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, and integrate yourself — someone thought it would also be fun to use hand signals along with the Dutch language (oh, and don’t get me started on getting familiar with Dutch expressions.)

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. 😉

Yummmm

A gesture that was taught to me from a young age — even my two-year-old uses this one. It’s the most common hand gesture, the lekker wave. 🤤 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.

READ MORE | 15 weirdly cute things Dutch people do

So, next time you’re at a restaurant, and you want to acknowledge how scrumptious the food is, perform the lekker wave (Dutchies will understand you, and it’s a fun way to integrate into Dutch culture). 😌

video-1477992262

Easy peasy

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. 👃

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. We’re not sure if it’s a go-to while backpacking around Amsterdam.

READ MORE| Dutch Quirk #22: Give everyone three kisses to say hello

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.

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.

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? Tell us in the comments below!

This article was originally published in November 2016 and was fully updated in May 2023 for your reading pleasure.

Feature Image:Depositphotos
Heather Court
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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11 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.

    • Hi Susanne I just wanted to let you know that I am dutch well dutch royalty related that is my ancestors used to own castle dusen my last name is vandusen and I’m cheyenne I live in Pennsylvania currently and I am only 13 I just wanted to let you know that although I am dutch I do not speak dutch and have been very curiouse to learn dutch I was wondering if we could keep in contact and I could possibly learn more of the dutch language. Sincerely cheyenne.

  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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