So you just had a nice conversation with a Dutchie and you’re looking for an appropriate way to address him or her when you leave. What do you say? Dag, or doei? Vaarwel or tot ziens?
Choose the wrong form, and you’ll run the risk of sounding impersonal or worse, impolite. The guidelines in this article will protect you from those awkward moments. Now you can say goodbye with confidence in every situation!
By Direct Dutch Institute for I am Expat (editing by I am Expat)
The Dutch language is structurally-based around ideas of politeness. Just as you address elders and strangers as “u,” you need to use a different set of goodbyes when conversing in a more formal situation.
The safest and most neutral way to say goodbye in Dutch is dag. You can say dag both when you arrive and when you leave. You can say dag to older people and to young people. So if you are not sure, just say dag and you’ll be fine.
But beware of your tone of voice; a short dag (like ciao) sounds more informal than a longer melodious Da-ag. Just sing it out loud!
If you want your goodbye to sound very formal and polite, you can say goedendag (good day) during the day, or goedenavond (good evening) after 6pm.
› Tot ziens
When you are in a store and the cashier says tot ziens (see you later) after he has helped you, the correct way to respond is by saying tot ziens as well. Even when you won’t see him ever again…
Tot ziens is a formality – you never say it to friends, family or colleagues; it sounds too impersonal!
› Other polite ways
Other polite ways to leave a Dutchman are: prettige dag verder / fijne dag verder (have a nice day) and prettig weekend (have a nice weekend).
So now you have a few polite goodbyes to choose from. You’re safe with these options; just don’t say goedendag or tot ziens to good friends and family!
Fun & Informal goodbyes
You have a lot more flexibility when leaving a friend or family member. Here are some examples of more casual goodbyes.
Did you have a conversation with a young person or with somebody you know quite well? Then doei is a good option.
It is a popular modification of dag (dag first became doeg and then transformed to doei) and it was originally used by teenagers. But today it is used in all kinds of social settings.
In some situations, you can even say doei to strangers: when you meet a nice person and you had a fun conversation, it’s perfectly okay to say doei.
This is an informal Dutch greeting, and it means hello. But hoi slowly became a popular way to say goodbye, so we now also say it when we leave. It sounds loose and fun, so don’t use hoi in a formal setting!
People sometimes say groetjes (a diminutive of greetings) when they leave. It means something very general, like “say hi to everyone.”
› Doe de groeten aan
If you want a Dutchman to say “hi” to a mutual friend, you say doe de groeten aan… (“Say hi to…”). This sentence is not to be confused with “De groeten!” which means something like “Yeah right!”
› Tot later, tot kijk
As we’ve mentioned before, you don’t say tot ziens to friends, family or colleagues. Tot later (till later) or tot kijk (see you again) are better choices. Unlike tot ziens, this actually means you will see each other again!
› Tot straks, tot zo
If you are leaving for a short while (a few minutes to a few hours), you say tot straks or tot zo (both mean “till soon”).
› Dag dag
The Teletubbies-greeting is still the most popular way to say goodbye to small children: use a high pitched voice and say dag dag (like you would say bye-bye).
Unlike bye-bye, it’s not okay to say this to your teenage daughter (especially not when she’s in front of her friends), unless you want to embarrass her big time!
So there you go; now you can be fun and informal in every situation. Just remember: don’t say hoi, doei or dag dag to your boss, don’t confuse de groeten aan with de groeten! and don’t say dag dag to teenagers!
Unfortunately, we sometimes have to say goodbye for a very long time or even forever.
Vaarwel is what you can say at such an occasion. Literally, it means “sail well.” It’s a very dramatic and emotional way to say goodbye. If you are fortunate, you will only hear the word vaarwel in old-fashioned Dutch movies.
› Het ga je goed
If you want to keep it a little lighter, just say het ga je goed (“may it go well for you” / “God bless you”). It sounds less dramatic!
We hope we have given you some helpful tips, so you can say goodbye in Dutch with confidence.
Now let us leave by introducing you to some rather silly Dutch ways to say goodbye – but please, use them at your own risk
› De ballen, laat ze niet vallen (the balls, don’t let them fall)
› mazzel (good luck)
› laterzz (later)
› toedeledoki (something like cheerio)
› aju paraplu (adieu umbrella)