How (Not) To Pick Up Dutch Girls – Part 1

Pick Up Dutch Girls 1

It is a late summer evening six years ago. I am still young, free and single. I am standing at the checkout of my local Albert Heijn super market. The young and attractive Dutch girl in front of me beeps the ingredients of my pasta dinner over her scanner. I decide to show off a little and talk to her in Dutch.

“Mag ik een tasje?” I ask.

With a smile she reaches under the counter and gives me the requested bag. The rest of our little flirtation continues in Dutch as she asks the usual questions; do I have a bonus card, would I like to pay with cash, would I require a receipt. I reply to all her questions with my perfect Dutch vocabulary. Slowly our brief little moment comes to pass. I am about to leave but then…

“I have to ask. Are you English?” she suddenly asks.

The poor girl. She is obviously powerless against my irresistible English charm. I turn back to her with a smile. There is still a long line of people waiting to be served but all she must be able to think about is the terrible feeling of knowing she let me walk out of her life without getting my phone number. Maybe my dinner for one was about to become a dinner for two.

“Yes I am.” I reply with my best ‘I’m British so I’m as smooth as James Bond’ smile.

“Rightttttt. You’re accent is horrible. You should never talk Dutch again.” And without another word she starts serving the next customer.

My ‘smooth as James Bond’ smile suddenly becomes an ‘awkward as Hugh Grant’ stammer. After a few stunned seconds I decide to leave… quickly.

40 responses to “How (Not) To Pick Up Dutch Girls – Part 1”

  1. kiki says:

    WOW. Hooray for Dutch “honesty”.

  2. Breigh says:

    hahaha omg, bitch!! Which AH was it? Think she’s still working there? We can go terrorize her.

  3. Melissa says:

    Nice! And then people wonder why I won’t attempt to speak it publicly and just resort to nodding and smiling :P

  4. Invader Stu says:

    Kiki – the good thing is I can blame my bad Dutch on her and say I was traumatised against talking Dutch for a few year. If you’re willing to back me up on this claim as a phycologist we could sue her for damages.

    Breigh – It was AH in Haalrem train station. If she still works there we can use the comeback I thought of 20mins later; “Yeah… well… you’re English accent sucks.”

    Melissa – I know right. It can be very scary talking to Dutch people in their own language. I only did the nodding thing for a while after that.

  5. Lopa says:

    You haven’t made it up right?
    haha that’s funny :)

    But at AH i have always noticed when we try to speak Dutch, they give strange look, (i think because they are too young, most of the times students and not that mature ) and if you speak English there are many chances those young girls /guys don’t speak it well and so we end up communicating in sign language ! [which ends up one way with they giving attitude of who cares and we with that awkward as Hugh Grant’ stammer ;) ]

  6. Heather says:

    The “your English sucks” retort does actually work quite well. There have been a few occasions where the children I teach have giggled at my poorly worded Dutch sentence and then I bring them right back to reality with reminding them that their English isn’t so stellar either. :]

  7. DutchBitch says:

    OMG LOOOOLLLLL Sorry… I know it must’ve been totally awkward for you but this is just so funny… LOL

    Then again: I am sure that Dutch speaking English most of the time sounds horrible as well..

    But still *SNORT*

  8. Alison says:

    Oh, I know that feeling. I tried to speak some Dutch to someone I sort of know and he simply said, “I can’t understand your Dutch.” Not the best encouragement. And when I go to AH and try to speak Dutch, they often respond in English. And yet everyone’s so insistent that people moving to the Netherlands must speak the language! Make up your minds! ;)

  9. Andrew says:

    Ouch! That’s extremely painful. I tried some Dutch in Albert Heijn the other day, it was a rush of adrenaline and I didn’t have time to think about it.. predictably I got a reply in some good English. The thing is I don’t want to sound too much like I’m trying to copy their accent in case they think I’m making fun of it. Or at least that’s my excuse.

  10. Aledys Ver says:

    Oh my God! Yes, that’s Dutch-“honesty”-otherwise-known-as-“lack-of-social-skills”-in-the-rest-of-the-world for you!!! Lol!

  11. Invader Stu says:

    Lopa – Yep. This is completely true. I always get the strange look as well but this is the only time I’ve ever had one of them make a comment.

    Heather – I hope you use the word ‘suck’ as well.

    DutchBitch – Oh it was totally awkward but I was more stunned than anything.

    Alison – It’s like they have a split personalty and can’t choose. The thing I always find strange is I am used to hearing people murder the English language every day but no matter how strange they pronounce things I can usually understand them most of the time. But if you get one small thing ever so slightly wrong in a Dutch word they have no clue what you are saying.

    Andrew – Every time I try a Dutch accent its not really of a Dutchman talking Dutch. It’s of a Dutchman talking English in an over the top stereotypic way with lots of umms and errs. So I’m with you on the not trying it in case you offend them thing.

    Aledys Ver – So probably thought she was helping me.

  12. mub says:

    Agh that always makes me so mad! I’m patient with their horrible English, they can be patient with my horrible Dutch!

