The Máxima Effect: A Dutch Love Lesson For Expats

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Dutch men may be a little too level-headed and Dutch women are often very assertive, but it must be said: the Dutch are also very good looking, progressive and entrepreneurial.

If you happen to fall in love with a Dutch person, learning the language can gain you the sympathy of an entire family and circle of friends!

Show your Dutch partner you’re serious

Here’s some advice on what to do if you fall in love with a Dutch man or woman when it comes to language and culture.

This includes the so-called "Máxima effect" - how the current Dutch queen conquered the king even if she didn't speak his language.

In the beginning: love without words

"The language of love is international", said the famous Dutch author Gerard Reve (1923-2006). This means something like: you don't need any words to love; and you don't have to speak each other's language to fall in love.

When you fall in love the Dutch language hardly plays a part. What’s more, many Dutch people, especially young professionals, speak good English.

In the workplace English is often the main language of communication. And where do most relationships start...? That's right!

Dutch: the language of (true) love

Each year about 11.000 foreigners marry a Dutch man or woman. Did they build up their relationship without speaking each other's language? Probably not.

The following royal example shows how important the Dutch language can be for (true) love.

A royal example

When he was still crown prince, the Dutch king Willem-Alexander fell in love with Máxima Zorreguieta, a charming Argentinean with a great international career. Not surprisingly she quickly conquered the heart of the future king. But then the royal family had to be convinced of her suitability, and of course, the Dutch people as well.

This was not easy. Máxima was a "middle-class girl", she did not have any royal blood. But the biggest obstacle appeared to be her father, Jorge Zorreguieta, who had been part of the violent Videla regime in Argentina.

The Dutch were shocked. How could our future king choose, of all people, the daughter of a crooked politician as his romantic partner? An investigation followed, the prime minister got involved and in the end the couple were permitted to marry on the condition that Máxima's father would not be present at the wedding.

Showing commitment and good will

A future queen could not possibly have had a worse start, you would think. But Máxima became immensely popular among the Dutch people. And she still is. She owes it all to herself. Of course, her charms and intelligence helped, but she works hard too. And Dutch people like that.

Even before moving from New York to the Netherlands, Máxima took Dutch lessons. The results were impressive: during her first appearance on television - the press conference announcing her engagement to Willem-Alexander - the Argentine made a long statement in Dutch.

This achievement showed her commitment and good will, and the Dutch could not help but love her. And now she is the queen and the most popular member of the royal family.

A love lesson for expats

What goes for Máxima applies just as much for expats. During the first phase of falling in love, the Dutch language is not very important. You can manage just fine with English and the international "language of love" (body language).

But in the next phase, you will be introduced to Dutch relatives and friends. How will you manage?

Gezellig, hè?

You are probably familiar with this situation: you are at a party or a dinner and everybody is prepared to speak English for you. But as soon as the conversation gets interesting, emotions run high or jokes are being told, everybody changes to their native language.

It is logical, since relatives and friends express themselves better in their own language. But there you are, with a glass in your hand, smiling and nodding along. "Gezellig, hè?" says your lover's grandmother, who never learned English...

Try the Máxima effect

It is better to use the Máxima effect and learn the language of true love. So, learn Dutch as soon as you have the opportunity and show your Dutch partner, and everyone else, that you are prepared to do anything to understand their language and culture.

According to Taalthuis student Claudia, "Dutch people really appreciate it when you try to speak their language". Edward, another student, adds "My Dutch girlfriend's relatives see me as a serious partner now."

Using the Máxima effect, and committing to learning the Dutch language and culture, is the best way to start your relationship and to stay in love.


Margreet van 't Haaff is teacher and founder of Taalthuis, where you can learn Dutch in a fun and supportive environment online and in the following cities in the Netherlands: Amsterdam, Den Bosch, Haarlem, Hilversum, Leiden and Utrecht.


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