Student - May 26, 2011

How a Dutch survived among eight Chinese

Last Saturday, I was at a BBQ by the riverside of the Rijn. Ten people in total: eight Chinese, one German and one Dutch. This Dutch is the hero of this story.

When Niels was helping the girls set up the grill...
His name is Niels, a guy from Groningen. When the German and the Chinese girl left at about 15.00, he became the only non-Chinese in the group. As a Chinese living in a corridor with eight Dutch and one some-Dutch-speaking Belgian, I was very curious how Niels felt under such an unfamiliar situation. Two days after the BBQ, we met again. 'It was fun but strange,' he summed up that afternoon with only two adjectives. Obviously I was not satisfied with such a cut-and-dried comment. I tried to dig out more details from him.
'I was surprised when Jing (Niels' colleague in PSF) called me for the BBQ,' he started to recall, 'I never had a BBQ at lunch time.' Yes. Chinese do like have BBQ during the day. 'I also wondered why the girls did all the work for food preparation while the men stood aside,' it seemed a bit weird to him. It's a shame I didn't explain to him in time, but now I can tell you: we should feel happy for these girls because studying abroad helps to be more independent. Given that, isn't it better to let them enjoy the set-up of the grill and cooking?
'I also found out that Chinese girls are no-sports and afraid of sunshine,' Niels continued, 'Dutch girls like to exhaust themselves to release energy. I didn't see any Chinese girl like that.' Hmmm...I can't work out why either. I was the only guy who asked Niels to play Frisbee while the girls sunbathed with a scarf covering their heads and arms. I remembered the Dutch girls of my AID group did play football, korfball or hockey with men together. I'm not sure whether all Dutch girls like sports, but they are really more active than Chinese ones.
'I had to think about my own behavior', Niels told me. 'For instance, I had to go somewhere else to change my swimming clothes because I think it's not polite to do it in front of Chinese girls', he made a nice example, 'and besides, I also wanted to know what you actually talked about in Chinese.' Finally, we got resonance: I am often very eager to understand what the Dutch surrounding me are saying. And, just like what Niels said, I 'have to act a bit differently' in such a situation. I have often been sad because sometimes I couldn't be myself among Dutch. Fortunately, I walked through that difficult time and came to know how to be myself in my second or even third language.
I always feel grateful when meeting someone who is able to put himself in my shoes. Congratulations, Niels! You survived among so many Chinese, wish we can someday talk in another language besides English.
Video of the week: A nice clip for this election week

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