Category: The Netherlands


Queen’s Day

Queen’s Day in The Netherlands is the equivalent to our Australia Day, except it is about 100 times bigger and it is held in celebration of Queen Beatrix’s birthday. All semester, the Dutch have been telling me how lucky I was to come in this half of the year, as I would be here for this one very special day.

 To the Dutch, Queen’s Day is basically a day where everything that is illegal (which is not a lot!) becomes legal for one day. Which means that drinking on the streets is acceptable and you can busk or sell goods without a licence. This all makes for a crazy day!

 The night before, Queen’s Night, is spent partying. Everyone parties, no exceptions. Then everyone drags themselves out of bed the next morning to do it all over again! The next day, especially in Amsterdam, is filled with music, dancing, food, drinking, smoking, games and much more, as everyone does their bit to celebrate the Queen.

 The city was a sea of orange, as this is the national colour that everyone wears with pride during the day. People everywhere were dressed with orange wigs, orange sunglasses, orange ties, orange hats etc. Everyone gets really into it, even the tourists who have come from all over Europe to join in on this famously fun day.

 The Netherlands is a rather wealthy country and therefore the government was able to put in lot of effort into the entertainment for the day. My friends and I spent the better part of the day at Vondelpark, where a huge concert was held, with the big act for the day being DJ Tiesto, who I have never heard of, but according to all my European friends, he is extremely famous in all of Europe. The concert was complete with fireworks, balloons and streamers.

 For lunch, we bought burgers from somebody’s barbeque, as all the restaurants were closed, because all the workers were out celebrating! Then, of course, we celebrated with a few Heinekins!

 Afterwards, the city was an absolute wreck. There was rubbish everywhere, the public toilets were a mess, there were many people passing out on the street and the public transport system was not functioning to its best! However, everyone had an awesome day, and I suppose that’s all that matters!

 I’m really happy that I was in The Netherlands for the 30th of April, as I truly believe you cannot fully experience the Dutch culture without celebrating a Queen’s Day 🙂

Being Australian…

I have to admit, I am really enjoying being Australian in an overseas country. As the only non-European exchange student this semester at Hogeschool INHolland, I get quite a lot of attention from people wanting to learn more about my country. And I’m ashamed to say, I’m really having a lot of fun with this!

 When people find out that I am Australian, the first thing they want to know about are the animals, or more specifically, the Kangaroos. People seem to find it hilarious that Kangaroos are hopping around everywhere. It’s almost like they think Kangaroos are just a myth! The funniest thing by far is telling everybody about all the not-so-nice creatures of Australia, i.e. snakes, spiders, sharks, stingrays etc. On my first day in Amsterdam, I was staying in a hostel. When the guys behind the counter discovered where I was from, they started talking about Australia and how amazing it would be to go there. However, they stated that they never would, as there are “too many things to kill you over there”! Watching people’s reactions when I tell them that I have been bitten by a snake is also extremely amusing, as a snakebite is something of a horror story over here!

 But aside from the wildlife down under, I find that many people already have very high opinions of Australians. Often in bars I receive high-fives merely for telling people that I am an Aussie. This works out well for me, as I don’t have to make much of an effort to make friends! One of the most popular bars in Amsterdam, Coco’s is an Aussie bar. Sure, it is a little over the top, with the benches made from rotting wood, Aboriginal artwork covering the walls and the toilets labelled with “Sheila” and “Blokes”, but it plays good music, serves good food and sells cheap drinks!

 I do, however, get a few laughs here and there as my accent is incapable of pronouncing many words. Also, when I talk about wearing thongs and togs I get extremely strange looks! Many times I have had to back up and repeat myself, as I use a lot of slang, or catch phrases. For example, “Charter boat? What charter boat?” and “Not Happy Jan!” are definitely only used in Australia! Once or twice I have accidentally used the “Ya Mum” joke, for which the only response I got were blank stares.

 I’ve learned that a sense of humour differs from country to country. Sometimes I’ll say something sarcastically, and some of my friends will believe it. I then have to tell them that I was only kidding, only to be responded with a confused look and “Then why did you say it?”

 All in all, it’s a lot of fun being an Aussie and travelling to Europe, as people automatically want to be our friend. I’m having an awesome time teaching my Euro friends about Australia, but am also enjoying learning about countries much different from my own.

Katie

The ESN is one of the best things about studying at Hogeschool INHolland! It consists of a group of students (most of whom are Bulgarian, doing their whole degree in Amsterdam) who work together to make sure that our exchange semester is packed with lots of fun and cheap social activities.

 During orientation week, I payed 5 euro to sign up with the ESN, which was definitely worth it! The ESN not only organises activities for us, but they get us huge discounts wherever we go. We always have a lot of fun and it is always cheaper than if we had gone by ourselves.

So far the ESN has taken us to:

• An Erasmus party with all the other exchange students from other universities in Amsterdam. We got cheaper entry to the night club and got the chance to meet all the other exchange students, which was fun!

• Zaanse Schans Open Air Museum, a museum of Dutch culture. Apart from getting a discount on the train ticket (Zaanse Schans is about 40 minutes out of Amsterdam), none of us would have even known about the place had it not been for the ESN!

• Ice-Skating, where we got a half-price ticket and I got the chance to show off my ice-skating skills, much to the surprise of every one of my friends, who thought I was kidding when I said we had rinks in Australia!

