De and Het: The Great Dutch Language Mystery

Life is full of mysteries. Who are we? Why are we here? Did I leave the oven on? Great big mysteries that are difficult to solve and keep a lot of very intelligent people busy.

However, there is a mystery that is bigger than any mystery ever pondered! Larger than any question ever asked! More infinite than any puzzle ever puzzled! Many people have attempted to solve this mystery and been driven insane by it. It is simply cannot and will not be solved… What is the correct usage of de and het in the Dutch language?

The true meaning of life will be solved long before anyone even comes close to solving this unsolvable mystery.

Please! Do not try to answer this question yourself. Even if you believe that you know the answer. Simply pondering the question of de and het for even a moment can put your mental health at serious risk. Thinking about if for just one second puts your sanity in danger. If you are an expat trying to learn the language it is far safer to just get it wrong and refer to things as de huis or het man (for example). It simply is not worth risking trying to get it right. I cannot stress this enough.

Dutch people especially might think they can answer this mystery. They are Dutch after all and being Dutch is a pretty good qualification to have on the subject of being and speaking Dutch. However, no matter how much they think they know the answer the truth is that they do not. This becomes very evident the moment they make the mistake of trying to explain the answer.

The “Rules” of De and Het

At first it is all very simple. ‘De’ is used for masculine and feminine words, where as ‘Het’ is used for neutral words. That’s it. How hard can it be?… But then they remember that one occasion where the rule does not work… and then that other one where it does not apply… and another where it is invalid… and that strange one where the rule is flipped… and sometimes reversed… or occasionally upside down… or when a entirely different rule is used based on the position of the moon!

Suddenly they realize they cannot explain the Dutch mysteries of De and Het. It was foolish of them even to attempt to do so, and it is probably best that they stop before the headache (that they don’t remember having a few moments ago) gets any worse.

It is at this point that there is only one explanation that they can give, wise words that have been handed down from generation to generation of Dutchman when dealing with outsiders trying to learn the language; “You just have to know it.”

It is a mystery that can never be solved without being born Dutch. And even then, trying to truly understand or explain it ends in madness. Just like trying to understand the use of the word ‘dus‘.



On your journey on learning Dutch (yes it is a journey, a rather large one) you will come across some ‘funny’ phrases and words. Why beat around the bush when you can be direct like a Dutch person?

Here are 15 funny Dutch words I have, so far, come across.

Prepare to be amazed.

  1. Toiletbril = toilet glasses = toilet seat.
  2. Schoonmoeder = clean mother = mother-in-law.
  3. Mierenneuker = ant fucker = someone who cares a little too much about details.
  4. Handschoenen = hand shoes = gloves.
  5. Pindakaas = peanut cheese = peanut butter.
  6. Spijkerbroek =nail pants = jeans.
  7. Brandslang = fire snake = hose.
  8. Boterham = butter ham = sandwich.
  9. Schilpad = shield toad = turtle.
  10. Oorlog = cumbersome ear = war.
  11. Ziekenauto = sick car = ambulance.
  12. Muilpeer = mouth pear = slap in the face.
  13. Vleermuis = wing mouse = bat.
  14. Wasbeer = wash bear = racoon.
  15. Apenstaartje = little monkey tail = @


Most fun ways to learn Dutch outside the classroom

Learn Dutch

Learning Dutch as a foreigner – especially as an English speaker – can be difficult, but not for the reason most people expect when learning a new language.

Most Dutch people speak English, especially in the international cities of the Randstad: Amsterdam, Utrecht and Rotterdam, among a few others. The Netherlands leads the ranks in terms of

English proficiency among adults, so it is no wonder that English speakers who try to learn Dutch may struggle – so many Dutch people automatically switch to English, and with such an international environment, English is often the only common language in a group.

But some people don’t learn as well in a classroom or simply find book-based learning less stimulating. Amsterdam-based Dutch language school shares some fun and social ways to learn a language outside of the classroom.

