Welcome to my not so famous 'Famous Dutch'-series!
Until april 2005 I concluded my emails with a randomly chosen signature file containing a 'famous' Dutch proverb (mostly about sun, moon or weather), habit or product. Several people have asked me for a complete overview of these files, to make their 'collection' complete. Well, here you are: for old times' sake!
(Suggestions for additions and improvements are appreciated! Many more interesting and not so interesting facts about the Netherlands and the Dutch can be found in The Undutchables. Many more proverbs and expressions from all over the world can be found on Proverbatim.)
Famous Dutch proverbs and expressions...
1. Voor niets gaat de zon op
>The sun rises for free<
(i.e. There's no such thing as a free lunch)
2. Als de maan vol is, schijnt zij overal
>When the moon is full, it shines everywhere<
(i.e. If someone strikes gold, everyone will know)
3. Bij hem komt de maan al door de wolken
>His moon is already breaking the clouds<
(i.e. He's getting bald already)
4. Na regen komt zonneschijn
>After the rain, the sun will shine<
(i.e. Every cloud has a silver lining)
5. Waar de zon schijnt, is de maan niet nodig
>Who needs the moon, when the sun is shining?<
(i.e. Why settle for less?)
6. Als de hemel valt, krijgen we allemaal een blauwe pet
>If the sky comes down, we'll all be wearing a blue cap<
(One of many if-if-if expressions; no deeper meaning)
7. Als de hemel valt, blijft er geen tuinstok staan
>If the sky comes down, not a pole will be left upright<
8. Het regent pijpenstelen
>It's raining pipe-stems<
(i.e. It is pouring)
9. Als alle gekken konden vliegen hadden we een permanente zonsverduistering
>If all fools could fly, the sun would be eclipsed forever<
10. Morgenrood brengt water in de sloot
>Red morning-sky brings water to the ditch<
(To be taken literally: in the Low Countries a red morning sky is a sign of high air humidity)
11. Spijkers op laag water zoeken
>To look for nails at low tide<
(i.e. Being overly suspicious)
12. Hoge bomen vangen veel wind
>High trees catch a lot of wind<
(i.e. Important people attract a lot of attention)
13. Zo de wind waait, waait z'n jasje
>As the wind blows, so does his jacket<
(i.e. He will jump on any bandwagon)
14. Wie boter op zijn hoofd heeft, moet uit de zon blijven
>He who has butter on his head, should stay out of the sun<
(i.e. If you're not perfect, you'd better tone down)
15. Hij kan de zon niet in het water zien schijnen
>He cannot see the sun shine in the water<
(i.e. He is envious)
16. Door de bomen het bos niet meer zien
>Unable to see the forest for/through the trees<
(i.e. Unable to grasp the big picture because of a concern with small (trivial) details)
17. De beste stuurlui staan aan wal
>The best steersmen are ashore<
(i.e. Outsiders always think they know better)
18. Het zijn niet de slechtste vruchten waaraan de wespen knagen
>It isn't the worst fruit that is eaten by wasps<
(More or less the equivalent of 12)
19. Nou breekt mijn klomp!
>That breaks my wooden shoe!<
('Well I be darned!)
20. Als het regent in september, valt kerstmis in december
>If it rains in September, X-mas will be in December<
(Just an aphorism)
21. De eerste klap is een daalder waard.
>The first hit is worth a dollar<
(i.e. The first cut is the deepest. And in case you are wondering: daalder' and dollar' are both derived from the German word taler', a coin that originates in the year 1520.)
