Cultural aspect of an international experience

I am feeling nostalgic. The school year has ended and all of the people around me are going home to visit their families, some of them are not coming back for 5 months as they are going on exchange.

And that is the routine of an international student: people come and go all the time. This thing really gets to me because as soon as I get used to someone *pow* and they are leaving somewhere to the other side of the world. Yes, this was my own choice and I knew what I was getting myself into but still, it’s not the best side of being an international. Travelling gives you an awesome opportunity to constantly meet new people but I suppose that at some point everyone wants to have a stable and safe circle around them… In any case, I have a feeling that world is small because even when I think I’m far away from anyone I know, I still manage to bump into someone familiar. It happens especially often with the people I’d really like not to meet… But as it’s summer and the mood craves for something light, I’m going to end with a more cheerful text.

As Augustine of Hippo once said: “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” It might sound a little bit lame but it is absolutely true. I’ve said this multiple times but going to repeat it once more- travelling opens your mind and your heart, therefore I think it is an amazing thing to do, if the circumstances are in your favor.

One of the ways of travelling, in this case- studying abroad, opens up your mind by the amount of cultures you encounter. Of course, the majority of my experiences are related to the Dutch culture, so I’m going to share some highlights of those hilarious cultural encounters.

Of course, one could say that this is how the stereotypes are born or maintained, but if they’re funny, then why not?

From the top of your head, you’d never start talking about Dutch food when thinking about what makes the Netherlands different from the other countries. But for me the encounter with food in the Netherlands was quite an outstanding and entertaining experience. To begin, I found this delicacy of raw herring with raw onions to be something nasty and enjoyable at the same time, like a guilty pleasure. This is not even the best part because the way you are supposed to eat it is way more impressive. Basically, you have to lift it above your mouth and just eat it without any cutlery, like the good old days. I myself was not brave enough to act out the whole ritual but I found it extremely tasty, especially as a lover of onions. At the end, even the Dutch people around me were a little bit disgusted that I enjoyed it so much. Also, what’s up with the pancakes with bacon, sugar and sweet syrup?! When I got an offer to try this out I really thought okay, Dutchies, you’ve crossed the line this time. But curiosity won and I ate it all, because it was super nice! From then on I can’t say that any of the ingredient mixture is crazy until I’ve tried it out myself, because you never know!

Another cultural encounter is living with Dutch people. My experience concerns living with Dutch males, so I cannot make conclusions about girls… I always say that Dutchies are open, real and just as they are. That becomes painfully accurate when you have to live with them. There is no boundary… And I appreciate it on one hand but on the other- not really. Once I was lying in bed and I got a message from a friend saying: ‘’have a nice day today’’ and as soon as I read it I heard my roommate burping so loud that I think my walls trembled a little bit. This really connected well with me subsequently having a nice day… Another thing keeping things spicy in the house is that you never know when someone is going to show up half naked in the room. Of course, it’s very nice to connect with the nature and go wild, but coming from a more conservative country I do get disturbed…

In relation to Dutch people being so open about things, I’ve also experienced the majority of them not having any taboos. They can talk about anything and I think that is amazing. You might just be calmly standing minding your own business when somebody starts talking to you and suddenly shares the most intimate details of their lives. In the beginning I thought maybe they’re open to me because I’m the same towards them, but then I started hearing it from my friends how they just talk about weather and then somebody randomly shares a story how they accidentally tasted bird poop. Yes, this is what makes life exciting because you just never know what to expect from Dutch people. They are going to provoke you, intentionally or not, and that’s why it’s good to stay alert in order not to miss something hilarious.

These little stories that might not seem to be important or life changing, actually are crucial. I think that happiness comes from the enjoyment of little things and if you just spare a second to notice those moments and to take a mental picture of it, whenever you or I feel nostalgic again, we are going to remember those random, ridiculous and funny moments and relive the happiness.


Publication date: 19 July 2017