As if it wasn’t hard enough to move to another country, learn the language, and integrate yourself — someone thought it would also be fun to use hand signals along with the Dutch language.
Learning Dutch is doable, it takes time to figure out what they are saying and why the grammar is wonky, but once you have mastered (or at least have figured out the basics) you can add in some fun hand gestures to really blend in.
Here are five hand gestures that I come across on a regular basis. A short description is added because some are not always obvious. 😉
A gesture that was taught to me from a young age — even my two-year-old uses this one. It’s the hmmmmm, lekker gesture. 🤤 Possibly evolved as a polite way to say something was delicious while still chewing a mouthful of food. The hand is placed to the side of the face and waved back and forth.
The two-fingers up the nose move. It’s used when you say so easy you can do it ‘with two fingers in the nose’ (met twee vingers in je neus.) Simple and straightforward. 👃
Are you stupid?
Generally easy to understand, a tap to the centre of the forehead with your index finger, as if you’re asking the question ‘Are they stupid?’ or ‘is he/she stupid?’. Sometimes, depending on the situation, you can substitute crazy for stupid. 🚨
A grasping of the hand in front of the nose gesture. This translates to ‘that’s nuts!’ and is used when someone suggests something silly. 🤪
The last commonly used hand gesture is more popular in the Northern part of the Netherlands. We’re not sure if it’s a go-to while backpacking around Amsterdam.
This can be done while passing someone you know in the car or on the bike. It’s basically a Dutch hello, 👋 that is generally accompanied by a verbal mooooooooi or can be used alone.
All in all, I tend to see the middle three gestures as sarcastic ways of saying Dutch things, and I’m generally impressed that you can actually bring sarcasm into a conversation using hand gestures — the Dutch certainly are an innovative bunch.
There you have it! five hand gestures that will help you navigate your way through a Dutch conversation. Feel free to use them at will: there is no real limit to where or when you can use the gestures.
The Dutch will most certainly appreciate you taking the time to learn not only their language but also their sign language!
Have you seen these Dutch hand gestures, or used them yourself? Let us know in the comments below!
This article was originally published in November 2016, and was fully updated in May 2022 for your reading pleasure.