‘Going Dutch’ and 4 other phrases that commemorate the Dutch in all their glory

Going Dutch is an often-used phrase throughout the world. However, it is not the only one out there related to the ‘Dutch’. 

Ever wondered why there are quite a few sayings about the Dutch? Apparently, it’s because the Dutch were one of the first nations to travel the world. In those early days, it wasn’t common to leave your country of origin, and many never did. But, there were a few brave men (sorry ladies, no women conquering the world at that stage yet) that took it upon themselves to map and explore the world.

In some countries, the Dutch were the first foreigners ever sighted. Strange, or at least uncommon behaviour was therefore often classified as ‘Dutch’. Not because it was typically Dutch or anything, but because it was something people hadn’t seen until the Dutch came around. So what are the Dutchies known for around the world?

1. Going Dutch (obviously) — but how do you ‘Go Dutch’?

There’s more to splitting the bill than you may think. Image: cottonbro/Pexels

Going Dutch is probably the most famous one of them all and very well known around the world and refers to splitting the bill. Pretty straight-forward, right? Not really, because there are a number of things you need to take into account. Is the bill going to be divided equally amongst a number of people or does everybody pay their own share? Do we split the food equally and pay for drinks separately? Depending on what you are planning on eating and drinking, choose your system wisely.

2. Dutch Agreement — not for the sober mind.

What it looks like to close a Dutch agreement. Image: ELEVATE/Pexels

A Dutch agreement is an agreement made whilst being drunk, and of which both parties, most of the time, have no recollection of. In other words, both parties were so drunk when they made the deal that neither will be able to recall making it the next day and will have to be reminded of it by the other people that were present. If you are planning on closing a Dutch agreement with anyone, I would advise you to do it without a witness. That’s your safest bet.

3. Dutch Auction — it comes with a twist!

Not many people know this one, but it’s very Dutch! How does a Dutch auction work? It is basically the opposite of a regular auction. Normally, auctions start at a certain price and then go up until no one is bidding anymore. A Dutch auction, however, starts off at a high amount of money and then goes down until any one person stops the auctioneer. That’s the price the buyer ends up paying.

4. Dutch Oven — don’t confuse it with cooking.

english idioms with dutch word
The Dutch oven has very little to do with cooking. Image: John Verive/Flickr/CC2.0

This one is not for the fainthearted. A Dutch oven refers to one person trapping another person under the sheets after just having farted. When I first found out about this practice, (by hearing about it, not by having the act performed on me, just to be clear!), I was so confused as to why on earth this was called a Dutch oven.

The only explanation I have been able to come up with so far is the odour of Dutch cuisine. A whiff of Dutch cooking and you want to run? Something like that maybe? Anyway, when a friend of mine invited me over for dinner a few months later, proudly stating she bought a Dutch oven, I was confused all over again, as I had no idea that a physical Dutch oven actually was a thing.

5. Dutch Courage — the kind of courage that never ends well

photo-of-heineken-beer
A bowl full of Dutch courage. Image: Christian Hertenbach/Unsplash

This is the courage we are all familiar with. It’s the overly-confident kind of courage that arises after having a few drinks. The ‘of course I can run down the street with my shoelaces tight up together whilst carrying a crate of beers’. That kind of courage. The kind that never ends well. Never.


While these phrases may not be the most flattering to the Dutch, it’s good to keep in mind that most of them came about centuries ago. Imagine spending months on a boat, getting off in a foreign country, having a few drinks, and doing something stupid. ‘Watch that guy and his Dutch courage’. Could have happened to the best of us. Do it a couple of times and you’re famous for it.

Were you surprised by any of these phrases? Let us know in the comments below!

Feature Image: Anton S./Unsplash
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in November 2017, and was fully updated in March 2021 for your reading pleasure.

Janneke Hazelaar
Janneke Hazelaar
Janneke is a true digital nomad, business owner, translator and writer. Born and raised in the Netherlands, calling Rotterdam home. She has a master’s degree in Law and specialises in legal translations. She tries to have a location free life as much as possible which has lead her to Perth, Western Australia (for now).

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