Birthday Customs and Vocabulary in Dutch

Courtyard with strings of lights and lit up restaurants in Amsterdam
Glen Allison / Getty Images

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.

Birthday 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.

Cake is a necessity. The twist, however, is that you must bring your own cake to your own party—no one will buy one for you. Even more, you're not guaranteed to receive presents. However, but if you do receive a gift, you're obliged to open it in front of everyone at theparty as a sign of respect to the gift-giver. 

Birthdays in the Netherlands are almost always celebrated at the workplace and at school (if you have a school-age child) 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.

Birthday Greetings


The most common Dutch birthday greeting, Gefeliciteerd!, 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 al 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!, which translates as "Heartfelt congratulations on your birthday!"

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

Common Birthday Phrases and Words

Here's a list of festive Dutch words and phrases that you can use in all your birthday celebrations in the Netherlands. 

English Phrase/WordDutch Translation
Wishing you an enjoyable dayEen prettige dag gewenst
Many thanks for the good wishesHartelijk dank voor de goede wensen
When is your birthday?Wanneer ben je jarig?
Birthday(de) verjaardag
Children's partykinderfeestje
Festive dinner(hetetentje
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?

Birthday Song

Last but not least, there's also a Dutch birthday song, of course. It's sung just like the English-language "Happy Birthday." Its lyrics are fairly simple. There are only seven words in total. And, the 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!

English Translation

May s/he live long
May s/he live long
May s/he live long
In glory
In glory
In glory
Hip, hip, hooray!
Hip, hip, hooray!
Hip, hip, hooray!

Keeping brushed up on these simple song lyrics, and the traditions behind them, can help make life in the Netherlands fun and a great way to experience culture with friends.