Dutch directness: 5 questions you’ll get in the Netherlands (and how to answer them)

Welcome to Dutch communication 101 😉

There are questions that every foreigner will be asked by locals in the Netherlands, and in true Dutch style, they’ll be pretty direct about it.

Maybe you’ve heard about the bluntness of the Dutch, or have experienced it yourself already. Either way, here are some tips for how to deal with Dutch directness.

I arrived here young and silly, in love with a Dutch guy I had met in my home country. I had no idea about anything I was about to get into and especially not about Dutch directness. My initial experience with was shock, to say the least. It hit me hard and I was left with my mouth wide open!

It became apparent after living here for a year or two that I was being asked the same questions. At first, I didn’t know how to answer them, but after a while, I became a professional.

If all things fail when asked a question, just laugh and nod! Image: Freepik

Here is a list of the most frequently asked questions I have encountered from the locals since my arrival and how you can answer them. In other words: this is my go-to guide to prepare you for Dutch directness!

1. Hoe is het met je Nederlands? (How’s it going with your Dutch?)

How’s it going with your Dutch?” — This question is the number one, most frequently asked question you are sure to hear throughout your stay here. It is a question that will never go away.

You will be asked this by absolute strangers, people you hardly know, grandmas and general people passing you in the street on a bike. You could be asked in any kind of setting, so be prepared.

The first few times I was asked this question, I was speechless! Later, I started to try my best attempt of:  “um, ja goed

This question will follow you everywhere, be prepared! Image: Freepik

I was told, I sounded German. Well, Germany is close by, so that’s good right?! I often thought I was safe and this question wouldn’t be asked because I was at a place like a festival and being tipsy, they surely wouldn’t bring up such a subject…I was wrong.

It doesn’t matter if there is pumping music and you’re already slurring your own native language, you will be confronted with the recurring: “Hoe is het met je Nederlands?” 😅

READ MORE | The top 16 free ways to learn Dutch

So, when you are asked this question, I suggest you are ready with a solid pronounced answer. Say it with confidence, even if you are shaking in your boots. Look them directly in the eye, stand up straight and practice, practice, practice!

Here are some helpful phrases to answer this question:

  • “Mijn Nederlands is uitstekend.” (My Dutch is excellent.)
  • “Ja, gaat goed.” (Yes, it’s going good.)
  • Komt goed.” (It’s coming along.)
  • “Lekker.” (Nicely.)
  • “Slecht” (Bad.)
Don’t be intimidated when everyone is paying attention to you; look confident! Image: Freepik

2. Don’t you miss your family?

Hmmm? Well of course I do. This question was asked repeatedly and usually straight after asking how my Dutch was. I was initially shocked when I was asked this as I was not sure exactly why I was being asked this. Were they trying to find out if I was a runaway?

Some people I barely knew gave me a look, like how could you ever leave your family? I felt strange, guilty and as though I had committed a crime for wanting to see the world, follow a dream and be young and in love!

READ MORE | Things I wish I knew before moving to the Netherlands for love

Well, after some consideration, I guess it could just be a cultural difference. The size of the Netherlands means family is always close by and families tend to stay close to each other.

For example, my Dutch partner’s family all live in one village — literally one block away from each other. If I ride my bike through this village, I am sure to run into his aunties, cousins, and oma. In Australia, my family lives all over the country.

I started to try to answer this question with things like: “Ja, but technology is so good these days, so it’s fine.”

The biggest hurdle would have to be the time difference. Image: Freepik

Nevertheless, I still felt like I was getting some judgmental looks. My advice to answer this is perhaps not to try to defend yourself because there is no need to. My family loves me, and I love them (no matter the distance between us.)

3. Where are you from?

This is a general question, which always follows a similar reaction.

  • “Where are you from?”
  • “I am from Australia.”
  • “Oh, my uncle’s son’s best friend is there in blah blah blah…”

… or

  • “Oooh, I’ve always wanted to visit!”

Okay, I get it, many Dutch people get excited when they hear about my country — and it’s sweet. But at the same time, I really don’t care to hear it… Pardon me if that’s rude (or direct 😉), but I simply don’t.

I’m not sure if you will experience this coming from other countries, but I’m guessing you will. Maybe you don’t mind at first, but after a while, that may change. My advice is to always nod and smile and pretend to be interested, it works best for me!

4. Why are you here?

Once I’ve established the strong connection to my country, this question is asked as a follow-up. I kind of enjoy this question though; it humours me!

