Gokkasten – The Interesting Part of the Dutch Language

Once my time at Oxford was done and I got my degree, I spent some time travelling around Europe. Language has always been something I’ve found very interesting, and so, I took the time to learn a little bit of each language as I travelled. The Dutch word “Gokkasten” was one that I will never forget. The Dutch have a very strange yet interesting way of saying things, and the Dutch word gokkasten is a perfect example of this.

Let’s play gokkasten at a Dutch casino

My time in Holland, or “the Netherlands” as they like to be called (no, Amsterdam is (shockingly) not a country, but a city), was absolutely fantastic. It was one of my first experiences in such a liberal country, with Amsterdam being the perfect example of just how liberal a country can become. It’s crazy to see so many things which are highly illegal in the US and the UK be so well accepted in a country like the Netherlands.

Although I don’t commonly like to gamble due to religious reasons, I felt it may be a nice way to taste the liberal culture without doing anything which is highly illegal in most other countries. As long as I didn’t enjoy it or become addicted, I was happy to give it a shot. Now, bare in mind that I had never even seen the inside of a casino before, let alone a Dutch one!

Slots, casinos, and over-explaining

As I entered, the vibe that the location was giving off was very interesting. Since I did not have a clue how all the machines and flashing lights worked, I went to the bar for a drink first. To my surprise, the drink was free and I got chatting with a nice lady who worked there. After telling her a little about my backstory I asked her what gokkasten meant. I had noticed that the Dutch, much like people in the US, like to over-explain in their word choice. Whereas people in the UK may call it a “bin,” people in the US have to specify what goes in the bin, so they call it a “trash can.” There are a lot of these examples, but I’ll spare you the time of going through them all.

Anyway, the Dutch are much like the Americans in that they like to over-explain the words they use. On Hawaii we always used to joke about people in the US, saying that due to the education system being less effective than the one in Europe, they have to over-explain everything because the other person will not know what they mean without doing so.

This brings us to gokkasten. This literally means gambling closets, which, funnily enough, is exactly what they used to be. Gokkasten are those large slot machines, which do look like a wardrobe or cupboard when you think about it. Go figure!

Which gokkasten did I play?

My conversation with the nice woman in the casino came to an end and now it was time for me to try out some of these Gokkasten for myself (I cannot get enough of that word, it’s surely in my top-10!). The first one I played was created by a company called Gokkasten Spelen and I lost ten euros within five minutes. After winning six euro’s back on the roulette, I decided to try out another one of the gokkasten. This time I lost another fifteen euros, so I decided to call it a day.

All in all, I love the word gokkasten and I’m sure I’ll never forget it. Just like many of the other interesting words I came across while travelling Europe, like cerf-volant, which translates to flying dear (it’s a kite), and innerer schweinehund, which translated to inner pig dog, I will never forget it. However, even though I love the word gokkasten, I don’t think I’ll be playing any more Dutch gokkasten in a while!