje.' (literally: Every cheese has its hole.)
Used to express that we all have our flaws, or 'Nobody's perfect'. While on a short
vacation in South Dakota at the end of the summer, we visited a church with the
motto "No perfect people allowed." (Okay, so they don't mean to imply that Jesus
isn't welcome there!) We were glad to know that we were welcome and in good
company! Like all of you, we certainly 'have our holes'!

'Het Spaans benauwd krijgen' (become Spanish breathless)

This idiom refers to a state of fear or anxiety. Associating this with Spain goes back
to the times when Spain was the oppressor, during and prior to the Eighty Years War.
There have been may events around the world this summer that resulted in fear and
anxiety in the lives of people. We are so grateful to serve a God who fills our lives
with peace no matter what the circumstances around us may be!

"het bijltje erbij neergooien" (Throwing down the hatchet)

This means stopping with what you are doing because you have lost interest or are
simply tired...i.e. giving up This is definitely NOT what we are doing! We are not only
continuing in ministry, but we are expanding our potential impact!

"Een frisse neus halen" (getting a fresh nose)

A quick Google search restulted in a list of 39 Dutch idioms revolving arond the word
'nose'! The one we chose to share with you this time came up in conversations with
a friend of ours in Munich. It simply means 'going outside'. In America we might say,
getting some fresh air.

"Leven als God in Frankrijk" (Living like God in France)

There are two primary meanings given to this expression: 1. loose living without
God or rules and 2. carefree and luxureous living. The origin of the expression is
uncertain. One source says that it comes from the period from 1792-4 when religion
was put aside in France in favor of reason. The idea is that God no longer had much
to do in France and had thus a carefree life there. Another possible origin comes
from Spain. It could originally have been 'Leven als Goten in Frankrijk' referring to a
proud people group in the last quarter of the 4th century who refused to surrender
to the Huns. They fled to France where they integrated into a life of loose and
carefree living. This expression came to mind because life for many people that we
know has certainly not been carefree this past month but also applies to so many of
our friends here who live godless lives.

"Tegen windmolens vechten" (fighting against windmills)

While this is used as a Dutch idiom, it actually came from the story of Don Quijote.
It refers to either fighting imaginary enemies or fighting an unwinnable battle. We

know that we don't fight against flesh and blood, but again the powers of darkness
(Eph. 6:12) but we also know that He who is us is greater than he that is in the
world (1 John 4:4). Praise God that we don't have to fight against windmills and that
we don't fight alone!

"Ik ben helemaal gaar" (I am completely cooked)

This doesn't mean the same thing as, for example, "Your goose is cooked" in
American slang. It is used to indicate that you are completely worn out. By the time
that December 27 came around, we were both 'helemaal gaar'! It has been great to
have a couple of weeks with a much slower pace to be able to catch our breath
again and get a new wind heading into ministry in 2012!

"drempel" (threshold)
This is more a word than an idiom, but it gets used in an idiomatic sense. It officially
means 'threshold' but is also used to describe speed bumps (or 'sleeping policemen'
for those who speak more British English!). It is also very commonly used to indicate
something that forms an obstacle for someone. When the one gentleman who came
to our booth said that he only went to church once a year because the 'drempel' was
too high, he meant that it was just too big of a step for him to take. We often need
to lower the 'drempels' that keep people from hearing the gospel. Want some good
easy tips on living a missional life? Check out this article from

"Hij weet waar Abram (Abraham) de mosterd haalt" (He knows where
Abram (Abraham) gets the mustard)
The idea of this idiom is that someone is aware of something. We have found 3
explanations of this expression. The first one says that mosterd' really came from
the word 'mutsaard' that meant 'bundle of branches' or 'firewood' and is a reference
to Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac. Another eplanation says that it comes from a Yiddish
word for 'money' The third explanation says that Abraham was an everyday young
man who was sent on an errand...i.e. to go get some mustard. . The first
explanation is not considered accurate because in Genesis 22 no one is questioning
where to get the firewood, but the question is rather where the sacrificial lamb is.
The second explanation is also put aside because you find similar expressions using
the word 'mustard' in German idioms. So the most accepted answer is that some kid
named Abraham knew where to find a pot of mustard!

"er als een haas vandoor gaan" (leaving like a hare) - taking off quickly
"het haasje zijn" (being the little hare) - being the dupe
'haasjeover" (little hare over) - a children's game - we would call it "leap frog"
"Hij heeft haas gevreten" (He ate hare) - he is a scaredy/fraidy cat
"Hij koos het hazepad" (He chose the hare path) - he took off - fled
"Een hazenslaap" (a hare sleep) - a very light sleep from which someone wakes
up at the slightest noise.
Believe it or not, there are still more idioms and expressions that have to do with
hares! Maybe we'll save them for Easter!

"weet hoe de hazen lopen" (know how the hares walk)

This past week, in an e-mail exchange with our new pastor, he used this expression.
I had never heard it before, but understood from the context exactly what he meant.
He used it in the sense of 'I don't know yet how things work here.' I looked it up in
our dictionary to see what the formal definition was and discovered that the official
saying is: 'Kijken hoe de hazen lopen' (Looking/seeing how the hares walk) It was

defined as working cautiously and first waiting to see how the relationship structure
works. In the process, I discovered just how many Dutch expressions have to do
with hares! This be continued!

"Als de herder verdwaalt dolen the schapen" (If the shepherd gets lost
the sheep wander around)
In other words, if a leader goes off in a wrong direction or does something wrong,
the sheep don't quite know what to do. Our church has had its share of spiritual
attack on the leadership in the last year. Just recently, one of our remaining cell
leaders walked away from the faith. Pray that God will strengthen the leadership in
the church. Pray that the 'sheep' won't wander aimlessly around but will stand firm
in the face of spiritual warfare. Pray as well for the leaders who are feeling the
brundt of that spiritual attack.

"Hij heeft het hondegeloof, hij heeft het vlees liever dan de
botten" (He has 'dog' faith. He would rather have the meat than the bones.)
This is a saying that means that when someone is asked what faith he tolds to, he
chooses the best that he is offered. We have a friend who is currently choosing to
believe in what feels the best to him and what matches his own ideas and thoughts.
What he doesn't understand is that he is NOT choosing the best!