There is a look in their eyes, like how could I ever leave that amazing place, Australia, and come here? This rainy and grey country. 🌧️

Australia is often seen as a godly place with weather that is always good, and life is all rainbows and lollipops. Well, it’s not! THE WEATHER CAN BE TERRIBLE, it does get cold and life can be hard sometimes (yes, even with that amazing nature and long stretched sandy beaches).

Don’t take Dutch directness to heart, they’re just blunt! Image: Freepik

On the other side of that question, why I am here? Well yes, I fell madly in love with a Dutchman.

So, I often answer with something like: “Oh yes, I was young and in love.”

“Oh, but why didn’t your partner move to Australia?” they ask. Well, I just blame my husband and say he is a mummy’s boy!

I just ended up here, sometimes life does that. And I love my life here in the Netherlands! 😊

5. When are you leaving?

Okay, okay! Slow down, I am just getting used to the Dutch weather, so I think I won’t be leaving just yet!

But in all seriousness, I’ve been asked this question before. Many times, actually.

Do they want to get rid of me? Maybe, but it’s not working. 😈

So, there they are, the top five most frequently asked questions the Dutch ask me. I hope this comes in handy for your life in the Netherlands. I have now lived here for nine years and I can honestly say that I love Dutch directness.

There is nothing more amazing than knowing exactly where you stand with someone instead of having to second guess. I have even mastered it, telling people things I would have never dared say before.

What have your experiences been with Dutch directness? Tell us in the comments below!

Feature Image:Depositphotos
Vanessa Hope van Engelen
Vanessa Hope van Engelen
Vanessa is a quirky, 30 something year old from sunny Queensland, Australia. She recently completed a Bachelor of Communication, majoring in Public Relations. She has an infectious laugh that can travel through walls, a huge passion for traveling and cooking vegetarian food.

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What do you think?


  1. Best story Ive read in a long time, great writing Vanessa it was funny, humourous and very direct lol. Loved it .

  2. On the first question you could also make a joke, especially when you’re at a festival: Beter als ik dronken ben!
    Better when drunk/ better now that i’m drunk.

  3. As a Dutchie who has lived in America for 20 yrs now,I get all these same questions, albeit maybe a little different.
    1. “Wow, your English is so good, no accent at all!” to “Where’s the accent from?” Guesses are the South of the USA, the North-East of the USA (NY, NE, etc), Denmark, Poland, Norway, Germany, Russia, Austria, Australia.
    2. Yeah, I get that one, too. Followed by “When was the last time you went to visit?”
    3. The responses to my answer on this go from exasperation to hilariousness (on my part). Netherlands is mistaken for Norway, Denmark, Germany, Poland, Austria, Australia. The funniest ones are when someone tries to sound as if they know where it is, but is very clear they don’t.
    4. “How did you get here?” In the US I have learned to bite my tongue and I still am being told I am very direct. My bitten off response to this is: “I swam.”
    5. “Don’t you want to go back?” Especially when they find out the answer to #4 is now an ex-husband.

  4. There is another question that I usually get: What do you like more here in Netherlands?

    And everyone insist to me quit to learn Dutch…Everybody speaks English in NL.And all the talking with the others continuum in Dutch, and I stay out.I am studying hard and by myself to change this.I am Brazilian with a relationship with a DutchMan.

  5. Great writing!
    As a Dutch person I really enjoy reading stories like this one. For me it’s so normal to be direct and when I’m watching foreign series or movies I am secretly annoyed when people just won’t say what they are feeling/thinking. Not because I think it’s rude but because I think it’s healthy to share your thoughts.

  6. Nice to read these directies examples. Me, as a Dutchie in Texas ( by the way Bedford That I live-cd in both California and Ohio, about 20 years or so) encounter many of these too:

    – where are You from? Also often they think Germany, Some even don’t ASK but say Danke to me.
    – how long are You here?
    – are you legally here?
    – are you an American yet?
    – what do you like about Texas?

    So you see, whoever we are, wherever we go and how good or bad we speak one or the other language, there is a lot of directness towards “ us” as foreigners. Luckily I’m Dutch so I can easily handle this directness???

  7. The article must have been written by a snowflake. One comment about “Dutch Directness” .. This always seems to be the experience with interacting with folks “Northern of the rivers”. Travel a little bit further down than Amsterdam in our country, ok?

