Pretty much the only word of Dutch on which everyone agrees on that it cannot be translated into English, is the beautiful ‘borrel’. It is a mysterious term with which almost every (Dutch) student has a positive association. For fresh first-year students or our international students that want to learn the Dutch culture, there is a lot of unclarities and questions:
How the %&$! do I pronounce it?
‘Borrel’ can be described as in the International Phonetic Alphabet as [bˈɒɹə͡l], although I doubt that will be of much help to you. Easiest is to just go to one and ask a Dutch speaker at a borrel to pronounce it, and try to repeat it. He or she will gladly help, especially if you offer them a beer. You might get one back once you can pronounce it, as a reward!
It has some tough to pronounce consonants for non-Dutch speakers. The ‘r’ is widely used in Dutch without any other consonant preceding or ensuing it, where it is not pronounced as in ‘bore’, more so as in ‘drug’. No English word really compares, but especially the Dutch ‘bier’ you might be familiar with by now, has the right pronunciation to the ‘r’ in ‘borrel’.
Also important to be familiar with, is the term ‘VriMiBo’. It is an abbreviation for ‘Vrijdag Middag Borrel’ which directly translates to ‘Friday afternoon borrel’. Every week there is a VriMiBo on Friday from 16.00 o’clock onwards, which is open for everyone. But once every four weeks, one is organised by Scintilla, a great way to enter your well-deserved weekend!
It’s just drinking beer, right?
Having a ‘borrel’ is much more than just having a beer. Generally, you always have an occasion for the ’borrel’, for example you had a productive week, a module is finished, a new board must be constituted. You could invite your project group or do-group for the occasion, suggesting for example: ‘Hey guys, we haven’t spoken to each other in a while, we should celebrate that we made it through Module 1!’. It is a great way of staying up to date with your peers, getting to know your year and the entire association. Having the accompanying drink is just an option to smooth the process, allowing you to share your thoughts and feelings more easily. It can also be useful in finding the right project group for the next module, already having had a ‘borrel’ with them might give the cooperation a head start for the project.
Where does the term come from? I don’t see anything boiling?
Already in 1693, there were sightings recorded of signs of Dutch inn’s saying ‘’Hier tapt men Borrel, uyt den treuren” and “Hier gaat den Borrel, dag en nagt”, advertising the occasion of a borrel to bypassers with time and money to spend. The word ‘borrel’ originates from the medieval Dutch ‘Borre’ or ‘Borne’ which translates to ‘spring’ or ‘source’, and with the added ‘-el’ functioning as a diminutive translating ‘borrel’ to ‘a small drink’. By adding some adjectives, the exact substance can be filled in: a bitter borrel or a ‘bittertje’ can refer to gins such as Beerenburg. Therefore, ‘borrel’ is a very broad term and can be applied to a large assortment of beverages.
What do I do?!
In general, joining a borrel is a very easy way of getting to know people from Scintilla. As you do the same study, there is a great chance you have something in common that you are interested in or if you want to rant about your frustrations and enjoyments that come with student life. Maybe you can join a drinking game and make new friends! If you ever find yourself without a subject to talk about, you can always pick up an edition of Scintilla’s Universal News (SUN). A new edition is presented at every Scintilla ‘VriMiBo’ (I hope you remember what this term means, otherwise I would refer you back to How the %&$! do I pronounce it?) organised by Scintilla. The SUN is a small (1 page) periodical with entertaining articles and a puzzle.
Who organizes borrels?
Of course, there would be no borrels without people making sure that everyone can get the drink they like. De Borrel, the committee of bartenders, not to be confused with the term ‘borrel’, does just that job! To learn more about what they do, I asked Mathijn Becker, the chairman of de Borrel at the time of writing, to tell more about how they do their job.
Without de Borrel there wouldn’t be any drinks! Therefore, de Borrel is a pretty important committee within Scintilla. An activity starts with an idea, either by one of de Borrel members, or by a different committee. When the activity is thought up, a date will be scheduled, usually with the commissioner of internal affairs of the Scintilla board. Then, the person or committee sends a reservation through a form, to both the ERO (Emergency Response Officers) and de Borrel. This is where we come in. Now the secretary of de Borrel will make sure there is a drinking room, and puts the drink on abscint.nl. Through this site the chairman can keep track of who is available for each drink, and select bartenders based on that.
On the day of the activity, the bartenders will be there about thirty minutes early, to clean and prepare for the drink. Then, when the activity starts, immediately there will be fresh cold beers to be had! Afterwards, the bartenders together with some of the attendants will clean everything up, after which the afterdrink can start. Make sure to ask a bartender about his or her best afterdrink story, there’s a lot of good ones!
Where do drinks come from?
The Abscint and the MBasement, maybe you already know these places from a good evening with friends. These drinking rooms are stated in Educafé and six associations have the right to organise drinks here. There is one umbrella foundation responsible for these two drinking rooms. This is ‘Stichting Borrelbeheer Zilverling’.
It is important that the bar should be clean and drinks are in stock every day. Besides this it is not rare that equipment and furniture breaks. For this reason, there is a Daily Board that takes care of these tasks. They order beer, wine, soda and even shots. The Daily Board also takes care of hygiene and the content of the drinking rooms as well.
Every day from 4 P.M. an association from ‘Stichting Borrelbeheer Zilverling’ can organise a drink for their members. The main purpose of these drinks is student bonding and letting the students relax after a whole day of studying. Theme drinks, cantus and graduation drinks are organised on a regular base.
Do not forget to hop by sometimes and enjoy a drink with your fellow students for an exceptional price of €0.50!
Congrats, you read through the whole article! Now you know everything about the concept of a ‘borrel’ and therefore you can consider yourself an official ‘pilsbaas’. If you don’t know that last term, I recommend you ask one of pilsbazen at the next borrel 😉