22. Het sop is de kool niet waard
>The water isn't worth the cabbage<
(i.e. It is no big deal)
23. Wie voor een dubbeltje geboren is, wordt nooit een kwartje waard
>He who is born for a dime, will never be worth a quarter<
(i.e. Born poor, forever poor)
24. Lekker is slechts een vinger lang
>Tasty is just one finger long<
(i.e. All good things must come to an end)
25. Gebraden duiven vliegen niet
>Roasted doves don't fly<
(More or less the equivalent of 1)
26. De toekomst is een boek met zeven sloten
>The future is a book with seven locks<
(i.e. Nobody can predict the future)
27. Wat baten een kaars en bril als de uil niet ziet en wil
>What's the use of candle and glasses if the owl doesn't want to see<
(i.e. Always try to keep an open mind)
28. Langs de straat van straks komt men aan het huis van nooit
>Later-street leads directly to the Never-house<
(i.e. Delay results in cancellation)
29. Heb je geen paard, gebruik dan een ezel
>If you don't have a horse, use a donkey<
(i.e. There's always another way)
30. Een gek kan meer vragen dan tien/honderd wijzen kunnen beantwoorden
>A fool can ask more than a ten/hundred wise men can answer<
(The equivalent of 'A fool may ask more questions in an hour than a wise man can answer in seven years')
31. De duivel schijt altijd op de grootste hoop
>The devil always shits on the biggest pile<
(i.e. The poor get poorer and the rich get richer)
32. Wat de boer niet kent, dat (vr)eet hij niet
>What the peasant doesn't know, he doesn't eat<
(i.e. To be scared of the unknown)
33. Bitter in de mond maakt het hart gezond
>Bitter in the mouth makes the heart healthy<
(i.e. Good medicins often taste bad)
34. De regen die vandaag valt, valt morgen niet
>The rain that falls today, doesn't fall tomorrow<
(Just an aphorism)
35. Hi, ha, hondenlul!
(Untranslatable expression, commonly used at soccer matches to abuse the referee. The last word refers to one of the smaller extremities of a dog...)
36. Het kind met het badwater weggooien
>To throw away the child with the bath water<
(i.e. To throw way the good with the bad)
37. Waar het hart vol van is, stroomt de mond van over
>What fills the heart, will flow from the mouth<
(i.e. People like to talk about things they love)
38. De zon gaat zinloos onder, morgen moet hij toch weer op
>Sunset is useless, the sun has to rise again in the morning anyway<
(Modern aphorism by comedian Herman Finkers)
39. Een naaimachine naait, maar een nietmachine niet
>A sewing-machine sews but a stapler staples<
(Mindboggling, eh? The joke is that 'niet' means 'staples', but also 'not'!)
40. Ikke, ikke en de rest kan stikken
>Me, me, the rest can choke<
41. Toeval is logisch
>Coincidence is logical<
(Quote by the famous Dutch soccer player Johan Cruijff.)
42. Ik bid niet voor bruine bonen!
>I won't say my prayers for brown beans!<
(Phrase from the (fictional) Dutch boy Bartje, from the book by the same name.)
43. De rijkdom kan niet lange staan, hij groeit en krimpt gelijk de maan
>Wealth is a temporary thing: it waxes and wanes like the moon<
44. Een kring om de maan dat zal wel gaan, maar een kring om de zon daar huilen vrouwen en kinderen om.
>A ring around the moon is not too bad, but a ring around the sun makes women and children sad.<
45. Is de maan als een schuit, dan valt er geen regen uit.
>When the moon is shaped like a boat, no rain will fall out.<
46. Schijnt de zon op nieuwjaar, geeft het een goed appeljaar.
>When the sun shines on New Year's Day, it will be a good apple year.<
47. Niemand ooit zo fijn iets spon, of het kwam aan het licht der zon.
>No one can make a fabric so fine that it won't be exposed to the sun.<
(i.e. Even the biggest lie won't stick)
48. Krimpende winden en uitgaande vrouwen zijn niet te vertrouwen.
>Backing winds and outgoing women are not to be trusted.<
(Weather expression – really!)
49. Al regende het varkens, je krijgt er geen borstel van.
>Even a rain of pigs doesn't give you a brush.<
(i.e. Even in the best of circumstances, you'll have to work for your money)
50. Leven als een (kik)vorst in Frankrijk.
>To live like a prince (frog) in France.<
(The frog is an addition thought up by late Kina van der Meij and me... it slightly changes the meaning of the proverb.)
