Student - 9 september 2016

Flags and backpacks

It was early in the morning and I was cycling to university as usual. As I passed by the houses, I noticed there were Dutch flags on some of them. I couldn’t remember seeing them before, but I guessed they had been raised for the UEFA Euro 2016 or some national memorial day. But suddenly... What was that? Did I see a backpack hanging up there? Indeed I did.

How did it get on the flagpole that high? Was a child being bullied by other kids? Or maybe a teenager outraged his parents so much that they decided to ground him by hanging a backpack with all his videogames outside. ‘You are playing videogames all day! I will take them away!’

Perhaps a couple was living there. ‘You are always on your mobile phone doing nothing! We don't speak to each other anymore!’, the man might have said before he decided to put his girlfriend's cell phone away on the flagpole. Or what about a prank among students? ‘Haha, very funny, guys. Come on, give me back my backpack!’

As I continued cycling, thinking about possible explanations, I saw another backpack hanging out of a window. And another. And many more. What was going on?

The first thing I did when I arrived at university was ask my Dutch friends about this phenomenon. They told me it is about graduation from high school. Of course! School is over and you don't need your schoolbag anymore! It's a custom, a tradition. Hang your bag and a flag outside your house so that everyone knows you have graduated. It makes sense. I think…

Vicky Argyropoulou, Erasmus exchange BSc student of Health and nutrition, from Greece 

Do you have a nice anecdote about your experience of going Dutch? Send it in! Describe an encounter with Dutch culture in detail and comment on it briefly. 300 words max. Send it to resource@wur.nl and earn twenty-five euro and Dutch candy.