Dutch Language Blog

How to navigate a Dutch supermarket Posted by on Aug 31, 2018 in Culture, Dutch Language, Dutch Vocabulary

Even though you are in a country with a different language, you still need to eat. And preferably have good food. One of the most frustrating experiences can be to walk around in a supermarkt (grocery store; supermarket). Different produkten (products) than you are used to, different merken (brands), ketens (brands) and – of course – a different taal (language). Also in the Netherlands. But it doesn’t have to be that way: Here is a post to help you navigate a Dutch supermarket.

Albert Heijn of Jumbo?

The Albert Heijn logo (Image by author).

The first question before even entering a supermarket is: Which one do I choose?

There are two main supermarktketens (supermarket chains): Albert Heijn and Jumbo. Apart from that, you can find many smaller chains, such as Plus. But it is likely that you will stumble upon either blue or yellow.

Albert Heijn, or AH, is the largest chain of the country by far. It is also considered the more expensive option compared to discounters such as Lidl and Aldi, or even Jumbo.

Jumbo, on the other hand, is known for being goedkoper (cheaper) than Albert Heijn, yet providing similar kwaliteit (quality) and gemak (convenience).

Regardless, all supermarkets are fine and will get you what you need!

Unieke Produkten

The Netherlands has some unieke produkten (unique products) that you will be hard-pressed to easily find in other countries! For example, there is hagelslag, chocolate sprinkles that the Dutch like to put on their bread! If you love trying out new things, I can highly recommend trying these out. And – shameless plug incoming – we have done a series on Dutch foods in our Food with Alessia posts. Above is our Dutch breakfast video – of course with hagelslag! Find all Food with Alessia posts here.

Handy vocabulary

Now to the biggest point of this article: The vocabulary you need in a supermarket. The Dutch love korting (discount)! And there are many ways to get it, so here are some things you find in every single supermarket.

Upon entering

When you enter, you can take a mandje (basket) or winkelwagen (shopping cart) – and you are sometimes required to do so. In some supermarkets, there are zelfscanners (self scanners), which you can use to scan your boodschappen (groceries), which makes the checkout faster. In others, there is a zelfscankassa (self-checkout), where you scan the boodschappen at checkout and pay – all without anyone else touching what you buy.

Browsing and offers

Wuppies from the 2006 Albert Heijn campaign (Image by JadziaLover at Commons.wikimedia.org under license CC BY SA 2.0)

There are many, many acties in supermarkets in the Netherlands. One thing the Dutch love is to sparen (save, collect) points or stickers for future savings, special offers or collectibles. A great example is the rage (hype) about wuppies (weepuls) in 2006, during the wereldkampioenschap voetbal (football world cup). Albert Heijn handed out a wuppie if you spent 15 euros, and each came with a sticker. If you collected 3 stickers, you could get a megawup (mega weepul), a large version of the small ones. It became such a big hype that demand was far, far higher than supply of these wuppies!

On another note: some of those spaaracties are really useful. I bought one of my favorite knives in one of these acties!

actie – special offer

Actieprijs – special price

Weekendactie – weekend special (only valid during that weekend)

Geldig van maandag t/m zondag – valid from Monday to Sunday

Op = op – while stock lasts (literally: empty = empty)

Gratis – (for) free

Korting – discount

Combineren mogelijk – combinations possible

Kies en mix – choose and mix

Aanbieding – offer

Alleen deze week – only this week

Spaaractie – savings campaign

Bonuskaart – bonus card (free Albert Heijn customer card to get discounts)

Product indications

A vega (vegetarian) next to a 100% plantaardig (100% plant-based) product (Image by author)

Of course, there are some ingredients that you may care about: Whether you have an intolerantie (intolerance), allergie (allergy) or certain voorkeuren (preferences) – this list may help you.

Allergenen – allergens

ei – egg

melk – milk

kaas – cheese

boter – butter

kan sporen van melk bevatten – may contain traces of milk

gemaakt in een fabriek waar ook noten worden verwerkt – made in a factory where nuts are also processed

noten – nuts

pinda – peanut

gluten – gluten

glutenvrij – gluten-free

zonder – without

vegetarisch – vegetarian

vegan – vegan

veganistisch – vegan

100% plantaardig – 100% plant-based

vega – vegetarian (a problematic word: while vega looks like “vegan”, it most often means “vegetarian”)

gelatine – gelatin

vlees – meat

vleesvervangers – meat replacements

gezond – healthy

biologisch – organic/biological

volkoren – wholemeal

tarwemeel – wheat flour

vezelrijk – rich in fibre

zoutarm – low-sodium

verzadigde vetten – saturated fats

omega-vetzuren – omega fatty acids

rijk aan … – plenty of …


As stated above, there are the zelfscankassa’s, but also the normal kassa‘s. It is preferred in the Netherlands that you use your pinpas (debit card). But heed: Many places in the Netherlands do not support credit cards, but only debit cards, Maestro cards, particularly. Jumbo does support credit cards at the time of writing this, so that is an option there. Albert Heijn does not support credit cards – so keep that in mind!

