Proverbs and expressions – de spits afbijten

As you will notice many times during your stay in the Netherlands: we Dutchies have a lot of weird proverbs and expressions.  Some literal translations to get your attention: Too bad, peanut butter / falling with the door in house / we’ll get that piglet washed / like mustard after the meal / the monkey comes out of the sleeve / glueing the children behind the wallpaper. If these examples sparked your interest, keep an eye out for more blog posts about Dutch proverbs and expressions!

The very first proverb is really relevant to your situation:

/de spits afbijten/  – /to bite off the tip/
(you can try and pronounce it as follows, and impress Dutch students: /duh spits af-bi-ten/)

This proverb means: to be the first to start something. Originally, this proverb referred to battle, where several people of a group would be the first to approach the ‘enemy’: they would run themselves into the tips of the lances held by their enemies, making the fight easier for their group, who would follow them shortly after. This extra meaning, starting first to make things easier for the people who will come after you, isn’t much used nowadays. With ‘the spits afbijten’, the Dutch usually just mean: to start as first. For example, the first person to give their presentation in class is the one who bites off the tip.

Thinking of all these new foreign students and brand-new volunteers, this proverb seems quite fitting. Especially during the introduction days: there will always come a time when you have to be the first to introduce yourself, or try out a game, or anything else that might be a bit scary or awkward: but you will do it. And maybe that’ll make it easier and less awkward for the rest of the group. And looking at the bigger picture here, right now, and during the next few weeks, the whole of ESN Utrecht (the board, the exchange students and the volunteers) will be busy with ‘de spits afbijten’: a new academic year.

I wish all of you the best of luck biting off tips, and have a great year! Later, umbrella!


By Nanda Bartelink


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