Science - June 16, 2005

The Dutch experience / ‘I was too polite’

German student Tina Linck (26) spent three years in South Africa doing a bachelor in Soil Science. On hearing good academic reports of Wageningen University, she decided to do the masters in Soil Science in Wageningen. After a short stop in her home country Germany she came to the Netherlands in August 2004.

Tina didn’t really have any expectations. ‘When I travel, I just go and see.’ Actually, all she knew about the Netherlands were a few ideas Dutch people had about German people. ‘I would like to emphasise though, that I do not bury myself in the sand at the beach, as all other German people appear to do according to the Dutch.’

Before Tina came to the Netherlands, she didn’t even know the exact location of Wageningen. ‘I tried to find it on a map, but I didn’t succeed. A friend figured it out the day before I had to leave.’ Although she experiences Wageningen as very small, she can enjoy it for the time being. ‘There isn’t much to do, but the diversity in people and the international flair make Wageningen a nice place.’

One thing she misses is nature. ‘But it’s all relative. In South Africa, the nature is of course tremendous. When I first came from South Africa to Germany I found Germany very lacking in nature. But compared with the Netherlands, even Germany is spacious and rich in nature.’

Tina noticed very quickly that Dutch people need to warm up first. ‘I was used to South African people who are very open. They dance on the street when they feel like it. Dutch people are always friendly and helpful when needed, but on a personal level, a kind of barrier has to be got through first. But this is also the case for German people, and perhaps they are even worse.’

She also thinks Dutch people are very polite and generous. ‘Except when you are travelling from Ede-Wageningen to Wageningen by bus. It is often a question of who gets in and who doesn’t. I’ve missed the bus now three times because it was full. Then it was me who was too polite…’

There are a lot of similarities between the Netherlands and Germany, but the language is sometimes a problem. ‘For example, the signs on doors whether to push or pull often confuse me. I always get mistaken as the Dutch word for pull, looks like the German word for push. Also ingredients on food products are often all written in Dutch. So I have to buy my groceries on instinct. Once I thought I was buying a nice fruit juice, but it was actually quite disgusting.’

Tina finds the master’s in Soil Science quite tough going, mainly because of the technical parts. ‘It is also very time consuming, especially because of the group work. Most of my fellow students are from abroad and some of them don’t speak English very well. That can make it difficult sometimes. Also, I found it quite strange that while I was doing a very practical study, the first year consisted mainly of theory. The practical part was missing. Most of the work we did was on the computer with simulation programs. This period we finally have a good practical course where we take soil samples and analyse them.’

As the Netherlands is much closer to Germany than South Africa, Tina pays a visit to her family and friends once every two or three months. Between the visits she doesn’t have much contact with them. ‘I always say ‘there is there and gone is gone’.’ After she has finished her masters next year, Tina will go back to Germany, but only for a short time. ‘I will continue travelling, although I haven’t decided which country I’ll go to next.’ / LH

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