"Ze is met een natte vinger te lijmen" (She can be glued with a wet
In other words, she is easy to convince to participate in something. I guess if
something can be glued down with just a wet finger it would imply something that
doesn't take a lot of effort to complete! In a society where people like to think and
talk long and hard before making a move, this doesn't seem to happen much!

"Nu breekt mijn klomp!" (Now my wooden shoe is breaking!)

In other words, 'I am totally amazed!' or 'I certainly didn't expect that!'. (It ceratinly
would be something unexpected for a sturdy wooden shoe to break!) I usually try to
find an idiom that has a connection with what we have been experiencing. This one
actually came up in a novel that I was reading. I hadn't heard it before, but found it
to be an interesting way of expressing astonishment. We can say that whatever we
expected from the man from the Dutch tax department, we didn't expect that he
would go above and beyond the call of duty and call us to give us the good news.
Also, we weren't expecting to have such a good pastoral candidate this soon. We
just love it when God surprises us with such good things!

"Op een stille zee kan iedereen stierman zijn" (On a calm sea everyone
can steer the boat)
Okay, we're cheating a bit here. This is a Flemmish expression rather than one from
Holland, but it is still in Dutch! Our dictionary explains it as "Under difficult
cirmstances it becomes apparent who can stand at the helm...who can lead". The
situation with Chris' dad is not an easy one. Neither is dealing with tax departments
in any country! But we are convinced that it is God who needs to be at the helm of
our ship no matter how calm or how stormy the sea may be! He is the helmsman
that will never lose control of the boat and can steer it exactly where it needs to go!

"appeltje eitje" (little apple little egg)

This expression is used to indicate that something is very easy. It probaby is an
expansion of "dat is een eitje' (that is a little egg) meaning something that is easy to
do or is something that you can do with very little effort In recent years the

expression has been expanded and combined with "voor een appel en een ei" (for an
apple and and egg) which originated in the 18th century. The meaning of that
original expression is that something can be done for very little money or easily
Appeltje eitje is fairly recent combination of the two expressions. It was used this
week in an e-mail update about a girl in our church in Holland who has recently been
diagnosed with leukemia. Not to say that chemo is all that easy, but her mother
used it to describe how she has been dealing with her illness and treatments so far.
However, her hair is beginning to fall out and the medical appointments and
treatments aren't all that easy for an 11 year old to deal with. Please be praying for
Joy and for her mother Marjet and father John.

"Iemand in het zonnetje zetten" (Setting someone in the little sun)

This phrase expresses that you are recognizing and honoring someone for something
they have done. It could be compared to putting someone on center stage or turning
the spotlight on them. This is the phrase that was used by the Evangelical
Broadcasters when they called Terri about the interview. They wanted to interview
someone who is putting hands and feet to their faith and 'set them in the sun'.

"De koek is op" (The cookies are used/eaten up)

This is a way of saying the the party is over, but we enjoyed it. So regarding all of
the Christmas festivities, we can now say, de koek is op....but we are gratefuly for
God's blessing and protection during this busy season!

"Het verdwijnt als sneeuw voor de zon" (It disappears like snow in the
In other words, something disappears very quickly...which God's grace will never
do! This past week we've gotten the first snowfall of the season. Yesterday we got
just a wee bit of sun and some of the snow started melting, but today it has been
snowing again all our snow isn't likely to diappear very quickly! We
managed to buy the very last snow shovel that our local garden center had in stock!

"Het is alsof een engel over mijn tong fietst" ("It's as though an angel is
biking over my tongue.")
This is a funny way to say that something tastes really good! Because of the
similarity in sounds, kids have a tendancy to say instead "Het is alsof en engel op
mijn tong piest" (It's like an angel is peeing on my tongue"). At least one friend of
ours, an adult, uses the 'kid version'...I think we'll stick to the original one! With
Sinterklaas (December 5) coming up quickly the store shelves are full of pepernoten
(small, bite sized spice cookies). Terri is especially hooked on the chocolate covered
ones! They are like an angel biking over your tongue!

'Hij heeft er geen kaas van gegeten' (He hasn't eaten any cheese from
This idiom means that someone doesn't know anything (or not much) about
something. During Open Monument Day in September, the city of Alkmaar was
handing out postcards with a picture of Alkmaar and the question "Heb jij hier kaas
van gegeten?" (Have you eaten any cheese from here?). It had a double meaning.
Alkmaar is a cheese town, so someone could ask if you had eaten any cheese from
Alkmaar. But the city was using it to promote working for the city. On the back side
was the following text (translated): "Are you interested in a city that is rooted in
history but also looks to the future? And are you interested in a challenging job in a
many sided city? Then you have 'eaten cheese' from Alkmaar!"

'hoog van de toren blazen' (blowing..i.e. like a trumpet...high from the

This idiom comes from the tower sentry who blew a trumpet when there was a fire
as a warning to everyone. While we were in Krakow we were able to be up in the
church tower when the trumpeter blew his melody. The story there is that a
trumpeter in the 13th century was shot in the throat while sounding the alarm
before the Mongol attack on the city. The trumpet signal still ends today in mid-note
to commemorate this event. (We have a link to pictures from Poland and the
trumpeter on our website.) This Dutch expression now refers to someone who has a
big mouth and making a lot of demands. We might say that someone 'has a big
mouth' .

"achter de net vissen" (fishing behind the net)

This idiom was used in one of the articles we translated and put on our website. It is
the picture of someone who is fishing in the wake of a fishingboat that just drug a
net along and scooped up all the fish. There are no more fish in the water. It is used
to say that someone missed there chance or came too late to benefit from
something. Someone beat you to it.

"iemand in het zonnetje zetten" (setting someone in the little sun)

This phrase is used to indicate that you are recognizing/giving honor to someone. It
was used during the weekend when we were thanking the BSL team for coming over
from England to help. It also applies to the recognition evening that we are planning
for GEM's annual conference. In the latter case, we are recognizing those who have
reached various service milestones, but what we really want to do is to put God in
the spotlight!

"Hij heeft een klap van de molen beet" or "een klap van de molen
gehad hebben" - (He's been hit bij the mill) Someone who is not acting very wisely - as though he was hit by one of the sails on
the windmill and has lost his mind as a result of it.

