About Dutch and time, and how time-management may be the actual crush of the Dutch – besides eating delicious cheese.
After more than two years in the Netherlands, people expect certain things from you. Like not complaining about the weather anymore (check), being able to do your groceries in Dutch (check), eating your hagelslag without feeling like a kid on holiday (nope) and drinking karnemelk at lunch like it is the most normal thing in the world (WHERE IS MY WATER?!).
One thing I sometimes wish I could passively absorb from the Dutch culture is the attitude towards time. The life of the Dutchies doesn’t seem to be filled with anxiety like all of us mere mortals; they have a way of bending time to their needs, and becoming the masters of it. Or simply put, they are very good at planning their time realistically and, most importantly, they stick to their plan!
Dutch language and time: a love story
After learning the basics of the Dutch language and the basics of the Dutch culture, something strikes you: the language itself shows their love for punctuality. “Save the date” is a way of living and talking; everything can be accomplished if tackled in time.
Here are 3 Dutch language constructions about time that amazed me:
#1 What time is it?
The way you ask “what time is it?”: Hoe laat is het?, or “how late is it?”.
When asking the time, you’re already assuming you’re late.
#2 It’s late.
The way you answer that question is also kind of perverse. Dutch people look at the future; 11:30 is not “half past eleven” but half twaalf, as in: you’re already rushing for the next hour.
The absolute masterpiece, however, is with the forthcoming minutes: 8:20, for example, is tien voor half negen, or “ten minutes to half before nine”.
By the time you’ve calculated this in your head, you’re probably late — again.
#3 The most important information.
As you proudly build your Dutch sentence, the “when” of the action happening always comes before where, how, what, and with whom. Morgen moet ik met Sander in het kantoor werken.
Also notice that the “real” verb (not the auxilliary “must”, moet) comes at the end of the sentence. This is a very smart way to talk without being interrupted! If you want to know what’s happening, you can’t guess; you must wait.
Conclusion: a healthy relationship with time comes with a fast-paced mindset. And the Dutch language had to adapt to this!
Are the Dutchies obsessed with time, or is the rest of us sloppy? Let us know in the comments!
Feature Image: Moose Photos/Pexels
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in November 2017, but was fully updated in August 2020 for your reading pleasure.