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Student life

Studying in the Netherlands: "I am still learning new things about the culture every day"

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Hello, my name is Kate! I have been living in the Netherlands for two and a half years now and I am still learning new things about Dutch culture every single day. Although I’m already almost like a 'senior' foreign student in the land of windmills, I still remember my first month here as if it were yesterday. Moving to a different country on your own as a 19-year-old is definitely a challenge. Thankfully, my excitement towards the locals and my international classmates made the transition process as smooth as butter. Nevertheless, there were some things about the Dutch culture which I just had to adjust to, and I am about to tell you all about it.


Food Is a huge topic among internationals. I've heard a lot of opinions. Some good, most of them not quite. But, although I have to admit that Dutch cuisine isn’t one of my favorites, I still became an avid fan of some Dutch foods. I know that it might sound controversial for some people, but hear me out.

Hagelslag – the love of my life or more commonly known as ‘’chocolate sprinkles that come in a box’’. This gorgeous phenomenon is usually eaten for breakfast on a piece of buttered toast. I usually eat it straight from the box. I highly recommend trying it if you want to start your day as a real Dutchy.

For more on hagelslag, click here.

Bitterballen - a deep-fried round croquette which vegetarian versions became my second obsession. It’s commonly eaten in bars as a snack in combination with a beer, but I eat it wherever and whenever I want to. Definitely must try if you like umami flavor!

For more on bitterballen, click here.

Verspakket – or boxes with all the ingredients you need to cook a meal from a recipe given on the box. You can find a wide variety of them in supermarkets like Jumbo or Albert Heijn. This is just a convenient option when you don’t know what to cook and you are open to trying something new. The recipes on the boxes are in Dutch so you can practice your language skills or have a blast reading the translations from google. I would suggest grabbing one of the local dishes.

Check out some of the boxes here.

Drop – or otherwise known as licorice sweets. It is like pineapple on pizza, you either love it or you hate it. I, fortunately, was the only person from my student housing who liked it so I always had an abundance of it. Worth giving it a shot, but I warn you, you are doing it on your own responsibility.

For more on drop, click here.


Housing is a second big topic of discussion among students. Starting from sinks in the bedrooms and steep, narrow stairs, finishing on huge living room windows which allow you to watch TV with your neighbors.

Previous tenants of my current flat told me a story of how they had to bring their couch in through a balcony window because there was no possible way to bring it up the staircase. Thankfully, we bought that couch from them so we didn't have to play a life Tetris game in our apartment. We definitely experienced though, people looking into our apartment and occasionally waving to us especially if they caught me during my spontaneous dance performance.

I personally got used to big windows but if I want more privacy I just close up the curtains. On the topic of steep stairs, well... you just have to be more careful when coming back from a night out.

"Do I know you?" was stuck in my head for some time until I realized that greeting someone in less crowded areas is normality here.

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Katarzyna Kubiak, International class Physiotherapy


In Poland, if you look at someone on the street and smile, people will… well… it actually happens so rarely that people don’t even know how to react. Ok, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration but what you will usually get back is a frown with a tint of suspicion. That’s why, when I was casually taking a walk during one of my first days in Enschede, I was really surprised when almost everyone whom I passed said ‘Hello’ to me. ‘’Do I know you?’’ was stuck in my head for some time until I realized that greeting someone in less crowded areas is normality here. I have a feeling that it’s because people in the Netherlands are just more happy and relaxed. Because of that, now, every time someone says ‘’hallo’’ to me I try my best to at least smile back.


In Kraków, the city which I’m from, cycling is not so common as in the Netherlands and definitely not as safe. Because of that, a month before I came here I pushed myself to go everywhere by bike. It indeed helped with my physical endurance, but what it helped me the most was appreciating the cycling infrastructure in the Netherlands.

What my over-the-summer cycling training didn't prepare me for was the rainy weather. I tried using the waterproof poncho for the first few times but I quickly realized that It was acting more like a parachute which was slowing me down than as a shelter from the rain. That’s why, after a month, I made peace with the water. I gave up on a waterproof jacket and made sure I had extra pair of pants and a shirt if I was going out for longer.

Overall, I have to admit that I enjoy living in the Netherlands. In my opinion, all the cultural differences aren’t so hard to adjust to, and after these two and a half years I can already call this place my home.

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