Whoever’s lived in the Netherlands for a while, knows: the Dutch are not particularly lavish with giving compliments. That’s probably because traditionally in the Netherlands, being normal (and thus not standing out) is considered to be a virtue. This, however, doesn’t mean that the Dutch don’t love to receive compliments. After all, compliments make people feel special and good about themselves. That also makes them the perfect way to connect with people. So, if you’re in the Netherlands and you’d like some interaction with the locals, try giving them compliments in Dutch! Remember though: in the Netherlands, less is more, so don’t make the mistake of ‘overdoing’ it.
Het ijs breken (breaking the ice)
Dutch people may be quite reserved at first, but complimenten (compliments) can serve as the perfect means to open them up. Since working hard is considered to be a virtue in the Netherlands, giving someone a compliment on their professional achievements always is a good idea. If someone has worked hard that day, you can say ‘Goed gewerkt!’ (Great job!) or ‘Goed gedaan!’ (Well done!). If you admire someone’s work efforts that improve the world in some way or another, you might want to say something like ‘Wat een mooi werk doe je’ (What a beautiful job is it that you’re doing). Another way of opening up a conversation, could be by praising someone’s outfit: ‘Wat een mooie jurk!’ (What a nice dress) or ‘Wat een mooie jas heb je aan!’ (‘What a nice coat’, or freely translated as ‘I like the coat that you’re wearing’).
In the Netherlands it is not very common to praise someone by their physical appearance, as looks are not a merit that’s worked hard for. Nevertheless, such compliments make people feel good about themselves and the Dutch are no exception. If you want to tell someone you find them beautiful or attractive, you can say ‘Je bent mooi’ or ‘Je bent knap’. Where mooi (beautiful) applies more to women, knap (handsome or good-looking) applies to both sexes. The more Dutch approach to praising someone by their physical appearance would be by focusing on the here and now and therewith making it a ‘less is more’ compliment. Do that by saying ‘Je ziet er goed uit’ (‘You’re looking good’) instead.
How to receive a compliment the Dutch way
With the Dutch being known for their straightforwardness and directness, you can be assured that when you receive Dutch compliments, it’s really worth something. So, what is the Dutch way of receiving a compliment? The most common way for Dutch people to respond to a compliment is to express your gratitude. That’s pretty easy: just smile, say dankjewel or bedankt (thank you) or heel erg bedankt (thank you very much) and you’re good to go. A common reaction on bedankt could always be ‘Graag gedaan!’ (‘You’re welcome!’ – literally: ‘Pleased to do so!’).
Now you know how to give and receive a compliment in Dutch, it’s time to put it into practice! A nice interactive game in our courses that used by our teachers is called ‘het complimentenspel’. Do you want to know how that works? Check out our wide range of Dutch language courses to perfect your Dutch language skills.