Play a board game in Dutch

You already know the rules, so you can still play the game! Many classic board games are available in Dutch, and some lend themselves particularly well to language learning. With Cluedo, you’ll learn vocabulary about specific objects and rooms of a house, and each player must pose a question during their turn – a great way to practise sentence structure and learn some Dutch conversational phrases.

Pictionary and Scrabble both help with vocabulary, and you can even modify the rules to suit your skills: using an English-Dutch dictionary to help out, for example, may result in a point deduction. To improve reading comprehension skills, try Monopoly or – for a greater challenge – Trivial Pursuit.

Get social to learn Dutch

One of the most helpful ways to learn a language is, naturally, to speak it as often as possible. While it can be intimidating to use Dutch in everyday life – and, as mentioned, most Dutch people speak English – there are group events and meetups you can attend to make language learning a fun, social experience.

Social networking platform Meetup lists plenty of casual events throughout the Netherlands that bring together foreigners and Dutch people to encourage mutual language practice. The Amsterdam Language Café, for example, offers single-language nights where one language is spoken, as well as All Languages Parties where you’ll hear many different languages in just one evening. Besides Meetup, there are Facebook events and those organised by language schools to encourage students to get together to socialise and to learn.

But language-focussed meetups aren’t the only ones you can attend to improve your Dutch. Pick a hobby – any hobby – and there’s more than likely a meetup dedicated to it. Foodies, computer programmers, sports fans, nature lovers and more will all find a meetup that’s suited to their interests, and because plenty of Dutch people will attend, there’s always the opportunity to learn while enjoying a favourite hobby.

Dutch conversational phrases

Sing (Dutch) karaoke

Head out with a group for a karaoke night with just one rule: every song you sing has to be in Dutch. Fuelled by some Dutch courage, soon you’ll be belting out the classics like any native. Try songs from favourite Dutch singers such as Marco Borsato, Jeroen van der Boom, Andre Hazes or Willeke Albert. Slower songs are easiest, of course, but once you’ve gotten past the nerves you may just find yourself picking out some of the newer, faster hits.

Watch a Dutch game show

Change the channel from your regularly scheduled English-language programming and tune to one of the many famous Dutch television shows. The Netherlands is actually an entertainment powerhouse, having produced some of the most famous names in TV – Endemol Shine Group’s Big Brother and Fear Factor are just two of the most well-known shows.

Some popular game shows that you can not only listen to Dutch but play along with are Eén tegen 100 (One vs 100), where one contestant must answer questions correctly and eliminate the 100 opponents, or Rad van Fortuin (Wheel of Fortune), which is based on the American game show. Make it a game show night – invite your friends and challenge each other to play along.

Download a Dutch-language app

Considering most people are now glued to mobile screens almost 24 hours a day, there is plenty of time to play with language-learning apps. Duolingo is one of the most well-known apps specifically for language learning, but there are plenty of games that can be set in Dutch and just played during your commute or downtime.

While games to learn Dutch and outdoor fun is good for learning, language classes do serve an important role. Take the knowledge you learn inside the classroom and bring it outside – you’ll learn more Dutch than you’ll realise!


10 Meaningless, Overused, and Boring Phrases You Should Cut from Your Resum


Here’s the good news: marketing and ad agencies are getting serious about hiring new talent.

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, advertising, promotions, and marketing manager employment is expected to rise 9% by 2024 — which is faster than the average for all occupations.

The not-so-good news? The competition is fierce.

If you want to stand out in a crowded applicant pool, you need to make sure your resume is free from filler phrases, clichés, and things that make you sound unprofessional or unprepared. To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of 10 vague, overused, and downright boring phrases you should cut from your resume.

Are you guilty of using any of these on your resume?

10 Phrases You Should Cut from Your Resume

1) “I was responsible for …”

The things you were responsible for at your last job don’t actually say anything about your performance. For example, I was once “responsible” for watering a plant, but that plant is now dead.

Instead of presenting your experience like a checklist of completed tasks, focus on your accomplishments. What did you do at your last job that made a big impact? What did you particularly excel at? Agencies want to see what you achieved, not just what your day-to-day looked like.

