Explaining the Netherlands to foreign students

THUAS has organised the Dutch Insights series of talks so that international students can become acquainted with Dutch culture. Dutch politics, water management and naturally Sinterklaas were among the topics discussed. The students listened with amazement and wonder.

“I found it really odd that the Dutch eat steak tartare, a paste made from raw meat”, said Eunice Dolorita. Eunice is an exchange student from Curaçao who is spending six months in the Netherlands for the Sustainable Business minor. She heard all about the Dutch predilection for spreadable sandwich fillings such as cheese spread, farmer’s salad (a coleslaw made with yoghurt) and egg mayonnaise during the first talk ‘A guide to Dutchness’ by Colleen Geske.

Birthday calendar

“I found this talk the most fun”, said Eunice, who also had to laugh when she heard about the Dutch tradition of hanging a birthday calendar in the toilet and how it is a taboo to put your own name on the calendar. Although Eunice is reasonably familiar with Dutch culture as she lives in the Netherlands Antilles, she was surprised to hear that the Dutch use the names of diseases such as tuberculosis and cancer as swear words. Coleen thinks this makes the Dutch unique, but you have to wonder whether this is something the Dutch should be proud of.

Water management

In any event, people admire the way the Dutch battle with water. Talk number seven, out of a total of fourteen, was about water management. Eunice: “You don’t realise that a large part of the Netherlands is below sea level. It’s cool to see how the Netherlands has organised water management.”

Unwritten rules

Matei Teca, a first-year student of User Experience Design from Romania, had his interest sparked by the talk on Dutch politics and The Hague as an international city of peace and justice. Now the series of talks has come to an end, he will even go as far as to say that he understands the Dutch a little better. “The people are friendly but there are a lot of unwritten rules. It’s a good moment to ask yourself about your own culture and the Dutch culture and about how people generally behave in society.” What took some getting used to was the informality between lecturers and students. “You can almost talk to your lecturers as a kind of friend, which is absolutely not the case in Romania.”

Stamppot

What both Matei and Eunice greatly appreciated about Dutch Insights was the way in which they were involved during the talks. Eunice: “You don’t just sit and listen, you actually take part.” For instance, there was a meeting in which the students made the Dutch stew dish, stamppot. Matei: “We had a quiz, which is a fun way of getting to know your classmates. It’s also a chance to meet new people.” Eunice also appreciated the social aspect: “I’m here to study and not to party, but it is fun to meet other international students, there’s really a great atmosphere. And a huge amount of diversity. I also see the people I met here outside of the course.”