There is a popular joke that in English about 30% of a conversation is made up of expressions or jargon while in Dutch, this is more around 90%.
While the 90% figure is an exaggeration, it is true that the Dutch use expressions in their language much more commonly than the average English speaker. It seems there is an expression for every situation or character trait in Dutch. You can “be the party pig” (het feestvarken zijn) if you are the life of the party or if you are asking for trouble you are “putting the cat with the milk” (de kat bij de melk zetten). If there is an important topic to be discussed it is “as necessary as bread” (broodnodig) but if that topic doesn’t make any sense “you can’t make any chocolate from it” (daar kan je geen chocola van maken).
No conversation between Dutchies is complete without at least one, but likely many more, of these sometimes-incoherent statements. If you know a bit of Dutch and are listening in, one minute it is a normal conversation between friends and the next minute there are horses, bikes, apples, monkeys, pancakes, beans, and/or eggs peppered throughout the dialogue.
In examining some Dutch expressions, you can get a sense of cultural values hidden throughout the language. The classic example is “just act normally; that’s already crazy enough” (doe maar normaal dan doe je al gek genoeg). The Dutch value conformity and this saying means that just by acting normally, people are already behaving outside the bounds of “normal” behavior. Another great Dutch expression is “high trees catch a lot of wind” (hoge bomen vangen veel wind). This is a criticism of people who strive to be better than those around them. Catching a lot of wind means you’ll be pushed around from all sides should you try to be on top.
Dutch is such an interesting language that is full of historical and cultural references. While it seems the Dutch hold themselves to a high standard of behavior, at the end of the day, even they recognize that “every cheese has its hole” (ieder kaasje heeft zijn gaatje) or that “even the ladybug steals candy from time to time” (het lieveheersbeestje steelt wel eens een snoepje). In other words, nobody’s perfect!