The One with the Thoughts of Frans

Life as an Expat

My experience here in Antwerp has been very positive, but there were (and perhaps still are) some amusing language barriers here and there. I’ll mention a few.

I call a fuse a stop. Here it is called a zekering, which I almost exclusively associate with playing around with designing electronic circuitry yourself. So while I completely understand the Flemish usage from that perspective, the first time it came up I had no idea how to communicate what I was talking about. I had to use an explanation about washing machines being broken and leaking electricity before the Flemish person was able to tell me they call that a zekering.

I say, Hoe duur is dat? (How expensive is that?) to inquire about the price of something. One Flemish store owner told me I should stop using that because they consider the implication that something has to be expensive rather offensive. In English it sounds similar to me, but in Dutch as it is spoken in the Netherlands it doesn’t imply anything about something being expensive. Instead they exclusively say Hoeveel kost dat? or Hoeveel is dat? (How much does that cost? or How much is that?). Or at least, so that store owner says.

To me, morgen (morning) is roughly from 6 AM to 12 PM (in English morning has different implications), and middag (afternoon) is roughly from 12 PM to 6 PM. When someone was making an appointment for the voormiddag (fore-afternoon) I assumed they meant something like 12 PM – 3 PM. Instead they meant something like 9 AM -12 PM. Middag (midday) equals noon, i.e. 12 PM, and namiddag means afternoon, exactly the same as in English. It makes a lot of sense, but it’s quite different. In my Dutch Dutch the word namiddag does exist, and means something starting around 3 or 4 PM (or possibly around 2 PM in winter), until the end of the afternoon (i.e. 6 PMish, maybe more like 5 PM in winter, although like I said, our definitions are a little more rigid than in other languages). By logical extrapolation voormiddag would mean the period prior to the namiddag, which would be from 12 PM to 3 PM. According to the dictionary it’s even used like that somewhere frequently enough to be mentioned, though where I’m from we’d talk about early in the afternoon. In conclusion, Dutch and Flemish have distinctly different connotations for the words voormiddag, middag, and namiddag. When I think about the actual meaning of the words (fore midday, midday, and after midday), the Flemish meaning makes more sense, but in its own context the Dutch meaning is equally sensible. There’s a reason the concept is called false friends (like German See and Dutch zee).

Speaking of false friends, there is one thing that never confused me, but that does sound funny to me. Over here tas means cup, akin to German Tasse, but to me it sounds like someone wants to drink a bag of coffee (or some such) if the term is used.

Lastly, I still think it’s somewhat amusing each and every time I see things on sale on €x (aan €x) instead of for €x (voor €x).


  1. Seems Flemish is closer to German than Dutch then.

    Vormittag is of course the time before noon, and nothing else, while the Nachmittag is the time after noon. And Mittag is noon, not the whole afternoon. 😛

    Cup is Tasse btw, while bag is Tasche.

    November 27, 2009 @ 21:02Permalink

  2. I never wrote that. <_< And I'm aware that German, Norwegian, and presumably various other Germanic languages utilize midday in a similar manner. 😛

    November 27, 2009 @ 21:06Permalink

  3. I never wrote that. <_ <

    Hahaha, you sly bastard.

    November 29, 2009 @ 0:00Permalink

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