Jeanette Calder on student life in the Netherlands
Jamaican architecture student Jeanette is impressed by the level of civility and friendliness of the Dutch but is puzzled that, for such a liberal society, the Dutch seem like ‘very conservative folks’.
Name: Jeanette Calder
City of residence: Rotterdam
Date of birth: 27 May 1971
Civil status: Student
Lived in the Netherlands: 15 months
What was your first impression of the Netherlands?
The order and the civility; having travelled a bit I had simply grown accustomed and expected some amount of diffidence. Never felt like a second class citizen in my own country but I did not expect to feel like an equal here, neither did I expect the level of civility and friendliness of the Dutch.
What do you think of the education system in the Netherlands?
Pretty solid. Met my expectations and in some ways exceeds it.
What do you think of the night life?
Well that same education system didn’t allow me much of one and I am not much of a night-time person, but I did like the fact that there was never a cosy café far away and that it always felt safe for me to be out late without a “chaperone”.
What is the best thing about studying in the Netherlands?
The diversity of the students in terms the contrast to what I am accustomed to, the diversity in thinking, cooking, languages, worshipping. I came to study Urban Management Development but the lessons of life and living were quite a bonus.
What do you find most frustrating about living/studying in the Netherlands?
Would have to be the language barrier, which is no fault of the Dutch. That I want to be able to understand what I am buying the supermarket and can’t. That forced me to stay too much within my own comfort zone and not experiment. For instance, when things go wrong like a tram stops running, or there is an announcement at the train track you are at a lost as to what’s happening.
What puzzles you about the Netherlands and what do you miss since you’ve moved here?
I miss warmth. I am very puzzled by the design of the water closet commonly known as the toilet and very puzzled that, even though you pay for a meal in a some places, you still have to pay to use the toilet. But most of all I am very puzzled that, despite their liberal, tolerance on the obvious euthanasia, prostitution, drugs, homosexuality, the Dutch basically seem like very conservative folks. The inactivity on Sundays I like, but I find it puzzling too.
If you could change anything about the Netherlands, what would it be?
Easy one: I’d change the difficulty of learning the language. It’s so endearing that the Dutch are so willing to speak English and so impressive that folks who you don’t expect to speak English, do. I like it here, but learning the language and more so learning to write it seems an uphill battle for me.
What advice would you give to a student new to the Netherlands?
Meet the Dutch, make friends. I hear it takes time but try. I had 93 students from 23 countries as my surrogate family but I regret not having reached out to mingle and befriend the Dutch students. And try to read some Dutch papers in English online and get a feel of what’s happening in the country. I lived in a bubble for 14 months and felt that it limited my real understanding of life here.
What is the weirdest thing that has happened to you since you came to the Netherlands?
I actually adjusted quite a bit to the cold. I am Jamaican, I never thought it possible. On pain of death I will admit to liking it sometimes.
As a Student or graduate how do you think you have benefited from living in the Netherlands?
I admire the Dutch society and living here has shown me what is possible, in terms of infrastructure, urban environment, social integration, tolerance (not perfect but impressive nonetheless) but most of all realising that you have not made your size (comparative) diminish what you can contribute and out-perform many of the other larger States.
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