Do I Need to Learn Dutch Before Visiting Amsterdam?

Bloemgracht canal in Jordaan district
Jorg Greuel / Getty Images

Question: Do I Need to Learn Dutch Before Visiting Amsterdam?

Answer: It's not necessary, but it might be appreciated. The majority of Amsterdammers speak English very well and are happy to do so. I think of the Dutch approach to English-speaking visitors as the opposite of the French one, that is that the Dutch enjoy showing off their English skills and practicing them with tourists, while it's not uncommon to encounter resistance to speaking English in much of France (I realize this is a bit stereotypical; I've not had this experience on all visits to France).

That said, I encourage visitors to Amsterdam to become familiar with at least a few basic expressions in Dutch. Whether just to say thank you to your brown café waitress or good morning to your bed-and-breakfast hosts, the gesture will be appreciated.

How can I learn Dutch?

Need some resources on how to learn some essential Dutch phrases? Find them here on Amsterdam Travel. First up, we have the most commonly used polite expressions: how to say hello, please and thank you in Dutch. While just a few syllables in total, these phrases will show locals that you honor their culture. Once you've mastered these most basic expressions, move on to a more advanced lesson in how to say please and thank you in context: how to pronounce these phrases more accurately, how to use them appropriately at a shop or restaurant, some common variations on the phrases, and what to expect in reply.

If you really want to make an impression, learn how to order food in Dutch, with expressions that include typical choices from drinks (beer, water, coffee) to the daily special. At the end of the meal, find out how to ask for the check in Dutch. Out for a birthday celebration? Wish the honoree (as well as his or her close friends and family, as per Dutch custom) a happy birthday in Dutch, and learn the lyrics to "Lang Zal Hij Leven" ("May He Live Long") - just seven words of the text are needed to join in with the chorus.

Visitors who want to take proper Dutch lessons can find a variety of courses in Amsterdam; find out more about where to learn Dutch in Amsterdam. For National Book Week (Boekenweek) in March, ambitious learners can pick out a book in Dutch and earn free country-wide train travel on the last Sunday of the week. Succes! (Good luck!)

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