6 essential phrases you need for this King’s Day

King’s Day is the closest thing we Dutchies have to St. Patrick’s day: a nationwide excuse for a uni-coloured 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.

In all cases, you might just need some Dutch to survive the day.

READ MORE | 8 things you should know about King’s Day in the Netherlands

So, 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.

1. Koning

King-Willem-Alexander-laughing-with-Queen-Maxima-2019
King Willem-Alexander is the first masculine monarch since we can remember. Image: Depositphotos

Yes, koning (king), as in not koningin (queen).

Nobody alive today remembers the last time when The Netherlands was ruled by a 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 is to get this right: monarchy equals phallocracy. Hail to the King, baby! 👑

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

2. Vrijmarkt

street-flea-market-in-Amsterdam-on-kings-day
On King’s Day the Dutch sell all their junk in flea markets on the street. Image: Depositphotos

Vrijmarkt (“free market” or “flea market“), also known as that one time a year when Dutchies go nuts and try to occupy a square meter of the 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, no-punches-barred 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 (which literally translates to “occupied”) stays nicely in the closet until we remember the occupation and the subsequent liberation at the beginning of May. But in previous years, people have taken the vrijmarkt a step (or two) too far.

Not only did masses of typical flea marketeers 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 WWII.

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.

The 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

photo-of-group-of-friends-toasting-with-beer-in-a-pub-in-the-netherlands
After a King’s Day filled with drinking, you need one more beer to help you recover. Image: Freepik

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 King’s Day hangover.

We all know there’s no cure like another dose of poison. 😅

READ MORE | Dutch Quirk #99: Drink beer like it’s a national sport

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 supposedly thrifty and cheap people, both our beers and our junk on the annual fleamarket are surprisingly expensive.

Luckily our Dutch directness comes to our aid, as it is completely normal to ask “wat kost dat?”, meaning (“what does that cost?”).

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 flea market, it is a normal thing, however — go nuts!

6. Volksfeest

Volksfeest (“national feast”) is probably the best way to summarise 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 to beating your family to death with a Monopoly board, volksfeest is all about numbers.

READ MORE | Dutch Quirk #126: Play weird street games on King’s Day

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 going to be an event.

So now that you’ve learned these essential Dutch phrases, how about you test your King’s Day knowledge? Here are seven things you need to know about King’s Day. Proost! 

How do you celebrate King’s Day in the Netherlands? Tell us 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 2023 for your reading pleasure.

Abuzer van Leeuwen 🇳🇱
Abuzer van Leeuwen 🇳🇱http://www.abuzervanleeuwen.nl
Abuzer founded DutchReview a decade ago because he thought expats needed it and wanted to make amends for the Dutch cuisine. He has a Masters in Political Science and IT but somewhere always wanted to study history or good old football. He also a mortgage in the Netherlands and will happily tell you too how to get one. Born and raised in Rotterdam, Abuzer now lives in Leiden but is always longing back to his own international year in Italy.

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9 COMMENTS

  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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