Wetenschap - 11 januari 2001

Dutch atmosphere of openness appreciated

Dutch atmosphere of openness appreciated

Nationalities from all corners of the globe can be found among the growing group of international students in Wageningen. Some come from such different cultures that every day of their stay in Wageningen is an adventure marked by surprises. Others come from European countries, and are more familiar with Dutch ways. Only a small number however have grown up within spitting distance of Holland.

According to one of these, Martin Kersting, an Erasmus student, even those from not so far away can encounter a special Wageningen flavour which is distinctly different from that of home. Kersting grew up in a part of Germany only 20 minutes from the Dutch border. "I ended up here more or less by chance," relates Kersting. "My professor at the university of Munster suggested I come here to learn more, and I ended up doing research in the Food Chemistry Group. Before I arrived I regarded the Netherlands as a challenge, as I had always been intrigued by the Dutch language. I had done two years of Dutch evening classes in Germany, and now I'm making good progress here by watching Dutch TV. But I still find it difficult to follow Dutch people if they talk quickly among themselves. It's also amazing how many different dialects there are in such a small country. In Germany we only have two distinct dialects."

Traffic lights

Many of the differences between the two countries are only small and relate to practical matters according to Kersting. "The traffic lights still surprise me every day here, and the traffic itself: everyone drives so slowly here that I have to watch my own driving very carefully. And of course I had my own preconceived typically German ideas of Holland before I came here. The Germans tend to think that the Dutch always stick together when they are on holiday, while Germans go out of their way to avoid other Germans when abroad. But what I really appreciate here is that there seems to be an atmosphere of openness. Even when they don't know each other very well, the Dutch seem to talk more to each other. That makes Wageningen a good place for going out. I really enjoy being in the company of Dutch students here, and the SSHW idea of putting all international students in one block of flats is ridiculous.

Discussion

"Wageningen University is also different from what I was used to at home. When I arrived here I was immediately drawn into an e-mail discussion about the economic usefulness of Wageningen UR and the place of agricultural research within the Netherlands and the EU. Everyone seems to be discussing these matters here. I can't quite see what they are all so worried about: as far as I can see they are doing pretty well."

Marc Zitzen

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