Dutch Language Blog

Dutch President Rutte Is In Trouble Again Posted by on Jan 14, 2019 in Culture, Dutch Language, Dutch Vocabulary, News

Like with the discussion about zwarte pieten (Black Petes), the Dutch have a discussion about the need and safety of vuurwerk (fireworks) at the end of every year. A problem that most people agree on, however, is that hulpverleners (aid workers) should be left in peace to do their work during the dangerous night that carries us into the new year. Every year again, they are hindered in their work by having fireworks thrown at them, for example. Rutte decided to respond, but perhaps not with a word choice people necessarily agreed with.

in elkaar slaan

Ik zou ze het liefst persoonlijk in elkaar slaan, die lui die dat doen, maar dat gaat niet. En u waarschijnlijk ook. Dus wat je moet doen is als samenleving een antwoord hierop formuleren. En dat is uitermate lastig. De wetgeving ligt er om het geweld tegen hulpverleners zwaarder te straffen. Maar ja, ook mijn handen jeuken om bijna zelf toch maar rechter te worden, maar dat kan natuurlijk niet. Ik vind het zo onacceptabel, als je weet dat mensen tegen heel normale salarissen bij de politie gaan werken, bij de brandweer, bij de ambulance, vervolgens allemaal in het veld verschijnen, en dan […] dit soort gedrag laten zien. In deze samenleving is het een kleine minderheid. Het is een fatsoenlijk land, waar het overgrote deel van het land op een fatsoenlijke manier oudjaar viert en met elkaar een leuke avond heeft. Maar het is onacceptabel als dit gebeurt.

“I would most like to beat them up myself, the people tha tdo this, but that is not possible. And you as well, probably. So what you have to do as a society is to formulate an answer to this. And that is very difficult. There is regulation to punish violence against aid workers more severely. But well, my hands are also itching to give them a good thrashing, but that is not possible, of course. It think it is so unacceptable, when you know that people work for very normal salaries at the police, the fire department, the ambulance, and then all work in the field, and then show […] this kind of behavior. It is a very small minority in our society. It is a decent country, where the vast majority celebrates New Year’s Eve in a decent manner, while having a good evening together. However, it is unacceptable if this happens.”

The outrage Rutte received is all about the first words he uttered in reply to a question. You can see the entire exchange here:

The journalist (journalist) that asked the question also added that the police advised to simply ban vuurwerk to prevent these incidents, yet to that Rutte rather avoided an answer.


The reactions to his words were mostly negative, saying that such words are not premierwaardig (worthy of a Prime Minister). Some comments see such words as encouraging violence. In Rutte’s defense, he mentions multiple times that, of course, this is something you cannot do.

Others see it as him expressing zijn eigen emotie (his own emotion), and expressing how most people feel about this.

He has used such a tone before, when he said that people should normaal doen (act normally) and that Turkish-Dutch citizens that do not integrate into Dutch society should simply pleur op (bugger off).

Later, Rutte was interviewed in a television program where he did not excuse himself for his words.

What would be alternatives?

Rutte could have been more formal in his words, perhaps say: Als er geweld wordt gebruikt, zou je zulk geweld natuurlijk het liefst meteen willen tegengaan met de eigen vuisten, maar er zijn betere manieren om dit op te lossen. (When violence is used, you would of course like to counter it immediately with your own fists, but there are better ways to solve this.)

What do you think about using such words in a political setting? Do you think it fits the Dutch language and the Dutch people, or do you think it is too blunt for a prime minister to say? Do you think there is a better alternative? Let me know in the comments below!



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About the Author: Sten

Hi! I am Sten, both Dutch and German. For many years, I've written for the German and the Dutch blogs with a passion for everything related to language and culture. It's fascinating to reflect on my own culture, and in the process allow our readers to learn more about it! Besides blogging, I am a German-Dutch-English translator, animator and filmmaker.


  1. Joseph T Madawela:

    what he said was rather mild and quite sane.The real dutch citizens would not do this but thugs and hooligans. Cosidering that here in the US we have the Primo boor in Donald Trump this is not objectionable. Well done Mr. Rutte!