Knowing how to say hello to people in Dutch is important: after all, if you don’t greet people first, it’s kind of hard to start a conversation.
Today I’ve put together this list of greetings to get you started as you learn Dutch. 🇳🇱
Generally speaking, Dutch is pretty laid back.
There isn’t the same rigid adherence to the formal and informal like with German greetings.
Still, you do sometimes have to change up what you say depending on whom you’re talking to, so let’s kick off with the more formal greetings.
Table of Contents:
Formal greetings in Dutch
One of the things Dutch and German share is that formal greetings are based on the time of day.
So, when you speak to somebody you should be polite to — for some pointers, check out our article on the Dutch formal vs informal — you want to say something along the lines of “good morning” rather than just “hi.”
That said, all the below greetings are also used in informal settings, too.
It would be weird not to greet a friend you’re meeting at 10 a.m. with “good morning” in English and Dutch is no different, it’s just that we do it at other times of day, too.
Meaning: good morning
Let’s start at the beginning of the day.
“Morning” in Dutch is morgen to which we add goed for “good” and, with some grammatical shenanigans thrown in we get goedemorgen.
Generally speaking you can use goedemorgen from any time in the morning until noon, but practically speaking morning starts at 5 a.m. or so.
As an aside, note that with many people, the “d” in goed will come out as a soft glide like “y”, so they’ll say goeiemorgen instead.
While technically incorrect, so many people say it you may as well just join them.
Same goes for the other greetings that have goed in them.
Note that if it’s very early and still dark, say between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m., people in the west of the country will say môge (that weird “o” is just lengthened a bit, don’t worry about it) instead.
It’s just an odd quirk and one of the many ways Dutch dialects distinguish themselves.
Also, on a last aside, morgen can mean both “morning” and “tomorrow,” so try not to confuse them!
Meaning: good midday (afternoon)
Once the clock hits noon, it becomes middag in the Netherlands and we switch to saying goedemiddag.
Generally speaking, the afternoon is until 18:00, or 6 p.m., after which it becomes evening.
While it’s very normal to say goedemiddag, you can also shorten it to goedendag or, better yet, just goeiedag, though that would technically be considered an informal greeting.
When in doubt, though, just stick to goedemiddag and you should be fine.
If you’re learning German as well, note that this is the other way around from that language.
Germans say guten Tag (“good day”) and leave the afternoon part out.
Meaning: good evening
Finally we have “good evening” or goedenavond which you can use from 6 p.m. until midnight or so.
Like in most European languages, it’s used past midnight, too, simply because you can’t greet with “good night.”
You’ll hear this used a lot in bars and restaurants, though you’d say it among friends, too.
Some examples of greetings based on the time of day
Now that we know what to say, let’s go over some examples of when you’d use these phrases.
If you walk into a nice restaurant, you could say something like this to the waiter:
Goedenavond, heeft u misschien een tafel voor twee?
You’re being very polite here, as you’re saying u.
However, in a lot of cases this isn’t really necessary, you could also go into a cafe in the afternoon, sit down and when the waiter comes simply ask:
Goeiemiddag, heb je een koffie voor me, alsjeblieft?
Literally you’re saying “do you have a coffee for me,” a very informal construction, but it’s just a friendly way to ask for a cuppa.
Informal Dutch greetings
While greetings are based on time of day can be used in both formal and informal situations, when you’re meeting friends you have a lot more choice in how to greet them.
I’ll go over a few here.
From the stodgy to the incredible loose, though note that in Dutch, much like in English, you can also greet people by asking how they are, something I cover in the next section.
Hallo is the direct equivalent of the English “hello,” used in the same way and in the same situations.
You could use it in formal situations, though the time-based greetings just come across a little better.
Still, though, if you’re ever stuck for a greeting, hallo will help you in all situations.
Another greeting is dag (literally: “day”), which isn’t used as much as it used to be.
It’s short for the time-based greetings, but oddly enough isn’t necessarily informal.
You can use it in all kinds of situations, but to me it seems it’s slowly going out of fashion.
You can use it much like you do hallo, and doubles up as a way of saying goodbye.
