Hidden Dutch politeness
The Dutch have a name…
One of the first things you’ll learn in your Dutch course is ‘dankjewel’ and ‘alsjeblieft’. ‘Dankjewel, dank u wel, bedankt’ all mean ‘thank you’. ‘Alsjeblieft’ or ‘alstublieft’ has two different meanings, depending on the context it can mean ‘please’ or ‘here you are’. When speaking English, even as a second language, we are used to saying a lot of ‘please’ as an expression of politeness and friendly communication. Compared to the Dutch language, you won’t hear much ‘alsjeblieft’ on a daily basis. The Dutch are infamous for being direct and a bit rude, on top of which they aren’t very generous with their ‘alsjeblieft’.
Wacht even / Hold on please
What most people, including the Dutch, don’t know is that we actually have a number of ‘little’ words that function as ‘please’. We sprinkle these little words throughout our sentences, from early morning till late night. It really makes a huge difference if you say ‘doe de deur dicht’ or ‘doe de deur even dicht’, because ‘even’ is actually a hidden ‘please’. If you leave out the ‘even’, suddenly the whole sentence becomes unfriendly, impolite even. So while ‘wacht even’ can mean ‘hold on please’, it can also mean ‘wait a minute please’ indicating that ‘even’ can mean ‘please’ as well as ‘a while’.
Even, eventjes, maar, misschien, hoor, wel, eens
One of the most difficult aspects of the Dutch language is these little words, and knowing which one to use in what situation and where to put them in your sentences. What is the difference between ‘kom even, kom eventjes, kom maar, kom eens, kom maar hoor, kom maar even’? That is not easy to explain, it’s very sensitive and it all depends on context.
Little words, huge impact
Mostly, Dutch people aren’t actively aware that these little words are a substitute for ‘please’. Result: when they speak English, they don’t put ‘please’ in their sentences, which makes their English a bit rude and impolite as well. Mind that when you speak Dutch and you don’t use ‘the little words’ in a correct way, the Dutch will also find you a bit rude and impolite. Oh help!
Lost in the jungle of little words?
I hope that reading this article will help you in making your way through the jungle of little words. Do you want to learn how you can use them in daily conversations? Book a session with one of our tutors; only a real native can save you!