I had just arrived in the Netherlands and after my first day at work I was carted off to Amstelveen and dropped off at the local ABN-AMRO to open a Dutch bank account. A friendly Dutch banker welcomed me into his office, and I was quickly handed a stack of papers to sign. As I signed away, the Dutch banker busied himself with small talk. He rattled through some opening topics and then proceeded to the good stuff: an impromptu lesson on Dutch humor by telling a never-ending series of Dutch jokes in slightly wonky English. I smiled and nodded, signing the mass of papers in front of me, looking up occasionally to see him red-faced, sipping on his carton of milk and laughing away to himself. Most of the jokes were lost in translation, however after hearing the first few, I quickly realized there was a commonality amongst them – Germans!
Yes, anyone who has spent some time getting to know the Dutch, knows that they love to make a great joke – at the expense of the Germans! It’s that good old “big brother, little brother” complex found amongst many bordering nations, mixed with some lingering historic animosity and a healthy dose of sports-related rivalry.
Have you heard the one about the Germans digging holes along the famous Dutch coast? Or how about the one where the Germans steal all the bicycles? Oh wait…that might be a bit of a history lesson tied to a stern Dutch warning about trusting those pesky neighbours to the east, (not quite a joke I suppose…but a commonly repeated anecdote none-the-less). What about the infamous “Immer gerade aus…” joke, did that one tickle your fancy?
Haven’t heard any of those? Well then, I suppose I will humbly oblige and translate one of the more common ones:
A Dutch man sees a man on his knees using his hand to drink water from one of Amsterdam’s canal.
He walks up to him and says in Dutch “Hey – you can’t drink that water, it’s dirty and will make you sick”.
The tourist shouts back in German: “Was sagen Sie?“ (What are you saying?)
The Dutch man responds in German: “Sie sollen mit zwei haende trinken, das geht besser!” (Use both hands, it’s much better!”)
There are few variations on the above, but essentially they all have a similar punch line about tricking a German and wishing some sort of bodily harm on him. All in the name of fun, right? Having a German last name (from my grandfather), I somehow always get to hear a slew of them. Oh my! I do wonder, if there is the equivalent in German??
Feeling misunderstood at work? Looking for a quick way to integrate? Whip out the above joke at your office Christmas borrel and you are sure to be a hit! Just make sure there aren’t any Germans in the room…and if there are, you can always blame it on Dutch directness!