2) “I have experience in … “

Saying you “have experience” doing something is passive and vague, and can almost always be replaced by a more active word. Instead of saying you “have experience” working with a particular strategy, dig into the specifics of what you’ve accomplished, e.g.: “I A/B tested email nurturing campaigns to develop a workflow that converted prospects at 35%.”

See? That sounds much better than, “I have experience with email nurturing campaigns.”

3) “I assisted with … “

Saying you assisted with something doesn’t explain how exactly you contributed. Instead of saying you “assisted” with a project, get specific, and don’t be afraid to own your accomplishments.

Even if you only worked on a small section of a successful project, explain how your contributions fit into the final product, e.g.: “Optimized landing pages as part of a global nurturing campaign.”

4) “I’m proficient in Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.”

This phrase usually gets tacked onto the end of resumes in the “skills” section, but you’re probably better off cutting it out entirely.

Unless you’re applying for a job that specifically asks for advanced experience with Microsoft Office, there’s really no need to mention this. These days, it’s pretty much a given that you have some level of proficiency with Microsoft Office. Including it as one of your skills not only comes across as outdated, it can also make it seem like you don’t have any more relevant skills worth mentioning.

5) “I ran social media.”

“Social media” often gets thrown around on resumes without specifics — which can make you sound like you don’t really know what you’re talking about.

Social media isn’t a skill or a discipline, it’s a tool that can be leveraged to accomplish business goals. Saying you “ran social media” or “worked in social media” is like saying you ran PowerPoint. What did you do with social media? How did you use it to accomplish a real business goal?

6) “I have strong communication / writing skills.”

Do you remember in middle school writing class when the teacher introduced the concept of show, don’t tell? That still applies today.

Show hiring managers you have strong writing and communication skills by creating a stellar resume and cover letter — and triple check for spelling and grammar. Mistakes happen to the best of us, but they’re easy to weed out of an important job application.

7) “I’m a motivated self-starter.”

If you’re an adult who can’t get yourself motivated to be productive and work hard, then you probably shouldn’t be applying for a demanding marketing job. Leave out this overused phrase, and instead highlight a time you went above and beyond on a project.

8) “I’m goal-oriented / results-oriented.”

Here’s a fact: nobody hates accomplishing goals. If you want to prove you’re particularly driven, give concrete examples of goals you’ve met — or better yet, goals you’ve beaten.

9) “I’m a marketing ninja / rock star.”

Giving yourself a quirky title might seem like a cute, creative way to stand out in a sea of “digital marketing managers,” but it can come across as more than a little obnoxious.

Even if the hiring manager doesn’t personally mind the unconventional headline, it doesn’t actually explain what you do. Don’t take the risk: Describe yourself in a straightforward, professional way.

10) “Disruptive / ground-breaking”

Marketers tend to love big, bold adjectives, but hyperbolic copy doesn’t belong on your resume. Cut the clichéd descriptions and keep things direct and sincere.


Written by Karla Cook | @

A Harvard linguist reveals the most misused words in English

Amsterdam — with its museums, gabled Golden Age houses and network of historic canals — is a sure bet for a weekend break. But it’s not all the Netherlands has to offer. Beyond the capital, there are a whole host of lesser-visited cities worth a trip – and they’re likely to be easier on the pocket. From Groningen to Gouda, here are seven Dutch cities that should be on your list.

1. For a culture hit: Leeuwarden

Friesland’s administrative hub will become a European Capital of Culture in 2018 – and, with its colourful street art and fascinating museums, it’s easy to see why.

The Fries Museum dominates the Wilhelminaplein, the bustling public square that hosts markets each Friday. With its name translating to “Frisian Museum” in English, it displays artworks, conveys the story of the province and has a section dedicated to the resistance movement of World War II.

Leeuwarden was also the birthplace of dancer Margaretha Zelle, who became known as Mata Hari and was executed as a spy in 1917. A bronze statue of her dancing stands proud in the city centre.

For views over the surrounding rooftops, climb the stairs leading to the top of the Oldehove. The construction of this leaning tower was abandoned due to subsidence back in 1533.

