Dutch Quirk #75: Gossip in Dutch when they think you don’t understand

HomeUltimate List of Dutch QuirksDutch Quirk #75: Gossip in Dutch when they think you don’t understand

Sure enough, the Dutch are known to be direct but have you ever borne the brunt of Dutch indirectness? Honestly speaking, it may just be a little bit worse.

Dutchies have yet another odd characteristic to add to the list of direct Dutch de(mean)ours, depending on how you look at it.

What is it?

We know that everybody loves a good gossip from time to time, and we plead guilty to doing so too. 

But it stings a little deeper when you’re a non-Dutch speaker and can’t fully know if you’re the object of a whispering campaign. 🤫 Or when you are a Dutch speaker who can pick up on every word of it…

Don’t worry! There are several tell-tale signs, and you don’t need to be a body language expert to recognise them.

READ MORE | Communication breakdown: understanding the Dutch approach to conversation

The main issue here is differentiating between whether you’re being paranoid or if they really are laughing at the fact that you’re wearing a helmet while on a bike. 🚴

Why do they do it?

You may have heard of the German word schadenfreude. If not, it basically means a sense of pleasure that is derived from another’s misfortune. 

READ MORE | Dutch Quirk #61: Joke openly about Germans

Well, there’s a Dutch term for that, too: leedvermaak. It’s probably just a learned behaviour. After all, we’re only human. 🤷

Of course, people gossip all the time, and Dutchies are no strangers to the fact. And mostly, it’s not out of spite or meanness.

Though it totally can be — especially when you’ve just walked onto a faded path that is so clearly a cycling route…

Why is it quirky? 

Often when someone has been caught gossiping red-handed, they hang their heads in shame. 

Not the Dutch! If you’re brave enough to confront them, they will say it to your face without the slightest bit of remorse, which really is niet zo leuk.

READ MORE | Why don’t the Dutch say sorry?

As an international, you may not know any Dutch, so it’s likely you won’t recognise that they’re gossiping about you.

But if you do, they’ll assume you don’t understand what they’re saying, making it a laughing stock for all involved.

Should you join in? 


We believe that there are far nicer aspects of Dutch life that you should join in with, such as wearing orange on King’s Day or taking part in their natural ice-skating tradition.

What do you think of this Dutch quirk? Have you experienced it? Tell us in the comments below!

Feature Image:Depositphotos
Eva Gabriella
Eva Gabriella
After calling Malaysia her home for 19 years, Eva moved to Amsterdam to study literary and cultural analysis. Well, that was the academic theory — in reality it was more like “cultural shock.” Eva’s mastery of life in the Netherlands involved initiation into the richness of nocturnal hangouts, canals, cuisine, and upright and forthright cyclists (who she now rings her bell back at.) When she is not speeding her way through books, she is winding and weaving down endless straatjes, often finding herself, not so quite by chance, in a gezellig music bar!


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