10 Essential Mokum Expressions for Expats & Blend into Bruin Cafés

Are you looking to break out of your bubble and have an authentic Amsterdam experience? Visit a bruin café and enjoy the real Mokum. Bruin cafés are cozy spots known for their dark wood interiors. They originated in the 19th century in people’s living rooms. Folks would open up their front room as a makeshift bar to earn some extra money. Permits are needed now, and the private cafés have closed down, but there are still a few bruin cafés left and they’ve kept that homey atmosphere.

Authentic Amsterdam Slang to Help You Blend in

1 – Moppie
Ladies, don’t worry – “moppie” isn’t meant in a bad way.
Amsterdammers call women of any age “moppie” as a term of endearment.
He, moppie van me! (Hey, sweetie!)
Wat kan ik voor je inschenken, moppie? Alles goed, moppie?

2 – Jofel
Dat vind ik heel jofel van je! Dat is echt jofel! That’s very kind!
Hij is altijd een jofele jongen geweest.
He has always been a nice guy. Een jofele gast!

3 – Porem
If something looks awful or ugly, you might say:
Da’s toch geen porem, dat is geen gezicht! That really looks very bad, that looks awful!

4 – Goochem
Als je het goochem aanpakt, wordt het een succes!
If you do it right (smart), it will be a success!
Dat is niet zo goochem. That is not very smart.

5 – Ik heb er tabak van!
This means “I’ve had enough!” and has nothing to do with tobacco.

6 – Sores
Je zit nu wel in de sores in deze kroeg……… You’re in serious trouble in this café now.
The Dutch sores is very close to the English ‘sorrow’.

7 – Schlemiel!
Ben je altijd zo’n schlemiel?
Are you always such a trouble maker?
Kon hij dan nooit iets goed doen? Zou ie dan altijd een schlemiel blijven?
Can he do anything right? Is he ever going to stop being a schlemiel?

8 – Afzakkertje
Nemen we nog een afzakkertje? Let’s have a nightcap? Na al die heibel (after any conflict), this will calm things down and you’ll be friends forever! Vrienden voor het leven!

9 – Schnabbelen
This has nothing to do with food, but with earning money on the side. Met die schnabbel kun je leuk bijverdienen. You can earn some extra money with that schnabbel. (in the past with a ‘bruin café’)

10 – Pingelen
When you are haggling over the price, it is often referred to as ‘pingelen’. We hebben nog aardig wat van de prijs weten af te pingelen. (don’t try to do this in this café or any other café)


Het is de toon die de muziek maakt
It’s the tone that makes the music

Mokum humor can have an edge to it. But don’t take it personally – Amsterdammers have big hearts.
Neem alles dus met een korreltje zout. Amsterdam expressions are best taken with a grain of salt.


If you want to practice your Mokum skills in a musical way, check out meezingavonden or Smartlappencafé. Smartlappen are emotional songs about broken hearts, death, and other tragedies. The term originated in the Middle Ages, when minstrels would bring news from the surrounding area by singing songs and holding up a piece of cloth (a “lap”) showing the story in the form of a comic, so that everyone could follow along. Smartlappen is a genre unique to Mokum that you won’t want to miss!

Proost from Flowently!

Afbeelding: https://onh.nl/verhaal/johnny-jordaan

Published by: Flowently

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