Saying – South Africa

’N boer maak ‘n plan”

A boor mark a plun

A farmer makes a plan

This is a common saying in South Africa amongst the Afrikaans speaking population. A Boer is a term used to describe a farmer in Afrikaans. It was utilized in the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries in reference to white South African colonists of French Huguenot, German, and Dutch origins. (South Africa).

The saying written above is used to encourage a person who encounters a problem to find a solution. What it is saying in essence is that a solution is always available if one goes about it in the right manner. The literal context uses a farmer as indicative of someone’s whose livelihood frequently encounters problems. Thus, urgent solutions are often required to salvage crisis situations. Hence the saying that a solution is always available if a problem should emerge. It is well known and frequently used by anyone that knows the Afrikaans language.

Derek’s parents used to often say it to him when he was frustrated that he could not solve something. An example of this was when he was not sure how he could manage balancing his homework, sports practices, and spending time with friends so his parents announced the saying, to tell him to make a plan. Even though the language of this saying is Afrikaans it was very commonly used in English speaking households. This was because many South Africans knew Afrikaans as it was an official language of the country until apartheid ended.

I liked this saying and will often use it with my family members as I find it to be useful in many regards. Yet I have to monitor the company with which I use it as most Americans will not know Afrikaans. Although I know very few words in Afrikaans I will still recite this often and the saying seems to hold a greater significance to me if said in Afrikaans. Additionally somehow the Afrikaans saying sounds endearing while simply saying it English seems a little more harsh.

Many varying occurrences have taken place that my mother has used this saying with me. A recent example was when I was helping her put all the food for dinner back in the refrigerator. There were many large containers and there did not seem to be a way to get them all in. I told my mother the dilemma and she replied “’N boer maak ‘n plan”. So after that comment and I took at all the containers, formed a strategy to fit everything, and low and behold they all managed to fit. The saying in not offering any advice that is out of the ordinary but instead challenging someone to rethink the situation as in more cases than not, a solution is existent. One just needs to rearrange the issue in order to find a resolution.

It makes sense that a farmer was the profession chosen to “make a plan”. Regardless of the obstacles that are thrown their way, farmers have to make sure that their crops grow. Even with obstacles such as terrible weather conditions or substandard land/soil, they have to make sure that they can harvest crops to create a livelihood and to provide food. They have to take the circumstances bestowed upon them, even if they are not satisfied with them, and manage to succeed in the task that they initially set out to complete.

I believe that this quote is very significant as holds a lot of meaning, even to people who are not fluent in Afrikaans. The idea of taking what one is given and making a plan to deal with the situation is relevant to all. We are not all given the exact circumstances or conditions that we desire and often certain events cannot be changed. As a result one needs to learn to find a method to improve upon the situation. Regardless of one’s culture, geographic location, or language spoken, every person can understand this concept.

“South Africa.” The World Factbook (2008). Central Intelligence Agency. 27 Apr. 2008 <>.


For more information on this see:

Martin, Meredith. Diamonds, Gold, and War : the British, the Boers, and the Making of South Africa. New York: PublicAffairs, 2007.