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Studying in the Netherlands: great education, horrible food

What do international students miss about home? And which things about Dutch student culture have left them baffled? With a sense of nostalgia, three students talk about phenomenal tacos, spontaneous encounters and spaghetti ice cream.

Alex Chiodo (Italy)
Fourth-year Environmental Science for Sustainable Energy and Technology (ESSET) student, Breda
Living in the Netherlands for two-and-a-half years

“I really do enjoy living in the Netherlands. I have been living here for two-and-a-half years, I have lovely Dutch housemates and the education here is excellent. It’s great that the hierarchy at Avans is so limited. In Italy that is completely different. The level of education there is pathetic; the lecturers are arrogant and the job market is far more restricted than here. It makes for a frustrating prospect for students.
But, of course, you start to miss things when you’ve been away from home for so long. It will come as no surprise that I think of food and drinks. The culture of food and eating is an important part of the Italian psyche. We adore a great pasta that doesn’t need sauce and fresh seasonal vegetables. The vegetables here in the Netherlands have little flavour.

‘What I miss the most is Italian spontaneity’

But that’s fairly insignificant in the larger context. What I miss the most is Italian spontaneity. If I ask someone : ‘Shall we go and eat something tonight?’ I often get the response: ‘Tonight? No, I’ll have to look at my agenda.’ The Dutch are always busy. In Italy I can call a friend and ask if they want to do something fun that evening. Here, everything needs to be arranged at least a week in advance. Efficiency is important, but the people here take it a step too far sometimes. It’s a pity, because spontaneous encounters often result in unforgettable experiences.

It’s the same with the focus on the individual here. Individualism is great, but a little collectivism is also necessary. In Italy you drink and eat with your family and friends every day and if you need help, there are always people ready to support you. Here, you’re not supposed to bother other people with your issues. If you’ve lived in two different countries, you can see the advantages and disadvantages of the two different cultures. I have learned that I prefer a mix of individualism and collectivism.”

‘Mexicans have a passion for dancing, and when we go out, we really let loose’

Daniela Irazoqui Ruelas (Mexico)
Minor Environmental Consultancy student, Breda
Living in the Netherlands for one month

“I miss the nightlife in Mexico. There, you eat together and have a drink at someone’s house before going out. Then you head out to a club or a pub. Here, people tend to meet up in the pub. That’s something I had to get used to.

Something else I’ve noticed when going out is that the people here are really clumsy. Young people will bump into you and just carry on walking. It’s almost as if saying ‘sorry’ is a taboo here. In Mexico we are quite polite. You try to make sure that you don’t bother other people. I was told that, ‘you can’t give people in the Netherlands three kisses when meeting them for the first time, as respect for personal space is very important here.’ But that same respect flies out of the window during a night out. Apparently, it’s fine to shove someone aside and just continue walking with a grumpy look. It’s weird.
To continue with the nightlife, I really miss good dance music! Mexicans have a passion for dancing, and when we go out, we really let loose. Reggaeton is real dance music. But here going out seems to be a drinking competition to the tunes of Dutch singalongs. I also miss good Mexican food a little bit. Our food is spicier. If I just think about the spicy tacos at home, my mouth starts to water.”

‘It sounds gross, but it’s just vanilla ice cream shaped like spaghetti’

Maurizia Puh (Germany)
Second-year Environmental Science for Sustainable Energy and Technology (ESSET) student, Breda
Living in the Netherlands for two years

“This might make me look like a stereotypical German, but I really miss the bread! Once you’ve tasted German bread, you’ll understand what I mean. It’s soft and fluffy; the bread here just doesn’t compare. The flavour is also more refined and we have so many different types. I might sound cheap saying this, but I also miss German prices. Food is cheaper, especially at university. I also really miss spaghetti ice cream. It sounds gross, but it’s just vanilla ice cream shaped like spaghetti with chocolate sauce, strawberries and nuts. At the bottom is a heavenly layer of frozen cream. You just have to try it!
What I also miss in Breda is that you can’t party until the early hours. No matter where you are or what time it is, in Cologne there is always a pub where you can get drinks.”

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