51. Wanneer het op de groten regent, drupt het op de kleinen.
>If it rains on the great, it drips on the little people.<
(i.e. Noone can entirely escape the troubles of others)
52. Wie naar de hemel spuwt, spuwt in zijn eigen aangezicht.
>He who spits at heaven, spits in his own face.<
(i.e. Fighting the big/important guy, will only get you in trouble)
53. Zonder mijn en dijn zou de wereld een hemel zijn.
>Without mine and yours, the world would be a heaven.<
(i.e. Share and share alike, will make for a better world)
54. Is de hemel al te blauw, spoedig wordt hij dan weer grauw.
>If the sky is all to blue, it soon will turn to gray again.<
(i.e. Good luck will eventually run out)
55. De molen gaat niet om met wind die voorbij is.
>The windmill doesn't care for the wind that's gone past.<
(i.e. You don't need precautions for something that has happened in the past)
56. Waar de dijk het laagst is, loop het eerst het water over.
>Where the dyke is lowest, water runs over it first.<
(i.e. The poor will suffer first)
57. Alle beetjes helpen, zei de mug, en ze piste in de zee.
>Every little bit helps, the mosquito said, pissing into the sea.<
58. Daar verdrinken er meer in een wijnglas dan in de zee.
>More people drown in a wineglass then in the sea.<
(i.e. Alcohol is deadlier than (swimming in) the sea)
59. Als de drank is in de man, is de wijsheid in de kan.
>If booze is in the man, wisdom is in the can.<
60. Een haastig man moet op geen ezel rijden.
>He who is in a hurry, shouldn't be riding a donkey.<
(i.e. If you want to succeed, you need the right tools)
61. Een man met baard, daar is een vrouw bij bewaard.
>A bearded man is a woman provided for.<
(i.e. A brave man knows how to make a living)
62. Indien de baard de wijsheid bracht, zo werd de bok het wijst geacht.
>If a beard were a sign of wisdom, the he-goat would be the wisest<
(i.e. Having facial hair doesn't make you intelligent... necessarily that is)
63. Wie zichzelf niet belangrijk vindt, doet zijn werk niet goed.
>He who doesn't find himself important, isn't doing his job well.<
64. Ik moet niks hebben van kinderen. Kind *zijn* vond ik al erg genoeg.
> I don't like children. *Being* one was bad enough.<
(Quote by one of the characters of writer/artist Wim T. Schippers)
Famous Dutch products and habits...
>The best translation would be 'licorice', but 'drop' is quite something else. It is best described as a black, chewy kind of candy with a sweet and/or salty taste. The Dutch like it so much, that you can buy it in hundreds of different types. And none of them taste as the ones you can get outside the Netherlands.<
>The famous 'wooden shoes'! They are still made by the thousands, but mostly for (American, Japanese and Chinese) tourists. Believe it or not: they are very comfortable and are still used by farmers and gardeners.<
>Tulips. Who doesn't know these 'typical' Dutch flowers, that originate in Turkey, look like onions or leek most of the time and come in so many varieties, that you get the impression that they are artificial. Well, they are!<
>A tulip, a wooden shoe, a dike, and a windmill...that's the way we spell Holland. Yes, we have windmills...would YOU get rid of the main attraction of your theme park?<
>Also known as the Dutch Mountains, dikes are what is keeping our feet dry (along with the wooden shoes, of course). And no, we don't know Hans Brinkers.... Don't believe every story they feed you!<
>The Germans call it 'Schnapps', the English call it 'gin'. It's basically a mixture of water and ethanol. Some people put ice in it, to suppress the taste. Now, why would one do such a strange thing?<
>The pinnacle of Dutch cuisine: take a kilo of potatoes, boil them to a pulp, add some really well done cabbage or raw endive, mash the mixture even further and voila! Best eaten with a fatty sausage or pieces of bacon, and lots of gravy of course!<
>Did you miss number 7 ('stamppot')? Don't worry, here's another fine example of the Dutch cuisine: take a kilo of potatoes, add half a kilo of onion rings and half a kilo of carrots, boil, boil, boil, mash the mixture and bon appetit!<
