It’s almost three weeks in and I am settling in the Netherlands – first time abroad and so naturally, full of curiosity. I came here for my bachelor’s thesis and my nerdiness would definitely make me do more of studies (:p) but awestruck by the idiosyncrasy of the place, here I am, trying to explore the country and culture around me. It is so different from India, in many aspects! So, here is my short account about the cultural shocks I faced as a typical Indian conservative girl in the Netherlands. Let’s take a look what happens in a countryside of the Netherlands…how are the people? How is the place?
Dutch people – Well, the foremost characteristic of dutch people is that they are extremely straightforward – no gossips – whatever it is, they will tell you on your face. This is, later I came to know, known as “Dutch Directness”. Well, as an Indian who says “tomorrow or sometime later” instead of a straight, single “no”, it feels a bit rude, but it is in their culture. They do not mean to be rude. They take pride in being honest and straightforward! Added to this, they are very individualistic, self-reliant, private and pragmatic creatures. They would split a bill precisely upto cents after having a group-dinner in a restaurant. An example I read somewhere goes like this: if you are at a friend’s place and they are going to have dinner, they would ask you to go back to your home – and this, ladies and gentlemen while normal and acceptable here goes right opposite to the ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’! Their families are not as tightly knit as Indian families. This may make an Indian full of emotions and expressions to view them as passive but yeah, these people are very balanced and composed. They do not react extremely to anything – a positive point is that there are rarely vigorous fights here! One thing to mention – having opinions is supported here. Sharing your take on something is never seen as opposition or personal attack to someone else, it is just the way these guys are. And I love it being a debater and opinionated person at heart! One more thing – Dutchies are very particular about their time. Not only in the work environment, but also in the personal matters. You are supposed to call a friend well in advance and arrive at the given time to his/her place or preferably five minutes before – bad for spontaneous people no? But yeah, this is how it works here.
The way they greet you! It is extremely sweet. As they are very balanced, anywhere you go, people will talk calmly and gently. It is common that a stranger girl, whom you looked at says you “Hi” with a smile (Where Indian guys might melt and think that they have got a “line” from the Dutch girl – unfortunately, this is not the case guys! :P) If you enter a lift full of people, it is a norm to greet them with a “Hi” and while leaving, say “Goodbye” or “Have a nice day”. Not only shopkeepers, but even your colleagues at work whom you do not know but just passed by, would greet you with a “Good morning” in a specific tone.
Coming over to health and fitness – Dutchies are very serious about their fitness. They engage in some sports or gym or some other fitness activity along with the daily cycling. Cycling is in their culture! I cycle 10 km daily here but this would not be a surprise or something related to fitness for the Dutch who cycle like this almost everyday. You got me right – not the Dutch children, but the adults and old people too! There are cycle tracks everywhere alongside the tracks for busses and cars. You will see a mom with a baby-sitting chair on her cycle, you will see a Professor riding to his/her office with his/her bag on the back, you will see a father with a small trolley attached to his cycle carrying his two toddlers, you will see a homemaker going to vegetable market with a typical bag attached on the cycle carrier, and hell yeah – you will see their king on the cycle! Cycling is very common here. Even if it is raining (which is very common here, at least in this month – right now it is raining as I am writing this :P), people will wear the raincoats and get on their cycles. Atmosphere is windy? People will wear their coats and get on the cycle. And you guessed it right – so less air pollution! Yes, these people care for the environment. Near vending machines, you will see bio-degradable paper cups and not the plastic ones. The public dustbins have categories for waste. In a room, the lights turn ON only if someone enters. One of my friend lost the key-card to her room. The receptionist asked her to keep the new one properly, because “it is not good for the environment” to produce one more plastic card. One contradiction I found here though – the plastic bags are prevalent in the open market.
Dutch food – Hmmm, I haven’t tasted many varieties as of now, but I did notice that different types of breads are common here. There are not many vegetarian options, but many vegetarian dishes have potato, also fries and other fried foods are very common here.
The problems I faced here? Yeah man! Plenty of it – but now I find them funny. Let’s take an incident of bus. Public transport is very cheap here and as frugal as I am, I use it over any other mode of transport. In the bus (to generalize, everywhere in Netherlands), everything is written in Dutch – rarely you will find English somewhere – but most of them can speak English, at least a bit of it. So, the stops are written in Dutch. And the announcements happen in Dutch. I was inside the bus at 11 pm in the night. And there was literally no one inside the bus along with me! Being a girl who has read a lot of negative news in the newspapers regarding such cases, I got scared. And I did not have internet for first few days with me. There were hardly any people on the roads. (There are less anyway in the daytime too.)Now, the driver did not stop the bus on the stop that was mentioned in the list – which made me cautious. I went with the courage and asked the driver about it. He looked at me and told me calmly that I did not press the stop button. Oh My God! He explained me that the bus stops only if a passenger presses stop button in front of the seat. He asked me to sit and told me that he would drop me on my stop during the round trip. I was finally relieved. For someone like me who has travelled in the typical Indian busses and local trains of Mumbai, this was a new experience. And when I told this to my thesis supervisor here, he asked me calmly – what is the point to stop if no one is getting down from the bus?
Let’s stop at this point for now. Stay tuned as I explain my solo travel experience that is on my list – mostly the not-so-visited destinations in the Netherlands! Netherlands, you beauty <3. My next wish is to befriend Dutch and know about them more – did not find it easy as of now. Let’s see what happens.
See you guys! fijne dag!(P.S. The first thing I did after I got the internet was to install Google translate app. Thanks to Sergey Brin!)
(One psenti remark as I leave – I miss my friends and family while living here alone. And I have realized and felt the worth of relations more after coming here. I love you all! And to mom and dad, I have started cooking on my own rather than eating ready-to-eat food and I am enjoying it a lot. It also gives me a sense of satisfaction when I am getting more and more independent!)
Well, the nerd in me is telling me to say something about the lab., so here is a photo of the view in front of my lab.
Enjoy and keep spreading the love!