Dutch Language Blog

Spreekwoorden en Uitdrukkingen (Sayings and Expressions) 14 – Thuiswerken Posted by on Mar 23, 2020 in Culture, Dutch Language, Dutch Vocabulary

With the coronavirus being a worldwide pandemic, many landen (countries) are implementing quarantaines (quarantines), telling people: blijf thuis! (Stay at home!) A real #thuiswerken movement has begun, and of course, that comes with its own linguistic quirks! Here are a spreekwoord (saying) and an uitdrukking (expression) to make thuiswerken a little sweeter!

For other sayings and expressions in this series, click here.

Oost, west, thuis best

Image by Nicole Wilcox at Unsplash.com

Literally: east, west, home best

east, west, home’s best

Like the English equivalent, this spreekwoord signifies that there is no place like home – nothing is as nice as being home! So why would anybody complain about working from such a wonderful place? We have another spreekwoord in Dutch that means the same thing: zoals het klokje thuis tikt, tikt het nergens (literally: like the clock ticks at home, it ticks nowhere). But where does this come from?

spreekwoordenboek (proverbs dictionary) from 1914 says the following about it: “Men moge de geheele wereld doorkruist en het steeds goed gehad hebben, men zal zich nergens beter bevinden dan thuis” (One may have crossed over the entire world and have always had a good time, yet one shall never feel better than at home).

I suppose that’s where the windstreken (points of the compass) come from in this spreekwoord!

Here’s how we’d use it in Dutch:

Na mijn wereldreis door Nieuw-Zeeland en Colombia ben ik toch wel weer blij om thuis te zijn. Oost, west, thuis best!

(After my trip around the world through New Zealand and Colombia, I actually am happy to be home again. East, west, home’s best!)

On to the uitdrukking!

Van alle markten thuis zijn

Markt (market) in Leiden, the Netherlands (Image by Maurice Smeets at Unsplash.com)

Literally: to be home from all markets

to be a jack-of-all-trades

This is a bit of a weird one, but it’s fun! Imagine being in a team meeting, where everybody is working from home, and you want to make somebody a compliment for being quite the allrounder – you could say they are literally “van alle markten thuis”! Due to how ubiquitous this uitdrukking is, there are more variants, such as van overal thuis zijn (“to be home from everywhere). But where does this come from?

It appears that this uitdrukking has its roots in the following, again from that same spreekwoordenboek from 1914: “landloopers en kramers, die alle markten bywoonen, leeren allerlei loosheden en bedriegeryen, die daar op in zwang gaan.” (vagabonds and paddlers that attend all markets learn all kinds of cunning and trickery that are used there).

So this today more universal expression started as something to tell people they are street-smart. Interesting!

By the way: there IS a difference with a similar, but much less known uitdrukking: van alle markten thuiskomen (coming home from all markets). This uitdrukking means the opposite: being a good-for-nothing. Why? Goods that were brought to all markets were goods that could not be sold anywhere, they were worthless. So if a good came back from all markets, they were good-for-nothing.

How is it used in Dutch? Here’s an example I found:

Van eenvoudig tot culinair, Grieks, Italiaans, Thais of Chinees: de horeca in en rondom Maarssen is van alle markten thuis.

(From simple to gourmet, Greek, Italian, Thai or Chinese: the hospitality industry in and around Maarssen is a jack-of-all-trades.)

Do you have any other spreekwoorden or uitdrukkingen related to #thuiswerken? What do you think of these? Are there some in your language that fit this? 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.