  13. Sarah says:

    Chortle. The correct retort was, “So, do you think my accent’s sexy? Want to help me learn Dutch?” Such a missed opportunity;-)

  14. Anita says:

    Let’s not confuse honesty with rudeness.
    1) “Your accent is horrible” is an honest opinion, a personal impression – and not necessarily a fact. We can reply it with: “Dat is maar JE mening”.
    2) “You should never talk Dutch again” is arrogant an rude.

    I love the Dutch honesty, it is liberating in many cases. But when I am confronted with rude remarks like the one above I reply with elegant sentences I always have in my pockets such as: “My pleasure”.

  15. kerryanne says:

    Oy vey.

  16. Nienke says:

    That’s not honest, that’s just rude!
    I can slightly relate to your story. I studied French, but I still have the inevitable Dutch accent when speaking. Most people don’t mind it and encourage me to continue.
    However, one time in France I had a different experience. It happened when some French couple politely asked for directions. I felt pretty well-chuffed I could give them directions in a town I didn’t live in and do this in French as well. However, when I started talking they just gave me an utterly disgusted look and walked away (while I was still in the midst of a sentence). Instead they asked the nearest French guy they could find, who was a drunk clochard. They didn’t give him the look, those frogs.

  17. orangesplaash says:

    oops..I occasionally get the “you-don’t-speak-in-a-good-Dutch-accent” stare . Though less as compared to my initial few months in the Netherlands. Now, in fact, my Doctor encourages me to speak in Dutch, knowing well that she will have to switch back to English in a few sentences :)

  18. LizzeeB says:

    That’s a classic, it must have been “say it how you see it Tuesday”, ah no I forgot, every day is say it how you see it in NL.

  19. belle says:

    I’m with Breigh! Let’s get the b… nasty female person!

    Although… Come to think of it, if she still works there, since this was six years ago… that would be quite sad, and punishment enough in itself, wouldn’t it?

    After all, Stu turned out alright, what with the fiancee and all :)

    Btw, what’s with the thing where Dutch people count to one, two, tree? Like they’re in a park or something?? Talk about pronunciation ;)

  20. Ramona says:

    I’m Romanian and most “native English speakers” cannot pronounce some of our sounds. This doesn’t make them stupid, it’s just an imperfection. I’d be happy to see someone is MAKING AN EFFORT to learn my language and not make fun of them for not speaking it perfectly. I’d like to see that girl speak English with “clean” accent.

    She’s just being mean and that’s it. And it’s so rude and stupid it’s not even funny

  21. Jules says:

    What a bitch! Most Dutch people who think my Dutch is god-awful just nod and start speaking in English. I have the most difficulty with delivery guys and people whose education is at a somewhat lesser level–they can’t even tell me that my Dutch sucks in English.

  22. Invader_Stu says:

    I think I kicked up the hornets nest with this one. the good thing is it is six years ago and I can see the funny side of it now. I feel no need to lead a expat hanging pose to the Albert Heijn… but on the other hand when things like this still happen to us it does suck. Maybe it would be good to make an example.

    Mub – You just made me think of something. Dutch people always talk English to Dutch talking expats to help. We should tell them it is in fact us trying to help them :p

    Sarah – I don’t know. If things had happened between us I hate to think what else she might have been ‘honest about’

    Anita – They walk a fine line between honest and rude sometimes.

    kerryanne – Indeed

    Nienke – I never get that either. I have the same with Dutch. Just because I can’t pronounce my G’s right does not know I don’t know my way around the city. I feel your pain.

    Orangesplaash – That’s good that you are getting some encouragement. It’s the best way to learn.

    LizzeeB – I think that should become an official name :)

    Belle – Indeed, still working in AH is worse than any punishment I can think up for her and I think my fiancee will agree that things worked out alright as well ;)

    I like to think they are counting trees like the count from Sesame Street. “1, 2 trees. Ahahah.”

    Ramona – I agree. The main thing is people try.

    Jules – That’s why it’s best to just keep on talking Dutch to them. It makes them look dumb.

  23. French Bean says:

    I lol’ed at this FAIL…and that was an especially mean thing to say! o_O”

  24. Invader Stu says:

    French Bean – It’s ok. I can lol about it to now. Sometimes when something that absurd happens you just have to lol :)

  25. Just a Plane Ride Away says:

    LOL–but sorry that happened, Invader Stu :-(

    Right before I moved away, someone told me that he and his friends like to make fun of foreigners who try to speak Dutch. Aren’t they supposed to think that our accents sound “cute”?!

  26. VallyP says:

    Oh Stu, that was so mean!! No wonder you shrivelled and slunk outside. Honesty, however well meant, is not always the best policy is it?

  27. Invader Stu says:

    Just a Plane Ride Away – I wonder if one of his friends was this checkout girl :p

    VallyP – I agree. Something tells me it is not in the AH employee handbook.

  28. Keith says:

    . . . and is your accent just as bad now?

  29. Philly Girl Abroad says:

    Oh, Stu, I feel for you! I know a woman who stopped speaking Dutch after three years of lessons when a man in a kassa told her, “I can understand what you are saying, but you speak like you have two tongues in your head.” Keep trying. And try a different checkout line.

