Another time, you’ve been invited to attend a Dutch birthday party and while eating a slice of cake, the host grandmother waves her hand furiously in a back-and-forth motion beside her head and presses her lips together with sheer pleasure. Is she feeling faint? Should you wave back?
How do the Dutch communicate with their bodies and say volumes with a set of distinct non-verbal cues? Enschede native and student Charlotte de Poel poses for the camera to reveal some of the interesting, attention-grabbing ways the Dutch use their whole body to express strong emotions, letting the unsuspecting foreigner in on a secret language that most Dutch already know.
(Photos: Robbin Engels)
By pulling the lower eyelid with the index finger down, you can be saying, ‘You are smart,’ or ‘You’re tricky.’ For instance, if you get too much money back from a cashier and keep it, then you could turn to your friend and make this gesture, silently revealing the miscalculation. The eyelid gesture used while pulling a sly grin can also indicate that someone is not to be trusted. A person can be giving you a non-verbal warning to ‘Watch out!’
As a newborn baby does, the thumb is sucked and four fingers are closed tightly on the palm of the hand to tell someone they have just told a lie or made up a ridiculous tall tale. It can also mean a story was told within earshot which is so filled with fantasy that it can’t possibly be true.
Mostly used in driving situations, road rage and aggressive driving behavior is punished by a silent gesture of tapping hard with the pointer finger on the forehead between the eyebrows. Without mercy, an automobilist is wanting to shout to the whole world, ‘You are crazy!’ or ‘You idiot!’ The expansion of this gesture can include a third person who is nearby. The finger is first pointed at the ‘crazy person’ and then vigorously taps on the forehead.
|‘Achter de ellebogen’|
The body language ‘behind the elbow’ means someone is sneaky and acts in a suspicious way with behavior outside of the law. By placing one hand behind the lifted elbow of the other arm and sharing a look of disapproval with someone else, you are denoting the lack of dependability of another person. You are really saying, ‘You can’t rely on this person’ and they will do something ‘behind your back’ to hurt you.
When you smell a foul odor or see something repulsive, you can raise your hand to your nose, pinch it together with your thumb and pointer finger, and wrinkle your face muscles with your eyes tightened. This gesture says, ‘That’s grouse!’ or ‘How disgusting!’ Some Dutch people will utter, ‘Bah!’ or ‘Pffluh!’ which means more or less the same thing.
Some say the Dutch are known to have ‘short pockets and long arms’, implying they are masters at cutting costs, living on a tight budget or being cheap when it comes to paying. It’s no wonder they have a non-verbal expression for it. In the open market, you can observe the vendors rubbing their thumb and index fingers as if they were counting money with a slight tilt of their head, eyebrows raised, asking you to hurry up and pay. It can also indicate to the waiter that you want to get your restaurant bill.
This can be considered a universal non-verbal cue used in other countries, mainly used also by children and a few immature adults. One or two hands are spread in a fan before the face with the thumb touching the nose. It can mean ‘Na, na, I got here before you. Ha, ha!’ or simply ‘I got you!’ Sometimes the tongue is pushed out to exaggerate the feeling of gently teasing someone.
Literally these two words mean ‘Little head, Little head’, but figuratively the words indicate high intelligence. The Dutch preference for using their index finger is demonstrated once again. With wise eyes looking straight on, a person rubs the area on the temples in a rotating movement or taps lightly in the same place. It could be translated to say, ‘Isn’t that smart!’ or ‘Isn’t he/she intelligent!’
|‘Heerlijk! Mmm, wat lekker!’|
A person waves their hand beside their head in an old-fashioned Dutch body expression that shows everyone in the room that the food tastes scrumptious. This usually happens after the gesturer swallows their first bite of food. The guest is saying with their eyes, mouth and hands to the cook and guests, ‘Delicious! Mmmh, tasty!’ Though considered the ultimate compliment to chefs in the Netherlands, be careful when eating in a Greek restaurant, where it means the exact opposite, implying without words that the food tastes awful.
Not obvious to your average foreigner, this sexual advancement mimics with one hand the act itself. Listed in the official Dutch dictionary as a regular verb, ‘neuken’ is a street-slang word that expresses one’s strong desire to have sex with someone else. The initiator casually pushes their thumb between their index and middle fingers with the other two fingers closed in a fist and looks at the target of their passions with a seductive, almost animal-like grin, making it clear what’s on their minds. So think twice before nodding your head in agreement.