Dutch Quirk #103: Have a roepnaam to replace their top-secret official name

HomeUltimate List of Dutch QuirksDutch Quirk #103: Have a roepnaam to replace their top-secret official name

The Dutch just seem to love coming up with unique names — so much so that many Dutchies are given a special roepnaam to replace their legal first name! 

“A what?”— Exactly. This is a tradition that many internationals might not even know about. So, allow us to explain.

What is it?

Literally translated, roepnaam would be something like a “calling name.” It’s basically a nickname, just more official if that makes sense. Okay, we know it doesn’t, but bear with us. 😬

Roepnamen are either chosen by the parents at a child’s birth, or arise later in a child’s life. This can happen, for example, when a child can’t pronounce their own name correctly. 

(Considering some Dutch names — take Sjoerd Sjoerdma, for example — it’s not really a surprise. 👀)

Roepnamen are usually derived from a person’s first name. And so, a Willem can become a Wil, Wim, Wiel, Willy, and so on.

Now it gets a little unusual: instead of using their legal given name, many Dutchies will go by their roepnaam all their life, even on official documents.

So really, a roepnaam is a nickname, but with more weight to it!

Close-up mid section of handshake to introduce oneself with one's roepname
“Hi, my name’s Jan Frans, but my roepnaam is Frank. Don’t you dare EVER call me by my real name.” Image: Depositphotos

So, if you think you know your Dutch friends, think again; you may not even know their real names. 🙀

Why do they do it?

The Dutch love their roepnamen because they are personal and allow them to hide their often very Christian first names.

Like many other places, Dutch children are often named after their grandparents, who, let’s be honest, often don’t have the sexiest names. 

This is where a roepnaam can come in handy. Not only can it make a name more age-appropriate and trendy, but it also allows people to distinguish themselves from others who share the same legal first name!

READ MORE | Names in the Netherlands: the ultimate guide to Dutch names

A roepnaam is also a great option for trans people in the way that it allows them to pick a name that they identify with more than with their given legal name. 👇

Why is it quirky? 

Because it’s unique and fun! Why bother with a name you don’t like the sound of when you could just … change it? 🤷‍♀️

The roepnaam is a real-life testament to the fact nothing is ever really set in stone, not even your name. 

And if the bureaucracy-loving Dutchies can get behind that, then so can we! 

Should you join in? 

If you don’t like your name, or if people struggle to pronounce it (and that bothers you), then why not?

Just make sure you let people know in advance. Otherwise, your co-workers will probably give you a quite confused look when you introduce yourself to the new intern as ‘Tom’ although your ‘real’ name is ‘Johannes’. 😉

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

Feature Image:Depositphotos
Lyna Meyrer 🇱🇺
Lyna Meyrer 🇱🇺
Say 'hoi' to Lyna, our Senior Writer at DutchReview! Fueled by a love for writing, social media, and all things Dutch, she joined the DR family in 2022. Since making the Netherlands her home in 2018, she has collected a BA in English Literature & Society (Hons.) and an RMA in Arts, Literature and Media (Hons.). Even though she grew up just a few hours away from the Netherlands, Lyna remains captivated by the guttural language, quirky culture, and questionable foods that make the Netherlands so wonderfully Dutch.

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