Dutch on the work floor: A crash course
David: “Ik zie Natasja zometeen. Ik zal een balletje opgooien.”
Anna: “Oh, wil je dat echt nu bespreken? Ik zou het over het weekend tillen.”
You might have heard your Dutch colleagues use expressions such as these. As in every language, some expressions are used mainly at work, and you won’t hear them anywhere else. In fact, using them in another situation, such as at a café or with family, might cause puzzled faces. Some people dislike the use of such expressions, but they are quite common, especially in the more corporate companies.
Why are these expressions of use to me?
Apart from casually speaking basic Dutch with your colleagues at the coffee machine, some business Dutch might come in handy, too. Although you might not use these expressions yourself right away, recognising them is a good step forward. It will help you to connect with your colleagues, enable you to participate actively in meetings, and express ideas in a more efficient and creative way. Here is some useful Dutch work vocabulary so that the next time you’re in a meeting, you’ll be able to join the conversation, show off your new vocabulary and astonish your colleagues!
5 commonly-used Dutch expressions on the work floor
The following expressions are often used in Dutch offices:
1. Iets over het weekend tillen (lit. “to lift something over the weekend”)
Example: “Zullen dit onderwerp over het weekend heen tillen.”
Meaning: A colleague may use this expression when they don’t feel like discussing a certain topic at a particular moment. Perhaps they failed to prepare for the meeting properly, or they are tired, busy, hungover, etc. They therefore suggest discussing the topic next week instead of today. Be aware that this one may only be used for topics without a strict deadline!
2. Ergens op schieten (lit. “to shoot at something”)
Example: “Na ons bila stuur ik je mijn voorstel en dan kun je erop schieten.”
Meaning: Someone sends a proposal to a colleague and asks for feedback on it. “Ergens op schieten” means “to give feedback, criticise”. Note that bila is also Dutch work vocabulary. It’s an abbreviation for “bilateraal overleg”, i.e., “bilateral meeting”.
3. Ergens een klap op geven (lit. “to slap something”)
Example: “Uiterlijk volgende week moeten we er een klap op geven."
Meaning: A colleague may use this expression if a tough decision has to be made with pros and cons for both sides, and they are struggling to decide what to do. The moment you “give it a slap” is the moment you make the decision. In this example, a decision has to be made by next week at the latest.
4. Een balletje opgooien (lit. “to throw a ball”)
Example: “Ik zal eens een balletje opgooien bij Bouchra van de financiële afdeling.”
Meaning: A colleague suggests talking to Bouchra, to see what she thinks. If you use “een balletje opgooien”, it implies introducing a topic to someone else in an informal way, such as during the daily coffee break or during company drinks.
5. Iets over de schutting gooien (lit. “to throw something over the fence”)
Example: “Rodrigo heeft die taak over de schutting gegooid…”
Meaning: Rodrigo didn’t feel like doing a certain task, probably an annoying one, so he delegated it to someone else, such as someone from another department or his trainee. Now someone else has to deal with it.
Surprise your Dutch coworkers
Did you enjoy this short introduction to Dutch work vocabulary? Are you ready to throw your newfound expressions into the mix and surprise your Dutch-speaking colleagues? If you’re not ready to use these expressions yourself yet, listen carefully to see when your colleagues use them. They might be more common than you think. Good luck with putting your knowledge into practice!
Laura van Dee works at The Language Academy, UvA Talen’s e-learning platform. The Language Academy offers online Dutch courses at five levels, ranging from beginner to advanced. One lesson in all Dutch courses will focus on practical communication skills at work. Every course includes a free trial, consisting of the entire first lesson of the course. You can take the free trial without signing up, to see whether the programme suits you and whether the level is right for you.