" 't gaat op rolletjes"- (it is going on rollers) Under the cap of the windmill are rollers that allow for the top part of the windmill to
be turned so that the sails are facing into the wind. The rollers need to be kept in
good condition so that the cap of the mill can be easily turned. This expression is
used to indicate that something is going smoothly.

"De molen is door de vang" - (the windmill is though the vang)

The vang is the clasp that the turning axle is attached to. If the mill is 'though the
vang' then it is out of control, it can't be stopped and accidents can happen. So the
expression refers to something being hopeless.

"In de nesten zitten of werken" - (sitting or getting into the nests)

Millers have to keep the area where the rollers are free of birds nests. If birds get in
there and build their nests, it messes up the ability of the rollers to turn the cap of
the windmill and creates an all round mess. I've seen this expression defined as
'getting yourself into trouble' and 'being confused or not quite knowing what to do"

"huilbaby" - (cry baby)

Despite the connotations of the English translation, a huilbaby "is not someone who
makes a huge fuss about not very much, but a baby who cries a lot According to
Dutch childrearing experts, to be classed as a huilbaby, a child has to cry for three

hours a day, three days a week for three weeks in a row. According to the press, one
in 10 Dutch babies is a huilbaby." (quoted from A Dictionary of Dutchness published
by, 2009) Wonder why I chose to post this? We have several friends
who have had babies lately...there seems to be a baby boom on here! This Sunday
one of the new babies will be dedicated during the church service. One friend does
seem to have a huilbaby...although we're not sure if he is crying enough to fit the
definition of the childrearing experts, he does keep our friends awake at night!

"Paarse krokodil" - (purple crocodile)

This phrase "has become a symbol for unnecessary bureaucracy and a 'more-thanmy job's-worth' mentality among officials and has given its name to a variety of
initiatives to slash red tape. It comes from a 2005 Ohra insurance advert in which a
mother could not reclaim her daughter's blow-up crocodile from a swimming pool
attendant until she had filled in numerous forms." (quoted from A Dictionary of
Dutchness published by, 2009)

"gipsvluchten" - (cast flights)

Every winter Dutch residents are injured in sking accidents outside of Holland (We
don't have hills here to ski on.) "Gispvluchten bring injured skiers back from their
winter sport holidays. Every year over a 1000 skiers are brought back to Holland on
around 150 special flights. The first planeload of passengers with limbs enshrouded
in plaster casts usually touches down in the Netherlands a couple of days after the
ski season opens." (quoted from A Dictionary of Dutchnesspublished by, 2009)

"zout kaartjes" (salt tickets)

In December there were lots of problems with the trains not being able to run
because of the ice and snow. The cold weather froze many of the connection points
on the tracks and the flames at the gas warmed change points went out. The Dutch
government ran out of salt for both roads and train tracks. They had stocked up
enough for a normal type of winter, but the snow and ice we've had is definitely far
beyond normal. So the Dutch railways offered some special deals including giving
everyone a 40% discount on certain days. They called those special tickets "salt

"op grote voet leven" ('living on a big foot')

To put this into an American idiom, I would probably say, 'Living high on the hog'. It
means to spend a lot of money on house, furniture, clothing, going out and receiving
guests. Technically 'voet' (or 'foot') here refers to a way of conducting your life. We
generally don't 'live on a big foot' (especially now that our income is uncertain), but
we do splurge at Thanksgiving and Christmas and buy a turkey for our dinner.
Turkeys here usually have to be special ordered and come fresh from France. They
also cost around $4.50 a pound!

"voor iemand een lans breken" ('breaking a lance for someone')

This idiom comes out of the times when knights fought in tournaments. If one knight
broke a lance for someone, it meant that he fought in their place in the tournament.
It means to defend, stand up for or fight for someone. We want to be known as
people who stand up for God but it is also good to know that God has and continues
to fight for us! He 'fought' in our place when Jesus died on the cross in our place and
He continues to be our Defender!

"De dans ontspringen" ('jumping out of the way of the dance')

This idiom acutally means escaping danger just in the nick of time. Chris' integration
requirements are not something we would describe as dangerous, but he was
definitely not able to 'jump out of the way' of that 'dance'!

"appeltje-eitje" (little apple-little egg) and "kat in 't bakkie" (kat in the
Both idioms refer to something being easy to accomplish. At Terri's graduation
ceremony her internship coach described what Terri did to get her Dutch Sign
Language degree as not being 'easy peasy'. Had he wanted to say that in real Dutch,
he could have said 'appeltje-eitje was het niet' or 'Het is geen kat in 't bakkie'.

"iemand blij maken met een dode mus" (Making someone happy with a
dead sparrow)
This implies that someone is talked into accepting something that they later realize
is disadvantageous for them. When we were handed cards for our visas and realized
that Chris' card was only for 1 year as well, we didn't just let it ride. We also didn't
just accept Terri's 1 year extension "als zoete koek" . We didn't want 'a dead
sparrow'. By challenging the situation, we ended up with a 3 year extension for Chris
and having to accept Terri's 1 year one. That reminds us of another Dutch
expression: " Nee heb je al. Ja kan je krijgen" (you've already got a 'no'
but you can get a 'yes') i.e. it can't hurt to ask!

"een vreemde eend in de bijt" (a strange duck in the opening in the ice for
ducks or fishing)
Refers to someone who is a stranger in the group. This is the expression Marco used
to describe how he saw himself when he came to the BBQ...just before he told us
that he felt sincerely accepted by us and in our home!

"een woordje over de grens spreken" (Speaking a little word over the
This is an old fashioned expression, but we heard it used in conversation with a
friend who was headed to Sri Lanka for a few weeks of ministry. It means that
someone can speak another language. We're headed off to the Czech Republic, but
we don't speak even one little word 'over the border'!

"Het komt voor de bakker" (It comes before the baker)

The most well known Dutch dictionary says that this expressions stems from earlier
times when people would knead the bread dough themselves and then take it to the
baker to bake. When the dough was 'before the baker' the most important part of
the task was already done. The expression means that something is in order or is
taken care of. Pray with us that as we have done our best to complete the
application forms for Chris' work permit and our residence visas that God will see
that they 'come before the baker'!

