The Shallow Man has long recommended that the best way to understand, shock and irritate the Dutch is to actually speak their language. Also for those single expats out there, nothing gets the Dutch females out of their flat shoes, than a few words in Dutch, no matter how badly pronounced. The same applies for Dutch men. If you want to be able to run your fingers through their lion like hair, (as long as you’re not allergic to hair gel)  learn the language.

With this in mind, the Shallow Man will deliver and explain a Dutch phrase of the week. I was tempted to begin with opzouten, as in “if you don’t like our tradities you had better opzouten!” but have decided to spare you that one for now. Instead we’ll begin with ‘boeie’.

Dutch phrase of the week, Boeie!

There are many expressions in Dutch that you’ll hear a lot, but rarely see in the written language, the less than edifying term ‘boeie’ is one of them. It can be compared to the English word captivate. Those of you that watch Dutch crime shows (the Shallow Man is a big fan of Flikken Maastricht) will be familiar with the term ‘boeien’, which means to put handcuffs on someone. If you’re familiar with fifty shades of grey, you’ll also be aware of the other uses of handcuffs.

The saying ‘boeie’ actually means the opposite of to captivate. It’s pronounced ‘booyeah’ In fact I’m going to ask you to sit down before you read any further as I’m going to shock you by saying that ‘boeie’ is actually used as a form of Dutch irony. Yes, the Dutch can be ironic! Who knew?

Boeie style irony

Not so delicious irony.

Here’s are a couple of typical examples of how ‘boeie’ is used, or in het Nederlands een voorbeeld van een boeiend gesprek:

Boeie example one

Moeder: Paul, je hebt nog steeds je huiswerk niet gemaakt en je hebt morgen een examen./Paul you haven’t done your homework and tomorrow you have an exam

Paul: Boeie!!

Moeder: Maar dan haal je een onvoldoende!/But then you’re going to fail

Paul: ja, Boeiiieuuhhh!!


The meaning of boeie

The Dutch can do irony


Boeie example two the first tinder date

Expat man: Hi, it’s been a really nice evening but there’s something you ought to know

Dutch woman: You’re gay?

Expat man: No, not at all, I just believe in dressing well. Actually I have a girlfriend

Dutch woman: Boeie!

Expat man: Err? Excuse me, I’m not sure if I understand what you just said

Dutch woman: Boeiiieuuhhh!!

Expat man: ??????? I really must learn Dutch

The word ‘boeie’ is such an uninspiring term that the person that you’re having a conversation with is highly unlikely to know how to respond, which in many ways is the point of saying it in the first place. If Paul had said “het interesseert me geen ene fuck” then his mother would have been cheesed off about him swearing. The word ‘boeie’ isn’t a swear word so can be used without problem in some situations though I wouldn’t advise you to use it at work.

Smoking? Boeie

No smoking signs boeit Dutch vrouwen niet


‘(Lekker) boeiend’

‘(Het) boeit me niet/niks’

If a Dutch person is irritating you with a tedious or boring story, simply say at the right moment ‘boeiuuuhhh’ and I’ll guarantee that he/she will be stunned into silence, at least initially.

A big thank you to the Koentact Dutch language school for checking that my Nederlands and butchery of the Dutch language conforms to the etymology of the word.


No confused expats were hurt during the writing of this post.