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Let’s Talk! A Dutch Conversation Starter Practice

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It’s not always easy to start a conversation the right way, let alone in another language. When you’re dealing with a foreign language, it’s even more difficult: it’s hard to be spontaneous when you’re nervously looking for your next sentence! 

So how to start a conversation in Dutch? Once you are talking to someone, and you’re both engaged in an interesting topic, it’s easier to keep it going. But the difficult part is to get it started and find the right conversation starter suited for the context. Luckily DutchPod101 is here to help with this useful “Dutch conversation starters” lesson. 

Dutch basic conversation starters depend on the situation: are you in a bar or at a friend’s party? At work or at the university? Maybe you’re on a date, or you just want to catch up with an old friend? In any case, we got you covered! Dive into this Dutch conversation starter practice, and let´s get that Dutch conversation started (and going).

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Dutch Table of Contents
  1. Conversation Starters for Mingling and Socializing
  2. Conversation Starters for a First Day at a New Job
  3. Conversation Starters for a First Day at a New School
  4. Conversation Starters for a First Date
  5. Conversation Starters to Reconnect with a Friend on the Phone, through Text or Email
  6. How DutchPod101 Can Help You Learn Dutch Conversation Starters

1. Conversation Starters for Mingling and Socializing 

A Woman and a Man Talk with Each Other at a Party

Meeting new people can be very nice, but it can also be scary if you don’t know how to socialize or what to say. However, luckily there are some tips and tricks on how to start a conversation with a stranger, like asking people about themselves, asking follow-up questions, and showing genuine interest.

So, let’s imagine you are at a party and you want to mingle. What could you say? “How do you know the host?” is a classic, but it doesn’t translate well from English to Dutch. In the Netherlands, we’d rarely call someone “the host,” even when there is someone that is organizing and hosting the event. However, instead, you can use the person’s name:

    Hoe ken je Julia? / Hoe kent u Julia?
        (“How do you know Julia?”)

    Ben je een vriend(in) van Julia? / Bent u een vriend(in) van Julia?
        (“Are you a friend of Julia?”)

    Ben jij een collega van Julia? / Bent u een collega van Julia?
        
    (“Are you a colleague of Julia?”)

As you can see, all these sentences can be used with the casual JE/JIJ or the formal U. However, in most social situations, it’s better to use the casual JE/JIJ. Therefore, in the rest of this Dutch conversation starter practice, we’ll stick to JE/JIJ. However, if you talk to older people or you are in a more formal work environment, you might want to use U.

Let’s now have a look at some other icebreakers:

    Wat ben je aan het drinken? Dat ziet er goed uit. (“What are you drinking? It looks nice.”)
    Wat eet je? Het ziet er lekker uit. (“What are you eating? It looks tasty.”)
    Ik ga meer eten halen. Wil je wat? (“I’m going to get more food. Do you want something?”)
    Ik ga nog een drankje halen. Kan ik iets voor je meenemen? (“I’m going for another drink. Can I get you something?”)
    Kom je hier vaak? (“Do you come here often?”)
    Is het je eerste keer hier? (“Is it your first time here?”)
    Hebben we elkaar al eens eerder ontmoet? (“Have we met before?”)

So these questions may be good if you don’t know the person you are talking to. But how to start a conversation in Dutch with someone you already know? You could use these Dutch basic conversation starters:

    Hoe gaat het? (“How are you doing?”)
    Alles goed? (“Everything fine?”)
    Hoe gaat het sinds de laatste keer dat we elkaar zagen? (“How is it going since the last time we saw each other?”)
    Dat is lang geleden! (“It has been a while!”)

These questions may be good to start the conversation, but how could you keep that conversation going? Try to ask for something you already know about them. Did they go on vacation recently? Ask about it. What about their significant other, pet, or kids? They’ll gladly talk about it.

    Heb je een goede vakantie gehad? (“Did you have a good vacation?”)
    Hoe was je vakantie? (“How was your vacation?”)
    Hoe gaat het met Julia? (“How is Julia?”)
    Kon Julia vanavond niet komen? (“Julia couldn’t come tonight?”)

2. Conversation Starters for a First Day at a New Job

A Man and a Woman Shaking Hands in an Office

Making friends at work might be easier as you already have something in common and you will probably also know some of the same people. Therefore you are able to ask more specific questions, which will help the conversation:

    Ik ben Sophie. Het is mijn eerste dag hier. (“I am Sophie. It’s my first day here.”)
    Ik werk in HR. En jij? (“I’m working in HR. What about you?”)
    Waar werk jij? (“Where do you work?”)
    Werk jij met Julia? (“Are you working with Julia?”)
    Wat voor werk doe je? (“What kind of work do you do?”)
    Aan welk project werk je? (“Which project are you working on?”)
    Hoe lang werk je hier al? (“For how long have you been working here?”)
    Wat deed je voordat je hier werkte? (“What did you do before working here?”)

So these simple Dutch conversation examples are perfect if you don’t know the person you are talking to. But what to say to someone you already know? Here are a few ‘classic’ Dutch workplace conversation starters:

    Waar ben je op dit moment mee bezig? (“What are you working on at the moment?”)
    Hoe gaat het met jouw project? (“How’s your project going?”)
    Heb je het erg druk? (“Are you very busy?”)

