Holland is a small country. You do not really need a car to get around. Public transport will take you almost anywhere you need to go. Although train and bus fares are not cheap, it costs much more to operate a car. Consider buying a discount card for the train; it really is worth the investment. The Netherlands has a dense railway network that offers frequent service and the quickest way to travel between city centres. Particularly in the western part of the country, the cities are easily accessible by train, even at night. Use a travel planner (www.9292ov.nl, in Dutch) to work out your journey beforehand, and you’ll be there in no time. The bicycle is the cheapest and easiest way to get around, especially if you live in a city. Most Dutch people, regardless of their profession or status, own a bicycle. Buy a second-hand one rather than a new one. This will save you money, but be sure to buy at least one strong lock. Sometimes a good lock costs more than the bike itself!
The Netherlands is a ‘self-service country’. That means that the Dutch try to manage most of the things themselves, which makes them very independent and organized. They take their own shopping bags to the supermarket, they weigh the vegetables themselves, they perform all kinds of repair jobs and, in the eyes of the Dutch, the best remedy for the flu is good rest and not immediately medicines. Another distinctive characteristic of the Dutch people is their openness and direct way of acting and speaking. You will notice that you can say what is on your mind, the Dutch aren’t offended easily. The physical flatness of the
44 Study in Holland
country also reflects the mentality. Society is organized in a non-hierarchical way. For example, a teacher is most of the time accessible and a real interlocutor for his students. You’ll be on familiar terms with everybody very soon.
Although modern Dutch society is very secular and not many Dutch people identify with an organized religion, you will see plenty of churches, mosques and other places of worship. You will have plenty of opportunities to practice your own religion if you wish. Ask the student affairs office of your host institution to help you locate practitioners of your religion. Or telephone the Netherlands Centre for Foreigners in Utrecht at www.ncbnet.nl (in Dutch).
If you encounter a problem, the first person to talk to should be the person who can help resolve it. If, for example, you have problems about your course, first talk to your tutor about it. Because of cultural differences or because you are new to the Netherlands, you may wish to find out more. In the first instance, contact the international student office at your university. Almost all universities and universities of professional education have a counsellor who is assigned to help students or handle complaints.
If you tried all the options above and you still can’t get the right help, the International Student Helpdesk (www.nuffic.nl/ish) will be able to point you in the right direction. This website provides you with information about the problems most commonly faced by international students in the Netherlands.
Linn Torp (23), Norway
Dutch people are friendly, open and honest
Bachelor in Communication, INHOLLAND University of Applied Sciences, Rotterdam
I like studying in the Netherlands, especially at an international school. It’s completely different than studying in your own country. We work a lot in groups and that is very interesting, even if it is frustrating sometimes. It is a challenge to come to a solution that people from five different countries can agree on. I learn a lot from it every day. Dutch people are friendly, open and honest. When you try to learn the language they react in a very enthusiastic way. On the other hand, they can also be rude in this crowded city. I really like the small old villages in Holland, and the beaches. I could not believe just how beautiful they were! There is not much organized for the international students at my school. Social things happen on people’s own initiative. But Thursdays and the weekend are very lively in the city, and there’s always something happening. Studying abroad is an experience for a lifetime. You learn a lot about yourself and about other cultures. In the Netherlands, you meet people from all over the world in a small country, so you get to know a lot of cultures here. Moreover, it is a perfect location for taking small trips to other countries all over Europe. Before I came here, I thought society in Holland was almost like mine, but it turned out to be quit different and new. That is what I like best about living here.