  30. Wendi says:


  31. Top 10 blog articles: September 20-26, 2010 | Freelancing, blogging, life – Ramona Iftode says:

    […] English Charm/Dutch Girls – a funny story about accent and people being rude. […]

  32. Candee says:

    Very rude or bluntly outspoken? I’m going with rude! I would have been on the spot with “well your English sucks” remark.
    When I first moved here I tried so hard to speak my best Dutch even before I took lessons… except with door to door sales men/women. Some guy came to my door (of course I’m home alone) trying to sell me something. I make out as if I only speak English. He flips over to his best English. I swear I could understand his Dutch better than his English and I had only lived in the Netherlands for 3 months at that time. I told him I couldn’t understand his English either just to get him off my door way and he seemed to take it well but I felt so bad. After hearing these stories, maybe I shouldn’t feel so bad.

    I think you and Breigh should pay her a visit! ;-)

  33. Invader Stu says:

    Keith – I just tried to buy shoes in Dutch and did not get told the same again… they didn’t have my size though. Maybe they would have if my accent had been better.

    Philly Girl Abroad – Ouch. That one hurts to. Luckily it only stopped me for a little while but I’m trying harder than ever now.

    Wendi – thank you :)

    Candee – You should not feel bad at all. It sounds like you scored one for the expat team. Expats: 1 – Dutch: 10,000,000+

  34. Andreas says:

    Stu, and all the ones with bad experiences:

    Don’t feel bad about what some a****le say ’bout your Dutch: is a fact that the world is full of stupid people, but i reckon that in Holland there’s more than in the rest of the globe.

    A couple of examples: i’m just a low-skilled workman and for a whole year i worked by a factory in the Leiden area where the main 2 language spoken were Leidsch and Kattijks (for the not-initiated: the dialects of Leiden and Katwijk aan zee).

    Well, at least once a week someone was screaming to me “LEARN DUTCH!” because “they could not understand me” while the whole day they was screaming at each other “wat zei jij?” because people born and breed 5 (five) kilometer the one from the other could not understand themselves…

    Or, more recently, at my actual work i was driving a forklift to the refill station and a colleague asked me if i could help…

    – “ik moet tanken”

    – “wat?”

    – “ik moet tanken”

    – “wat moet jij?

    – “tanken”

    – “ik begrijp jij niet”

    – “T-A-N-K-E-N!!!!”

    – “oh, je bedoelt TENKEN(??)” (with the look “oh, yeah…foreigner”)

    Well, i got in doubt and later i asked my cloggie girlfriend…result

    – “Well, tAnken is Dutch, we say tEnken, but is dialect, absolutely not a Dutch word”….

    (And excuse me for my broken English!!!)

  35. Invader Stu says:

    Andreas – That must make your work day a lot of fun… not.

    I didn’t consider your English broken at all.

  36. And H says:

    She has to work in AH so that’s punishment enough.

  37. Invader Stu says:

    I agree with you there

  38. Zen says:

    A lot of this goes back to Dutch not being a world language. As English speakers we are so used to deciphering Broken English it becomes second nature and we just appreciate how hard it is to know a second language. Growing up in the New York metro I can understand most of the accents from Eastern Europeans, MiddleEastern and SubContinent. I have many friends with immigrant parents and they spoke with very thick accents and had a habit of switching back to native language to finish sentences when they hit a word they didn’t know in English, whether German, Italian, Indian or Czech.

    I have a very hard time understanding Asians speaking English though. Luckily my wife lived in Singapore for 3 years so can usually understand Asian’s speaking English, between the two of us we can usually muddle through any broken English we run into in our world travels. We always try to learn a little of the local when traveling, but we know we are just butchering and run into various levels of animosity or happiness at this. I know I was surprised that in Paris I met some of the nicest people just because we tried, even if they chuckled and switched to english for us :)

  39. emerson says:

    I would never laugh at anyone who speaks a foreign language . However, the way the Dutch deliver their (sometimes pathetic) English with utter conviction of smug pedantic superiority warrants a few laughs at their expense.
    And their subtitles on TV are hilarious .’ Well-heeled ‘had been translated as ‘well-healed ‘and to ‘dot another i ‘ was translated as ‘someone losing another eye’.
    The Dutch remind me of neurotic 3-year olds who continously need telling how fantastic they are and how amazing their country is and how excellent their English is.
    If someone dares cracking a harmless joke at their or their country’s expense they are insulted and again behave like neurotic 3-year olds.
    I often can’t believe how deluded their vision of themselves and their country is.

  40. raafje says:

    I know this is a very late comment on this, but this is in response to Emerson’s comment.

    I am Dutch by birth, but moved to Canada when I was 16. A few years ago I was visiting family in the Netherlands, when a commercial came on for the television show “the Closer”, as in “closing the case”, however, the announcer pronounced it as in “getting closer to something”. I started laughing, but even when I tried to explain the difference, nobody else thought it was funny.

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