"broodnodig"(bread necesary)
Bread is a key element of the Dutch diet. Breakfast and lunch are what we call
'bread and spread' (slices of bread with stuff to put on top of it). We can't imagine a
Dutch home without a good stock of bread! Thus, in this culture bread is an absolute
necessity...hence the expression 'broodnodig' or something you can't do without.
What we absolutely can't do without is God's guidance in everything that we do!

"ieder dubbeltje omdraaien" (turning every dime)

This expression means to be economical...careful with how you spend your money.
In the current economic situation worldwide just about everyone, including us is
'turning every dime'. We are so grateful that God is the owner of the cattle on a
thousand hills and that He has everything for all of us in His hands! Jehovah Jireh!

"de hand boven het hoofd van iemand houden"(holding the hand above
someone's head) and "de hand op iets leggen" (putting the hand on
These are two different expressions, but both fit the concept of what we wanted to
communicate. The first one means that you defend and protect someone (with
words) an the second one means to claim something as your own..taking possession
of it. The second one came from judicial terminology in the 17th century. If you
wanted to claim something, you had to lay your hand on it. Isn't that what God has
done with us? He lays His hand on us and claims us as His own. Then He offers us
His support and protection. Gratefully, He does it not only with words, but also with
deeds starting with coming to earth as a baby in manager in order to ultimately die
in our place on the cross.
I just looked in my Dutch idiom book and dictionary to find an expression or idiom
regarding thankfulness. Interestingly enough, under "Thankfulness" was the
saying "Dankbaarheid is een bloemke, dat in weinig hoven
bloeit" (Thankfulness is a flower that grows in few gardens) along with a reference
to "see 'unthankful'! There I found the expression "Ondank is 's werelds
loon" (Unthankfulness is the world's payment) used to express the idea that good
deeds are often repaid with a lack of thankfulness or that you often get nothing in
return for good deeds. Our prayer is that we first of all express our thankfulness to
God often for what He has done and continues to do. We cannot begin to repay Him
for all that He does, but we can be sincerely thankful and make it known. Secondly
let's express our thankfulness to others for their help, ministry and impact in our
lives! Let's not let our hearts be one of those gardens that have few 'flowers of
thanksgiving' growing in them!

"Hier kan je je ei kwijt"

(You can loose (get rid of) your egg here) This expression means that you can say
here what it is you want to say. It can be used for someone expressing their feelings
over something that is going on, or to indicate a place where you can openly share
what you need to share. Terri heard the expression again last week when she visited
her internship location. There is an interpreter room where she was told "je kan hier
je ei kwijt" - i.e. that it was a safe place to share what you are dealing with. Nice
work environment....but with a little imagination you can just picture eggs all over
the room!

"hij laat de wereld op zijn duim draaien"

(he lets the world spin on his thumb) This is used to say that someone has a lot of
power or might. Makes us think of God who has the whole world in His hands as the
old song goes! A similar expression, also having to do with the thumb is: "Hij
houdt de duim in de hand" (he holds the thumb in the hand) - As long as you
have the thumb of your enemy in your hand, you are in control. I.e. someone
ensures that he has everything under control. If that isn't our God, I don't know who
it is!

"ergens een mouw aan weten te passen"

(knowing how to fit a sleeve on somewhere) The expression comes from the old
days when tailors made loose sleeves that fit onto shirts. It refers to figuring out a
way to make something (a situation or need) work out. Although it is often used in
the negative sense ("I don't know any solution for that") we have heard it used
positively as well ("There has to be a way to work that out"). That is what we are
seeking with Terri's next internship. We are confident that God knows how to "fit
that sleeve" on!

"zoden aan de dijk zetten"

(putting sod on the dike) This is often used in a the negative "putting no sod on the
dike" to indicate that something doesn't help at all. It the positive sense it gives the
picture of actions taken to make a positive impact. We certainly want to make sure
that there is plenty of sod on the real dikes in Holland...otherwise we've have floods
happening all over the place! In the same way, we are working to put sod on the
spiritual dikes in this country. The Dutch Sign Language Bible work group is an
example of that. Pray with us that the efforts there will have a very positive impact
on Deaf people in this country.

"iets aan de grote klok hangen"

(hanging something on the big clock/chimes) This is defined as "telling something
to everyone" or making it well known. In a bell tower, when the bells are rung, the
sound is heard far and wide. Let's be a part of sounding the gospel message far and
wide until everyone has had a chance to hear it!

(sick searching) This word showed up in an article about the Dutch bulb industry. It
refers to the process of removing sick or imperfect bulbs from the field. It made us
think of people who are spiritually sick or weak. Gratefully God doesn't simply kill
people like that off! He calls us to come alongside them and nurture them into
spiritual health. In particular with the new on-line group, we are seeking to nurture
people who are hurting.

"De bloemetjes buiten zetten "

(setting the little flowers out) This phrase is used to describe celebrating, having a
party. In the last month we have had a lot to celebrate, from the celebration of
Christ's birth, to the completion of Terri's really heavy school semester. Although it is
technically too early here for the flowers to be coming up, we have seen daffodils
showing up anyway. I guess God "zet de bloemetjes uit"!

"De mist in gaan"

(Going into the mist) For one reason or another this expression has come up a lot
lately in a variety of settings. It technically means that something goes completely
wrong, but we have heard it used in the sense of someone getting really confused or
getting off on the wrong track as well. Things have not "gone into the mist" for us,
but it comes to mind now, just because we have heard it used so much lately!

"Dat staat nog in de kinderschoenen"

(That is still "standing" in children's shoes) This expression is used to say that
something is still in the beginning stages. In English we would say that it is still in
its infancy.

"De molen is door de vang"

(The windmill is through the clamp that hold the axle in place) This expression is
used to say that there is nothing more that can be done and that something is
hopeless. The 'vang' is the clamp that holds the turning axle of the mill in place.
When the mill is "door de vang" it is out of control and cannot be stopped. The miller
has lost control and accidents can occur. Despite the worsening exchange rate, we
do not believe that the "molen is door de vang"! God is ultimately the "miller" and
He never looses control! He continues to be faithful to provide for our needs and will
continue to do so!

