Student login

How to say ‘hello’ in Dutch and other useful greetings

Whether you are coming to the Netherlands for a short time, e.g. to work or to study, or planning to stay for longer, you’re definitely going to be meeting lots of new people. At work, university, the gym or in the bar. It’s handy to know the Dutch way of doing things, like saying hello. A simple greeting in the Netherlands may be quite different to what you’re used to. So, what are the (unwritten) rules about greetings?

Hello and other greetings in Dutch

There are many ways to say hello. ‘Hoi’, ‘Hallo’ and ‘Goedendag’ can be used at any time of the day. Other greetings can only be used in the morning, afternoon or evening. Also, there’s sometimes a difference between formal and informal greetings.

Formal greetings are used with business contacts, people you don’t know and older people. You may choose to include the name of the person you are greeting.

You can greet friends, acquaintances and family members informally. It’s also perfectly fine to say ‘Hoi’ or ‘Doei’ to shop assistants, hairdressers or bar staff.

Part of the day Formal or informal greeting
Morning – 06.00 – 12.00 Goedemorgen (meneer Janssen)
Afternoon – 12.00 – 18.00 Goedemiddag (mevrouw Jacobs)
Evening – 18.00 – 00.00 Goedenavond (mevrouw Van Dalen)
Night – 00.00 – 06.00 Goedenacht (meneer Sluiter)
Whole day Goedendag
DagInformal only:

Shaking hands

When meeting someone for the first time, you always shake his or her hand. You say your own name and then say that it’s nice to meet them: ‘Leuk om u/je te ontmoeten’. This usually happens naturally, but the (unwritten) rule says that the host should offer their hand first.

Showing interest

Many Dutch people think it’s important to show interest in the other person. So, when you meet someone, always ask them how they are. You can ask this in various ways.

For example:
Hoe gaat het (met je)?
Hoe maakt u het?
Alles goed?

If you have time for a longer conversation ask what they are going to do today or at the weekend. Many Dutch people start chatting about the weather by saying: ‘Wat een weertje hè?’

Saying goodbye in Dutch

If you have had a formal or business meeting then it’s polite to shake hands again when taking your leave. Once again the host will take the initiative. You thank each other for the meeting and wish each other a good day.

Part of the day Formal or informal greeting
Morning – 06.00 – 12.00 Fijne dag, prettige dag
Afternoon – 12.00 – 18.00 Fijne middag, prettige middag
Evening – 18.00 – 00.00 Fijne avond, prettige avond
Night – 00.00 – 06.00 Fijne nacht, prettige nacht
Whole day Tot ziens, dag

Informal only:

‘Tot zo’ or ‘Tot straks’?

You see some people, like your colleagues or partner, several times a day or week. If you’re going to see someone again later in the day, it’s nice to use ‘Tot zo’ or ‘Tot straks’. There is a (small) difference between these two ways of saying goodbye. You say ‘Tot straks’ or ‘Tot later’ if you will be seeing the person again the same day, usually in a few hours’ time.

Just popping out for lunch or to run an errand? You’ll probably be back within an hour. Then you say: ‘Tot zo!’ The word ‘tot’ here actually means see you… in a bit or later. These short phrases are useful if you know you’ll be seeing each other again the same day but are not sure exactly when.

If you do know what day, part of the day or time you’ll be seeing the other person again, you can mention it as you’re saying goodbye.

For example:
Tot vanmiddag!
Tot 18.00!
Tot volgende week!

Other situation
You’ll be seeing someone later that day

Sometimes you’re not sure exactly what time

Tot straks – Ik zie je straks

Tot zo – Ik zie je zo
Tot later – Ik zie je later

You do know what day, part of the day or time Tot morgen – Ik zie je morgen
Tot vanavond – Ik zie je vanavond
Tot woensdag – Ik zie je woensdag
Tot volgende week – Ik zie je volgende week
Before or during the weekend Prettig weekend
Fijn weekend
Goed weekend
At the beginning of the week Prettige week
Fijne week
Goede week
Before going to bed Slaap lekker

Shaking hands, kissing and hugging

Want to wish your host a happy birthday at a party? You would shake hands and possibly give them three kisses or a hug. When you haven’t seen someone for a long time it can also be nice to give them a more extensive greeting. But who should you just shake hands with? And who can you kiss or hug without looking weird?

Is the other person someone you don’t know very well, or a business contact? Stick with shaking hands. Not everyone likes being kissed by someone they hardly know. People who do know each other well may give each other three kisses on the cheek. You always start with a kiss on the left cheek, then one on the right cheek, then finally one on the left again. During the kisses you may shake hands, or you may give each other a hug before or after the kisses. Most men don’t give each other kisses. Not a great fan of kisses? You can always just give someone you know well a hug.

The new way of greeting

Now you know the different ways we usually greet one another in the Netherlands, it is important to realise that this was before COVID-19 raised its ugly head. Nowadays it is sensible to greet people at a distance. An alternative to shaking hands could perhaps be a friendly smile or a polite bow, like they do in many other countries and cultures.

Curious about improving your Dutch language skills or cultural knowledge? We can help! We have a range of tools such as our ‘Working with the Dutch’ webinar, a Dutch as a second language course and many more!

Dyonne Angenent
Dyonne is NT2-trainer bij Language Partners. Ze heeft een passie voor lesgeven. Eerder werkte ze als reisleidster in Griekenland en als docent Nederlands op de middelbare school.

My LPOnline