A guide to Dutch hand gestures: 5 things you need to know

As if it wasn’t hard enough to move to another country, learn the language, integrate not only yourself but your family — 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. 😉

Yummmmmmm

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.

video-1477992262

Easy peazy

The two-fingers up the nose move: 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. 👃

2-fingers-in-nose

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. 🚨

ben-je-gek

That’s nuts!

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. 🤪

dutch-hello

Hellooooooo

The last commonly used hand gesture is more popular in the Northern part of the Netherlands, so 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.

When driving through Drenthe or heading into Groningen, take your pointing finger and stick it up in the air as if you wanted to ask your teacher a question, or perhaps you had a brilliant idea. 💡

pas-erop

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, and as usual, 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!

Feature Image: Polina Zimmerman/Pixabay

This article was originally published in November 2016, and was fully updated in November 2021 for your reading pleasure.

Heather Court
Heather was born on the Dutch island of St.Maarten and recently traded in her flip flops for snow boots. Her blog mydutchlife.com documents her not so Dutch observations.

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8 COMMENTS

  1. I can say that I don’t recognize the last gesture and I am from the south and lived in Amsterdam. So it is probably a northern thing.

    • Here in Utrecht we use all of them.

      I use the last one constantly. But I never even realized it was hand gesture until I read this blog post lol. I just used it without thinking.

  2. Hi Susanne, I am from Utrecht, lived in Den Haag for a while and i am living and working in London at the moment.
    I do recognize the last one, and I can imagine that it is typically something from the Randstad.

  3. I am of Dutch heritage and very proud of that fact so I think I can say without any reservation whatsoever that the Dutch hand gestures are right up there with the Italian hand gestures.

  4. Hi! I’m from Groningen, the Northen part, and I can’t say I’ve ever seen somebody sticking his fingers up his nose to mime easy.. other than a comedian.. All the other gestures are indeed quite common I think.

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