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THE DUTCH EXPERIENCE - A change in culture. How three international students experienced the transition from Indonesia, India, and Brazil, to Enschede.

The Netherlands is an interesting culture to come into. There are plenty of stereotypes, but the reality is hard to see, for the most part. It’s Western European, and that’s it. But like every other country, it’s got its own culture, its own traditions, its own attitudes. In an attempt to better portray what this culture feels like to someone just coming into it, I spoke to three of the UCT’s international students.

Fabian Peri Wiropranoto is an Indonesian student who certainly had a period of adjustment. When he first entered his house, he saw liquor bottles on the shelves. This was new for him, alcohol wasn’t as present back home. It was uncomfortable at first but soon he felt that it was okay. He saw that it wasn’t that restricted: “They’re responsible. Dutch people party but they also work hard. These people are still smart, even though they drink once and a while, and that means I can still be as smart as them if I drink once and a while”. On top of that, the open-mindedness of the Dutch people is nice, he says.

André Rodrigues Gavillon, from Brazil, sees Dutch culture as being a nice balance between the order and efficiency of Scandinavian Europe, and the chaotic warmth of places like Brazil and southern Italy. While being an “efficient culture, you also get a relaxed, human feeling to it”. He goes on from this, saying “everyone is a child. There is this vibrant spirit, you don’t really care if you’re not supposed to be doing this”, you don’t care about being childish. He talks about people throwing pepernoten, these Dutch ginger biscuits, at each other in the streets, about grandparents randomly throwing them at their grandkids. I don’t know how often this actually happens, but I think it illustrates his point alright.

Finally, Natasha Birari from India made some points that I think nicely convey Dutch culture. Before she came here, she tried to learn Dutch. She found the Dutch to be lovely at first, but found they could be even more lovely: “I took the effort to learn a bit of the language before I came here, when they found out, they were even nicer”.

In general, the introduction to Dutch culture these students have had has been a kind one. The Dutch seem like a fun-loving, kind people, who value practical efforts. That’s what I’ve taken from my talks with these internationals, and it’s been my experience as an international myself. It’s a pretty good culture to transition into.

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