Why is it that we, the Dutch, often assume that the way we do things is the best way? And that any other way, is the lesser way? Take the ultra Dutch phenomenon ‘roepnaam’. The Dutch think it’s normal, the rest of the world doesn’t…

Roepnamen – As Dutch as it gets

Not every expat living in the Netherlands will be familiar with the Dutch phenomenon ‘roepnamen’ (roughly translated ‘daily names’), but many, if not most, of your Dutch friends will have one. The Dutch use their roepnaam because many of the Dutch have been given traditional Christian names by birth, that aren’t very sexy to say the least. Think, Jacobina, Gernolda, Cornelia, Adolphine, or Maria (for a boy!). As you can imagine, the roepnaam became more and more popular as the amount of given Christian names grew. The roepnaam is usually derived from the Christians names one got by birth.

* If this roepnamen business is already confusing and your New Year’s Resolution for 2018 is learning Dutch, we humbly suggest you have a look at Flowently‘s services 🙂

Who came up with this sh*t?

The world’s most famous Dutch person ever; one that everyone knows by her roepnaam only is: Anne Frank. Her name actually wasn’t Anne. Or at least, her official name wasn’t Anne. Her real name is Annelies Marie Frank. I bet you didn’t know that. Johan Cruijff is another one. His official name is Hendrik Johannes Cruijff. Shocking?! Not to the Dutch. Then why didn’t you know about this you ask? Simply put, it is a non-issue in our country. Most people that use their roepnaam instead of their official name(s) are so used to this tradition that it is just the way it is. Not a discussion worthy topic. Then why this article? Good question. The answer is quite simple. As soon as you cross the borders of the Netherlands this system doesn’t exist and can raise some (more like many) eyebrows.

My name is, and always has been, Janneke. It’s typically Dutch, hard to pronounce for non-Dutch speakers and thus, not the easiest name when you go live in an English speaking country (EDIT: The founder of DutchReview is named Abuzer, thank you – message over)

Working in Australia, an average day in the office for me would be something like: “Can you spell that for me again please?” “Sorry, I didn’t get that. Veronica”? “How do spell that? Y-a-n-i-c-a?” Dozens of times a day. Day in day out. If only I was given another name when I was born… Wait a second, I actually was given another name when I was born! But I guess that very same day my parents decided to completely ignore my actual names and call me something else . Think that ‘roepnaam’ makes no sense? Ask any of your Dutch friends; I’m definitely no exception.

The Dutch way always makes sense

So this was system: children would be given a bunch of official names (three in my case) and an extra (like three isn’t enough…) roepnaam.  Family and friends would receive a card in the mail announcing the birth of the baby, stating the official names, with underneath a phrase that would be something like: ‘and we call her (or him) …. (insert roepnaam).

The only time my official name was used growing up was at times I instinctively knew I was in trouble. I would hear this roar going through the house ‘JOOOHHHANNNAAAAA’. My only thought whenever I heard that name was RUN! As fast as you can! Needless to say I didn’t like my official name very much. But as I rarely had to use it I never worried about it so much. Then, some 30 years later, I decided to move to Australia and I soon found out in what kind of mess this schizophrenic naming system could potentially get me.

Our names you ask? Don’t even get us started.

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 Who am I?

Let me ask you this: have you ever looked an Australian cop straight in the face after being called out on giving up a false name? In a car full of drunk friends? I have… We had been clubbing this one night and I was the designated driver. We were pulled over to take a breathalyzer test, which I passed, that wasn’t the issue. The cop asked me for my driver’s licence (still no issue) and ask me for my name… “Janneke” “Can you please spell that for me Miss?” “J-a-n-n-e-k-e.” Raised eyebrows on the other side of my car window. “Can you get out of the car a second please?” My friends got slightly nervous by then, but I still had no clue as to what the problem could be.