And when you’re on a friendly basis, you might even go a step further and talk about non-work-related topics:

    Heb je zin om samen te lunchen? (“Would you like to have lunch together?”)
    Wat heb je gedaan in het weekend?? (“What did you do on the weekend?”)
    Heb je al vakantieplannen? (“Do you already have plans for your vacation?”)
    Zullen we na het werk wat gaan drinken? (“Shall we have a drink after work?”)
    ➜ To talk with your colleagues, you might need some specific work-related words and expressions. Check out our vocabulary list about the workplace and practice your Dutch pronunciation.

3. Conversation Starters for a First Day at a New School

A Girl on the Street Waves to Two Other Students

A Dutch conversation starters lesson cannot be complete without some conversation starters for the first day at a new school. Whether you are having the first day at a middelbare school (“high school”), universiteit (“university”), or a hogeschool (“college”), let’s learn some Dutch conversation starters to be able to meet new people and make friends:

    Mijn naam is Paul, ik zit in mijn eerste jaar. (“My name is Paul, I’m in my first year.”)
    Ik ben nieuw hier. En jij? (“I’m new here. What about you?”)
    Het is vandaag mijn eerste dag. (“It’s my first day today.”)

You can also ask people about their situation:

    In welke klas zit je? (“What grade are you in?”)
    Wat studeer je? (“What are you studying?”)
    Zit je in dezelfde klas als Julia? (“Are you in the same class as Julia?”)
    Heb je binnenkort examens? (“Are you having exams soon?”)

When you don’t know your way around the place, one way to establish contact is to ask for directions:

    Weet jij waar ik de gymzaal kan vinden? (“Do you know where I can find the gym?”)
    Weet jij een goede plek om te lunchen? (“Do you know a good place to have lunch?”)
    Weet jij in welk gebouw de bibliotheek is? (“Do you know in which building the library is?”)

4. Conversation Starters for a First Date

A Man and a Woman on a Date Making a Toast

A date on its own can be nerve-racking, let alone if you have to do it in another language. So how to start a conversation in Dutch on a date? Let´s first break the ice with some more formal Dutch conversation starters:

    Waar kom je vandaan? (“Where are you from?”)
    Waar woon je? (“Where do you live?”)
    Woon je al lang in Amsterdam? (“Have you been living in Amsterdam for a long time?”)
    Heb je broers en zussen? (“Do you have brothers and sisters?”)
    Wat voor werk doe je? (“What kind of work do you do?”)

Then, time to get more personal:

    Houd je van sport? (“Do you like sport?”)
    Houd je meer van honden of katten? (“Do you prefer dogs or cats?”)
    Wat zijn je hobby´s? (“What are your hobbies?”)
    Wat doe je meestal ‘s avonds? (“What do you usually do in the evening?”)
    Heb je veel gereisd? (“Have you traveled a lot?”)

A great way to spark a conversation on a date is to ask about their favorite things. People love to talk about things that they are passionate about, and it might be a great way to find some common ground.

    Wat is jouw favoriete film? (“What’s your favorite movie?”)
    Wat is jouw favoriete serie? (“What’s your favorite series?”)
    Naar wat voor muziek luister je? (“What kind of music are you listening to?”)
    Heb je een favoriet gerecht? (“Do you have a favorite dish?”)
    Wat is het laatste boek dat je gelezen hebt? (“What’s the last book you’ve read?”)

5. Conversation Starters to Reconnect with a Friend on the Phone, through Text or Email

A Guy Talking on the Phone

Not all conversations take place in real life, so you might also need to learn Dutch conversation starters for when you want to reconnect with a friend on the phone or through text or email. This basic Dutch phrase is always a good start:

    Hoi, wat ben je aan het doen? (“Hi, what are you doing?”)

If you have no idea how to start a conversation in Dutch, then use this simple question. It is an easy way to start things off. Many times this is the first thing you will hear when calling someone on the phone.

Other options are:

    Hey, alles goed? (“Hey, is everything okay?”)
    Wat zijn jouw plannen voor dit weekend? (What are your plans for this weekend?”)
    Ik moet je echt iets grappigs vertellen. Wanneer kan ik je zien? (“I really have something funny to tell you. When can I see you?”)
    Het is een tijd geleden. Bel me wanneer je kan. Lijkt me leuk om je weer te zien. (“It has been a while. Call me when you can. I would like to see you again.”)
    Help! Welke jurk is leuker? Blauw of paars? (“Help! Which dress is nicer? Blue or purple?”)
    Wil je iets grappigs horen? (“Do you want to hear something funny?”)

6. How DutchPod101 Can Help You Learn Dutch Conversation Starters

In this Dutch conversation starters lesson, you have learned more than 60 Dutch basic conversation starters that you can use in a wide range of situations: from meeting new people, greeting friends, starting a conversation with colleagues or fellow students, to making a lasting impression on your date.

Is there any other topic you would like to add to your Dutch conversation starters practice? Or are you ready to learn these Dutch conversation starters and talk to some Dutch strangers?

Make sure to explore DutchPod101’s many free resources, such as vocabulary lists with audio recordings. This way, you can practice your conversation skills and understand your Dutch conversation partner even better.

Maybe you would like a private teacher? DutchPod101 also offers personal one-on-one coaching with the premium MyTeacher service. Boost your Dutch language learning with your private teacher’s interactive exercises, personalized feedback, and useful tips.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Dutch