IN THE CLOUDS OR OVER THE MOON?
Recognize this? You’re having a conversation in Dutch; it’s going rather well, and all of a sudden you hear words, phrases that do not seem to make any sense at all after which you’re completely lost? As all languages do, Dutch has many expressions and sayings that people use a lot. Let’s take a closer look at some useful sayings and how you can surprise your Dutch friends.
ZE IS HELEMAAL IN DE WOLKEN
‘Wolken’ means ‘clouds’, so the literal meaning is ‘she is completely in the clouds’. As you probably prefer sunshine to clouds, it can be hard to imagine this is a positive situation. Unexpectedly however, we are talking about a very fortunate situation: ‘in de wolken zijn’ / ‘being in clouds’ is actually very similar to the English expression ‘being over the moon’!
Surprise the Dutch: Next time you’re extremely happy, tell them: Ik ben helemaal in de wolken!
DAT IS WATER NAAR DE ZEE DRAGEN
Partially living below sea level, the Dutch have many sayings about water. Dutch efficiency and water are merged in the saying ‘dat is water naar de zee dragen’, or ‘that is like carrying water to the sea’. Meaning: it is completely useless what you’re doing.
Surprise the Dutch: Next time when people ask you to do something useless, you say ‘Ik ga geen water naar de zee dragen’.
HIJ LOOPT NIET IN ZEVEN SLOTEN TEGELIJK
If you want to park your bike in Amsterdam, you’ll need at least 2 sloten, locks. When arriving to The Netherlands by plane, you are introduced to the other meaning of ‘sloten’; a pattern of small pieces of land, divided by hundreds of ‘sloten’, ditches. When we say ‘hij loopt niet in zeven sloten tegelijk’, we are talking about a person that we have confidence in and doesn’t get into trouble easily.
Surprise the Dutch: Your teenage son is going backpacking in Asia for 3 months. Although you’re worried, you’ll think: Hij loop echt niet in zeven sloten tegelijk!
KLAP VAN DE MOLEN GEHAD?
‘Die heeft een klap van de molen gehad’ is what the Dutch use for someone they consider ‘mad, crazy, losing his mind’, hit by a mill. A milder version of a mill saying is ‘met molentjes lopen’. Someone who is walking with little mills is a bit confused, out of his mind, or ‘in de war’.
Surprise the Dutch: Be careful with this one; better use it in a funny way, ‘Heeft ze misschien een klap van de molen gehad?’
STORM IN EEN GLAS WATER
Language = emotion, and misinterpretation or miscommunication are just around the corner. Find yourself lost in translation? Then think ‘het is slechts een storm in een glas water’, it’s only a storm in a teacup. Zet je beste beentje voor, put your best foot forward, and explain with words, hands or feet what you actually mean.
And don’t forget, Flowently Principe number 7: Do Not Worry About Making Mistakes!