"Daar is meer omgegaan dan de molens in het woud"

(There is more going on than there are mills in the woods) More has happened
than people think. It makes me think of the verse "Now to Him who is able to do
exceedingly abundatnly above all that we ask or think...." (Ephesians 3:20). We're
convinced that God is busy behind the scenes doing far more than we can even
imagine...certainly doing more than there are mills in the woods!

"Dat zal hem geen windeieren leggen"

(That won't lay him any shell-less eggs) This expression means that someone will
get a lot of benefit from it won't result in useless outcomes. The time
investment that is being made in people (the summer youth team and our own
contacts with non-believers) will bear fruit in God's time! His Word will not come
back to Him without accomplishing what He sent it out to do! No shell-less eggs with

"Een held op sokken"

(a hero in socks) Folko used this expression in his sermon a week ago and we had to
look the exact meaning up! He was preaching on Gideon when he used it. It refers
to someone who doesnt dare to do anythingour dictionary also said that it is
someone who has a lot to say but doesnt do anything. Fits Gideon pretty wellat
least in the beginninghiding out in the winepress, constantly wanting to recheck
what God told him to do, etc.

"Als de maan vol is schijnt ze overal"

(When the moon is full, it shines everywhere) This saying indicates that when people
are happy, everyone can see it. We feel so excited about what God is in the process
of doing that it cant help but spill out of us.

"Alles gaat van een leien dakje"

(Everything is going like from a lead roof.) This expression is used to say that things
are going smoothly. We have heard 2 explantations for this expression. One simply
refers to how easily the rain streams off of lead roofs. The other talks about the
royal children who lived years ago in Paleis Het Loo (Het Loo Palace) who used to
play ball outside. The story goes that their balls would end up on the roof of the
palace, but because of the smooth lead tiles, they could glide right off. Either way, it
refers to things gliding off of a lead roof. That is how it has felt for Terri regarding
her tests lately. Things have been going extremely smoothly. It feels like everything
she touches at school turn to gold. That is a result of God working as a result of your

"De victorie begint in Alkmaar"

(The victory begins in Alkmaar.) This expression comes from Alkmaars history.
Alkmaar was the first city to successfully hold the Spaniards at bay. While that is

true as far as Dutch political history goes, the real victory began elsewhere! Victory
comes from Christ who conquered sin and death for us. We prayed again today in
the monthly prayer gathering for this city that the real victory will also begin in
Alkmaar! May God reign in this city!

"Je wordt geleefd"

(You are being lived). This Dutch expression is used to describe someone who is
being lived by life rather than living life. It is used to imply that someone is way too
busy and that life is out of control. We want to suggest a revised positive version of
the expression: Je wordt door God geleefd (you are being lived by God). During
the time that we have been in the States we have seen God at work in many
unexpected ways. We feel like this has been a time of God directing our lives and we
have just needed to follow along where He leads. We would like our lives to always
be lived by God!

"Voor een schip zonder haven is geen enkele wind de juiste"

(For a ship without a harbor there is no wind that is the right one.) This is meant to
indicate that a home is the basis of a happy life. We are very aware as we travel
back in the U.S. that the concept of home has different meanings for us. While we
are currently back in our homeland and enjoy the contacts and the American things
that we miss in Holland, our home in many ways now is Holland. That is where our
life and work is now. However, our family and friends make this still home for us as
well. However, for all of us who know Christ, no where on this planet will be
completely our home. Home is ultimately in heaven with the Lord. Those around us
who do not know the Lord are like ships without a harbor.

"Dat is een fluitje van een cent"

(That is a one cent flute) When Terri first got sick she was initially diagnosed with
bronchitis. She had had bronchitis once before but it was nothing compared to what
she was now experiencing. When writing an e-mail to her classmates to say that she
wouldnt be in class she said that her previous bronchitis was a walk in the park
compared to this. She asked her classmates if they had a similar Dutch expression
and this one was given to her. Since our idiom books are back in Holland we tried
searching on the internet to find the history behind this expression, but didnt have
much success. Liesbeth (who gave us the idiom) said that she thinks it means that
70 years ago you could purchase a very cheap flute. One on-line idiom site said that
it is easy to make noise with a cheap flute. Either way, the idea is that of something
that is quite easy. Another comparable English expression would be That is a piece
of cake.

"Daar kan ik geen chocola van maken"

(I cant make any chocolate from that.) This expression is used to indicate that you
cant understand something or, in an English expression Its all Greek to me. For
many Dutch deaf people, that is pretty desciptive of their understanding of Christ
and the Bible. Access to clear information is limited and what they get is at times
not clear or accurate.

"Een koekje van eigen deeg krijgen"

(getting a cookie from your own dough) Since the team that is coming will be
spending time baking lots of cookies for the International Christmas service, we
thought that this expression would be fitting this month. Actually, the expression is
used in a more negative sense (so it doesnt really fit our teams efforts!). It refers
to someone who has treated other people badly and then gets treated badly himself.

In other words, He got what was coming to him. What might fit our team better is
the expression..

"Dat is andere koek"

(That is a different cookie) This expression implies that two topics in a
conversation are quite different from one another. That isnt what Im talking
aboutit is something quite different. The American cookies baked for the
international Christmas service are usually novelties for many people herethey are
literally a different cookie!

"Wat de boer niet kent, eet hij niet"

(What the farmer doesnt know, he doesnt eat) Many Dutch folks are not very
daring when it comes to trying new things. Our church here has never had a church
day out like the ladies from California planned for us, but we still had 80% of the
church family in attendancepretty incredible percentage. Everyone had a blast and
several ladies here are considering how they can organize something similar
themselves. When it came time to eat, however, many folks were less adventurous!
Our ladies team kept most of the food pretty safe (food that the farmer knew), but
did make a dish of chicken enchilladas for the more adventurous. Those who dared
to try something new really enjoyed them!

"Goed gebekt zijn"

(Have a good beak/animal mouth) - Although the Dutch word "bek" refers to the
mouth of an animal, not a human, this expression is used to describe someone that
can speak well, not stumble over their mouth trying to get a response out. Terri is
beginning the Dutch sign languge interpreter program and wants to be "goed
gebekt" with both her mouth (in speaking Dutch) but also her hands (Dutch sign

"Als de maan vol is, shcijnt ze overall"

(When the moon is full, it shines everywhere) This expression is used to say that
when someone is happy, everyone can see it. How much does your life radiate
Christs life in you? Is your moon so full that it is shining everywhere? We know
that we want ours to be and I believe you do too!

