While there's little practical need to amp up your Dutch before your Amsterdam trip, a few simple words can mean a lot to some locals. "Please" and "thank you" are two of the most useful expressions for tourists, and will show the Dutch people you encounter that you've taken some time to familiarize yourself with their culture. In short, the words to use are alstublieft (AHL-stu-BLEEFT) "please" and dank je (DANK ya) "thank you", but there are some variant forms and important rules to use these expressions correctly in context.
How do you thank someone in Dutch? There is a simple answer, but also some nuances to be aware of. An all-purpose expression of thanks is dank je, which literally means "thank you", at a neutral level of politeness - it's not impolite, but not formal either, and the most widely used phrase by far. Dank is pronounced as written, but je sounds like "ya" (as in the colloquial form of "you").
The formal expression, dank u, is best reserved for seniors; Dutch society isn't especially formal, so there's little need to be overly polite in shops, restaurants and similar environments. Dank is pronounced as above; the u, just like the "oo" in "boot".
To add some emphasis to your thankfulness, dank je wel and dank u wel are the equivalent of "thanks a lot" - not an extreme overstatement of thanks, but just a little extra. The wel is pronounced like the "vel" in "vellum". If a Dutch person has been extraordinarily kind or helpful, hartelijk bedankt ("heartfelt thanks") is an expressive response; this is pronounced approximately as "HEART-a-luck buh-DANKT".
If all this is too much trouble to remember, bedankt is appropriate pretty much anytime and anywhere. But don't fret over it - most Dutch people you encounter will be pleasantly surprised that you've taken the time to learn any Dutch at all.
The equivalent to "you're welcome" is optional in the Netherlands. If you really feel the need for it, you can use geen dank ("Don't mention it"), but don't overuse it. (You may not be inclined to use it much, anyway: many non-Dutch speakers find it difficult to pronounce the initial sound, which is the same as the "ch" in the Hebrew word Chanukkah. The "ee" is pronounced like the "a" in "able".)
- Dank je - thank you (informal)
- Dank u - thank you (formal)
- Bedankt - thank you (no distinction)
- Dank je/u wel - thanks a lot
- Hartelijk bedankt - heartfelt thanks
- Geen dank - no thanks necessary
To be brief, alstublieft (AHL-stu-BLEEFT) is the catch-all equivalent of "please". It can be used with any request, such as Een biertje, alstublieft ("One beer, please"); substitute biertje (BEER-tya) with any item of your choice in this versatile Dutch expression.
Alstublieft is actually the "polite" form: it's a contraction of als het u belieft, or "if it pleases you" - an exact Dutch translation of s'il vous plait ("please" in French). The informal version is alsjeblieft ("als het je belieft"), but it's not as commonly used, despite the fact that the Dutch typically speak in informal terms. I've often wondered why this is - one Dutch person has told me that perhaps it's because alsjeblief is just easier to pronounce (AHL-sya-BLEEF), even for native speakers!
The phrases alstublieft and alsjeblieft are also used when you offer someone an item; at a store, for example, the cashier will utter Alstublieft! as s/he hands you your receipt. Occasionally this is shortened to alstu or alsje - not very pretty, but I suppose it's tiresome when you have to repeat it several hundred times a day!
- Alstublieft - "please" or "here you are" (formal)
- Alsjeblieft - "please" or "here you are" (informal)
- Een biertje, alstublieft - "One beer, please"
- Een ____, alstublieft - "One ____, please" - fill it in with whatever you'd like!