By Lauren Putt
It’s hard to believe that over a year ago I was getting ready to embark on my third year abroad in Nijmegen, the Netherlands’ oldest city. My Dad very kindly took me and my brother to Amsterdam a few days before I would start my adventure, which was not only a holiday but a sort of “getting-to-know-the-country” kind of thing, as I’d never been to the Netherlands before.
Not only is it a small country – one where the distance between the north and the south is the same distance between my home town of Plymouth and London – but one which now has a very big place in my heart.
When I think about it, if I had not gone to Nijmegen it would have been very unlikely I would have met the lovely and kind people that I did. It really was so international as I not only met my Dutchies, (an endearing term I use to describe my Dutch friends) but individuals from America, Germany, Poland, Sweden, Turkey, South Korea, and even from the UK itself! I also was lucky enough to travel to so many different cities and countries in Europe, going on a Three Days and Three Nights trip to Vienna, Budapest and Bratislava, visiting around 15 cities in the Netherlands because of its small geographical size, and even popping over to Frankfurt and Munich for a few days. I’d never travelled so much in so little time and really took advantage of the travelling opportunities made available to me by living in Nijmegen.
Whilst living in the Netherlands, I did pick up some of the Dutch language despite all of my University courses and classes being in English. It is a strange but very friendly language to hear, as it is a sort of mixture of German and English and has that infamous harsh ‘g’ sound which can sound a bit like you have something stuck in your throat. Here are the few basic phrases and words I learnt and you are more than welcome to try them out if you go to Amsterdam for a wild weekend away:
Good morning = Goedemorgen
Tot Ziens = See you soon
Doei (pronounced as Dooey) = Bye!
Fiets = Bike
Eet Smakelijk = Enjoy your meal
Gezellig = A very important word in the Dutch language which is described as untranslatable. However, for our benefit it means cosy; the feeling you get when you are in good company and having a nice time.
I also managed to catch on to the bike culture, despite falling off of it twice at the start! But, I persevered and hopefully I am now as fit as a fiddle with legs made of steel (at least that is what I like to think). The Dutchies are so used to their bikes that they certainly feel incredibly lost without them if they either break or get stolen. What is also very strange for us Brits is the fact that wearing a helmet is something to be laughed at in the Netherlands, and it is so amazing what stuff you can actually carry on the back of your bike, from shopping bags, to a crate of Heineken beer and even a small-sized child!
What really made my year abroad memorable was going to Nijmegen’s LGBT+ society, as I am an openly bisexual woman. I had so many laughs with the Dutchies I met and, despite the language barrier, felt a connection with a few of my Dutch friends in the group. I discovered that one of them didn’t like milk in her tea (disgraceful!) and that a couple of them could cycle home while drunk – the classic Dutch lifestyle (definitely NOT something I recommend you try!) I was so lucky to have such welcoming and fun friends while abroad and to have had such exciting, and sometimes, challenging experiences.
If you get the opportunity to go abroad, I really would grab it as you never know what will be waiting for you when you get off the plane!