Category Archives: Spreek’ing Nederlands

Holland vs The Netherlands

Hi All,

The blog has emerged from the mothballs briefly to share a video that may be of interest. This video came out a few months ago, so many of you have probably already seen it, but I do still encounter people who don’t know where the Netherlands is, or the difference between the Netherlands and Holland. I’ve also run across people who lump it in with Denmark or Germany, but that’s besides the point. Enjoy, and I hope you learn something! I’ll try to post more again in the near future!


Ik Neem Je Mee

It’s been 2 months since my last post. Sorry! I’ve been quite busy during that time. I have some posts I want to make, but I’ll save those for a later date when I have more time. Until then…

I’ve made fun of Dutch music a few times on this blog, so it’s only fair that I post about a Dutch song that I actually like. I’ve been going running lately, either along the Amstel River or in Oosterpark, and I listen to the radio while jogging. Most of the songs are American or British, but a few Dutch ones make it. I don’t quite understand all of the words in this song, but I understand enough to get the gist of it. Here are 2 videos: the actual music video for the song, and then one with the words.

The song is “Ik Neem Je Mee” by Gers Pardoel. “Ik Neem Je Mee” means “I’ll take you along”

Music Video:

GERS PARDOEL – ‘IK NEEM JE MEE’ (I’ll take you with me) from Job, Joris & Marieke on Vimeo.

Lyrics (aka “Songtekst” in Dutch):


Posted by on October 12, 2012 in Life in the Dam, Spreek'ing Nederlands



The Euro 2012 tournament begins soon, and you can definitely tell by just walking around Amsterdam. The tournament isn’t even being played here (it’s being hosted by Poland and Ukraine), but the color orange is everywhere. The country has been consumed with “Oranjegekte“, aka “Orange craze”. Orange streamers and decorations have gone up on many streets, including ours, and Albert Heijn has discovered that if you dye any food orange, the Dutch will pay twice as much for it.

Predictably, you can’t turn on the TV without seeing commercials revolving around the tournament. Here is a nice one, by Grolsch beer. The song being played is the Dutch national anthem:

2 years ago, during the World Cup, Bavaria beer made the news by releasing an orange dress for women. Many women wore them to matches, and pictures of them appeared in the media around the world. Well, Bavaria is back this year with a new V (for Victory) dress.

Supermarket chain Albert Heijn has launched a competition between men (“Mannen”) and women (“Vrouwen”). You can go online and make predictions. At the end of the tournament, the gender that did better wins!

McDonald’s has gotten into the act too, with their new “EK Burger” (Euro Cup Burger). Here, they take on the rivalry between the Netherlands and Germany:

ING Bank released a very nice commercial as well. The chorus of the song is “Wij zijn samen” which means “We are together”, and the tagline “Oranje zijn we allemaal” means “We are all Orange” – “Oranje” being the nickname for the Dutch football/soccer team.

Finally, if you want to listen to a bit of Dutch “music”, have a go at this one:


Posted by on June 8, 2012 in Spreek'ing Nederlands


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Money in the Netherlands

First off, let me just say this post has nothing to do with the Euro crisis, nor the recent collapse of the Dutch government over failed austerity measure negotiations. I’ll leave that for the economists to discuss. This post is basically about the differences I’ve noticed in how we do transactions in the US versus how they are handled in the Netherlands.

The official currency of the Netherlands is the Euro (€). Right off the bat, there are some significant differences between the Euro and the US Dollar ($). The lowest printed Euro bill is €5, and goes in denominations of €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, and so forth. The coins come in 1 cent, 2 cents, 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, €1 and €2 forms. However, the Netherlands has banned the use of the 1 cent and 2 cent coins. Prices are not marked in 5 cent increments though, which can lead to confusion. Let’s say I run into Albert Heijn to purchase a bottle of wine for dinner, and it is €8.97. If I pay by cash, I’ll only need to give the cashier €8.95. If I pay by debit card (called “PIN card” here), then I’ll pay €8.97. If the total were €8.98 instead, then the cash transaction would be rounded to €9. I’ve actually heard of expats who pay cash for transactions that will round down, but will use their PIN card for transactions that round up. They feel like they’re “gaming” the system. Personally, I think it all evens out in the end, and I appreciate not having to carry the tiny 1 cent and 2 cent coins.

At first, it was weird not having a €1 bill, and having to keep track of the €1 and €2 coins. However, the Euro designers have done a good job making all of the bills and coins easy to distinguish at first glance. Coins are differentiated by color and size, as well as the cut of their edges. For example, a €1 coin has a gold edge, and a silver middle, while a €2 coin is the reverse. Sometimes keeping track of change can be a chore, but at least we use it here. In the US, I’d put all of my change into a jar at home, and when the jar got full, I’d count it out or take it to one of those change machines to trade it for gift cards. Here, I keep it in my pocket, and use it next time I buy something.