>Do you know what peas look like after they've been cooked for half a day? No? Then you have never seen 'snert', the ugly looking, but surprisingly tasty Dutch pea soup. Best eaten in wintertime, after skating over the frozen rivers and lakes.<
>In the Netherlands there a literally thousands of people who can't wait to skate 200 kilometers over frozen lakes and ditches which takes 6-16 hours. And a couple of million others like to watch them do that! The 'Elfstedentocht' connects eleven towns in the province of Friesland, and is held about once or twice per decade (if it's cold enough, that is).<
>The rest of the world has Santaclaus, we have 'Sinterklaas', a guy with a red suit and a white beard (they must be related!). Sinterklaas brings presents on the 5th (!) of December and doesn't have a sleigh, but a white horse and black helpers called 'Zwarte Pieten' (Black Petes). Just like the tulips Sinterklaas originates in Turkey he was/is a bishop that spends his old age in Spain (so we're told).<
>'Fritters'. Essentially a heavy dough with lots of raisins, deep-fried in lots of oil. To be eaten around New Year's Day: the fattier, the better!<
13. Hollandse nieuwe
>Fresh Dutch herring. To be eaten raw, without the bones, but with chopped onion. Not recommendable on a hot day...<
>Orange (the colour), but also the 'petname' for our national soccer team. The familyname of our Queen is 'van Oranje', a name that goes way back in time, to the days that nobleman William of Orange owned the French town of Orange. If you see people with orange flags, orange wigs and their faces painted orange, then you now there is a major Dutch sports event going on!<
>On April 30 the Dutch celebrate Queens' Day. That is not the Queen's birthday (anymore), but the birthday of the former Queen-Mother of the Netherlands. Whatever shall we do when crown-prince Alexander takes over?<
>No need to translate this one. Dutch people get their chocolate letters on December 5 from a strange old guy called Sinterklaas, the 'father' of Santaclaus.<
>It's mean, round and yellow, it's....a Dutch cheese! To be eaten in thin slices on the inevitable 'boterham' (slice of bread); per person the Dutch eat 15 kilos of cheese per year. That's why the Belgians and Germans call us 'cheeseheads'.... <
>One of the strangest Dutch habits is to put chocolate 'sprinklets' on bread. The Dutch have a thing with chocolate: there is also a chocolate paste, that probably was invented when someone left his chocolate sprinkled slice of bread lying in the sun...<
>The Dutch are great merchants. The 'living' proof is Heineken: one way or another one of the worst beers from the Netherlands managed to spread across the globe. If you ever get the chance, try some of the other Dutch or (even better) Belgian beers. Avoid the Microsoft of beers at all costs!<
>Complaining, that is what the Dutch are best at. Complaining about the weather is the favorite. But complaining about the government, foreigners, traffic jams, dog shit and public transport is popular too. Because everything and everyone is flawed. Everyone except you of course!<
>Just one clue: they don't really sell coffee here... ;o)<
22. De doofpot
>Literally: the extinguisher. Part of that good old Dutch habit of looking the other way when things get rough. Every scandal or national disaster gets investigated, but when all dust is settled....nothing. It's just not right to disturb this heavenly peace, is it?<
23. De wielklem
>It's round, it's yellow and it's not a Dutch cheese. It's the wheel clamp. Introduced in the Netherlands in the early 1990's, it is used to disable illegally parked cars.<
24. De strippenkaart
>Untranslatable. It is a ticket used in bus, tram and metro. Each 'strip' represents a certain distance and when stamped is only valid for a limited period of time. It's our way of keeping tourists out of our public transport system.<