• The Ice-bar in Amsterdam, where even the drinks are served in glasses made from ice! The bad thing about the ice-bar, however, is that it is quite unpleasant to sit, since the bar stools are also made of ice and you cannot stay in there for longer than 45 minutes without causing serious illness, as it is so cold!

• An exclusive dance party, where we were put on the VIP list and got free entry!

• Laser Gaming at Zwanneburg, which is the biggest centre in all of Europe! We only paid 1/3 of the price and had so much fun! I did however cause serious injury to myself, due to running into a barrel in the dark, in an attempt to avoid getting “killed” by a laser beam! Was still a lot of fun though!

The ESN still have many more activities planned for us, especially once the temperature gets warmer and we can stand outside for longer than 5 minutes without whinging!

This week there is a karaoke party in celebration of St Patrick’s Day, with free drinks for those who are brave enough to get up on stage. Should be a fun night! It really is an awesome organisation, as it is totally run by other students, purely for our enjoyment. It’s the best way for us to make new friends and see things that we probably wouldn’t have on our own  🙂

Katie

Going Dutch

 

Apart from the stereotypical parts of Dutch culture- the Red Light District, with its prostitutes, sex shops and coffee shops, there is a lot more culture to be experienced here. In fact, the Dutch government is trying its hardest to turn the Netherlands’ image around.

There are also the traditional parts of Dutch culture- clogs, cheese and windmills- all of which I encountered on a trip to the Zaans Schans Open Air Museum. Zaans Schans is a little village about 20 minutes out of Amsterdam, where people still live in tiny little cottages and make cheese and wooden shoes to sell.

But there are many other factors that are unique to the Dutch. To name a few:

  • Dinner is served at 6 pm sharp. Usually, this is a family affair and all members are expected to sit down to a cozy meal.
  • The Dutch speak their minds. Sometimes this can come across as extremely rude, as they are so blunt.
  • Sneakerheads- starting in New York, the trend to collect the most rarest and exclusive sneakers has made its way to the Netherlands. In Amsterdam especially, everywhere you look you can see thousands of pairs of colourful, metallic or fluorescent versions of the Nike Air Force 1. This is actually more of a sub-culture than a trend.
  • Pancakes- While not unique to the Dutch, they are certainly famous for them. Cooked with strange ingredients such as bacon and apple, or onion and mushroom, Dutch pancakes are delicious!
  • Creativity- Something I have noticed about Amsterdam is the level of creativity displayed. Every empty space has been filled with something creative and a bit “out there”. An empty shop gets filled with abstract art; roadwork fences get plastered with a sequence of images that continue throughout the city, the interior of metros are covered in all sorts of imagery. Amsterdam is a very inspiring place!

 

Despite its portrayal in the media, Amsterdam has a lot more to offer than merely the potential for a crazy weekend. The city is beautiful, with many world-famous landmarks to see, places to go and sights to inspire.

Amsterdam: A whole new world!

On arrival in Amsterdam, I came to a few sudden realisations.

  • One: snow is not so pretty in the city- it is cold, wet and slippery.
  • Two: Apart from driving on the opposite side of the road, the Dutch are crazy drivers. Survival in the city includes dodging cars, trams, bikes and incoming tourists with suitcases.
  • Three: They city has many distinctive smells that are impossible to avoid, wherever I go.

 

But in spite of these factors, I have really come to love the city. Amsterdam is the most amazing and quirky city! There is always something happening, something to do and something to see. There is never a dull moment in this place. The clubs are awesome- but expensive. Our first night out in the city was at a party for all the exchange students from around the city. We paid: 6 euro for entry.

1 euro to hang up our coat

50 cents to go to the toilet – each time!

3.50 euro for a wine/beer

Luckily there is more to Amsterdam than the expensive clubs!

There is a bar for anyone and everyone. Coffee shops, while clichéd, are a big part of Dutch culture and therefore belong in a must-try column. Even if you don’t smoke, there is a lot of atmosphere, which must be experienced. Another cliché is the Red Light District, which we have been through many times, because it never gets boring! It is not as wild as it appears in the media however. I suppose because of all the tourists, prostitution and drugs, the police feel the need to patrol it more cautiously than other areas. It’s actually quite safe. In fact, on arrival in Amsterdam, I spent my first two nights in a hostel in the Red Light District, before my lease at college began. There are some very interesting people spending their time in the District, let me tell you!

I live at Campus Bergwijkdreef, which is in Diemen, about a 15 minute ride away from Amsterdam Centraal on the metro. It is not the best standard of living I have ever encountered, but I cannot imagine living anywhere else. The other inhabitants of the “containers”, as the Dutch students call the building, are some of the most awesome people I have ever met. Within two days of orientation at Hogeschool INHolland, I made some really strong friendships with people all over the world. They come from countries such as Finland, Sweden, Turkey, France, Italy, Belgium, Slovenia, Germany… all over the place! Though we have not even known each other for two weeks yet, we have quickly become a family. There is always someone’s door to knock on when we are having a down day… which happens. Currently I am looking for work but am getting turned down because I don’t speak Dutch…which is a problem. But I am taking every day as it comes, and having good friends upstairs, downstairs and next door really makes life easier J