Living in the Netherlands

I actually don’t really know this country that much. After all, I’ve only lived here for less than 4 months. And I haven’t been able to travel around the Netherlands (yes, I still haven’t been to Amsterdam. Who cares, seriously. LOL). I’ve only seen fake windmills not inside the country, but in Belgium. I haven’t seen any tulips around — either because I was too ignorant and didn’t pay attention to detail or because it’s just not here! But all of those didn’t stop me from starting writing this post 😀 . Believe me, I’ve been observing quite a number of stuff here. Just simple stuff that catches my eyes or ears hehehe. So… let’s start…

I didn’t prepare ANYTHING before I came here. I refused to read anything (i.e. cultural stuff) about the Netherlands merely because I wanted to surprise myself with the new culture — I wanted to experience a cultural shock. Yes, I intentionally did that. And I didn’t try to learn a single word of Dutch at all. I wasn’t too worried about language because I knew that most Dutch people can speak English. A friend of mine even told me that his friend never learnt Dutch when he studied there for few years and he survived :P. When I arrived here for the first time, I didn’t have any difficulties in communicating with strangers on the street. But after almost 4 months living here, I realised that we REALLY need to learn and speak Dutch. I found it hard, really, when I went to a reception or ceremony at my campus, I found out that Dutch was the only language they used. Isn’t it weird that all lectures at the university are conducted in English, yet the receptions and ceremonies are all held in Dutch? I found it quite surprising :D. I was also very much surprised when I found out that some lecturers allow the students to do final exams in Dutch!! I don’t think it’s fair. Can I do exams in Indonesian, please? 😛 Anyway, going back to the previous topic… all letters that I received, either from the government, insurance company, or bank (with the exception of the university) are all in Dutch. No translation whatsoever. Most websites are in Dutch and mostly no multilingual options are provided. That includes a bank web site where I check my bank account online every once in a while. University circulations and newspapers are also in Dutch and so far I only found one newspaper that is in English — oh wait! I have to rephrase that sentence; what I meant is: I only found one newspaper that has ONE ENGLISH PAGE out of 16 pages in total. And this is a university newspaper. But anyway I was SO DAMN EXCITED when I found that English page! Finally, I can read a newspaper that I actually understand!!!! LOL

I am not complaining. I just feel it’s troublesome somehow. I wanna go to watch a musical theatre but they’re in Dutch! I wanna read non-fiction books but most good books in the public library are in Dutch. Only VERY few of them are in English (I guess it’s time to read fiction books, eh??). And the hardest thing I currently face is to be actively involved in a student organisation. I joined an organisation that will host a student conference at our campus. I quickly became a committee and I was the only foreign student in the committee member. It’s really good actually; I get to know Dutch people and interact with them more often. But the thing is that due to my limited knowledge of Dutch language, I’m not able to do stuff like contacting the city hall or making phone calls to some companies. I can’t do every task and I feel sorry for that. There are some limits. I often find my Dutch friends speaking Dutch in front of me — they always say sorry every time they do it 😛 but I totally can understand that it’s MUCH easier for them to speak Dutch rather than English, that’s why they speak Dutch to each other. Anyway, the point I wanna make here is that learning Dutch is very important if you want to get to know the locals and hang out with them! Yes, I really need to start learning Dutch. I doubt that I will master it, but I’d really love to be able to talk in Dutch :D. The Dutch beginner class that is offered by my university was full so I had to wait until next semester. I’ve registered for that class but I’m actually not sure whether I’d be able to attend the class since I have clashed with other compulsory courses that I’ll take next semester. We’ll see how it goes.

Cycling is a huge thing over here. Everyone rides a bike. Netherlands is a very flat country so riding a bike around the city is always enjoyable (unlike the hills in Brisbane hehe). Bicycle traffic can also be seen everywhere which makes cycling easier. It’s also common to ride a bike to work, whether you are a top executive or a waitress. I even heard that the prime minister cycles to work every day :). I didn’t have a bike until a few months ago when a family friend gave me a bike for free :D. If you live in the centre of Eindhoven like I do, a bicycle is not really needed. Everything is within a walking distance and if you are like me who don’t mind walking more than an hour to reach a destination, then I suggest you to not buy a bike LOL. But of course, cycling saves you a lot of time… especially if time is money (e.g. assignment deadlines). One thing that annoys me is that people here can cycle so fast!!! I could not keep up with them! One day I cycled with some Dutch friends on the way home and I seriously lost my energy because of it hahaha… I tried to cycle so fast but I was still faaaaar wayyyyy behind!!! Anyhow I enjoyed it. Cycling becomes my new favourite activity so far. One day I cycled to IKEA which took more than half an hour due to my slow pedalling :D. That was the furthest place that I could get. I don’t think that I’ll go to IKEA by bike again LOL. I had to pass 4 or more bridges and those “hills” made me dead tired hahaha. Maybe I had to take another route to avoid passing bridges ;). But my feet immediately went sore after that day :P. It was a great experience, though. Loved it!

Dutch people and coffee are inseparable. They just looooove to drink coffee every single day. I talked to a Dutch woman and asked her how many times she drinks a coffee in a day. Her answer was 6-9 times a day, or even more during office hours. Oh my God!! Do you know how many times I’ve been trying to NOT drink coffee every single day?? Drinking coffee every day is already too much for me! It’s crazy. I’ve always been told that we can’t drink too much coffee because it has some negative effects on our body. And here I am now in the Netherlands and everyone told me to drink more coffee LOL.

The good thing about working here is that the working hours are between 8 or 9 am to 5 pm or 6 pm strict. That means barely anyone would stay and work overtime. Having a time off is very much respected and I must say that it’s a very important thing for Dutch people. I was surprised to find that shops close on Sundays!!! (except the first Sunday of the month) Wandering around the city on Sunday is like walking in the cemetery! Eindhoven is suddenly turned into a dead city. And that’s one thing I don’t like about living here: everything closes on Sunday! It makes me crazy!! (OK, not really…) I have lived in a country where night is the time when our actual life really starts and weekends are the best times to go and hang out. So I wasn’t thrilled when I found out about this LOL.

I think that’s it for now. For those who want to see some pictures of Eindhoven, you can visit my temporary photo gallery: http://picasaweb.google.com/104209224589502929812/Eindhoven. I encountered problems when I wanted to upload photos to my gallery, so I decided to upload them to Picasa. I didn’t have time to fix my own gallery but hope it’ll be fixed sooooon.

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