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Speaking tourist Dutch in Amsterdam

I study languages as a hobby and can speak multiple languages at different levels. I started learning Dutch a couple of weeks ago for a trip. I've been to Amsterdam before and I know people speak English. That's not my point. My question is, how does the average person there react when people speak basic Dutch? Do they get impatient? Switch to English? Are there specific places where I'm more likely to succeed in interacting with others in Dutch?

May 14, 2017



These are just general observations by a Dutch person that actively tries to avoid Amsterdam. As Amsterdam is a bit different than many other Dutch places, so some of this info may or may not apply. Also note that many foreigners (with the unusual exception of Norwegians) are pretty bad at getting accent or pronuncation right, so in many cases it's easier to communicate with foreigners in English instead of Dutch. we don't do it to be offensive or inconsiderate, it's just easier for effective communication.

Do they get impatient?

That will probably depend on the situation. If time is of the essence, perhaps. But generally, we Dutch people will just be suprised that you are attempting to speak our language and your pronuncation and accent may confuse us as we are generally not used to foreigners attempting to speak our language. We may also ask why you would want to learn Dutch.

Switch to English?

Yup, probably. Foreigners that try to speak Dutch usually don't have the best accents, so if we detect a (heavy) foreign accent, we switch. It's easier to communicate that way. If you ask, people will generally not mind speaking Dutch to you.

Are there specific places where I'm more likely to succeed in interacting with others in Dutch?

Any place with old people, their English doesn't tend to be that great. However, if you are confining yourself to Amsterdam (1), then their skills may be a bit better thanks to mass tourism.

  • (1) I recommend to check out other places and attractions besides Amsterdam. Amsterdam is just the capital. There's so much more to discover in the Netherlands than Amsterdam and the surrounding area. 'Nationaal Park de Hoge Veluwe' (and the Veluwe itself) is a joy for nature lovers. If you don't mind getting dirty, go to the North and go 'wadlopen'. Basically it's walking through the sea from the mainland to one of the 'Waddeneilanden' (also called the Frisian Islands in English) If mountains are your thing, then I'm afraid we only have one, and we have to share it with Belgium and Gemrany. Still, Maastricht (city close to that mountain, located in the South-East) is lovely. Well, anyway, there's plenty to discover and I can't just include all the fun stuff in this post. Feel free to ask for suggestions though.

Hope this helps.


It does! Thank you! I would love to visit other parts of the Netherlands but I'll only be in the country for a couple of days accompanying my spouse on a business trip. Thanks for all the tips.


No, they do not get impatient. Especially if you make mistakes, they just correct you and laugh (not meanly).


Good to know. Thanks!


You're welcome !


Indeed, they usually don't get impatient, but will probably love it that someone is trying to communicate in Dutch. (I think your biggest "problem" would be people switching to English in an effort to be helpful to you.)

I think some possible places to try out your Dutch (if you go to Amsterdam that is) might be street markets like the Waterlooplein or the Dappermarkt (vendors might have a heavy Amsterdam accent) or smaller shops and bars in for example the Jordaan area where personnel might have more inclination to have a little chat with a customer.

Another place you might enjoy visiting (judging by your profile pic) and where you might succeed could be Cats & Things, a small shop in the Hazenstraat 26. https://www.catsandthings.nl/c-3541738/contact/

It's filled with stuff for and about cats, and although it's been a while since I've been there, in the period I went there more often the owners always had ample time for a chat.

Enjoy your trip!


Thank you so much for all the info! I'm taking notes and yes, I am a cat lover! I'm checking out their website right now and will try to make it to the store and all the other places you mentioned.

Switching to English was my main concern and I meant to write that but I forgot. Just edited the post. Thanks again for your reply!


I hope you post again after your trip and let us know how it went!


Will do! Thanks!


My native language is German and started learning Dutch years before the invention of Duo. So ten years ago, or so, I went shopping in Enschede (a lovely Dutch town close to the German border). I tried on a sweater, and when the assistant asked me something about it, I was a bit insecure and about my Dutch. So I just mumbled one simple sentence about not being sure about the colour. In the end I decided to buy the sweater anyway and handed the assistant my German bank card. She looked at it, completely astonished, and said (in Dutch): "Oh, you are German!! That's why you didn't say much!" Her face exploded into a warm and happy smile and we had a lovely little chat afterwards. In retrospect I'd say that I made her day! And she wasn't impatient at all.

True, you meet many people who will switch to English because the think it's easier for you. But never the less, most people will appreciate your effort.


Thanks so much for sharing your story! I just saw this. People in smaller towns are typically nicer but I'll try my luck in the capital and let y'all know how it goes.

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