A multi-cultural island where locals speak many languages, communicating in Curaçao is relatively easy for travelers. Still, there are a few key terms you should know when you visit the Dutch Caribbean.
Papiamentu, or Papiamento, is the local tongue in the Dutch islands. It is a mix of many languages, mostly Portuguese and Dutch, but also English, African, Creole. It’s an interesting language and is the most commonly spoken tongue in the Caribbean Netherlands. Which means you will hear it spoken in the ABC islands of Curaçao, Aruba and Bonaire, and likely the other Dutch islands.
Don’t worry if you don’t speak this language. English and Dutch are commonly spoken here as well, but it will help to know some of the key Papiamentu terms, which is why this post on communicating in Curaçao.
You will hear this term all the time. I am not kidding! Dushi is almost a catch-all term and it’s always good. As the below sign, a piece of Punda’s great street art, says, dushi means good. You can call your sweetheart dushi and it means sexy, beautiful, or love.
Locals also use dushi to describe food and it means delicious or tasty. One of our favorite take-out spots in Curaçao is Dushi Limpia. Dushi is so popular there’s a sign in downtown Willemstad right next to the Curaçao sign.
Don’t confuse dushi and shushi! Shushi means garbage and sounds like sushi but isn’t spelled the same. Well, usually it isn’t spelled the same, but sometimes it is.
If someone says bon bini to you, that’s a good thing! It means welcome so you’ll probably hear it from the friendly islanders in the ABCs.
Bon dia is the typical greeting in the morning, bon tarde after noon and bon nochi at night. If you know Spanish, these terms sound and look similar.
Be friendly and use the proper greeting when out and about in Curaçao so you don’t come off as a cold northerner.
Here’s a great way to learn greetings in other languages.
Kaya is street, derived from calle in Spanish, and weg means way. So if you’re asking for directions and someone says it’s called Kaya or Weg something, you need more information!
You want to be polite when you’re visiting a new place, so get to know how to say please and thank you in Papiamentu.
Thank you is Danki, which is pretty similar to the Dutch for thank you. Mashi danki means thank you very much if you want to be effusive.
When saying please, you take it from the Spanish and say por fabor. (it’s por favor in Spanish)
Beaches and Bays
You will see the English terms for bay and beach interspersed with Papiamentu words, so it’s helpful to know these local words, especially on a tropical island. Boca, or boka, means bay. You will most often see and hear the word playa used for beach, the same as in Spanish. Some of the bays have beaches, and some are rougher and more rugged with no swimming, like on the windward side of the island.
Landhuis means mansion in Papiamentu and they were plentiful in Curaçao in the 18th and 19th centuries. Now, landhuises are still scattered around the islands. Some are abandoned but some have been lovingly restored as museums and restaurants and are open to the public. Visitors will likely visit at least one landhuis in Curaçao, so this is a good term to know.
Hope my tips for communicating in Curaçao help you when you visit the ABCs or other Dutch Caribbean islands. It’s all dushi!
Are there any terms I missed or words you’d like to know? Please share in the comments!
6 thoughts on “Communicating in Curaçao”
This is such a useful post! I’m sure those terms will help me loads if I ever go to Curaçao! Thanks for sharing ????
Oh I am so glad you think so! Have a dushi day! ????
So glad I came across these tips! I had no idea about the language here so it was really interesting to read about.
Is Zeezit still in Bonaire on the water front?
It doesn’t sound familiar Eddie.
I remembered Dushi when we were in Aruba! So interesting!