Dutch language Tag


Greg Shapiro in Telegraaf

Greg Shapiro in Telegraaf

27 March, 2024
So I was interviewed in the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, about a new proposal for expats to integrate into Dutch culture with the coercion of their employers. At first, it sounds like an unlikely proposal. Who has the time? But when I thought back to my first days in Amsterdam, my Dutch boss had me doing plenty of cultural integration. Thank you to Boom Chicago’s Ms. Saskia Maas.
And look at me now: I am a volunteer for helping garbage collection in my neighborhood. Hey, Expats! If you want to make friends with Dutch folks, first just keep the place clean!

Here are some excerpts from the interview. The link to the full article is below. 
(from Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, 27 March, 2024. Translation Google / Shapiro)

‘Expats also need to integrate.’

by Marijn Schrijver

This is what the Amsterdam PvdA (Labor) party proposes. Expats aka ‘Knowledge Migrants’ must learn the language just like other newcomers. Expat expert Greg Shapiro doesn’t think it’s a bad idea at all.

Internationals with high-paying jobs are finding their way to Amsterdam en masse. And they continue to live there longer and longer. As far as PvdA faction leader Lian Heinhuis is concerned, it is time for them to also learn the language, participate in sports or volunteer work and gain knowledge about the history and tradition of Amsterdam. This week she is submitting the initiative proposal ‘Everyone Can Become an Amsterdammer.’


Greg Shapiro jokes: “In the 1990s it was: ‘excuse me, can I order in English?’ Now it’s: No, you have to order in English!” The Boom Chicago comedian is perhaps the city’s best-known expat and author of the book How to Be Dutch: The Quiz. He read the PvdA proposal, and at first he thought: “who has the time for this? Those expats already work full time.” But then he thought about his own experience in Amsterdam in 1994.

“From the start, Saskia Maas (CEO of Boom Chicago) took us to the traditional Dutch brown café, of course a boat tour – and even the sauna. She taught us the basis of Amsterdam culture.” Soon Shapiro was taking language lessons and mingling with ordinary Amsterdammers. “True, I had less experience with volunteer work. But now I have adopted my local garbage container and I think that counts.” This was after seeing how Dutch people would let cardboard pile up in the street next to the container – after removing their address labels.

Culture shock

Shapiro sees the advantages of the proposal. How should expats start with integrating? “For one thing, never be caught bragging about your income. You’re only allowed to brag about how little you paid for something. At a Dutch birthday party, they’ll brag about how cheap the snacks were. ‘Oh, really? do tell!’”

“And arm yourself for Dutch honesty. As I like to say, ‘Dutch directness’ is an indirect way of saying rude.” Shapiro advises expats to embrace the culture shock. “Don’t pull back, lean in!” He remembers when he was new in town and he held the door for a Dutch woman when it was raining. “She looked at me weird and said: ‘we are not going to have sex!’ Here in Amsterdam, the rule is: do your own thing and stay out of my way.”

The comedian understands that Amsterdam residents feel discomfort about rising rents and housing prices. But he warns against generalizations. One expat is not the same as the other. “The word expat has become a dirty word, but sorry there’s been a housing shortage the whole time I’ve been here.” Amsterdam has always been a magnet for immigration. “Certainly since the Spanish Inquisition, Amsterdam has always been accommodating different waves of immigrants. Without those Sephardic Jews, no diamonds… Thank you, Spain!”

Cheese Sandwich

The most important tip from the Expat Expert is indeed to learn a bit of the Dutch language – so that you can truly complain about Amsterdam with fellow Amsterdammers. “That is bonding. ‘The weather app said it wasn’t going to rain, and then it rained on me! And the bridge was up, like it always is. And it’s cold, and I had to bike against the wind, and the street is under construction again. It’s the worst!’ And – if you do it in Dutch – that’s the moment Amsterdammers will welcome you and say ‘Yes, you are one of us.’”

Just like previous groups of immigrants, expats will also no doubt leave their mark on the city. Shapiro points to Boom Chicago’s influence on the Dutch comedy scene. “Without Boom Chicago, there would be no De Lamas,” he proudly points out. At the moment, he sees that there is huge wave of expats from India, who are bringing a lot of comedy talent with them. “Some of them are really funny. It’s nice.”


Here is the link to the full article:


For more on Greg’s book HOW TO BE DUTCH – THE QUIZ

Shapiro Dutch Quiz Book


Shapiro Foreword Dutch Dictionary

Shapiro Foreword Dutch Dictionary

Greg Shapiro Wrote the Foreword for this Dutch Dictionary

13 November, 2023

Flashback to 2008:
Our good friends at DutchNews.nl were writing a guide to Dutch abbreviations, called the Dictionary of Dutchness: from ATV to ZZP’er. And I was asked to write the Foreword.
Here it is again: 


Greetings, reader!

Welcome to this fine collection of bizarre words and phrases in the world’s best Nether-language: Dutch.

Many people will no doubt want to use this book as a practical guide to practical Dutch. But please consider its true value – as a sometimes hilarious exercise in explaining the charming and ridiculous abbreviations in the Dutch language.

Dutch people are among the tallest in the world. Fittingly, the words they use are often just as ‘long.’ If you have ever wondered how onroerendezaakbelasting can exist as a word, read on. If you have ever suspected that some short simple words like aso are actually hiding longer, more threatening words, then this book is for you.

The Dutch language seems obsessed with taking long words and then making them small and cute. Maybe that’s because Dutch culture has a minderwaardigheidscomplex (minority complex). Or – to make this word smaller and cuter too – MiWaCo (pronounced “me wacko”).

Even the famous Dutch fast food outlet FEBO is named after the location of its first-ever shop on the Ferdinand Bolstraat. They could better have named it FerBol – since the contents of a Dutch kroket resemble something a cat coughed up.

If I got any more passionate about this book, the vloekmonitor would call me a TBS-er, and I’d never get a VOG. To find out what I just said, read on!

Warning: By reading this guide to the Dutch language, you risk becoming more knowledgeable about Dutch than the Dutch themselves, who always lose to the Belgians on the TV quiz show Tien voor Taal.

In closing, when I say the Dutch language is charmingly ridiculous, please don’t believe me. Believe the thousands of Dutch people who feel the same way. But if you want them to admit it, you’ll have to first throw some Dutch language at them. Hopefully this book will help. And once they start answering back in Dutch lingo, this book will give you some idea of what the hell they’re talking about.


For the latest DutchNews, click here:

Greg Shapiro’s latest book is THE AMERICAN NETHERLANDER: 25 Years of Expat Tales. (I hear it’s quite funny.)

New Book