Brown Eggs and Irishmen

Kate Williamson By Kate Williamson, 11th Oct 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Travel>Europe>Netherlands>Noord-Holland

A funny story involving a learning opportunity from a 'false friend' in the Dutch language

False Friends

Anytime you are learning a foreign language, having an open mind, as well as a sense of humor is key. Speaking a new language is vital for learning it faster. However, miscommunications can arise easily in the beginning. Fortunately, the story that follows is one of my favorite and most memorable moments so far on learning the Dutch language.

The Netherlands is known for having many local markets which sell all sorts of goods from produce, meat and cheese, to everyday household items. One day, while shopping at a local market in North Amsterdam, my boyfriend, David, and I stopped at a vendor selling cheese, meat, and eggs. We had visited this vendor often since they sold large cartons of eggs in quantities of 30 for a good price. Neither one of us speaks fluent Dutch, but I was determined to use this opportunity to practice.

The woman asked us what we wanted, and I asked her for a box of 30 brown eggs. “Mag ik een doos van dertig bruin Ieren, alstublieft?” She looked at me funny for a moment, and I thought it was because of my American accent. I did not think anything of it at the time since she gave us the eggs; we paid and left. I was proud of myself for speaking Dutch the whole time.

Still reeling from pride from the whole exchange earlier in the day, I wasted no time in telling my family about it later that evening. This was the moment where I learned that two words in Dutch sound quite similar in pronunciation, but have a completely different meaning. The Dutch word for eggs, eieren, sounds like Ieren, which translates to Irishmen. It is no wonder that the woman behind the counter gave me a funny look when I asked her for a box of 30 brown Irishmen. We all got a great laugh out of it. Now I have a funny story to tell my friends and family.

Each language learner has at least one story, or several, that involved a situation where he or she accidentally used one word that sounds like the one they intended to use, but differs in meaning depending on the context or the inflection in the voice. These are known as 'false friends.' These situations will arise, and while it may seem embarrassing at the time, use it as an opportunity to remember what you learned. The lessons learned the hard way are the ones that will be most easily remembered.


Dutch, Eggs, Foreign Language, Irishmen, Market, Netherlands, North Holland

Meet the author

author avatar Kate Williamson
Kate is a blogger, freelance writer and an expat, living in the Netherlands, who began writing to discover herself all over again. She enjoys writing about travel and exploring new places.

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author avatar Fern Mc Costigan
21st Oct 2014 (#)

Interesting post!

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author avatar AjaySinghChauhan
25th Oct 2014 (#)

very nice post and thanks for sharing it with us

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