A slim girl chatting at the checkout in the supermarket to practice Dutch

Practice Dutch at the supermarket

You might know by now that it speeds up your learning curve if you practice Dutch in real life. You can engage in some small talk with other parents at the school yard or talk to someone who is walking their dog. An other occasion to practice your Dutch is at the supermarket or in any other shop. This cannot go wrong. Let me tell you why.

A supermarket job

Working at a supermarket is not very exciting. Workers have to fill up the shelves, count the stock en mirror the products in a way that the products with the shortest shelf life are at the front. The most exciting thing that can happen at work, is when a customer asks them for help. That customer could be you!

Read this article in Dutch

The supermarket staff is there to help

When a customer asks them nicely for help, it gives the workers a little break from filling the shelves. They stand up, stretch their backs, walk through the isles and show you what they know. They don’t mind if you don’t speak Dutch very well. On the contrary, it makes you even more interesting.

Don’t be shy

Everything you need, you can find by asking in English or by ordering online, but this is not the point of your visit. Remember that your ultimate goal is to practice your Dutch. Don’t be shy or scared that your Dutch is not good enough. All workers will be happy to help you, because it gives them a little break. Still shy? Then go to a supermarket in another neighbourhood for your first try.

Ask for help and get to know them

Look for a worker that’s filling up shelves on their own or walking around. Do not address staff that are engaged in conversations with colleagues. They will be annoyed to be disturbed and likely not be very helpful.
When you spotted a suitable conversation partner, go to them and ask: “Pardon, mag ik je wat vragen?” (Excuse me, can I ask you something?). They will answer something like “Natuurlijk” (of course) or just “Ja?”

Read this article in Dutch

Questions to ask

Now you have their attention, you can ask your follow-up question. This could be:

  • Waar staat de yoghurt? Where’s the yoghurt?
  • Ik kan de eieren niet vinden I can’t find the eggs
  • Kan je me adviseren over een recept? Can you advise me about a recipe?
  • Kan je het even laten zien? Can you show it to me?
  • Waar staan de aanbiedingen? Where are the discounted products?

Never revert to English if they don’t understand you, but tell the worker you are learning Dutch. Download the free cheat sheet for Dutch example sentences to help you with this.

Prepare for your visit

Spend some time to prepare some questions before you go to the supermarket. What do you want to buy and what do you want to ask? Look up the vocabulary and write down some sentences. Use Forvo to check your pronunciation.

Get to know them

Try to remember the staff who are helping you. Who are most helpful? These are your new supermarket acquaintances. You can greet them when you’re in the shop, ask them for help or have some small talk with them.

Go shopping to practice Dutch

Remember the following to profit from the help of the supermarket staff:

  • the staff are there to help you
  • a foreigner learning Dutch is a welcoming change from their routine
  • identify whom you want to talk to
  • never speak English
  • prepare yourself before shopping
Read this article in Dutch

Need more help?

If you need a bit more help and confidence in the supermarket, you can follow our fast focus supermarket workshop. You learn and practice a lot in a small online group. The workshop is very affordable. Check it out for the upcoming dates.

See you at the workshop or in the supermarket!

Roelien Reinders
Taaltraining Trancemissie

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