Essential phrases you need for King’s Day

King’s Day is the closest thing we Dutchies have to St. Patrick’s day: a nation-wide excuse for a uni-colored drinking binge. Whether you’re wearing green or rather orange in this case, the streets all look the same that day. One big happy, drinking, flea-marketing, oranging crowd.

And then there’s you. Maybe you’re here to study, maybe you’re here as a long-time expat or maybe you’re just here for the party. But in all cases, you might just need some more Dutch than these 7 words:

Coronavirus update: This year, the party is going to have to take place in the living room with max one house guest — but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some phrases!

So how do you survive King’s Day? Here are six essential phrases you need for King’s Day. Master them if you want to blend in with the euphoric, nationalistic and above all: shamelessly roaring drunk crowd. (SPOILER ALERT: it’s not gezellig)

1. Koning

Yes, koning (king), as in: not koningin (queen). Nobody alive today remembers the last time when The Netherlands was ruled by masculine monarch. King Willem-Alexander’s predecessors, respectively his mother Beatrix, his grandmother Juliana, and his great-grandmother Wilhelmina, were all lady-kings, so to speak.

As such, it has been ingrained in Dutch culture to refer to royal matters in a feminine tense. I for one still continuously catch myself saying koninginnedag instead of koningsdag. The latter actually sounds weird and off-the-wall to me. So the first order of business for any wo/man wanting to enjoy the annual Orange parade has to get this right: monarchy equals fallocracy. Hail to the King, baby!

Bonusphrase: Lang leve de koning! Hoera, hoera, hoera! (Long live the King, huzzah 3x)

2. Vrijmarkt

Vrijmarkt (“free market” or “flea market”), also known as: that one time a year when Dutchies go nuts and try to occupy (more on that later) a square meter of street three days in advance so they can sell their junk (however you’re interpreting the word “junk”, it’s equally gross).

Yes, it’s a tax-free, hold-no-punches sell-fest where each Dutchman will try to solve the alchemical riddle of transforming worthless trash into gold. But never let it be said that the Dutch are a greedy and money-obsessed bunch, it’s all about getting out in the streets and showing people your stuff and your child’s lack of play-the-violin skill.

King’s Day joking starts at 2.09

3. Bezet!

Normally this word (literally translates  to “occupied”) stays nicely in the closet until we remember the occupation and the subsequent liberation a few days later in the beginning of May. But reports from the capital have been getting increasingly disturbing.

Not only did masses of typical fleamarketeers rudely write “BEZET” at certain spots on the pavement where they want their little one-day operation to be. They also brought up nasty memories of the second world war.

Not good people! Luckily the Dutch government being Dutch, issued verdicts that this ain’t right (not only because of the war, but also because chalk can be hard to remove — tseh! like the inevitable rain won’t wash it away). Common consensus on this is that you can just occupy someone else’s “BEZET”-spot.

Bonus phrase: “wie het eerst komt, wie het eerst maalt” (First come first serve — the typical Dutch reply to the “BEZET” people, if it is really occupied why weren’t they sleeping there days in advance?)

4. Herstelbiertje

Herstelbiertje (“recovery beer”), also known as the balansbiertje (“balance beer”, or “equilibrium beer” if you’re a pretentious douchebag). It’s the Dutch phrase for that beer you take first thing in the morning-after as a means of getting over your hangover, because we all know there’s no cure like another dose of poison.

Koningsdag inevitably means drinking way, way too much and unless your liver is the size of a city bus, you’re gonna hate yourself the next morning. And then you’ll drink another beer thinking it’ll make things better, because placebo-effect or whatever.

5. “Wat kost dat?

For a supposedly thrifty and cheap people both our beers and our junk on the annual Fleamarket are surprisingly expensive. And it doesn’t help that you can’t “cheat” your way out of the beer prices by buying it in the supermarkets. Luckily our Dutch directness comes to our aid, as it completely normal to ask “Wat kost dat?” meaning literally, “what costs that?” (literally translated without any sense of proper English) is just a sign of integration into Dutch society gone well.

Bonusphrase: “Mag het ietsje minder zijn?” (Can it be somewhat less?) Although the Dutch are a trading people by tradition it is not a custom to negotiate a price in a store or for a beer. On the fleamarket it is a normal thing however — go nuts!

6. Volksfeest

Volksfeest (“national feast”) is probably the best way to summarize Koningsdag. I technically cheated a bit here because this word has so much overlap with the already overused word gezellig, but there’s a difference.

Whereas gezellig can refer to just about any kind of social event which was not at all unpleasant, from those damnable circle-parties till beating your family to death with a Monopoly board, volksfeest is all about numbers.

Much like small-talk, it isn’t so much about what is being said or done, but more about the fact that it’s being said and done together, as a collective. Koningsdag is like that weird alternative festival where everyone just goes to the park to look at all the other people who have gone to the park because someone said there was gonna be an event.

So now that you’ve learned these essential Dutch phrases, how about you test your King’s Day knowledge? Here are 7 Things You Need to Know about King’s Day. Proost! 

How do you usually celebrate King’s Day in the Netherlands? Let us know in the comments below!

Feature Image: Carmelrmd/Wikimedia Commons/CC3.0
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in April 2017, and was fully updated in April 2021 for your reading pleasure.

Abuzer van Leeuwen 🇳🇱
Founded DutchReview. Rotterdammer living in Leiden. Politics, innovation and epic food-reviews are his thing. Interested in doing anything with DutchReview? Contact him at abuzer[at]

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  1. Hahaha good one. Should have included ‘hondenweer’ as well! Gonna need that one Monday. InDutch looks interesting, gonna check that out


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