Science - October 7, 2004

Chinese party first step towards mixing

You don’t see many Chinese students in pubs and clubs in town. The Chinese integration party, held last Saturday at Unitas, was a first step towards integrating Chinese students into the nightlife of Wageningen.

After a performance by Green, a band of Chinese students, several Chinese students climbed up on stage to sing karaoke. More than three hundred Chinese students came to the youth club. The few people who were not from China had mainly been invited by their Chinese corridor mates. One was Tini Bauer from Germany who enjoyed the programme: ‘To my surprise two of my study companions were playing in the band.’ A party is good for integration, she thinks. ‘It’s a way of showing others your lifestyle.’

The announcements and songs at the karaoke were all in Chinese, even though some international and Dutch students had made the effort to come and watch. ‘Happily a friend translates a lot,’ Elke, a Belgian student, responded when asked whether she minded not being able to understand anything. After the karaoke, Dong Lin, one of the organisers, acknowledged that they hadn’t used much English this time. ‘We organised this party to offer Chinese students the opportunity to go out and communicate with each other. We hope that after this party they feel more comfortable in Wageningen. But next time we’ll use more English and make it a real international party,’ he promised.

Jonah Beijnen, one of the organisers from Unitas, characterised the party as a ‘try out’. ‘This is a first step to help Chinese students discover that they can go out here.’ Because of cultural differences it’s not easy to work together, he says. ‘But I’m an idealist, and Chinese students can use some positive publicity; not everybody is always friendly to them.’ Beijnen sees resemblances between the situation of the Chinese students and that of immigrant workers from Turkey from example, who were invited three to four decades ago by the Dutch government. ‘The immigrant workers were left to fend for themselves. The university seems to be doing the same with the Chinese students.’

Although the party only was a first step towards integration, Lufei Wang nevertheless was very positive about the party. She also realised that for the non-Chinese the fun of the karaoke was hard to appreciate. ‘But for me it’s also not easy to enjoy real Dutch culture. I sometimes have difficulties understanding Dutch behaviour and the jokes. In the lab I often misunderstand the messages I get,’ she said. Although it was late, she had definitely touched a sore spot. / YdH

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