Kassa – checkout

Zelfscankassa – self-scan checkout (checkouts where you scan what you put in your mandje 

Spaarkaart – savings card

Klantenpas – customer card

Pinnen – to pay by card

Contant betalen – to pay in cash


In an attempt to reduce the amount of paper wasted on bonnetjes (receipts), many supermarkets now ask you before they give it to you whether you want it:

Wilt u het bonnetje? (Would you like the receipt?)

It will not be printed if you say no – paper saved! If you want the overview, it is of course totally fine to get it.

Spaart u punten? (Do you save points?)

Now, here you need to sometimes ask what they are. It can be nice to get some spaarpunten to save later if you stay for a longer time in the Netherlands. If not, it is save to say no: Sometimes, there are spaarpunten that actually cost money, because you can save more in the long run. It is complicated…

Other services

Supermarkets also offer other things nowadays! Some have buckets where you can hand in dead batterijen (batteries), lampen (lamps) or other electronics; Some even have a postservice (postal service) or an ophaalpunt (pick-up point) for online shops.

I hope this post helped you navigate Dutch supermarkets! Do you have additions to this list? Or other things I may have forgotten? Are there peculiarities like the spaaracties in your country? Let me know in the comments below!


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About the Author: Sten

Hi! I am Sten, both Dutch and German. For many years, I've written for the German and the Dutch blogs with a passion for everything related to language and culture. It's fascinating to reflect on my own culture, and in the process allow our readers to learn more about it! Besides blogging, I am a German-Dutch-English translator, animator and filmmaker.


  1. William:

    I was in the Netherlands the end of June/early July, and I wanted to go into a store just to browse.There is an Albert Hein and a Dirk close to my in-laws house where I was staying, so I went into the AH (which looks like a DH to me for some reason). I was alone, but it was the first time I was able to look around without my wife looking over my shoulder, or hurrying me. After enjoying 10 or so minutes just looking, I headed for the exit. Except there really wasn’t an easy out, and not knowing the language made me panic a little. But the “self scan” area has a little flippy door that stays locked until the “cashier” clears you. I just needed to ask to leave and I was fine.

    A little more of a walk away and in the other direction is a Jumbo and Aldi. My in-laws used to go to the closer one all the time because the Albert Hien used to be a C1000, with an Aldi. It’s a nicer area, though, so it’s no surprise AH muscled their way in. They don’t even have a Zeeland there anymore.

  2. Ann McCloskey:

    Can a visitor from abroad use a debit card from their own country to pay for groceries in NL? I go to the Netherlands every couple of years to teach a three week course. It is becoming more difficult to find an grocery store aisle that takes cash. But I don’t have a debit card with a Dutch bank, only one with a U.S. bank. Can I use my U.S. card? I have assumed that I cannot.

    • Sten:

      @Ann McCloskey As long as it is Maestro, it works. Jumbo supermarkets will accept credit cards – American Express, VISA and MasterCard. So there you can also use a US card.

  3. Andy:

    Just been to Leidschendam where there was a Jumbo and AH, I preferred the Jumbo, the prices were easier to understand. I could also pay in cash. I like the Dutch supermarkets as you have different flavours from in England. I always bring Chocomel back from holiday as we cannot get it in the UK

  4. TF:

    AH doesn’t ever take credit card, or foreign bank cards, which can be a pain for visitors.

    Jumbo and Dirk do seem to allow Visa and Mastercard credit cards which is great for visitors.

    NL can be tricky for foreign cards of any kind. Even in Amsterdam, they’ll happily take any credit card in a Henry Willig cheese shop (of course!) but paying for goods in AH (arguably the best known Dutch supermarket) with foreign plastic is impossible.

    It’s often the case at regional train stations as well. Foreign bank cards are not accepted as payment in NS machines, and often cash isn’t either. It’s different at Schiphol airport or Amsterdam Centraal for example.

    NL is very forward thinking in lots of ways, but not when it comes to payment by international bank or credit cards!