A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
Every Thursday night, my Dutch flatmates go to what I first understood as a ‘ball’. Initially I was very confused, wondering why they have some sort of formal and fancy dance to attend every week, and was even more puzzled as they merely threw on a hoodie and a pair of jeans as they prepared to go out. Eventually I got one of them to explain to me what this evening actually involves. Turns out what they are having is a ‘borrel’, something that virtually all students from all over the world do pretty much every night – meet their friends for drinks at a pub. Only that the Dutch have been genius enough to come up with one simple word for it! Originally, a borrel referred to a shot of Dutch gin, but today it is used to describe pretty much any type of informal social gathering. Going to a borrel can mean having pre-drinks at someone’s house before a night out, meeting your colleagues or classmates for a beer after work or simply inviting friends or relatives round for some snacks and a glass of wine (or two). You do not necessarily need to be drinking alcohol though. Bitterballen, those small, breadcrumbed balls filled with a dubious yet delicious mix of meat, flour and broth, and are a popular snack to have on these occasions. So next time you want to hang out with your classmates or other friends, why not suggest to go for a borrel in one of the countless bars and cafés you find dotted all over Leiden!