While the US Dollar has somewhat recently started using colors to differentiate between bills, the colors are still somewhat muted, and the bill is mostly green and white. The Euro is much more colorful, leading to the Monopoly money comparisons. Here is a graphic of the assorted Euro bills. Their sizes are also different, so it’s easy to see what bills you have when you open your wallet, provided you keep them in order from smallest to biggest.

As I previously mentioned, what Americans call “debit cards” are here referred to as “PIN cards”, and paying with them is called “PINing”. If you go to the Albert Cuyp outdoor market, you will see signs posted at various vendors saying “Hier kunt U PINNEN!” (“You can PIN here!”). PINing takes money directly out of your main bank account. In addition, most PIN cards also have the ability to use “Chipknip” functions. Chipknip (pronounced “chip-ka-nip”) is used for small transactions, like paying a parking meter. There are Chipknip machines located next to ATMs around the city. You insert your card, and move money from your bank account onto your Chipknip card. The balance is kept track of via an encrypted chip on your card. This way, parking meters and other machines that accept Chipknip don’t need to connect to your bank to check your balance. They just deduct it from the chip on the card.

Credit cards exist here, but are mostly used for large purchases only. I don’t think many people use their credit cards to do their everyday transactions.

Checks (or “cheques” for any Brits reading this) don’t exist here either. At first, I wondered how people pay each other without checks, but it’s actually quite easy. When a business wants to bill a customer, they send an “acceptgiro“. The customer can fill in their bank number, sign it, and return it, and the business will deduct the amount straight from the customer’s bank balance. However, with the advent of the internet and smart phones, this is no longer required. If I receive an acceptgiro, I simply use my bank’s iPhone app to snap a picture of it, fill in the amount I want to pay, and it automatically sets up the payment. Furthermore, when people want to pay other people, they simply ask the payee for their bank account number, then log into their bank account and transfer the money directly. There is no charge for this, even across international boundaries, as long as you are staying within the same currency. It’s free for me to pay someone in Germany, but it costs money for me to pay someone in the UK, since they still use the Pound Sterling. In the US, we try to protect and hide our bank account number as much as possible, while in the Netherlands, people exchange theirs freely. Businesses print theirs on their stationary.

Finally, accessing my bank account here is different. I have a special little device that looks like a calculator, that I plug into my computer when I wish to access online banking. I then insert my card into the machine and enter my PIN. This logs me right into my bank account. Other banks use different security measures, such as texting a single-use PIN to the user’s mobile number when they wish to log in. Either method is still more secure than using a traditional password. Furthermore, websites can accept payment through the “iDeal” system. When you make a purchase at a website, it asks you which bank you use. After you tell them, it redirects you to the bank’s “iDeal” website, where you connect your card reader, swipe your card, enter your PIN, and the money is transferred out of your account. No credit card necessary, and much more secure than just entering your PIN card number online.

As you can see, use of money here in the Netherlands can be quite different than what you’re used to, especially if you’re from the US like me. All in all, everything makes sense, and is fairly secure and easy to use. Just be warned that if you come to visit, American-style debit cards and credit cards won’t be accepted most places. Only large department stores (De Bijenkorf, Media Markt) / international chain retailers (Foot Locker, H&M), or chain restaurants (Hard Rock Cafe) will accept American cards. Most Dutch ATMs won’t charge you to use your bank card here, so just wait until you arrive at the airport, and then withdraw enough cash to last you for a while. You can also visit the Travelex exchange booths at the airport to get pre-paid PIN cards, but they will charge you for that privilege.



Right now, I’m at a sort of “in-between” place. Lots of things have happened in the past few months, and lots of things will be happening in the next few months, but nothing much is happening now.

We’ve signed all the papers for purchasing the apartment, and I’ve notified our landlord we’ll be moving out. However, we don’t move for 2 more months.

We went to Hamburg, Germany a few weeks ago to see the Christmas markets. We’re planning a few trips for the near future, including Ireland in April, but those are at least a few months away.

Our Dutch class at the Volksuniversiteit ended this week. I’m no longer a beginner in Dutch, but I’m far from fluent. Sometimes, I’ll surprise myself with how much I can read and understand, while other times I’ll be completely lost. My biggest obstacle right now is vocabulary. I understand the basic rules and tenses, but I don’t know the words that I see and hear when I’m out in public. Rosetta-Stone did a good job teaching me vocabulary, but once I was finished with the software, there was no logical next step. Never having truly learned a second-language before, I have no clue how to improve my vocabulary. I tried buying a Harry Potter book and reading it, but 90% of the words were beyond me. It’s no fun to read when you have to look up every single word. I’m not sure what I’m going to do next. I could do another semester at the Volksuniversiteit, or go back to the tutor we used when we first arrived in the Netherlands. I could look into a third option, or just try to improve vocabulary on my own. If anyone reading this has any tips, please let me know.

I’ve begun rekindling my interest in photography lately. Of course this happens when it’s the cold and dark season.