  8. Well, I’ve been living here in the Ntherlands since January 2017 and despite being myself quite straightforward, I really enjoy their directness. I’m Italian and everytime ik probeer te spreken in Nederland and also they ask me where I come from, they are so fascinated with me and my country that they start to list all their trips in Italy. On top of this, they are so surprised that, according the Dutchies, “ik spreek goed Nederlands”. I don’t mind their questions at all and plus I really like mooi Nederlandse jongens!!! 😀

    • Italians are very direct too! I’m an Australian Italian and the older Italians I know have no hesitation in telling someone they have put on weight or are looking old.

  9. Even though you write this in English, some answers on the questions you get are quite direct…. Just like a Dutchie would do.

    Nice story.

  10. I live in Australia and am from the Netherlands. Ozzies ask me the same questions! The difference it that I don’t feel the questions are direct at all so I just answer them and feel comfortable, probably because I am Dutch!

  11. Being a natively dutch, I am surprised these questions are considered ‘direct’. Often times people ask these questions out of genuine curiosity, not as some sort of crime interview hahaha

  12. Dutch Directness also means that there is very little hidden meaning. In some other cultures its common to implicate through passive aggressive questions. Not so much with the Dutch! Being told “Your hair is a total mess” when entering a building is not an insult, but statement of a fact, the person is trying to be helpful by notifying you.

  13. Interesting story.

    As a Dutchman I wouldn’t consider these questions direct at all. In fact they feel like very safe conversation choices with somebody who immigrated into the Netherlands. Pretty much just showing an honest interest in you and your life.

    (Except for maybe the last one, if it is asked in such a way though. I would sooner expect this to have been the “safe” question of “are you thinking about going back sometime in the future” (especially considering the context from the other questions).
    The only way I can imagine this question in the format proposed would be if it isn’t clear that you are here (semi-)permanently. With the context of a short stay (like a vacation), that question as proposed would once again be in the safe range.)

  14. I’m Dutch and in Australia, and I get asked the exact 5 questions by Australians, as I have by the locals when I lived in Germany, England, Italy, Japan, Nigeria, and the USA.

    I miss the directness, at least you never have the wonder what they are on about and what do they really mean. We mean what we say and ask, beating around the bush is something we do not do, and there is nothing rude about it. What is rude is the constant innuendo that there is more to a question then said and the hinting that you’re not getting it.

  15. I am dutch/american and live in the States for over 40 Years.
    I get also those questions. Last night I was in the emergency room and the doctor asked me where I was from. I don’t mind.
    I bite my tongue when they want my opinion. I learned very fast that Americans don’t like direct answers. When my friends asked my opinion I asked them which one. The one they like to hear or my opinion.
    I think too many people want to be like and answer too sweetly.
    When dutch people asking questions they are interested in you.
    When they don’t ask you are in trouble.

  16. Seems like you’re confusing people judging you with people being interested in you. I don’t think it’s specifically the Dutch asking these questions anyway, it’s just people native to a country asking these questions to foreigners visiting their country. This for the simple reason that the natives normally cannot have this topic of conversation because most of the time they are confronted with other natives. I understand though that for a foreigner this means you have to have the same conversation over and over, which likely gets boring after a while. Just understand that it’s out of interest and not out of judgement.

  17. Love your writting 😉 I felt the same when I lived there!
    I also followed my Dutchie to Holland & we are also Australian after living in Oz so long!

  18. I had a Dutch ex bf (I’m with a different Dutch bf now) I met his mom for the first time and she said I looked different than the picture and my ex asked, in front of me to her if it’s positive or negative? She just shrugged (I guess the answer was negative then) That same ex also asked me in front of the barista if i could pay for breakfast? He said because he had already paid for the hotel and stuffs. I felt bad. I didn’t mind paying just wished he save me the embarrassment!

  19. As a South African that moved to the Netherlands after 2 years in Sydney I can completely relate plus additional questions like: 1. Why did we leave Sydney – answer: to come enjoy the beautiful Dutch weather(seriously) we love the weather here and couldn’t handle the heat in Aus. 2. You’re South African? Can’t be, you’re too white?! Were there are many of us in Africa ?