Street art in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands


2. For stunning architecture: Utrecht

If you appreciate modern architecture then plan a visit to the Rietveld-Schröder House, whose façade and functional interiors were influenced by the De Stijl art and design movement.

The terraces alongside the city centre’s waterways are also picturesque and host seating belonging to restaurants and bars whose vaulted cellars provide shelter on wet and chilly days. For a sit down and a broad selection of brews, the Belgian Beer Café Olivier is a good option.

To view the Utrecht and its 112m Dom Tower from the water, hire a boat on the Oudegracht canal.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Utrecht, the Netherlands

Hans Splinter/Flickr

3. For great beer and rich history: Breda

Breda’s best-known landmark is the Grote Kerk, an impressive Gothic church whose 97m-tall spire dominates the skyline. Its Prince’s Chapel holds tombs of ancestors of the Dutch royal family.

The city was also a key location during the Eighty Years’ War, which led to Dutch independence from Spanish rule. A copy of Diego Velásquez’s masterpiece, The Surrender of Breda, depicting the city’s capture by Spanish troops in 1625, hangs in the town hall’s lobby — the original is in Madrid’s Museo del Prado.

After the day’s history lesson is done, sample weekend nightlife in cafés such as De Beyerd (whose menu lists well over 100 different beers) and ‘t Hart van Breda, on the cobbled marketplace, the Grote Markt.

External shot of cathedral at Breda, South Netherlands

Rough Guides/Tim Draper

4. For your weight in cheese: Gouda

The name of this quaint Dutch city is recognised thanks to the tasty produce of nearby dairy farms. Gouda hosts a weekly cheese market each Thursday morning from April to August, so you can sample this local delight.

Enthusiasts even don traditional costumes to demonstrate how cheeses were sold, prior to internet trading, on the cobbles between the Gothic city hall and the weigh house. You can check the weight of your goods on the wooden scale, where cheeses have been weighed since 1668.

Locals are also proud of the stained glass windows within St John’s Church, which is the longest in the country (123m).

Gouda town hall, Netherlands

Albert de Bruijn/Flickr

5. For a student vibe: Groningen

Located in the northeast of the Netherlands, Groningen is just over 2 hours’ journey time from Amsterdam by express train.

Its significant student population mean there are pubs aplenty. One drink in each of the interconnected bars of the centrally located De Drie Gezusters, one of the continent’s largest pubs, would be beyond the capacity of most revellers.

There’s culture to be soaked up too. The Martini Tower, across the market square, stands 97m tall. The Gothic landmark offers panoramic views over the city and is a counterpoint to the contemporary façade of the Groninger Museum, featuring pavilions designed by Alessandro Mendini and Philippe Starck.

Groningen, the Netherlands

Chris Combe/Flickr

6. For a great night out: ‘s-Hertogenbosch

Affectionately called Den Bosch, this city is known for its vibrant nightlife. Its bars — including ‘t Paultje, which stocks more than 300 different beers — have a reputation for being particularly cosy and welcoming (or gezelligheid in Dutch).

If you have a sweet tooth try a chocolate-topped Bossche bol, essentially an outsized profiterole, at their place of origin, the Banketbakkerij Jan de Groot. Numerous cafés serve them around the city, including that of the Jheronimus Bosch Art Center, a former church celebrating the life and work of the medieval artist Heironymus Bosch.

His story, plus that of Vincent van Gogh, is told in the Noordbrabants Museum — the only location in the province of Van Gogh’s birth permanently displaying original works by the influential Post-Impressionist.

Nightlife in Den Bosch


7. For outdoor adventure: Apeldoorn

Apeldoorn, in Gederland, is a fantastic base for exploring the dunes, heaths and woodland of rugged De Hoge Veluwe National Park. Free-to-use bicycles are available from stations around the park, which also houses the Kröller-Müller Museum, home to the world’s second-largest collection of works by Vincent van Gogh (after Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum).