I’m trying to find some new hobbies to pass the time. I don’t want to sit at home and watch TV all the time. That’s not why we moved here. I’ve been making lots of grand plans for when we move. “Oh, we’ll be close to so much more after we move! We can go out to dinner more often, have drinks in a local cafe more often, etc, etc.” In the meantime, we still live at our “old” apartment, far from much to do.

This is not meant to be a depressing blog entry, rather, just a snapshot of what’s happening with me at this moment. I’ve been struggling lately to write in this blog. My (small) readership seems to be comprised of 1) family and friends, 2) other expats who are planning to move/have moved to the Netherlands, 3) Other people. The things that group #1 wants to read about aren’t necessarily the things that group #2 wants to read about. I try to balance my entries between those 2 groups. In the meantime, for group #2, head on over to Facebook and “like” the American Baking Company. They appear at markets around the country selling treats. We’ve seen their booth on multiple occasions, most recently at the “Puur Markt” (Pure/Organic Market), and have enjoyed everything of theirs we’ve tried. I highly recommend their cookies and “blondies”.

That’s all for now. If I don’t post again by this weekend, Merry Christmas, or Gelukkig Kerstfeest!


Posted by on December 20, 2011 in Life in the Dam, Spreek'ing Nederlands



The use of diminutives is fairly common in Dutch. It’s an interesting concept, one we don’t really have in English. For those who have no clue what I’m talking about, a diminutive is basically taking a thing, and specifying that it is small. “Little girl” would be an example. In English, you can do this by adding “little” or “mini” to before a word. Like “mini muffins”. In Dutch, it’s much simpler. Simply add a “je” onto the end of most nouns.

The Dutch word for girl is “meisje”, meaning “little girl.” It is a stand-alone diminutive, as the word “meis” does not exist. Adult male dogs are called “mannetje,” or “little man.” This extends to non-living things as well. You might pop into a cafe for a “biertje” (quick beer), or take your dog for a “loopje” (quick walk).

Heineken has recently introduced a new product, a self-contained beer container with a tap for home use. What do they call it? A “tapje”. When would be the optimal time to use it? At a “feestje” (little party).

If you go to a friends, and they offer you a coffee, it will most likely arrive in a “cupje.” If they instead bring you a Coke, it will probably be served in a glass “flesje” (little bottle), or in a “glaasje” (little glass).

Of course, making a word into diminutive form doesn’t always just mean it is little. Sometimes it changes the meaning. Changing “het ijs” into “het ijsje” alters it from “ice” to “icecream.” “kaart” to “kaartje” goes from “card” to “ticket.”

It’s really a quaint little way to show affection. To practice Dutch, I will sometimes try to speak Dutch to Churchill. My favorite thing to say to him is “Zullen wij buiten gaan, mannetje?”, or “Shall we go outside, little man?” This is usually met with an indifferent stare, whereby I translate into English for his benefit: “Churchill, do you want to go outside?” After the requisite jumps and whines and barks are completed, I hook up his leash, and we go for our “loopje”.

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Posted by on July 7, 2011 in Spreek'ing Nederlands


Dutch Tongue Twisters

Happy Easter to everyone!

The weather here in Amsterdam has been absolutely perfect for the last week or so, in the mid-70’s (F) and sunny. Contrast that to the tornados and storms back in my hometown of St. Louis, and I feel very lucky.

While I’ve taken a break from my Dutch classes, I have been working nearly every day on my Dutch using Rosetta Stone. I’ve come across 2 sentences that have taken me quite a bit of practice to be able to wrap my English-speaking tongue around. Give them a go and see if you can say them:

1). Zij zijn mijn vrienden (zij = eye, but with a z in front, zijn = like sign, but with a z instead of s; mijn = same as zijn, but with an m; vrienden = like ‘friend’ but with a v at the beginning and an ‘in’ at the end). Translated, the sentence means “They are my friends.” This is the easier of the 2 sentences. The letter combination “ij” is the Dutch version of the letter “y”. For instance, the Heineken Brewery is called the “Heineken brouwerij”

2). Omdat ik het koud heb (Omdat = “Ohhmm-DAT”; ik = rhymes with “pick”; het = rhymes with “set”; koud = sounds like “cowed”; heb = “hep”, like “hip” but with an e in the middle). Translated, the sentence means “Because I am cold.”

Roxy and I went to the Dappermarkt yesterday to do some shopping, and I attempted to do it all in Dutch. This was working fine until I realized I couldn’t remember the Dutch word for “of” (it’s “van”). I have trouble with this word because “of” is a Dutch word meaning “or”. For instance, if you want to ask someone if they’d like coffee or tea to drink, you would say: “Wat wil je drinken, koffie of thee?” I went to ask for 1 kilo of potatoes, but I also screwed up and used the German word for “one” instead of the Dutch one. So I literally asked her, “Can I have (non-Dutch word) kilo or potatoes?” She smiled and replied in English. Dammit. I did manager to purchase some walnuts all in Dutch though, so the trip wasn’t a total waste.

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Posted by on April 24, 2011 in Spreek'ing Nederlands