Hoi is the informal kid brother to hallo, and you’ll hear it a lot when living or traveling in the Netherlands.
It’s equivalent to “hi” in English.
Since the Dutch are so easy-going, you can use it in most situations, but do know that it is informal so some people — like those in authority — might not like it.
Other than that, it’s good in all social situations and you can also use it when entering pubs and bars.
Some people even use it as a goodbye, so don’t be surprised to hear it when leaving somebody’s house.
Last but not least is “hey,” which is spelled in a number of ways, including hey, heej and even hé.
This is extremely informal and I would only use it with people you know well and you’re sure they don’t mind it.
Don’t say it to people you don’t know or clerks in shops, waiters, bar staff, etc. as I can guarantee that they won’t like it.
I’ve seen people expelled from bars for saying it.
There are also some regional variations of hey and hoi that can be used at times. Examples include heuj and moi, as well as a host of others.
For example, as rude as hey is, in Amsterdam people use it all the time with people they know, even if just a little.
If you’re a man walking down the street there and an acquaintance comes up and says heej, jongen (“hey, boy”), that’s considered friendly.
These informal greetings can be tricky to figure out, I recommend you just go with the flow a little, but play it safe yourself until you know what’s going on.
Examples of informal Dutch greetings
To get an idea of all the ways you can use these informal greetings, let’s use a few examples.
Here’s one where hallo is used formally: say you walk into a professor’s office, you’d say something like this.
Hallo, mevrouw Kuipers
That’s a perfectly polite way to greet them, though I would recommend saying goedemorgen/middag instead.
If you’re going to a party at somebody’s house and you walk in, you could also say something like:
In English that sounds a bit dorky, but in Dutch it’s fine.
The nice thing about hallo and hoi is that they’re used the same as “hello” and “hi,” so you don’t need too much guidance to use them.
Asking how people are
Finally, you can simply greet people by asking how they are, or follow up a hello with a polite enquiry.
Oddly enough, this isn’t even all that informal, though if it’s very important to show respect I wouldn’t use it — like with judges or police.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common ways to ask how people are doing?
Hoe gaat het?
Meaning: how goes it?
The best way, especially when yuo don’t know people, is to simply ask: hoe gaat het?
That means: “how goes it?”
I think this a great option for beginners as it’s easy to tailor to the situation.
If you want to be formal, you ask hoe gaat het met u? (“how goes it with you?”).
If you want to keep it loose, you can either just keep it short, or say hoe gaat het met jou?
It’s a solid all-round option, so if you only learn one way to ask how people are, this is it.
Hoe is het?
Meaning: how is it?
Another option is a lot similar, namely asking hoe is het? (“how is it?”).
I wouldn’t use it in formal situations, myself, but at the same time you might be able to get away with it.
In this case, the “it” is everything, though you can also ask hoe is het? about something specific.
If you were eating dinner, say, and somebody asked you hoe is het? they’re clearly asking about the food.
In some places, it gets shortened to hoest?, so beware of that.
Meaning: all good?
I’ll finish up with a very common informal greeting and way to ask people how they are in one, namely alles goed? (“all good?”).
You’ll hear this one a lot when you’re in Holland, between friends, colleagues, everybody; funnily enough, Dutch isn’t the only language to do this, there’s an identical Greek greeting.
If you want to blend in a bit in Holland, I would recommend you ask alles goed? of most people you get to know, it’s casual without being too chummy.
For bonus points, if somebody asks you alles goed?, you should answer ja, hoor, which kind of sort of means “yeah,” though it’s a bit more relaxed than that, even.
Do that right, and you’re halfway to becoming a chilled out Dutch person.
Some greeting examples
Before I finish up, let’s go over a few examples of greetings.
Say you meet a friend in the street, you could say something like:
Heej, hoe is het met jou?
If you meet somebody you don’t know very well, but are friendly with, you’d likely say something like:
Goedemiddag, alles goed?
But if you run into your old boss, or somebody else in authority, you may just want to keep your distance a bit and say something like:
Goedemorgen meneer de Vries, hoe gaat het met u?
I hope these examples help a bit, good luck saying hi to Dutch people.