Koetjes en kalfjes literally translates to little cows and little calves in English, however the little/cute phrase actually refers to small talk rather than farm life! To talk over koetjes en kalfjes can be the daily conversations you have with the cashier at the supermarket, a quick chat with your neighbour as you run out of the house or maybe even with your hairdresser! Other little Dutch phrases we have learnt in class include ‘Het regent pijpestelen’ (It rains steel pipes), which is similar to ‘It is raining cats and dogs’ and ‘Het loopt in de soep’ (It walks in the soup), which roughly means when something is not going to plan!
By learning these little phrases in class we also managed to come up with some from each of our own languages and translate them literally into Dutch. There are so many weird and wonderful aspects of every language and it was really nice to dip our toes into the Dutch culture and their funny little expressions! Hopefully if any of these crop up in conversation we won’t be as bemused as we were at the start of the lesson!
Coincidentally, we were also introduced to another part of Dutch culture in the lesson – Beschuit met muisjes. To celebrate the birth of his little girl, Bart brought plates of beschuit met muisjes to class! Beschuit is a sort of circular dry/toasted cracker and ‘muisjes’ when literally translated are ‘little mice’. Now, do not fear, we were not gifted with mice on crackers, the ‘muisjes’ are actually small coloured balls that have an aniseed taste. In Dutch culture when a baby is born it is a tradition that either pink (for a girl) or blue (for a boy) muisjes are eaten on the top of a buttered beschuit. The taste to me was quite odd (but enjoyable!) and a sweet way to celebrate the birth of Bart’s new baby girl.