Dutch Language Blog

5 Useful Dutch Phrases to Stand Up for Yourself Posted by on Sep 5, 2018 in Culture

We’ve all gone through the awful experience of someone being rude to us, and for some reason, we choke up on what to say. Later on, we torture ourselves with all we could have said. When you live (or visit) in a foreign language, these episodes can be more common. What do you say to the rude person who just pushed you on the train? How do you tell the store clerk her comment is out of line? What is the best way to tell your friends or colleagues that you don’t appreciate their bad jokes?

Photo taken by Mindaugas Danys found on Flickr.com with license CC BY 2.0

The following list is just to give you an idea of what you can say. There will be differences in tone and personality and you can make them your own. You can also enhance them with some swear words from this post and this post.  From experience, I find that having these phrases in the back of your mind will allow you to stand up for yourself as well as to put your Dutch to good use!

Kom op, man! Doe normaal!

Doe normaal is one of the Dutch phrases I enjoy most. This is certainly a polite way to tell someone their behavior is rude…so not normal. You can also just say the doe normaal or stress how not normal this is by saying dit is echt niet normaal! 

Bemoei je met je eigen zaken!

This statement is also not so rude and literally means “mind your own business.” While the meaning might be nicer, remember that most of the time, these things are all about attitude and tone.

Hou je kop!

Another way to express yourself is to say hou je kop or hou je bek. This is something like “shut your mouth” although the first version literally refers to one’s head. Bek means beak. This is less polite than the previous version and gets your point across.

Rot op! or Pleur Op!

A degree worse than the previous two would be rot op or pleur op. Rot literally means to rot, but in this context is equivalent to “go fuck yourself.” Pleur is stronger than rot. There is a famous instance of Premier Rutte using this term in an interview, and this caused an uproar. Other politicians argued that he could have expressed himself in another way, but Rutte did not retract his comments. I do not want to get into the debate of whether he was right or wrong to use the word (if you are interested, check the original interview here and a debate on the tweede kamer here). What I did find that is very useful for this post is several ways to say pleur op and good replacements for this phrase all given to us by the good people at the tweede kamer! 


My last suggestion to you is a very basic word and one we all learn Day 1 of Dutch class. Nee. To a lot of us, saying no to someone’s behavior or request can be the biggest challenge, but it is the simplest way to stand up for yourself. The gravity of the situation and your personality will affect the tone you say this in, but it is important to sometimes say nee. The video below gives you a great example although I personally think the slap is uncalled for.

What other phrases can we all use to stand up for ourselves in Dutch?

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About the Author: Karoly Molina

Since I was a little girl, I was fascinated with languages and writing. I speak English, Spanish, Italian, Dutch and a little bit of French. I am a writer, reader, language teacher, traveler, and a food lover! I now live in The Netherlands with my husband Riccardo, our cat Mona, and our dog Lisa, and the experience has been phenomenal. The Dutch culture is an exciting sometimes topsy-turvy world that I am happily exploring!