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An Indian in Leeuwarden

Date:14 April 2020
Author:Madhusudhan Balasubramanian
Madhusudhan Balasubramanian
Madhusudhan Balasubramanian

The University of Groningen was pretty much unknown to me until a few months before I applied to the Master’s Program of Sustainable Entrepreneurship at Campus Fryslân in 2019. However, while researching about the University, I found that it is one of the highly ranked universities in the world. As being the only Indian student in the entire campus, this journey has been nothing short of exhilarating. Since, I didn’t have the comfort of having fellow Indians in the study, it pushed me to explore the unknown. In this case, the unknown being people from different countries and cultures. I would say, the experience of studying at Campus Fryslân has been one of the most culturally and intellectually rich experiences I have had to date. The entire study has been designed in such a way that it encourages you to collaborate and cooperate with other people instead of competing with them. This deeply resonates with my view of education in general.    

During the course of my study I have made some great friends, with whom one can talk about anything under the sun and still not feel judged. They have become my family away from my family. So, as being the only Indian at my campus, here’s the few things that I found interesting about the whole Dutch experience...

Get used to some Dutch honesty and transparency

One shouldn’t confuse the Dutch’s straightforwardness with being rude. They just prefer being transparent about everything. And, would prefer the same from you. So, one should not be apologetic about being honest as well. Also, through my experience of studying here, I have observed that it’s completely alright to not know something, the Dutch are genuinely understanding in that sense. However, one should not pretend to know something, if they have no knowledge. Dutch Transparency, remember?

You will be lucky enough to find a seat even during peak hour traffic in Dutch trains

If you’re an European reading this you have no idea what I’m talking about. And, if you are an Indian, or someone else from geographic Asia reading this, you know the struggle of finding a seat in a bus or a train at any time of the day. Peak hour in the Netherlands concerns with the discounts or offers on the tickets and not with the actual traffic (pun intended).

Follow the traffic rules to a T

The rules can be a bit confusing to follow initially, considering that I come from a culture where rules exist only on paper and not required to be applied rigorously. What I found really cool though is you have separate lanes for bikes and the pedestrians. Sometimes, I just wonder how can the Dutch find space to accommodate such comforts in their small country. One more experience that deeply humbled me is that people here stop for you if you want to cross the road, provided you use the zebra crossing.

Be open to explore and network with people

Speaking in English is perfectly simple anywhere in the Netherlands. However, learning some Dutch goes a long way in helping you connect with people here. During my study here I found that Dutch are quite open for collaboration, if you can genuinely add value to their work. They are also quite appreciative if you reach out to them. Therefore, networking should be pretty alright and highly encouraged.

It’s perfectly alright to not drink or smoke when you go pubbing

Before I moved here, I was told that the Dutch wouldn’t trust you if you do not have a beer with them. However, based on my experience so far, this has not been the case. In fact, it’s perfectly alright for you to not smoke or drink and still have a great time. On the contrary, you will probably be appreciated for holding on to your values.

Vegetarians include dairy and eggs, ask for Vegan

This is both for the Indians as well as the Europeans. In India eggs are not considered vegetarian, while dairy is! I know it can be confusing to make sense of this. So, to all Indians out there, who are vegetarians, you might want the Vegan options. Here are some useful words you may want to check for. Ei stands for Eggs, any word on the ingredients list that has an Ei in it, you may want to stay away. Vlees stands for flesh. Kip stands for Chicken. These basic words should sort you out.

Tags: Leeuwarden