"Beter een dag leven als een tijger dan honderd als een schaap"
(Better to live one day as a tiger than 100 as a sheep) According to our dictionary,
this means that the quality of life is what is most important. Our teammate says that
he thinks the word tiger pretty well defines a lot of Dutch people. It is actually due
to the difficulty of ministering in this culture that many pastors are burning out and
leaving the ministry. We are aware of one man who returned to Holland after
ministering overseas for a number of years. He is now being confronted with the
negativity and other challenges that are prevalent in this culture and is wondering if
he can continue to minister here. We also wonder how Dutch people view the Bibles
definition of us all as sheep who are in need of a shepherd in light of this saying!

"Iets als zoete koek aannemen"

(taking something as though it were a sweet cookie). That is like accepting
something at face value without questioning whether it is true or not.

"Vroeg uit de veren"

(early out of the feathers) We learned this one while touring Castle Muiderslot. In
the Middle Ages mattresses were often filled with straw. If you slept directly on the

mattress the straw could be quite prickly and uncomfortable. To help eliminate that
problem people filled a cloth sack with feathers and laid in on top of the straw
mattress like a sort of mattress pad. When you got up early in the morning you
could say that you were early out of the feathers. Since we have to leave home
tomorrow morning at 4:30 a.m. to catch our flight we will be vroeg uit de veren

"Je kan het met je klompen wel aanvoelen"

(You can feel that with your wooden shoes on) i.e. that is something that is not
difficult to see/pick up on. Even with wooden shoes on your feet you can still feel
what you are walking over. With all that God is doing here we could sense it even
through wooden shoes!

"Als Pasen op een vrijdag valt"

(If Easter came on a Friday) or Als Pasen en Pinkstern op een dag vallen. (If Easter
and Pentecost fall on the same day) These Dutch expressions are a way of saying
It will never happen You might compare it to the English expression That will
happen when hell freezes over

"Wat heb ik nou aan mijn fiets hangen?"

(What have I got hanging on my bike now?) This is a way of saying Whats going
on now? or What do I have to deal with now? Biking is the most common means
of transportation for people in Holland. Many people go their entire life without
owning a car. We find it interesting to see what types of things people carry on their
bikes. Besides baskets or saddlebags full of groceries or other shopping items, weve
seen people carrying ladders, flowers, pizzas, and almost anything else you can

"Ambachtelijke molens malen langzaam"

(Official/government mills grind slowly) - Nothing happens fast via government
channels. We pray that the mills wont grind too slowly as we seek to get
information about our work permit and visa extensions!

"nu komt de aap uit de mouw"

(Now the monkey is coming out of the sleeve) This phrase is used when someone
has told you one thing and another person says, Thats not the way it is. Let me tell
you how it really is. It is a way of saying Now the real truth comes out.

"de kat uit de boom kijken"

(Watching the cat out of the tree) When a dog chases a cat that runs up a tree, he
will often sit at the base of the tree and wait for the cat to come down. In the same
way, Dutch people will often wait to see if something is worthwhile, or how thing are
really going to go, before joining in. New ideas or suggestions dont go over very
quickly here! In the same way, people are slow to respond to the gospel and need to
be in a relationship where they can both see and hear it many times over.

"Hij heeft te veel noten op zijn zang"

(He has too many notes in his song) This communicates the idea that there are
too many things being required for something. It makes us think of the people
proposing to the Dutch government that a 2 year limit for a missionary visa makes
any kind of sense. They said that they realized that one year was not long enough
for someone to learn the language, culture and have an opportunity to accomplish
anything. What do they think can realistically happen in 2 years?! Many mission
boards set the first two years of a missionaries term aside for language learning

alone! In our opinion, those making and considering this proposal have too many
notes in their song!

"iets in kleuren en geuren vertellen"

(Telling something in colors and smells) The beautiful colors of the flowers and
their sweet aromas are remarkable here in Holland. Information can be shared in
the same way...including all the wonderful, unique things that are involved. It is a
privilege for us to let you know of the marvelous ways that God is at work here!

"in 't huwelijksbootje stappen"

(stepping into the wedding boat) getting married. We attended our first Dutch
wedding in August. In Holland, marriages are only official when they are performed
at the city hall by a government official. Only after that is done can the couple have
a church ceremony. The bride and groom sit, rather than stand. Unlike the American
weddings we were used to, people dont dress up much here for the ceremony. The
bride and groom did, as did some of the witnesses. However, most of those in
attendance wore very casual attire. Since our old city hall is in the middle of one of
our walking/shopping districts, when a wedding takes place, everyone on the street
stops to watch. Daniel and Karen asked Chris to take some video footage for them
and he is now in the process of making them a nice DVD video to remember their
day by. Terri was asked to man the gift table at the reception. People brought their
gifts and handed them directly to the bride and groom, who, after thanking people,
handed them to Terri. Most gifts came without the givers names noted anywhere, so
Terri had to make sure that they all got labeled appropriately.

"Zoals het klokje thuis tikt, tikt het nergens"

(The clock doesn't chime anywhere else quite like it does at home) i.e. "There's no
place like home!" This quote implies that you will never again find the same sense of
"home" in any house other than the one you grew up in. Many people who have
moved overseas do sense the loss of "home". Gratefully, God has given us the ability
to have 2 "homes": One in Holland and one in the U.S.

"Dat is zo helder als koffiedik"

(Thats as clear as coffee grounds) i.e. very unclear! Coffee is a pretty big part of
Dutch society. We firmly believe that nothing here can happen without coffee!
Interestingly, instead of talking about reading tea leaves, they use the expression
koffiedik kijken, or looking at the coffee grounds. Actually they use this expression
more in terms of making guesses or predictions about something you really know
nothing about.

"Hij heeft het zo druk als de kippen voor Pasen"

(He is as busy as the chickens before Easter) Just consider how many eggs get
boiled and colored at Easter and youll know just what this expression is all about! It
is a pretty good expression of how we feel right about now!

