Translating Dutch expressions to English… not always a smart move! 

74. Dutch Proverbs translated_01

Since a couple of days my Facebook feed has been filled up with funny translations of proverbs from any language to English. A couple of funny examples of Dutch proverbs / expressions where uploaded the other day by the Facebook page of Stuff Dutch People Like.

It’s too funny to read about, but even funnier to hear people making these mistakes. And I am one who makes them too – often! I can still remember being in a meeting in Ho Chi Minh City. It had been a long day, and I was tired. The meeting was already ongoing for an hour or so, and at one point we got stuck on a solution. I blurted out: “Unfortunately peanut butter”. Yes I said unfortunately peanut butter in a meeting, with a room filled with Vietnamese. I didn’t even realise it until the people started giving me funny looks, not understanding what I meant, but also thinking I was crazy by saying that… I started laughing, and tried to explain what I meant, which went from bad to worse… “Unfortunately peanut butter” or “Helaas Pindakaas” as we say in Holland means something like “Too bad…” or “Oh well…”.

This wasn’t the only time I made some mistakes with the translation of proverbs – usually done when I was tired. But the most fun I had was when I would sit down with my {Dutch} friend Kirsten and we would come across Dutch proverbs while we were sitting in a restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City. We both thought we kind of master the art of Dutch proverbs, but they are a tricky little thing, these phrases mean so much more than just the sum of their words. And as we did not have the chance to use them on a regular basis, we didn’t always use them in the right way (or should I say, almost never). So the sentences where not constructed properly, or we would be sure we knew how to use them, but when the other person would question it we weren’t too sure anymore… Often making us laugh so hard that the latte we just ordered was coming out of our noses from laughter. At one point Kirsten felt it was necessary to buy a Dutch proverbs book, so that at least we would be able to have a look what it meant exactly. I think that was the best decision ever! Although, we never really studied the book properly enough I think! 😉

Some of my own favourite proverbs translated from Dutch to English:

74. Dutch Proverbs translated_02

So how about you? What translated proverbs have made you laugh out loud? 

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