  20. Some of these are really funny. I’m from Portugal so I also get a lot of ‘why did you leave that wonderful country?’ or ‘Yes, I know Portugal very well. I go to the Algarve every year for a week’. Or the most annoying one: ‘Ah yes! Cristiano Ronaldo!’
    For some reason the rest of Europe thinks it’s Summer all year round in Portugal… And think there’s nothing to it BUT sandy beaches and futebol!
    But the also happened in the UK, where I lived before. You get tired of these questions but I bet you still get them even if you’ve been here for 30 years. 🙂

  21. […] Behold, Dutch directness at its finest! And after what happened yesterday, we are all so happy that this is one thing Rutte did not leave behind in the Netherlands. Yes, the Dutch are known for cutting the bullshit once they have detected it and Rutte did just that. We all practically squealed in delight when Trump started talking nonsense, and the Dutch PM just cut him off and said ‘NO!’. Here is a video of what happened: […]

  22. It’s how you interpert the question!

    First one

    The Netherlands aways had been a coutry with many people from other countries. Because of it there are many who speak dutch with an accent, so we are aware that it isn’t an easy lanquage to speak. Therefore i think the question is asked to offer help with words or switch to english or german. So it would be better to be honest and say; ik doe mijn best / ik zal het proberen (i’m trying) or I prefer english.

    Second one

    People that are far from home, certainly when your from an other continent, it’s rather logic that you miss your family. Again, i think the question is asked to show compassion, support or understanding. Like you said it’s small so family is nearby, but knowing this and considder the large number of oversea colonies in the past and still a number of oversea municipalities belonging to the kingdom, for the exect same reason many had family abroad or missed them during the long journies in the times of the VoC / WiC

    Third one

    Again, the dutch are people of the world. So asking where your from helps us to know in what climate/culture you are used to so we can adjust our way of acting to set a step in your direction.

    Forth one

    We like to talk business. The question determins in what way we can be benificial to you. Vacation? Lets promote tourism and compliment your taste for beauty. Study? good to hear you appriciate dutch thinking and education and thank you for bringing other perspectives from outside the borders to the table, i hope the university learned something from you. Business? Tell me your profession and offer so we can trade.


    This question is not implying you need to go!!! It’s a question asked because we want to know how much time there is left. If your leaving fast, we will not bond or become attachted but if you are staying we will invest time and energy in you to make it better, more comfortables and try to from a win-win situation! Like the famous polder-model!!

    The way you look at the dutch is through the classes of your own frame of reference. Yes, we are direct. But we are freethinkers, the first protestant country and the place where Mr. Calvijn lectured. So we are humble, hardworking, effective, people with understanding of the world. We are traders, and are searching for an lets agree in between kind of situations, trying to make the best for the both of us. Not disagree and try to convince , but respect and try to understand way of life.

    Just answer honest and no-nonsense, we hate to waste time and if your answer is unclear hazy we assume you are unwilling to work hard to reach the best possibly situation/deal/grades/hapiness.

  23. Exactly like Sander + John write above: you misunderstand the communication culture. If someone from Holland asks you: “don’t you miss your family”, then they just want to know “….don’t you miss your family…”. It’s a question out of interest. As you write, you think that they are thinking: “i am a runaway from home”. My advice to you: stop thinking if there’s an other meaning behind a question. If a Dutch person would think you are a runaway, s/he would simply ask: “did you run away from home?”. What a person thinks, is what a person will say. Nothing to think behind that. Our communication culture is that simply.
    You need to be a bit more confident about yourself.

  24. There is indeed some directness here and there, but the examples are bad examples. What is more disturbing in The Netherlands and actually very typical is that people very quickly give their opinion or criticize your situation and decisions…for example “I just bought a nice car of brand X” – answer: oh, that sucks, I never liked that brand. In the US people almost respond positive….good for you, enjoy!

  25. I don’t think these questions are specifically questions only Dutch are asking you, when you are a foreigner in their country.
    I get all the same questions as a Dutch that emigrated to Argentina. Of course not with the question how my Dutch is, but with the question how my Spanish is.
    Come to think of it, i never got the last question.

  26. SO TRUE! Thank you so much . …my son has just married a Dutchie and it’s so hard!!. Yes i have already been to my face he is a spoilt mummy’s boy and because he comes from the northern beaches he is a posh spoilt boy. RUDE AND DIRECT AND ALWAYS ALWAYS RIGHT. Very hard work for my husband and I.

  27. I live in Spain, I am also Dutch. Get these questions as well. I think you’ll always get them when you live abroad. I wouldn’t consider them as direct, more as a from of small talk?

  28. Ahh, Dutch directness.. I still have it even after living in the US for 32 years. It’s who I am, it’s a part of me. I try to be this meek, quiet American but it just doesn’t work.

  29. Dutch directness….I’m Dutch living in the US. When my hair turned gray I decided to color it. American friends would not comment or say: “ that looks nice”. My brother in Holland saw it and said: “you look like an old homo”. My point is the Dutch being direct get you the truth. If you ask a question you have to want an honest answer, not a compliment. My hair has been just gray ever since.

