Column: Becoming a Burger

| Bas Leijser

For the very last time, Bas Leijser gives his unfiltered opinion on university life, with a bit of sarcasm and Dutch directness mixed in.


In Dutch, we have a saying: “You are becoming a ‘Burger’ (citizen)”. It is said to students who display behaviour that is like that of a working man. Last week I could only conclude that my transformation to a Burger was already complete. It only goes downhill from here.

How do you recognize a Burger, you may ask? Well, there are a few aspects of their behaviour that give them away. For example, Burgers typically go to sleep before midnight, have a car and use it even for short 5-minute drives (like getting groceries), cannot drink at parties (see previous point), and often drink alcohol alone at home.

When did I come to the realization that I have become a Burger? Well, I was on a plane, that was about to land at Buenos Aires. I was in Argentina for work, while my MSc graduation would take place only two weeks later. Please don’t ask.

Anyway, after a 14-hour journey, me and the flight attendant in front of me were both just staring into empty space, waiting for the plane to land. Our eyes found each other and – no, this is not the beginning of a love story. I wish.

“Are you a student?” she asked me. “Are you going on a holiday in Argentina?”

“No”, I said, “I am here for work”, as my hands moved to tighten my tie, but then I realized I wasn’t wearing one. Awkwardness ensued.

Then it dawned on me. I was a student! And I would be one for two more weeks. But apparently my transformation to a Burger was already complete.

I had now joined the ranks of boring business slobs, ever away from home, drinking their lives away at the hotel bar, and reminiscing about the good old times at university.

In fact, just before going on this trip, I had gone to a graduation party. I learned then that it is a lot less fun to have your friend throw beer over your trousers, throw up in your car, and inappropriately touch a girl you are talking to (mistaking her for his girlfriend), when you are sober as hell. Truth be told, I failed my friend. I should have been there right along with him. Well maybe except for the inappropriate touching part. But it was too late. I was a Burger now.

Today, as I write this, I have already graduated, I survived my trip to Argentina, and my ‘real life’ is about to begin. Therefore, this will also be my last column for U-Today. Supporters of a politically correct campus, rejoice! Let me express my hope, though, that someone will take over, because the world needs a voice of political incorrectness now more than ever.

University is, or should be, a beacon of free thought, and we should strive to uphold that. Too often, we are turning discussions into a black-or-white issue, where you are not allowed to hold a ‘morally grey’ viewpoint, or you are immediately branded with a certain label. We have become overly sensitive to satire or criticism, and instead of hardening our minds, we use censorship and regulations to suppress someone’s voice.

It would be a sad world indeed if one cannot make fun of social studies, German psychology students, ‘technology on heels’ events for women, or well, anything, really, without being censored and silenced for it. So, without any authority, I would like to say to any student who is reading this: don’t be afraid to express your opinion, especially at university, and try not to take the world too serious, there’s time enough for that after your graduation. Enjoy your freedom for the limited time you have left, until you too shall become a Burger.