Birthday Customs and Vocabulary in Dutch

Amsterdam Skyline
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If you're visiting Amsterdam or other parts of the Netherlands and plan to celebrate a birthday, it's a fun plan to learn a few Dutch birthday customs ahead of time. The Dutch have a couple of phrases that are functionally equivalent to our "Happy Birthday," plus other unique festive customs.

Customs

Birthdays are important in Dutch culture. Like it or not, if it's your birthday, friends and family are going to try to plan a celebratory get-together with you. A cake is a necessity, but the twist is that no one will buy one—you must bring your own cake to your own party. Even more, you're not guaranteed to receive presents. However, if you do receive a gift, you're obliged to open it in front of everyone at the party as a sign of respect to the gift-giver. 

Birthdays in the Netherlands are almost always celebrated in the workplace and at school as well, and you'll need to bring another cake in this case, too. Have a large office or your child has a large class? Plan ahead. You might need to bring a lot of cake for everyone.

Greetings

The most common Dutch birthday greetingGefeliciteerd,  is actually the word for "congratulations." This phrase is directed not only to you, the birthday person, but it is also wished upon your party host and his or her family and close friends. It's not unusual for a Dutch birthday party to start off with an elaborate round of felicitations to all in attendance. The greeting is usually accompanied by three alternating kisses on each cheek.

Some variations on the phrase include Van harte gefeliciteerd met je verjaardag! This translates as "Heartfelt congratulations on your birthday!"

A less common phrase that can be used is Gelukkige verjaardag! This literally means "happy birthday."

Common Phrases and Words

Keeping brushed up on festive Dutch words and phrases, as well as the simple birthday song lyrics, can help make life in the ​Netherlands fun, and is a great way to experience the culture with friends. You may also want to learn how to say "please" and "thank you".

English Phrase/Word Dutch Translation
Wishing you an enjoyable day Een prettige dag gewenst
Many thanks for the good wishes Hartelijk dank voor de goede wensen
When is your birthday? Wanneer ben je jarig?
Birthday (de) verjaardag
Children's party kinderfeestje
Festive dinner (het) etentje
Presents (de) kadootjes
Cake (de) taart
Pastries (de) gebakjes
What's your age now? (tread carefully) Hoe oud ben je geworden?
Did you get many presents? Heb je veel cadeautjes gekregen?
Do you have a wish list? Heb je een verlanglijstje?
What (presents) would you like to have for your birthday?

Wat wil je voor je verjaardag hebben?

Song

Last but not least, there's also a Dutch birthday song, of course. It's sung in the same setting as the English-language "Happy Birthday," and its lyrics and tune are fairly simple. There are only seven words in total, and those words are not too difficult to pronounce, which is ideal for elementary-level Dutch learners.

Lang zal hij/ze leven,
Lang zal hij/ze leven,
Lang zal hij/ze leven,
In de gloria,
In de gloria,
In de gloria,
Hiep, hiep, hiep, hoera!
Hiep, hiep, hiep, hoera!
Hiep, hiep, hiep, hoera!

In English, these lines translate to: "May s/he live long," "in glory," and "hip, hip, hip, hooray!"

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