“Can you please explain to me why you have a different name on your licence than the one you just gave me?” The giggly atmosphere in the car suddenly dropped. The temperature rapidly plummeted to below zero and everyone was instantly sober. Complete silence. Five pair of eyes staring at me like I was a criminal. I stumbled and explained the whole ‘system’ we have in The Netherlands when it comes to names, but it didn’t sound very convincing.

It was clear to me now that this was serious and I needed to address it before I would end up in an Australian prison for perjury! Of course my roepnaam was registered somewhere, right?! It had to be. On my birth certificate. For sure. It wasn’t. The name I had been using for 30 years did not exist. Anywhere. No official paperwork that had my name on it.

No more roepnaam for you missy

I had to jump through a ton of hoops to change the ‘false name’ I had been using on official paperwork. From my employment contract, to my rental agreement to my public transport card and everything in between. Good luck trying to explain to a government official how you by accident committed a crime by using a false name, that you actually didn’t know was a false name in the first place. What a joy! Anyway, the next time you think you might be dealing with a spy, it’s probably just a harmless Dutch person that happens to have very confused parents.

Wouldn’t mind reading more about the Dutch and their -sometimes- weird language? Then take a peek at here, here and here!

Want to learn more than just the ‘roepnamen’?

We can’t blame ya! Basic Dutch issues as ‘roepnaam’ aren’t enough to pick up the sometimes complex Dutch language. If you’re also not a fan of paying hefty fees for a classroom-learn-a-language approach you might want to get in on Flowently and their personal style of teaching Dutch.

Consider for example booking their Welcome Session, where you’ll get a private tour of a Dutch city and learn some Dutch along the way. They’ll also show you your new neighborhood, work environment and other locations you’re interested in – so it’s a great way to get started with life and the language!



  1. Eldest of a Dutch family which emigrated to Canada in 1951 with 7 children, I was 8 y old. One more born in Canada. Therefore 8 children total. When my Canadian fiancee first mett this extended family, usually on busy occasions she thought there must be dozens of my brothers and sisters; a Wim and a Bill, a Bernie (Bernardina) and Narda, a Ria and Maria, a Liz and an Els, a Lidwina and a Lidy and finally, the Canadian and simple ones, Ben and Gerry. It took her several years to figure it all out!

  2. Good lord, there is nothing unique about roepnamen. To dedicate a 3 page article to this is ludicrous. Why the Dutch feel the need to find words or habits that are uniquely Dutch and then make a big case of it is beyond me. Don’t start another article explaining the the word or concept “gezellig” can’t be translated in English – it can and is and it’s meaning is no different. Same for roepnamen. Bill vs William, Dick vs. Richard (always like that one). Anyway, let’s get real here..

  3. Come on Janneke! No one in the Netherlands yses her/his roepnaam on official papers! You should know better than to do that!
    Grtz Bram (Abraham)

    • Hi Bram (Abraham)! I guess I never thought about it before moving overseas. Of course I knew my official paperwork in the Netherlands always states your official name, I just never realised how difficult it would be here (in Australia) to keep using my roepnaam as I did back home. Call me naive 🙂

  4. Hi there, I’m Dutch and I received my roepnaam at birth. My official name is Cornelis, “but we call him Kees” was what my parents decided. So all of my life, I mean ALL of it, I’m called Kees (pronounce like English “case”).
    There are hundreds and thousands of men called Cornelis with roepnaam Kees. But there is NOone anywhere on earth that can explain how Cornelis became Kees.

    So I guess I’l have to be very careful when I go and live in another country. Before reading this article I actually never ever thought about this. It’s so natural for the Dutch to have a roepnaam, that noone considers it strange.

