Culture Shocks for International Students

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    Living in The Netherlands

    When moving to a totally different environment from what you are accustomed to, you may experience what is acknowledged as ‘cultural shock’. Depending on what you associate with a ‘familiar background’ you may or may not be taken aback by the differences between the Netherlands and your native country. Below, you can find things that students may have difficulty getting used to when moving to the Netherlands.

    Dutch Weather

    You may have heard that in the Netherlands it rains a lot, but believe me, you do not fully understand what ‘a lot’ means if you have never experienced Dutch weather before. Aside from bearing with being soaking wet throughout the colder months, a lot of international students complain about having accentuated states of sadness or even depression caused by the lack of sun. If you cannot find joy in the rain, at least your newly-made group of friends may compensate for that. 

    Dutch Cycling Culture

    Another well-earned stereotype about Dutch people is that their preferred way of transport is the bicycle. From the moment you arrive in the Netherlands, be prepared to adhere to this ‘cycling culture’, as literally everyone around you will be taking their bikes anywhere, from clubs to the nearest grocery shop. Getting away with not cycling in the Netherlands is nearly impossible if you want to fully integrate into the Dutch way of life.

    Bikes are everywhere!

    If you are not a fan of cycling, you can try to look on the brighter side: cycling is healthy, environmentally friendly and may spare you from spending money on bus tickets or taxis.

    Additionally, you may be shocked by the strict regulations for cycling (although natives are commonly known for not really respecting the rules). Dutch people take biking so seriously that they even have special traffic lights and signs for bikes. Furthermore, cycling without lights at night or without a bell, on top of being dangerous may earn you a fine from the Dutch police.

    Health Care System

    Even if Dutch health care system is widely known for the fact that the Ministry of Health had invested so much in it that no private hospital can succeed in starting a business in the Netherlands, a good many of foreigners are astonished to find out that Dutch doctors are not keen on the concept of ‘regular checkings’. Usually if one wants to visit their GP for a minor illness or just to go through some rudimentary medical examinations to check their general health state, no matter how much you are willing to spend, you will be kindly refused or given the classic paracetamol even if you come complaining about your knee-cap.

    Tempting ‘Instant’ Food

    Depending on your upbringing, once you enter a Dutch supermarket for the first time, you may be shocked by the number of options in the ‘convenience food’ section. You can find pretty much anything, from frozen pizza to traditional Dutch food such as ‘eierballen’ and ‘stamppot’, you name it. Although the idea of not having to worry about cooking sounds convenient, in the long term, it is not really a healthy option. If one of your goals was to form healthier habits, you should mentally prepare beforehand.

    Dutch Stroopwafels
    Dutch Stroopwafels

    The Opening Hours of Shops

    If one were to ask foreigners about the schedule of the Dutch shops, probably most of them would agree that the closing and opening hours are rather strange. First of all, on Mondays, even if it is a working day, everything opens-up quite late, around 11 or 12 in the morning. 

     Moreover, if you have an urgent purchase to make during weekends, you should know that most of the shops are opened only for a few hours or even closed. This can be extremely annoying to get used to if you come from a country where the most popular day of the week for shopping is Saturday. To top it all, during the week most shops close at 7 pm and it is quite a pain in the neck to find a 24-hour shop. If you grew up with the privilege of having a ‘kiosk’ nearby your house, you may find yourself missing it. 

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