Mays Business School, October 31st, 2014
Netherlands October Blog
Getting in the Grove:
I’ve been in Maastricht for a little over two months now. While I feel like I have caught my grove and have my schedule down, there are still plenty of new experiences. I’ve made much better friends with the other international students and have a couple Dutch friends as well. I am starting to understand more of the Dutch culture and can also pick up on where people are from in Europe based on their accents. My friends and the Dutch have also taught me a couple lessons that have made my experience much better.
Lesson: Take Time
Last weekend, I went to Amsterdam on a “Men’s Trip” with 9 of my international friends. My Italian friend Tommaso would remind us to “take time guys, take time” whenever someone would try to hurry us along. Many of the Dutch also seem to understand how to “take time” and enjoy the present moment without worrying where they have to be next. There is no need to be constantly entertained. The simple phrase take time has taught me to be present throughout my Netherlands trip.
Lesson: Nothing goes against my plan
Another small lesson I’ve learned is to not expect things to go my way. When I go to the grocery to buy more coffee, I don’t actually expect the store to have coffee. It would be nice if there were coffee to buy, but the trip to the store itself is fun enough to make it worth getting out of my room. When I first arrived in the Netherlands, I learned that things operate “differently” here. Stores close early and have a small selection of items, finding your way can be difficult, setting up a Dutch bank account takes 6 different trips to the bank, and many more “different” things. Although I have adapted, which decreases the amount of times I mess something up, my attitude is still to expect nothing. With no expectations, life is full of pleasant surprises.
Study Abroad: You won’t regret it
For those of you who are thinking of studying abroad, I can’t encourage you enough to do it. I’ve never heard of anyone who has regretted a study abroad experience, and I definitely understand why. One main reason to study abroad is to learn more how others live. In my opinion, American students are less “international” when compared with European students. Most of the European students I have met speak between two and four languages and know a lot about other countries’ cultures. I on the other hand only speak English and don’t know what language they speak in half of the European countries. However, I am learning.
Another benefit of studying abroad is learning different perspectives. For example, many students are not worried about having a plan after graduation. I stopped asking the seniors what job they wanted when they graduated because they thought it was a weird question. Many of the Dutch and other Europeans travel for a year or two after graduating. Then they might get a job or a Masters Degree or travel around the world some more. I think it is great that they are not worried about what job they will eventually apply for. It made me realize there are other paths besides attending college for four years, taking the summer off, and then going straight to work. Understanding how others live helps you better evaluate the way you want to live your life. While this may seem like a lesson any student studying abroad learns, it is particularly true for Maastricht. Living in the international dorm allows you to make friends from around the world and learn how they live. Maastricht is also considered the most culturally rich city in the Netherlands and was almost nominated as the cultural capital of Europe. Maastricht is the epitome of a cultural experience by offering both breadth and depth of cultural diversity.
Alcohol and Marijuana:
I’m sure many of you are curious about alcohol and marijuana use in the Netherlands. Although marijuana is legal, it is restricted to coffee shops and there is a new law that prohibits tourists from buying it in much of the country. While Amsterdam still offers weed to tourists in coffee shops, Maastricht has embraced the rule that marijuana cannot be sold to tourists. Marijuana use by locals is also pretty low when compared to other European countries. The Dutch don’t view smoking as the cool or rebellious thing to do and find that it is not necessary to have fun.
Alcohol is a different story. Alcohol is very common and the Dutch start drinking from an early age. It also seems that every social event has alcohol. During the first day of school we had welcome drinks in the business school. Also, my entrepreneurship class had free alcoholic beverages at its event. While drinking is common, the Dutch do not seem to get drunk often. They have learned how to drink in moderation quite well and look down on getting overly drunk. I hope this sheds some light on the “drug” aspect of the Netherlands.