    • You’re correct Kees (Cornelis)! It’s so normal for us, that I never gave it any thought either before moving overseas 🙂

  5. Dear writter of this article, you are absolutely wrong! A “roepnaam” as you call it, is the rule with Greek people. My real name is “Anastasia” but I am called “Tassoula”. Tassoula is derived from Anastasia, if you cut part of “Anastassoula” which means “little Anastasia”! So, even more complicated!


    from a Greek-Dutch

    • Hi Anastasia! I don’t really understand what makes say I’m ‘absolutely wrong’. All the article is describing is the struggle for me personally, living overseas and having a different name on my passport as the one my parents gave me at birth. I do see the similarities with your name though, so maybe it isn’t ‘just’ Dutch. However, in my personal life, I have not yet come across another person (besides Dutch people) that have a similar problem as I do 🙂

  6. Lived in the country formore than 20 years and took the roepnaam to be the name you are usually called and definitely diffetent from whay is on your passpory but yout article has been very enlighening and your personal story hilarious though not fun for you!

  7. I’m Dutch and all the people I know use their official names on official papers… And it’s not such a strange concept. If you’re name is William you would be called Bill in the US. I know it’s not the same but it’s not that strange a concept either.

  8. What about Rory from Gilmore Girls? She is definitely not Dutch or written by someone Dutch but her ‘real’ name is Lorelei.

  9. haha….. we have the same problem. Are in Australia for nearly 36 years and in the beginning when you went to the doctors,and they called out Johanna, as many Dutch girls are called, I didn’t listen as my name is Anneke. They called again and finally it dawned on me that they called me. My husbands name is Hans but officially it is Johannes. That gave us some problems at the bank, as our birth date are 3 days apart and in the same month the only difference is the year. they massed it up every time, then the wrong date, then the wrong year, then the wrong date and year etc. etc. The doctors now now that my name is Anneke and when called in they call me by my real name Änneke” As that is my real name, the other names are just given when I was baptised. As it says on my geboorte kaartje We hebben een dochter haar naam is Anneke en bij het heilig doopsel ontvings zij, Johanna Frederika Maria. My mother couldn’t even believe that they called me Johanna here. She said ÿour name is Anneke not Johanna. That is only your baptism name. Yes, mum, that is what is on my birth certificate and on my passport, so that is what they call me here. But now even Medicare that i go also under the name Anneke, as once the doctor wrote on the paperwork, Anneke. Luckily I have my “geboorte kaartje” and after showing it, they put Anneke on the record as well. Glad my boys have only got one name even though they are born in Holland.

    • I still have to pay extra attention when I go to the gp to make sure I don’t miss my turn… I’m glad you can relate Johanna 😉

  10. My name is Évely and my Dutch friends decided to call me Evy. The sound of |E| from my official name is open…and from my roepnaam is closed. I am learning to hear my own name from a different way….when I am in Netherlands.

  11. All my life i have been called gaby. Which i use with allsorts of companies. The bank however has my official names and where reluctant to cash a check in with Gaby on it, as my official name is Gabrielle. I had hoped my roepnaam was on my birth certificate, but as you know it is not. Explaining this over and over…. at least a lot of people can see Gabrielle and gaby as an abbreviation. My husband and i were very clear when we named our children… it had to be short, pronounceable in Dutch and English and in no way to be able to make shorter.

  12. Fun article but the daily name isn’t a Dutch phenomenon. It’s pretty common around the world perhaps especially where people may be named for other people. Almost all of my Jewish, Catholic, and Muslim friends have them. Many of my American, Irish, Italian, Peurto Rican, Mexican, Canadian friends too. Their parents decided to give them a different daily name than their official name. In America people found out your official name on the first day of school because even if your parents fill in your daily name the “official” people wouldn’t use it. I often had teachers call me by my official name, and I would forget to answer.

    Still I’m surprised an Australian cop would be confused.

  13. Holland is not the only country with a roepname. In Iceland they have a roepname, but a litlle bit more regulated: all man´s roepnames end with i and woman´s with a. In the middle you have 2 consonants. Sigurður becomes Siggi and Sigríður becomes Sigga. So,the Dutch are not as special as they think they are.


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