If you want to pair your outdoor adventures with a history lesson, the city is also home to the Paleis Het Loo, a former royal palace that’s now a museum. Set in formal Baroque gardens and expansive parkland, the furnished house also displays the Dutch royal family’s coaches.



Stuart Forster @stuartforster

We might ‘gesave’ and ‘gestream’, but English is not a threat to Dutch, says report


Dutch is not under threat from English as a language and is still spoken by some 24 million people worldwide, according to a new report, quoted in Trouw on Monday.

The report, by the Meertens Institute for Dutch language and culture, Dutch promotion body Taalunie and researchers at Ghent University, says English is rarely a threat to Dutch in daily life.

The researchers questioned over 7,500 people in the Netherlands and Belgium about their use of the language. They found Dutch is dominant in nearly every sector and is regarded by both native and new speakers as a ‘beautiful’ language which should be passed on.

Dutch, the report states, ‘is a viable language with excellent survival chances in the future’.

While youngsters in particular are incorporating more foreign words – primarily English – into the language, the words themselves are becoming ‘Dutchified’ in terms of grammar, the report points out. Saven, appen and streamen are examples of this.

In IT, shipping, air transport and scientific research, however, English is becoming more dominant.

The research also shows that English is increasingly popular as a language to read the news in. Some 28% of the Dutch people questioned in the survey say they regularly read the news in other languages.

Some 10-15% of’s readers are native Dutch speakers.


Cycle Like The Dutch – Bike Riding In Holland

Fiets (bicycles) are a very common sight in Holland. They are a popular mode of transport and it is estimated that there are more then 16 million of them in the country. This number may or may not include the mangled, rusting, one-wheeled, non-roadworthy bicycles found chained to lamp posts, bridges or sunk at the bottom of the canals around the country. Even if it does there are still a lot of them in use every day.

Some bicycles look like rusty old frames that have been handed down through the family generation after generation. In most of these cases the locks seem to cost more then the bikes themselves and there is no need for a bell since the squeaking of the wheels is enough to give any pedestrian a fair warning. Some Dutch people like to paint or decorate their old bikes as well. When visiting Amsterdam it is usually guaranteed that you will see at least one bicycle chained to a bridge somewhere that has been decorated with plastic flowers or painted with bright circular patterns to make them more unique. Another reason for this could be to turn away bicycle thieves.

Where is my bike?

Unfortunately, Holland has a big problem with bicycle theft. It’s not unusual to see a shifty looking junky walking around with a stolen bike asking, “Fiets kopen?” (“Buy a bike?”). If they are able to sell it to someone for 10 or 15 euros it does not take long for that person to then lose the same bicycle to another junky later. It’s a perpetual cycle (no pun intended). It is said that having your bike stolen makes you a true Dutch person and it is a right of passage for all expatriates. I have not had my bike stolen yet but I did have it taken away once when the authorities thought it had been dumped (I got it back though).

Despite the risk of theft there are some more modern looking bicycles around (as well as the old) but the one thing you will hardly ever see is a mountain bike. This might be because you will hardly ever see any mountains, hills, valleys, declines or inclines in Holland and using a mountain bike for speed bumps would be over excessive. Holland is a very flat country but this is also part of what makes it a very good place for cycling.

There is over 4,500 miles of cycle path through out the country and a surprising amount of tourists mistake them for foot paths. This intrusion of territory (as they see it) is not always met with understanding by some cyclists. Some will leave it until the last possible second to ring their bell to let pedestrians (victims) know of their stealthy approach. When this happens the best thing to do is to pick a direction and jump because you won’t have any time to look around and judge the right direction to dodge anyway.

A Dutch Person And Their Bike

For a Dutch person a bike is not just a one person vehicle either. The rack on the back can be used as a second seat for a passenger who is willing to sit sideways and risk having their knees knocked off by any passing objects. I myself have accidentally jammed my feet into the back wheel of a bicycle (that I was the passenger on) in the past because it got too close to sign posts and parked cars for comfort.

