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Student story: life and study at Breda

Student stories 26 November 2010, 02:07

Story about life in Holland of student Tamara Vandeven from NHTV Breda University: as a Canadian living in the Netherlands I get asked the same questions day after day: Do you like it here?

study in Holland, in BredaAs a Canadian living in the Netherlands I get asked the same questions day after day: Do you like it here? Is it very different from Canada? What do you think is strange here? All of these questions seem very simple, but in order to truly answer them I would be here all day.

When deciding to move to the Netherlands I didn’t know what to expect. I imagined small historic towns and cities, a lot of people on bicycles, and of course a lot of rain.

But in view of the fact that the Netherlands and Canada are both western countries, I thought that the cultural differences wouldn’t be too drastic - boy was I in for a shock!

I moved into my new home only to discover that someone had built the toilet in a tiny little closet, and wondering how I was ever going to manage going up and down the small, steep stairs, without killing myself.

However, soon I was exploring the busy streets, and I mean busy, streets of Breda, and becoming acquainted with all of the storybook like stores, restaurants, and cafes.

My challenges

My first challenge was the bicycle. A seemingly simple part of everyday life for most Dutch was funny and even a bit scary for a Canadian. I bought my bike, and then instead of taking it home in the car like I was planning, was told that I had to ride it home.

I immediately started to laugh, was that a joke? How could I possibly ride this strange, old fashioned bike without practicing first? Not to mention that I had to ride on the road!

Impossible! But eventually, with a death grip on the handles bars, and shaking most of the way, I made it home in one piece. This is not to say that I didn’t have some close calls.

Language differences

Right off the bat the language differences were something which I had to deal with. Luckily most people in the Netherlands do speak English and are willing to help you when they see you are foreign. Although, this does not mean that everything went smoothly, such things like grocery shopping always seemed to pose a problem.

It only took me one time to learn that meat marked with “uitsluitend voor dierlijke consumpties (only for animal consumption)”, did not mean “hand fed premium meat” (I would not recommend trying this).

But on a more serious note, not speaking the language is something that was and sometimes still is frustrating and even somewhat intimidating. Still after two and a half years I am never 100% sure of myself when I walk into a restaurant, store, or any other facility where I know that I have to speak Dutch.

Three kisses

The traditional three kisses is another important part of the Dutch culture which took me totally by surprise. I don’t think I have kissed so many people my entire life as I have in the past two and a half years here.

I have to admit that I am still a bit unsure about the reasoning behind these kisses. I mean is it really necessary upon arrival to kiss each person three times, and then another three times when you leave?

Wouldn’t just a nice hello and goodbye be sufficient? But I suppose the kissing goes hand in hand with the “gezelligheid” another important part of the Dutch culture which I am slowly getting used to.

Finding work in Holland

Finding work in the Netherlands was a whole other story all together. Did you know that you even need to speak Dutch in order to clean hotel rooms? Finding a job seemed impossible at first.

But through a friend of a friend I was given the opportunity to begin work in a café. In the beginning it hard, can you imagine having to say to every single customer, “sorry, can you speak in English?”

Well that’s what I did. But it turned out to be a great way to pick up the language, meet some people, and learn more about the Dutch culture.

Today I am still working at the same café and even though I still get some very inquisitive looks when I open my mouth and speak Dutch with my funny Canadian accent, and I still do not quite understand why so many Dutch are in love with “sate met friet”, I feel very comfortable working there.

Starting study at the NHTV Breda University

I had already been in the Netherlands for 6 months before I started studying at the NHTV, by then I was very happy to meet some more international students.

In many ways school here is quite different than in Canada, but at the same time it does have its similarities.

Being able to interact with other people in the same situation as myself is a great benefit, and the fact that I can do it all in my native language is an added bonus. In the end moving to the Netherlands was a hard adjustment to make, but at the same time exciting and fun.

Even though I miss Canada everyday and maybe will never truly understand this crazy festival called “carnival”, I can for sure say that I feel at home here in the Netherlands.

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