I can’t believe one month ago I arrived here in Arnhem; time has flown by! It seems like yesterday I was sitting on my new bed trying to process these strange surroundings and thinking, “How will I survive these next 6 months?”. Well I can tell you now that my question is the complete opposite. Can I live here forever?
You might think I am insane to say this at such an early stage of my exchange, but I love it here. As a student it is easy to say that because my only responsibility is school, not school and work simultaneously. Although it would be great to get a job here, I am only allowed to work a maximum of 10 hours per week and Dutch health insurance would cost relatively the same amount of money I would receive from working–so it doesn’t make sense to do so.
Being here for one month has given me a whole new perspective on life and other cultures. I arrived here as an ethnocentric and arrogant person expecting others to be on the same level as me. Boy was I wrong. I have never had such a fatal blow of reality hit me so hard, so I had to do some serious self-reflecting. Now this might seem more personal than what you might expect from a typical blog post from a woman who is studying abroad, but this is the truth–and maybe it speaks for you too. I feel like I grew up in a bubble my entire life, until now that bubble has been popped. I’m actually here to study but I am learning more about myself, others, and life more than anything I could read in a text book.
You learn by observation of others and social circles. What one person does might strike you as completely odd or interesting, whether it’s wearing shoes around the house or how they can make a delicious meal without adding a drop of oil. Most of the people here have different cultural qualities that you just have to accept because you’re different to them as well. These qualities may not be things you completely agree with, or things that are seen as sensible. I am constantly trying to adapt to these differences with others because I want to be more patient and less judgmental. So far this journey has helped me gain insight of my surroundings and explore the area outside my comfort zone.
It’s not always sunshine and rainbows, I still miss home a lot. I miss my family, Ivan, and some of my really close friends–but I really need this time away to understand myself and others better. I wish I could promote this to everyone I know because it helps you develop as a person. You no longer have your family or close friends by your side reassuring you of your actions; you’re on your own. You no longer have the ability to just drive over to your parents house and vent your feelings, but instead, you either have to deal with a problem by yourself or open up with a stranger you’ve only known for one month. But with that being said, I’m just speaking about my experience thus far, so you have no reason to feel worried about my emotional well-being. 🙂
Now let’s cut the crap and get to some actual interesting material you came to my blog for in the first place.
The Dutch culture is pretty straightforward. I will give you a list as to what I have learned in the past month of being here. Keep in mind these are my opinions.
- Everyone has a bike; there are more bikes than people. Cycling is the easiest way to get around town
- The Dutch are very open-minded and sarcastic
- Most Dutch people are very tall, or at least a lot taller than me. I rarely see anyone my height unless it’s an international student
- It is very multicultural here, like Canada
- Everyone speaks English, so I guess I don’t need to learn Dutch (haha but I am anyway)
- Dutch is actually a difficult language to learn
- There is really only one type of cheese you can buy here: gouda
- Dutch people are very punctual
- When you go to the gym for a workout, you have to bring a towel because they don’t wipe equipment down with sanitary wipes
- The Dutch are very strict about their biking rules on the road. If you don’t follow them you might get hurt or yelled at
- Stores typically close around 6pm (18:00) everyday, except grocery stores and Thursdays (open until 9)
- You have to bag your own groceries
- It rains a lot, and the weather is super unpredictable sometimes
- Umbrellas are useless because it’s often windy when it rains
- Dutch people only eat 1 hot meal per day, and usually it is at dinner time. There are a lot of different opinions as to why this is. Cold meals are cheaper than warm meals and they are a lot easier to prepare when faced with a busy schedule.
- Most people work part-time jobs
- Dutch people, unlike other Europeans, LOVE peanut butter. Finally I have something in common!
- Some of the Dutch use this powdered coffee cream in their coffee–it’s disgusting
- Milk is Ultra High-Temperature Pasteurized (UHT) therefore it doesn’t need refrigeration. You can find milk on the shelf at the supermarket and also in the refrigeration section.
- Eggs are also not refrigerated
- Dutch women don’t wear heels out to the club–they wear sneakers
- Mayonnaise with fries is the bomb!
I’m sure there is more I will learn about the Netherlands in the coming months. I am now in my 3rd week of school and so far it is going well. The classes are structured a lot differently than back at home and are pretty laid back. I have 2 classes on Monday’s, and one on Tuesday’s, Thursday’s and Friday’s. My most challenging class so far is Dutch Language and Culture. I feel myself translating words in class because I don’t understand what some of them mean, and it’s so fast paced that I find myself learning on my own time via YouTube and Duolingo.
So you’re probably wondering why I never want to leave this place. Well it’s simple. You ride your bike everywhere because everything is in such close proximity, people speak their mind, and you’re so close to other countries like Germany and France. You can take a FlixBus to a nearby country for approximately €15-25, or a plane for €30-60. But realistically, it is probably difficult to find a “full-time” job here. The Netherlands has a population of almost 17 million and I bet you there are 30 billion bikes in this country. I guess I could fix bikes for a living, right?
In all honesty, the Netherlands is the ideal place to live, especially if you are a native English speaker. As I mentioned before, everyone here speaks English at least somewhat or perfectly fluent. The weather might not be the best but you have everything you possibly need in one small country.
The trolleybuses in Arnhem are run on electricity, and this system is the only one that is still running here in the Netherlands. They also have Wi-Fi, along with the trains, and you are required to punch in and punch out with a reloadable card known as OV-Chipkaart.
Earlier last week a group of us visited ‘s-Hertogenbosch (short: Den Bosch) to pick up our residence permits at the immigration office. While there, we were recommended to try a dessert specialty known as a bossche bol.
We paid €5 for coffee and a bossche bol at a cafe. It was worth it!
It reminds me of a giant cream puff, but tastes better. Coated in chocolate and filled with whipped cream–it was amazing! Apparently you can only get these specific ones in Den Bosch, but I have seen similar ones at a supermarket in Arnhem.
I finally tried a fresh stroopwafel this past weekend (shown above). You will find these all over the Netherlands, and apparently they were first made in the city of Gouda (also the cheese). It is filled with a caramel-like syrup and is a must try when visiting the Netherlands!
On Saturday evening I went to my first-ever football match with my friend Niels who I haven’t seen in exactly one month. He was the one who met up with me at the airport in Amsterdam when I arrived and helped me with my luggage to my residence here in Arnhem. He came over to my apartment and we made a Dutch meal called boerenkool stamppot. It is potatoes mashed with kale with bacon and sausage. It was very good actually! Who knew kale and potatoes could be mashed together? We then went to the GelreDome to watch a football match, Vitesse (Arnhem) against Willem II (Tilburg). The other team won by one goal, but Arnhem played better (at least that is what we thought). It was a good time and I’m hoping to go to a game in Nijmegen soon!
I still have yet to explore more of the Netherlands (which I know I will fall in love with) and when I do, I will make sure I fill you in with all the details. 😉
PS – more pictures of Arnhem to come…