It’s hard to say why cycling is so popular in Holland (compared to other countries). It could be because traffic laws favor bicycles over cars or that it is a way of staying healthy. It could also be that they are an easy way to get from one place to another and when all the available parking spots are full there are still lampposts, bridges, fences and other city objects that bicycles can be chained to. Maybe they simply like to terrorise pedestrians with them or they all liked the song Bicycle Race by Queen. Whatever the real reason is the Dutch seem to love their bicycles.


Published by Stuart



10 Unique Dutch Traditions

3-Cheek Kiss: If you’re North American, you probably thought it was awkward the first time you kissed a Brit goodbye. You probably pulled away after having kissed on the cheek, while they were leaning in to kiss you a second time on the other cheek. But the Dutch go even further. Instead of kissing each cheek like the Brits (a standard practice in most European countries), they kiss 3 times on alternating cheeks! This tricky 3-cheek Dutch kissing tradition supposedly first began in the southern part of the Netherlands, eventually becoming the standard way that Dutch friends and family greet each other.


Birthday Calendars: The Dutch never want to forget someone’s birthday. In fact, it is so important to them, that they many now use special wall calendars used exclusively for making note of birthdays. Equally as amusing, is that these Dutch birthday calendars are almost always hung in the bathroom! That’s one way to ensure it will always get seen!



Celebrating a Birthday at Work: People in other countries may be accustomed to having work colleagues do something special for them on their birthday, whether it be a cake, a gift or maybe even being treated to lunch on their special day. The situation is very different in Holland. Here it’s the person having the birthday who is expected to supply their own birthday cake, cookies or candy to share with fellow workers. Weird, no?



Agenda Planning: The Dutch are consumed with planning things in advance, not just at work but in their private livesas well. Every activity they do regularly is jotted down in an agenda, so rarely will you see one with wide open spaces. If you are a new expat in Holland, be aware that it is never a good idea to think of popping by your new Dutch friend’s place unannounced and expect to be welcomed in. Also don’t be surprised when you go to plan a date with a Dutch friend, the soonest opening they have is several weeks down the road.


Abraham & Sarah: One  birthday-related tradition the Dutch have is ‘Abraham & Sarah’. This one only applies to a friend or family member who is turning 50 years old. The connection between turning 50 and ‘seeing Abraham’ comes from the bible story and imbues the wisdom one is assumed to have by that time in his/her life (a man turning fifty is said to see Abraham, while a woman sees Sarah). None of that is necessarily unique to the Dutch. BUT here’s the part that is…on the night before the person’s birthday, a giant blow up Abraham or Sarah is placed in front of the person’s house to ensure the birthday person actually does see Abraham (or Sarah) on their 50th. The inflatables are impossible to miss because some of them can be nearly as big as the house itself.


Raw Herring: Eating fish is not unusual; billions of people around the world do it all the time. But the majority of them eat the fish after it has been cooked. Of course, there are also those who eat raw fish in the form of sushi, with little pieces fish being consumed a mouthful at a time…with chopsticks. The Dutch, on the otherhand, turn eating fish into a totally different ballgame. In mid-June a day comes along called Vlaggetjesdag, which celebrates the first catch of herring of the season. On this day, and the weeks that follow, you can catch many a Dutch person dangling an entire raw herring over their mouth before dropping it straight in. Guess that’s so they don’t actually have to do any chewing, just the thought of which makes many an expat want to hurl!


Hagelslag: Here’s another unique Dutch tradition, putting sprinkles on bread for breakfast. That’s right, not jam which one might expect, but sprinkles… dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate and even rainbow! Don’t think that ‘hagelslag’ is strictly for children. Adults can be seen eating it too!




Open Window Blinds: The Dutch believe in keeping their ground floor blinds and curtains open pretty much all the time, because it shows they have nothing to hide. But it also helps to know that in Holland, it is considered inappropriate and taboo for a person to stand and stare into someone’s front window. So, in theory, the tradition of keeping blinds open makes sense. If you know people aren’t going to be peering through your window, there’s not much reason to close those blinds, right? BUT…for a new expat in Holland, it can make for a strange sight. Imagine walking through a typical Dutch old town. The street is mostly dark except for the lights coming from ground floors apartments. In one you’re bound to see a husband and wife eating at a dining room table, while in another you might see a mother, father and children all on the couch watching television. They look at you through the window (because looking outward is okay) looking at them and you just want to yell ‘get some curtains!’ 

