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Basic Dutch: How to flirt

How to flirt with that special Dutchman / woman in the early spring sunshine?

The Dutch don’t like flattery. Unlike the French and the Italians, they are not especially well-known for their romantic eloquence. Just think of the Dutch national motto “doe maar gewoon, dan doe je gek genoeg” (just act normal, that’s crazy enough), and you will realise that it doesn’t take a lot of verbal fireworks to impress your average Dutchman / woman. The trick is to keep it simple and use as few words as possible to a maximum effect – an idea that might sound quite appealing to new speakers of Dutch. Here are some dos and don’ts to get you on the right track.


What you should not do…

› Don’t confuse leuk and lekker
It is easy to overdo it with compliments when flirting in Dutch. Still, if you want to give it a go anyway, don’t confuse the two Dutch words for nice, that is: being lekker and leuk. Lekker means something like tasty, yummy, or luscious (yes, including the sensual connotation) and relates to things you “like with your body.” Leuk is closer to nice, entertaining, or amusing and relates to things you “like with your mind.”

Hence, lekker weertje (nice weather) is fine, while leuk weertje (amusing weather) is a bit funny. Your good-looking colleague will be pleased to be introduced as mijn leuke college (my nice colleague), but might frown at mijn lekkere college (my tasty, luscious colleague). When you are in doubt, just go for leuk – it is better to be funny than to be slapped in the face by your luscious colleague.

› Don’t go over the top
It is just as easy to go over the top in Dutch flirting as in climbing a Dutch mountain: the tops are virtually non-existent and for a foreigner it is easy to overlook them altogether. When you look for adjectives to describe anything – from an evening out to your friend’s fashionable flip-flops – stick to mooi (pretty), leuk (nice, see last point), or even geinig (funny), and avoid fantastisch (fantastic), geweldig (great) and heerlijk (delicious).

› Other no-go areas
These no-go areas include:
– appreciative noises (yes, those are common in some circles)
– any (explicit, metaphorical, lyrical, etc.) comments on your belle / beau’s appearance
– open displays of courtliness, machismo, or sexism (in Dutch eyes, it is quite hard to say where the one concept starts and the other ends, so it’s better to play safe).

What you should do…

› Start a conversation using a diminutive
In Dutch, diminutives often have nothing to do with the actual size of things. Hating pomp and flattery, the Dutch like to add “-je” to their words and make them sound smaller, cuter, more intimate and gezellig.

You can create instant intimacy and play around with some “-jes” yourself. Try:
– a general comment such as lekker weertje (nice weather), lekker zonnetje (nice sunshine), leuk terrasje (nice terrace)
– a rhetorical question such as lekker weertje?, lekker zonnetje?, leuk terrasje?
– or an offer biertje?, wijntje?, bitterballetje?

The mother of all diminutive flirting phrases, vuurtje? (fire?) might still work, but has become slightly outdated.

› Play the foreigner card
Say any Dutch sentence you have picked so far – revision of chapter one of your (online) course might help here – look very proud and clearly state that you are practicing your Dutch. Go for a slightly absurd sentence that has no flirtatious connotation at all, but is nonetheless impressive, such as “Dit is een lange, brede straat,” or “Heeft u misschien een bonuskaart?” The object of your affection will be surprised and pleased by your attempt to speak his or her language and might offer to practice some more Dutch together.

› Forget our advice and just go for it!
All in all, it is hard to think of an easier and more enjoyable way to start practicing your Dutch than some harmless flirting with a friendly Dutchy on a sunny terrace – possibly enjoying some well-deserved Heineken, or a lekker wijntje. Forget our advice, “trek de stoute schoenen aan” (literally: put on your naughty shoes) and give it a go!

We wish you all lekkere lentekriebels!

By Marloes van Rooijen

Photo by Flickr user LyndaSanchez