Are you planning a visit to Amsterdam? Or are you planning on moving in for a long time? Are you worried you may not be able to survive by only speaking English?
Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, is one city with reputable English-speaking skills. So, if you plan on visiting this city and you’re worried about if it’s rude to speak English, here is what you should know.
It isn’t rude to speak English in Amsterdam. The English language is a very popular foreign language in Amsterdam and the people speak it very fluently.
So as a foreigner, whether you’ve come to stay or visit, you can always speak English without seeming disrespectful.
However, what some Dutch people consider rude is speaking English directly to them without a little respect for their language.
In this article, I’ll explain why it seems rude to speak English in Amsterdam. Also, you’ll know the things to note before speaking the language.
Why it Isn’t Rude to Speak English in Amsterdam
It isn’t rude to speak English in Amsterdam for many reasons. First, the Netherlands is one of the highest-rated non-native English speakers.
Most people are very fluent in the English language and are always willing to speak it.
In large metropolitan cities like Amsterdam, the English language is very popular and so you can easily speak the language with the people. Below are some of the reasons it isn’t rude to speak English in Amsterdam.
The Dutch Learn English as a Secondary Language from the Start
In the Netherlands, people are encouraged to learn English as a secondary language and are exposed to the language from an early age.
In schools, English is taught from the elementary level so many people grow to be very fluent in the language. By law, children are taught the English subject from group 7, at least age 10 in Dutch schools.
In addition, many Dutch schools are adopting English as a language to teach in at all levels.
Also, the Netherlands is an international country and so conversations in English are very necessary. So, this explains the necessity of the Dutch to start from a young age to understand and speak English
A large Percentage of the People Speak English
Records have it that about 90% of the Dutch population speak English fluently. Several factors contribute to Dutch fluency.
First, the similarity between English and Dutch is a contributing factor.
The Dutch language shares a part in the Germanic branch of the Indo-European language family, giving English and Dutch a common root. So, this makes it easier for the people to learn English.
In addition, TV programs are not dubbed and have English subtitles giving people a very good chance of learning English faster. This is not to mention schools where English is taught from an early age.
Furthermore, Amsterdam, the capital city, has a larger percentage of international and English jobs, with a large influx of foreigners.
So, in Amsterdam, there’s an everyday conversation in English, so it isn’t disrespectful to speak English in Amsterdam.
The Dutch People Are Willing to Speak English with You
In Amsterdam, you’ll find people who are willing to speak English with you. Since a very large percentage speak the language, the Dutch people converse easily in English, even within themselves.
As a visitor, you’ll find that in hotels, museums, tourist centers, shops, and even restaurants conversations are majorly in English. So, visiting for the first time, you can easily find your way around with English.
In addition, if you struggle with speaking Dutch, you’ll always find someone who will switch to English to save you the stress. So in this city, the people have a good interest in speaking English.
Why it May Seem Rude to Speak English in Amsterdam
It may seem rude to speak English in Amsterdam largely because you don’t understand basic Dutch. No matter a country’s fluency in English, their mother tongue takes higher priority and they place it first before other languages.
Also, there are people in Amsterdam who don’t understand English and may likely ignore you if you speak to them in English. Below are more reasons it may seem rude to speak English in Amsterdam:
You Don’t Understand Simple Dutch
If you’re visiting a country, you may be able to get by without understanding the native language. However, the people will be more friendly if you pay attention to their language and try to converse in it.
In addition, if you’ve come to stay in Amsterdam, understanding basic Dutch is vital. Understanding the language will bring you closer to the people and help you enjoy the place better.
Although it isn’t common, as a foreigner, even when welcomed with open arms, you may meet Dutch people who’ll find it disrespectful when you speak to them directly in English.
So, if you visit Amsterdam without understanding a little Dutch you may find some people who may be hostile to you.
This behavior is so because they believe you lack respect for their culture. So, this is one of the reasons people conclude it’s rude to speak English in Amsterdam.
There Are Dutch People Who Don’t Understand English
Notwithstanding the large percentage of English speakers in Amsterdam, there are still natives with a lack of knowledge of English. So aside from the 90% with high English proficiency, the 10% should also be considered.
So, this emphasizes that there are people who can’t converse in English in the Netherlands, Amsterdam inclusive. So out of the 10%, you’ll find people who can’t even say “hello” in English.
So if you meet this set of people, they may ignore you if you speak English to them.
Do They Speak English in the Netherlands?
Yes, they speak English in the Netherlands. The Netherlands is the highest-rated non-native English-speaking country. Therefore, there’s a very large percentage of English speakers in the country.
And this percentage speaks the language fluently. In the Netherlands, people have early exposure to English.
Apart from the fact that the Dutch share a common root with the English language, the Dutch people are very business-friendly. They engage in a lot of international businesses where they converse in English daily.
So, English is very popular in the Netherlands, and many day-to-day activities are carried out in the English language.
What Percentage Is English Speaking In the Netherlands?
The percentage of English speakers in the Netherlands is 90 to 93%. Among this percentage, you’ll find larger numbers in larger urban areas like Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht, and the Hague.
According to the English proficiency index 2021, the Netherlands topped the chart. They came in as the year’s best in the English test result of about 2 million adults in 112 countries and regions, with a score of 663.
Holland houses the best cities with the best English speakers in the Netherlands. Amsterdam is top of the list, closely followed by Rotterdam and then the Hague.
Things to Note Before Speaking English in Amsterdam
Before speaking English in Dutch, there are some basic things you should note. Foremost is understanding that it isn’t everyone that understands English. Also, learning simple Dutch is helpful.
Below are what you should know before speaking English in Amsterdam:
Not Everyone Speaks English
One of the major things to take note of before speaking English in Amsterdam is that not everyone understands English.
So before speaking English directly to anyone, you should’ve got that in mind, and also know that some people may ignore you.
Also, you may not always find an English translator around and there are also Dutch words that aren’t easily translatable.
Learn Basic Dutch
If you want to enjoy your visit to Amsterdam and if you’d be staying, learning Dutch is critical.
As earlier established, not everyone understands English and it isn’t everyone that’ll be willing to accommodate your lack of Dutch proficiency. So learning basic Dutch is very important.
Learning the local language of a country you’d be visiting or staying in is very important. Not only will you get by easily, but you’ll also be able to make better friends and connections.
Something as basic as “Spreek je Engels?” (Do you speak English?) Or Hoi/hallo (hello) in Dutch is a good way to start. So, before speaking English, knowing a little Dutch won’t hurt.
Job Opportunities Is Limited with Speaking only English
Living in Amsterdam while speaking English is possible and finding an English job won’t be difficult. However, depending on the field you want, you may be restricted from getting a good-paying job.
Many job vacancies are in Dutch and some require a knowledge of the language. So, with speaking only English in Dutch, your job prospects are narrowed.
It isn’t rude to speak English in Amsterdam. The Netherlands is a country with a large percentage of fluent English speakers.
In addition, English learning is made easier in the country with the educational system, international investments, and television programs.
So, visitors can always speak the language in the Netherlands without being disrespectful. However, understanding basic Dutch is important, especially if you’d be staying for a long time.
It’ll be easier to connect with the people and their culture and also have wider opportunities for jobs if you understand Dutch to a fair level.