"iets onder de knie hebben"

(having something under your knee) This expression is used to indicate that you
have mastered something. Our idiom book describes it as knowing something
through and through, being in control of something or having the power over

"natte vinger werk"

(wet finger work) Marcel, the 25 year old speaker at last Sundays youth service,

used this expression in his message and it was the first time we had heard it. It
comes from the idea of wetting your finger and holding it up to see which way the
wind is blowing. Our dictionary explains the expression as doing something quickly
with having studied the issue first...i.e. guess work!

"Hoge bomen vangen veel wind"

(Tall trees catch a lot of wind.) In Dutch culture standing out from the crowd is not
valued like it can be in America. People who stand out from the rest (i.e. leaders
who dare to stand tall) get a lot of flack. We see that both within and without the
church here.

"Als n schaapje over de dam is, volgen er meer."

(When one sheep goes over the dam, more follow.) The dam in the sloot (ditches
filled with water separating pastures) binds one pasture to another. Once a shepherd
could get one sheep to go over the dam to the new pasture, the rest would follow.
Whenever one person sets the example, particularly in difficult situations, then
others will follow. This sounds like a pretty good description of leadership and
discipleship to me! It makes me think of Pauls charge to the Philippians in Phil. 3:17
Brethren, join in following my example and observe those who walk according to
the pattern you have in us.

"Roeie met de riemen die je hebt."

(Row with the oars that you have) Make the best of what you have. Dont fret over
all the possibilities that dont really exist. Take what youve got to work with and do
the best with it that you can.

"Hoe komt een ezel aan twee lange oren?"

(How does a donkey get two long ears?) This is the answer given to questions
about how something can be when someone either cant or doesnt want to answer.
Donkeys tend to get a bad rap here. They always seem to be the fall guy used to
represent someone or something stupid. We thought in light of the donkey in the
Christmas story, that wed share one of the many expressions relating to a donkey.

"Joost mag het weten."

(Joost must know it.) - This expression is used to indicate that you have no idea
about something and imply that Joost must know it. I asked several friends where
this expression came from and who Joost was. Most people told me they didnt
know. One gal said that Joost refers to a famous writer who reportedly knows
everything. I just looked in our Dutch proverbs/expressions book to discover that
Joost is apparently one of the names for the devil! The Dutch dictionary indicates
something different. According to it, Joost came from a Japanese word that through
Portuguese somehow became Deos or God. Thus, they say that the expression
really means, Only God knows! Im sure glad that we serve a God who really does
know everything!

(or "cucumber time") - This refers to the quiet summer period when little happens.
Traditionally, growers were busy during the summer months, but other businesses
had nothing to do. More and more this term is used to refer to the lack of news or

"Dat zuigt hij uit zijn duim"

(He sucks that out of his thumb.) This is similar to our expression of pulling

something out of the air. It refers to something that someone just made up. It refers
to the idea of a small child who sucks on his thumb when he can't get a bottle. It
doesn't have any value to it.

"Hij staat vast in zijn schoenen."

("He stands firmly in his shoes.") This expression describes someone who knows his
mind and is certain of what he thinks. i.e. someone who stands his ground.

"koek en ei"
(cookie and egg) this expression gets used in the same way that we would use the
expression Its just a bed of roses. No one I have asked yet has been able to tell
me why cookies and eggs imply things going easy, or even what the two have to do
with each other!

"Wie voor een dubbeltje geboren is, wordt nooit een kwartje."
(Whoever is born a dime will never be a quarter). Born poor, always poor. A person
doesn't rise beyond who they are.

"Iets door de vingers zien"

(Seeing something through the fingers). This is the idea of holding your fingers in
front of your face, but looking past the fingers rather than at them. The concept is
that you shouldn't get distracted with things going on around you. You should keep
your focus on where it belongs and plug ahead.

"Hij is met zijn neus in de boter gevallen"

(He has fallen with his nose in the butter) This expression implies that someone has
come at an opportune moment. It can also be used to describe a man who marries a
rich wife!

"Daar heeft hij geen kaas van gegeten."

(He hasnt eaten any cheese from there) This phrase indicates that someone
knows nothing or little about a subject.

"Praten over koetjes en kalfjes"

literally translated "Talking about little cows and little calves." This is the expression
you use to say that you are chatting about nothing of importance or nothing in
particular. Can you guess that there are a lot of cows in this country?


10 things I love about the Dutch

30 September 2014, by Zsuzsa Jonas
Expat Page



Direct Dutch Institute recommends speaking Dutch as often as possible - even if all your
Dutch colleagues speak English, and even if you only know a few words of Dutch.
There are many articles out there about the Dutch and their strange habits. But, as you may agree, a
bad habit can sometimes be ones best asset. It all depends on how you look at it.
Here are, in random order, 10 of the least-valued Dutch habits, with a few handy Dutch words and
phrases. Look at them from a positive point of view and use them to your advantage!

1. Not so discrete!
When youve got food stuck between your teeth a Dutch person will tell you, without blinking his
eyes: "Er zit iets tussen je tanden!"
But honestly, arent you better off knowing there is something green in your mouth, or your zippers
open? Especially if youre told this before your presentation! Just thank the person ("Bedankt voor de
mededeling") and go look for a toothpick (tandenstoker).

2. The Dutch are cheap

The Dutch are often called cheap (zuinig / gierig / krenterig). But maybe that is why theyve got so
many euros left to give to charity (goede doelen).
As it turns out, the Dutch are ranked number seven in both the World Giving Index 2012 and
Wikipedia's listing of most charitable governments in the world. Not bad!

3. Dutch glitter and glamour

The Lowlands' lack of glitter and glamour can be linked to the national motto "Doe maar normaal, dan
doe je al gek genoeg". Literally this means "Just behave normally, its crazy enough". This Calvinist
attitude is all about modesty (bescheidenheid) and being down-to-earth (nuchterheid).
Arrogance (kapsones) is considered a high crime in Holland. In talent shows in the Netherlands, the
much-too-arrogant candidate will never make it to the next round. Talent or no talent, he will always be
sent home by the Dutch audience.

4. The Dutch say no, whenever, wherever

When you offer a piece of cake to your Dutch colleague, and he doesnt feel like it, he wont have it. It
can be really embarrassing, especially if hes not the first colleague to say no.
But remember this works both ways. If there are three birthdays in a row at your office, and you really
want to stick to your diet this time, just say no ("Nee, bedankt. Ik ben op dieet" or "Nee, bedankt. Ik
heb net gegeten"). Really, its OK!

