Are you going on vacation to the Netherlands or relocating as an expat? Whether you’re here for business or leisure, it’s always handy to know a few basic phrases in the local language, such as some Dutch greetings.
In most parts of the Netherlands, you’ll find that Dutchies love to greet others, whether they know each other or not. In this article, you’ll learn the most useful Dutch greetings for every occasion.
Useful Dutch Greetings for Everyday Life
How to greet someone is one of the first things you learn when encountering a new language. Dutch greetings are quite versatile, especially when it comes to greetings used in everyday life.
Before we have a look at the list of Dutch greetings, let’s have a look at the cultural background first.
When to Say Hello in the Netherlands
Unlike some other countries, it’s very common in the Dutch culture to greet each other, regardless of gender or age. In smaller cities and the countryside, it’s quite common to receive Dutch greetings from a complete stranger as you go about your day.
When doing grocery shopping, getting on the bus, walking your dog in the park – you’ll almost always get to hear a friendly Dutch greeting. And trust me – Dutchies appreciate the efforts of foreigners trying to say hello in Dutch!
This is especially true in more relaxed situations such as when you’re taking a stroll on the beach, taking a walk in the park or nearby woods, or when there are only a few people on the street as you walk.
It’s just the Dutch way of being courteous and friendly to others. Having said that – don’t be offended if you greet someone and you don’t get a greeting back. That’s not uncommon either.
Casual Dutch Greetings
Casual greetings can be used in any informal context. They’re used between friends, family, or colleagues. They’re also very common in other informal settings in everyday life (e.g., in the supermarket, among neighbors, strangers in the park, etc.). Since these casual greetings are short and very similar to English, you’ll probably find them pretty easy to learn.
Hallo is probably the most common – and easiest – of Dutch greetings. It suits most occasions so greeting someone this way is pretty ‘safe’.
This word is a literal translation of the English hello. Thus, it’s considered a short and rather casual way of greeting someone. This phrase can be used to greet both people you’re already familiar with as well as complete strangers.
Hallo in Dutch can be used at any time of the day, from the early morning till the late night.
Hoi in Dutch is a literal translation of the English hi. It’s considered an informal or casual way of greeting someone.
This expression is often used to greet someone already familiar to you such as colleagues, friends, or family members.
If you’d like to greet an elderly person or a person you encounter for the first time, you’ll better avoid the casual hoi and stick to hallo or one of the formal Dutch greetings explained below.
Hey is an even more informal Dutch greeting. It’s a very casual equivalent of the English hi.
However, an interesting fact is that Dutchies adjust their intonation (speech melody) a lot, depending on the situation and their mood. As such, the intonation of the Dutch hey can be totally different when a person hasn’t seen someone for a while. Instead of short a hey (as what’s common in English), locals pronounce the word longer, like heeeey!
Formal Dutch Greetings
In the Netherlands, as in many other countries, there’s a difference between casual and formal greetings. Naturally, you won’t use an informal greeting when you’re meeting your new employer for the first time.
Formal Dutch greetings are common in a business context when talking to elder people or anyone else you’d like to show respect to. Similar to English, formal greetings depend on the time of day, which makes them a little trickier to learn. However, once you understand the meaning, you’ll probably find them easy to remember.
Goedemorgen – Good Morning
Goedemorgen is a very common greeting in the morning hours. It’s the equivalent of the English Good Morning. When greeting someone you personally know, you can perfectly extend this greeting by mentioning the name of the person you’re greeting. In a formal context, it’s also common to add sir/lady after the greeting (with or without the last name of the person).
Goedemorgen mevrouw Heuvel
Goedemorgen mevrouw (lady, woman)
Goedemorgen meneer (sir)
This Dutch greeting is used in the morning, till exactly noon (12 p.m.).
Goedemiddag is the Dutch equivalent for the English good afternoon. It’s used from noon (12 p.m.) till the early evening (6 p.m.).
The Dutch are really not only very punctual people but also very accurate when it comes to their greetings! When calling someone around noon, you’ll often find them hesitating between goedemorgen and goedemiddag.
Same as with goedemorgen, you can make this greeting more personal by adding the first name of a person or sir/lady (with or without last name).
If you’d like to take a shortcut when learning Dutch greetings, you can start with goedendag.
Goedendag is the general, all-day Dutch greeting you can use at any time of the day. You can also say dag, the informal and short version of goededag. It’s often used to greet someone you know. Besides, the same word is also used to say goodbye in Dutch.
Same as goedemorgen and goedemiddag, goedenavond is another common Dutch greeting used to connote the different time of day. Goedenavond is used from early earning (usually after 6 p.m.) till midnight.
You can make this greeting more personal by adding the first name of a person or sir/lady (with or without last name).
Goedenacht literally translates to good night. However, while the Dutch goedemorgen, goedemiddag and goedenavond are actually used to greet someone (same as in English), goedenacht is used differently.
The Dutch goedenacht is not often used to greet someone, but rather when saying goodbye to someone in the (late) evening. It’s typically used to say ‘sleep well’ or ‘sleep tight’ to someone. Thus, you can say goedenacht when someone is about to go to bed, or when leaving from a friend’s place in the late evening or night.
Note, however, if you’d like to say goodbye in the early hours of the evening, you can better use one of the Dutch ways to say goodbye rather than goedenacht.
Non-Verbal Dutch Greeting Styles
During introductions, it’s common to shake hands in addition to saying any of the more formal Dutch greetings above.
In informal settings – for example, when you’re invited to someone’s birthday party – don’t be surprised to see the customary Dutch 3-kiss rule. This is a kiss on the cheeks Dutchies do to someone they know. The kiss begins on the left cheek, goes to the right cheek, and a final one is planted on the left again.
Don’t worry. As a tourist or newbie, you’re not expected to do this. However, if you’re staying longer and find yourself in the same group often, you may want to get used to it.
Naturally, in light of the pandemic, non-verbal greetings are mostly NOT practiced. So verbally greeting from a distance, raising your hand and/or smiling as you say hello is a perfectly acceptable Dutch greeting nowadays.
Dutch Greetings at One Glance
Here’s a summary of the expressions introduced in this article and their English translation.
|Dutch Greeting||Context||English Translation|
|Hey||Casual||Hi / Hey|
|Goedenacht||When someone goes to bed||Good night (in the sense of sleep well)|