  30. This is not Dutch directness, these are standard questions when one moves to a different country. Dutch directness is when we tell you to stay quiet in the “stiltecoupé” on the train, or when we kindly ask you to wear your face mask.

  31. Interesting story and good to read you like it there. I didn’t like it and went the other way with a long circle around the globe. First went to the Dutch Caribbean and since 2 years we live in Sydney. Initially I would have thought they speak English here but somehow it’s a different kind of English – mate. Anyway, you’re right about just making the best of it, where ever you are.

  32. Yeah I moved to the Netherlands from Malta with my wife and son. Most of the time I tell them I am from Malta they think it is either in Greece or Spain…

  33. When I first came to the Netherlands, I had to work in a number of jobs that I wasn’t familiar with due to my lack of nederlands. One of these was in logistics and warehouse workers had a rather coarser language than one would expect on the street.
    I was contantly getting the brunt of jokes, so I learned quickly…
    One day, during our break outside, all of the staff were drinking our coffee and a regular joker asked me the same,
    “Hoe is het met je Nederlands jonge?”
    I replied,
    “Hou je bek oude lul!”
    to which everyone roared with laughter and agreed that there was nothing wrong with my nederlands 😉

  34. 2. Don’t you miss your family?

    As a Dutch person (married to an Australian, and having lived in down under for a number of years myself), I would like to explain that this question intends to show empathy and understanding for the situation of the expat, and also to show a real curiosity / interest about how the person is adapting rather than just talking about superficial things. Why would it be a judgement? Perhaps it is the “don’t” that does it. But believe me, it is meant to say: I could imagine it is difficult for you at times, being here, far from your family. Why on earth would you defend yourself? You can just say honestly: yes, i do miss them at times. or even “well, i am not super family-minded, but sometimes it can be annoying that you cannot quickly pop over to say:hi!” Both answers would be perfectly understandable for Dutch people. Even if they might answer that they couldn’t do that, it is just talking from personal experience – not yours. Sorry, but I at times get very annoyed with the opposite situation down under… Asking why my brother-in-law wants to stay in his current suburb when he feels the long cross-city commute is so draining, my mother-in-law gets all defensive and irritated…. when I was genuinely interested at his reasons, as he must be very happy where he is.

  35. @Lou JANUARY 3, 2020 AT 22:52
    SO TRUE! Thank you so much . …my son has just married a Dutchie and it’s so hard!!. Yes i have already been to my face he is a spoilt mummy’s boy and because he comes from the northern beaches he is a posh spoilt boy. RUDE AND DIRECT AND ALWAYS ALWAYS RIGHT. Very hard work for my husband and I.

    That is just racist / culturalist. You know one Dutch person you do not like, and it is not fair to blame everything on his Dutchness. The Dutch are direct, so you know where you stand, but your interpretation that it is rude is also culturally defined, as Australians generally tend to speak less directly and one has to read between the lines more. And: Very hard work for my husband and I > this should be ME. ME is an indirect object here – not a subject. You probably call it being rude, I just see it as a small correction of grammar. 😉

  36. @Lou JANUARY 3, 2020 AT 22:52
    SO TRUE! Thank you so much . …my son has just married a Dutchie and it’s so hard!!. Yes i have already been to my face he is a spoilt mummy’s boy and because he comes from the northern beaches he is a posh spoilt boy. RUDE AND DIRECT AND ALWAYS ALWAYS RIGHT. Very hard work for my husband and I.

    I find that quite racist / culturalist. You know one particular Dutch person you do not like, and it is not fair to blame everything on his Dutchness. Part of the things you notice may be, but relationships between in-laws are often strained, and within a bicultural relationship, one needs to have an understanding of and curiosity for where the other person is coming from.

    The Dutch are indeed generally more direct, so you know where you stand, but your interpretation that it is rude is also culturally defined, as Australians generally tend to speak less directly and one has to read between the lines more. I personally find that very hard work, as you constantly have to go “does she think that I meant to say that I think that she is…” – there is way more room for misunderstanding, and hence for personal fall-outs that are hard to mend as things have only been assumed and not even been literally said!

    And: Very hard work for my husband and I > this should be Husband and me. ME is an indirect object here – not a subject. You probably call it being rude, I just see it as a small correction of grammar from which you can learn. 😉

  37. better not to post it, but delete it… allthough true, i actually reacted impulsive…better to kep it out


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