5. The Dutch dont offer twice

Suppose a Dutchman offers you another drink ("Wil je nog wat drinken?"), and you decline ("Nee,
dank je"). This means you wont get that drink. He just assumes you dont want another drink while,
truth be told, you were just being polite.

On the positive side, if you really shouldnt have that extra glass of wine, he wont nag you until you
politely accept. Youll be thankful the next morning!

6. Gefeliciteerd!
At a birthday party, Dutch people congratulate each other. This doesnt make sense to foreigners. But
actually its an effortless way to make your entrance at a party with strangers, especially if you dont
speak Dutch (yet).
Shake hands, introduce yourself and congratulate ("Hallo, ik ben Bob, gefeliciteerd met Anita"). Repeat this
phrase with every person in the room!

7. Dutch assertiveness
Dutch assertiveness can come across as rude (onbeschoft / lomp) and sometimes even a bit aggressive. If you
are not good at sticking up for yourself, you can easily become the victim in a conflict. Having at least one Dutch
friend, male or female, can be handy!

8. Anyone can criticise anyone

Dutch organisations have a flat structure. This means you can, and will, be criticised by anyone in the company,
from the boss to the trainee.
In general the Dutch are not ashamed when a mistake is pointed out to them ("Bedankt, dat je me op deze fout
wijst"). They see this as a chance to correct the mistake and to learn.
It might be painful at first, but showing you can take criticism is considered a great virtue here.

9. Cold and wet!

Even though the last Elfstedentocht happened in 1997, Dutch speed skaters (schaatsers) live up to their
During the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, 24 medals were won by the Dutch, of which 8 were gold. Didnt you
feel just a little proud when the winners podium turned completely orange four times?

10. The Dutch never let you speak Dutch

We try to make Dutch people aware that expats should get the opportunity to speak Dutch. It can be quite
frustrating when everyone answers back in English!
But on the upside, no matter how lost you get in our big little country, everyone you meet will speak at least a little
Of course, we dont try to offend anyone in any way by generalising character traits of different cultures :) We
hope you enjoyed reading this article and learnt some new Dutch phrases!
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A taste of Dutch: Idioms & Expressions

24 July 2012, by Catalina Barzescu
Expat Page



The "flavour" of a language often lies in idiomatic sayings and expressions that make no sense if you
translate them literally, but may sound hilarious if you do so. Idioms are developed over time, deep
within a language, with their true meaning often reserved for the natives and their origins relevant to
the culture they belong to.
So lets take a look at a couple of such idioms, with both their literal and figurative meanings, in the
language that surrounds us: Dutch.

Over koetjes en kalfjes praten

(talk about little cows and little calves)
This expression basically means small talk, dealing with unimportant subjects. The Dutch refer to
animals in many of their idioms. No surprise then that a misfit in a group can be described as
a vreemde eend in de bijt (a strange duck in the pack).

Nu komt de aap uit de mouw

(now the monkey comes out of the sleeve)
To continue for a while in the animal vein, the Dutch use this saying when the true meaning of a
situation or the character of a person comes to the surface. The saying apparently has its origins in
magic tricks during which a monkey popped out of the magician's long sleeves.

Iemand met apenmunt betalen

So fond are the Dutch of monkey idioms, you can even pay someone with monkey coins, which
means fool someone with nice words. References to money may refer to the Dutch trade and
merchant past.

Ieder dubbeltje omdraaien

(to turn every ten cents)
This is perhaps a reflection of the Dutch's thrifty ways, as it refers to making-do with little money.

De kogel is door de kerk

(the bullet is through the church)
This is the Dutch way of saying that, after long deliberation, a decision has been made. During past
battles, out of respect churches were spared the shooting, so when an enemy did not subscribe to this
unspoken agreement, it meant that he was capable of commiting any evil in the battle. Other opinions
simply attribute this expression to the nice alliteration.

Weten waar Abraham de mosterd haalt

(to know where Abraham gets the mustard from)
The saying basically means to be informed and up-to-date on a particular issue. The meaning is
supposed to originate from the Old Testament, namely the chapter when Abraham prepares for the
sacrifice of his son by gathering firewood, known as mustaards, a word which evolved over time into
the similarly pronounced mosterd.

Paarse krokodil
(purple crocodile)
A more recent expression, which entered the language after a 2005 commercial for insurance
services and has come to signify exaggerated bureaucracy.

De lakens uitdelen
(to distribute the sheets)
To run the show. The origin of this expression is not completely clear, but dictionaries suggest it refers
to distributing fabric with the meaning of assigning work, and therefore being in charge.
- See more at:

Iets onder de knie hebben

(to have something under the knee)
To have thorough knowledge of something, to master it. The expression first suggested dominating an opponent
in a fight and, over time, its meaning extended to things one can learn.

Een appeltje met iemand te schillen hebben

(to have a little apple to peel with someone)
The expression means to be angry at someone and wish to pay him / her back, similar to "having a bone to pick
with someone" in English. A rather ironic saying, since preparing to eat something with a person one is upset with
is no pleasant affair.

Het Spaans benauwd krijgen

(become Spanish breathless)
The idiom refers to a state of fear or anxiety. Associating this with Spain takes us back to the times when Spain
was the oppressor, during and prior to the Eighty Years War.

Als haringen in een ton zitten

(to sit like herrings in a barrel)
This is a way to suggest people being crowded, for example on public transport. It is no surprise that fish are part
of numerous Dutch idioms.
For example, it is also not unusual to say someone is as healthy as a fish (zo gezond als een vis). The herring
in particular is a traditional food and herring season is a joyful annual event.

Alsof er een engeltje over je tong piest

(as if an angel pisses on your tongue)
One way to say the food tastes great. The expression evolved from an angel that fietst (cycles) on your tongue,
replacing "fietst" with the childish funny word "piest" while preserving its meaning.

Met de mond vol tanden staan

(to sit with the mouth full of teeth)
Meaning to be speechless. Along with op zijn tandvlees lopen (to walk on ones gums), meaning to be
exhausted, two expressions whose origins Ive yet to discover...
The list goes on and on...
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