>The permits: how could I almost have forgotten those?! In the Netherlands you need a permit for almost anything. Russian bureaucrats are amateurs compared to us! Should you ever pay us a visit, please check all your permits. Wait a minute, do I have a permit for this?<
>Tolerance: closely related to '22. De doofpot'. The Dutch have made up a zillion rules, and most of them are broken all the time. The 'penalty' for this is to be ignored. No one will bother you, as long as you don't park your car on the wrong spot.<
27. De fiets
>The bicycle or bike. There are more bikes than people in the Netherlands. And since there are almost as many cars by now, the bike is arguably the fastest way of transportation in some cities. Don't forget to lock yours, unless you want to be the victim of that other Dutch tradition: bike-stealing.<
28. Zinloos geweld
>Even in our touching wet little country people get beaten-up, and sometimes even killed, for no reason at all. This has happened in all ages of course, but the media have come up with a new concept: 'senseless violence'. But what exactly is 'sensible violence'?<
29. De verjaardagskalender
>The birthday calendar. The thing itself isn't that strange, but the Dutch tend to hang it on the inside of their toilet door. That must be why Dutch people always come up with such crappy presents!<
30. 6 PM - Prakken
>Although there are some regional discrepancies, the Dutch tend to have their evening meal at 6 PM. In a lot of homes you can then witness the national sport of 'prakken'. Take a plate with potatoes, add some gravy and veggies, take your fork, and a-squashing and a-mixing we go! <
>Americans are in for a shock when they try the Dutch equivalent of their peanut butter. 'Pindakaas' tastes quite strong and salty, and I wouldn't recommend using it to make icecream. It tastes more like the 'sateh sauce' served in Indonesian restaurants.<
>Strictly speaking not a Dutch, but a Norwegian invention: the cheese slicer. The perfect way to make the most of that giant Gouda cheese: the thinner the slice, the happier the Dutch wallet.<
33. Van Gogh & Rembrandt
>How could one forget the Great Dutch Masters? Famous for their placemat designs. Every household should have one!<
>Potato, potatoe, yes we do have spuds. In fact: the Netherlands are the number 9 potato growers in the world. It has so many uses: stamppot (no. 7), hutspot (8) and the traditional 'prakken' (30) depend on it!<
>Just a fancy (French) word for mushrooms. If it's paper white, doesn't smell or taste at all, chances are you stumbled across a Dutch mushroom. The Dutch are the number 3 mushroom growers in the world. We're experts in growing food that has no taste. :o)<
>The Dutch aren't exactly renowned as big spenders. But they do have a version of 'Trick or Treat', without the trick that is. It is customary for a birthday child to treat his or her classmates with candy or fruit. But the most famous Dutch treat is the 'beschuit met muisjes', served to celebrate the birth of a baby.<
>Another thing the Dutch aren't renowned for is cooking. It's just not our thing. And why mess around with food when other people are much better at it? Like the Indonesians: from them we learned to eat 'rijsttafel' – a table full of spicy oriental dishes. Sure beats the 'stamppot' (no. 7).<
38. Spring maar achterop
>Remember the 'fiets' (no. 27)? Although there's more than one for every Dutchman, there always seem to be a few short. So don't be surprised when you see two (or more!) persons on a single bike. That's what we call 'jumping on the back'.<
>Dutch children in the first year of high school (secondary school if you will) are mockingly called 'brugpiepers' or 'brugsmurfen'. Both words refer to the (relatively) small sizes of the youngest children at school.<
40. Patatje oorlog
>Dutch cuisine is an endless source of inspiration. And 'patatje oorlog' – meaning 'French fries at war' – really takes the biscuit. The French fries in question are covered with a mix of mayonaise and/or ketchup and/or sateh sauce and/or curry sauce and/or raw unions. The exact combination differs per region, the result is always the same: disgusting.<