19 Strange Dutch Habits

If you’ve only just arrived in The Netherlands or been in the country for a while there are a lot of strange Dutch habits and traditions to discover. Here are just nineteen of the weird things the Dutch get up to.

1) Cycle everywhere without bike helmets

Maybe it is cycling from a very early age that makes the Dutch very confident when it comes to getting about on two wheels. Not only are they able to multitask while cycling but they do so without even wearing bike helmets (and think it’s strange if anyone does).

2) Eat very salty liquorice

If a Dutch person ever offers you liquorice (Dutch drop) be very careful. It could be a trap. Some types of Dutch liquorice have a very extreme salty taste that will make everyone of your taste buds scream out in horror. It’s hard to understand how the Dutch can love the stuff so much.

3) Ignore emergency alarms (if it’s on the first Monday of the month)

On the first Monday of every month, at noon, a rather scary sounding alarm screeches over the whole of the country. The Dutch ignore it though since they know it is just a scheduled test. But what happens if there is a real emergency on the first Monday of the month at noon?

4) Use the Dutch word ‘dus’ for everything

The Dutch word ‘dus’ (which mean ‘so’ in English) is very flexable. It can be used to communicate a wide range of thoughts, feelings and emotions. It can be everything from an angry stop word to a suggestive come on (and more). That’s why it is best not to get the intended meaning mixed up.

5) Celebrate birthdays by sitting in a circle with tea, coffee and a slice of cake

If you only consider a party to be a party if the music is too loud, the police have been called three times and someone is passed out in the corner you are going to be slightly disappointed by a Dutch birthday party. It mostly involves sitting in a circle and drinking coffee.

6) Go camping in style

When the Dutch go camping they go camping on their own terms. Why should getting in touch with nature be done without indoor plumping, a fridge/freezer, washing machine, heating, a home entertainment system and the other luxuries of home?

7) Greet each other with three kisses on the cheek

If a Dutch person suddenly kisses you on the cheek three times don’t get any romantic ideas. It is just their way of saying hello (and goodbye). It’s usually reserved for close friends and family so don’t go over using it yourself. That would just be odd.

8) Understand the use of ‘de’ and ‘het’ even though the rule makes no sense

Most Dutch people will tell you there is a very simple rule for using the words ‘de’ and ‘het’ (which both mean ‘the’ in English). Then they remember all the times the rule does not work and admit you just have to be Dutch to understand it.

9) Celebrate the Kings birthday (or anything else) by dressing up in orange

Whenever it is celebration time in the Netherlands the Dutch will go orange crazy. It’s no surprise since it is the official colour of the Dutch royal family (house orange). It must be a very confusing time for anyone who suffers from colour blindness.

10) Put lots of mayonnaise on their fries

The Dutch love mayonnaise. They love it so much that every chip shop in the land will automatically add it to your order if you don’t explicitly tell them not to. Anyone who does request not to have it is seen as an oddity. In The Netherlands mayonnaise is basically considered its own food group.

11) Drive on the right (which is weird if you are British)

Never get into an argument with the Dutch about which country drives on the correct side of the road. You will lose. They will use your own language (English) against you to explain why driving on the right side of the road makes them right and you wrong.

12) Sometimes live in dangerous houses (especially in Amsterdam)

Old Dutch houses have a lot of charm and character, which is a polite way of saying they can be incredibly dangerous. Spiral stairs so steep they can be classified as twisty ladders, fuses that would withstand a lighting strike and mice as house mates are just a few of the strange things you might find.

13) Ignore all the rules of queuing

When it comes to queuing in The Netherlands there are no rules, only survivors. It is every man, woman and child for themselves. Anyone who has ever tried to board a busy train in the Netherlands will be very familiar with this (and probably still suffer from flashbacks).

