Slaap je niet lekker? Posted by Elena on Nov 14, 2010 in Dutch Language, Uncategorized
I don’t think it is going too far to observe that, in general, the Dutch are a people of strong, often inflexible opinions. The imposition of those opinions on friends, family and casual bystanders is not uncommon. In my experience, a subject that consistently draws expressions from that staunch Dutch well of opinion is sleep. Slaap, that is. Before bed, it’s customary, here, to say “slaap lekker” (“sleep well,” though the translation of lekker is ever-elusive and not at all sufficiently captured by a word as nonspecific as “well”) or “welterusten,” which loosely means that you wish someone a good rest.
But I wonder sometimes whether such wishes are sincerely meant, since any appearance or suggestion of sleepiness in public seems to strike a nerve with many Dutch people. In late August of this year, I stopped my bike at an intersection on the way to an appointment for which I had nearly slept too late: my hair was uncombed, my eyes were, I’m sure, still tired. It was a moment at which I possessed many of the telltale signs of deep slumber. A man who was doing some kind of construction work called to me, “Al lang wakker?” In this way and others, my sleepiness has been pointed out to me countless times by the Dutch.
More pronounced yet is the Dutch distaste for undisguised yawns (geeuws). Every time I have ever yawned without covering my mouth, in Holland, the yawn has been met with a sharp “hand voor je mond!” An extreme version of this scenario happened once in 2008 when, walking out of a bookstore in Maastricht, I happened to yawn without lifting one of my hands – both laden with shopping bags – to my mouth in time. A man twice my size stopped in front of me and, without saying a word, covered my mouth with his own hand.
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