14) Wait ages to be served by waiters

The biggest mistake you can make when trying to get served by a Dutch waiter is trying to get served by a Dutch waiter. They are masters in finding other distractions. They will only serve you when they are ready and there is not a damn thing you can do about it.

15) Recognize the official start of spring based on ladies fashion

It is not the appearance of the first tulip or the first baby bunny that ushers in the start of spring in The Netherlands. It is Rokjesdag, the day Dutch ladies start wearing short skirts again (and the day most guys start accidentally walking into lamp posts).

16) Celebrate New Year’s Eve with a lot of very big explosions

Most countries will have a few safe firework displays on New Year’s Eve. Holland on the other hand actually tries to blow itself up. At the stroke of midnight it is as if someone tosses a lit match into the countries entire supply of fireworks (and it does not run out till at least 2am).

17) Are un-phased by parts of their country being seven meters below sea level

If you lived with the constant risk of your country being reclaimed by the sea you would probably be a little nervous. Not the Dutch. Most of them don’t even think about it. Maybe it’s because to them The Dutch are not below sea level, the sea is above Dutch level and they are the masters of it.

18) Eat lots and lots of chocolate for breakfast

The Dutch love sweet things on their bread for breakfast. Chocolate paste, chocolate sprinkles, chocolate shavings and more. What could possibly go wrong with giving children (and adults) a massive sugar rush every morning?

19) Celebrate Sinterklaas on the 5th of December

Sinterklaas might seem like a serious copyright infringement to anyone who gets their gifts from Santa on December 25th, but don’t be mistaken. Sinterklaas is the original. Santa is the copy. In this case it is the rest of us that are being weird.


Published by Stuart



Being bilingual alters your brain. Here’s how

A woman walks past a display of a brain slice of patient "H.M." at the press preview for the MIT 150 Exhibition at the MIT Museum, celebrating Massachusetts Institute of Technology's 150 year anniversary, in Cambridge, Massachusetts January 7, 2011. Patient H.M. has been extensively studied because of his inability to form long term memories following brain surgery in 1953 for his epilepsy. REUTERS/Brian Snyder (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY EDUCATION BUSINESS ANNIVERSARY) - RTXWB86Image: REUTERS/Brian Snyder
It’s well known that being bilingual has cognitive benefits: switching between two languages has been compared to mental gymnastics. But now, research suggests that mastering two languages can fundamentally alter the structure of your brain, rewiring it to work differently than the brains of those who only speak one language.

“Bilinguals are a really a model of cognitive control,” Pennsylvania State University cognitive scientist Judith F. Kroll told Quartz, citing bilinguals’ ability to both hold two languages in their head and expertly switch between them at the right times. Kroll presented her work at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting held in Washington, DC last weekend (Feb. 13). If you speak two languages and have ever found this task to be difficult—choosing the “right” tongue based on the context you’re in—it’s because both languages are always “on” in the brains of bilinguals, as Kroll and other cognitive scientists have seen. In other words, the brain is continually processing information in both languages.

The mental struggle of selecting and switching between two languagesactually helps reshape the brain’s networks, according to Kroll. One study looked at four-month old, eight-month old, and one-year old infants—60 of whom were bilingual and 60 monolingual—and found that, as they grew older, infants who were exposed to both Spanish and Catalan started looking at speakers’ mouths instead of their eyes when listening to someone talk. The monolingual infants, however, only looked at mouths more than eyes when they were listening to someone speak their native tongue.

Kroll told Quartz this study is a great example of how being bilingual can improve speakers’ cognitive abilities. “Babies who are listening to two languages [growing up] become attuned to those two languages right away,” said Kroll. “It’s not confusing them or messing them up developmentally—the opposite is true.”

This rewiring doesn’t happen the same way in every bilingual brain—it’s different for each person, just as each person has their own language experience. But Kroll’s research demonstrates that no matter how effortlessly other bilinguals may seem to switch between their two tongues, there’s a lot going on under the hood. That should come as a small relief for anyone attempting to pick up a new language.


Published: Frida Garza – Editorial Fellow, Quartz