Science - April 21, 2005

The Dutch experience / Xu Cheng

‘The wooden shoes, tulips and cheese were the only things I knew about Holland before I came here.’ In the series about expectations and experiences of international students, Wb interviewed Xu Cheng (22) from China. He is a bachelor student of biotechnology.

‘My family thought it was a great opportunity to study in Wageningen. Because they knew that the university is one of the top universities in the world, and that would increase my chances of getting a job later. I also had some friends who where studying abroad and they encouraged me to go.’

Xu Cheng had an idea of the world map. ‘I knew that Holland borders the sea. So I thought it would be much more refreshing than the place I lived, which is 400 km south of Beijing.’

At the beginning of December 2003, Xu came to Wageningen. And of course he encountered some Dutch habits that he didn’t expect. ‘I knew that Dutch people sometimes kiss each other when they meet or when they are at a birthday. But I thought that they only kiss one time. So when I was kissed three times, I was really shocked. Later I understood that this is just normal here.’

There’s also another thing Xu didn’t know about Holland: how much equality there is between boys and girls here. ‘The Dutch girls are very independent. Here, a girl does everything by herself: cooking, moving house, working, repairing a bike, just everything! In China, the boys do more and are a little more powerful than the boys in Holland.’

Where Xu lived in China there’s a one-child-policy. ‘It’s better for the development of the country. Historically, the boys had more chances than the girls. But now there’s a general equality. The girls now have the same rights as the boys. I think that’s a good development.’

Xu is living on a corridor where most of the people are Dutch. ‘It’s nice living on a Dutch corridor. When I get letters from all kinds of organisations they are always in Dutch. So I ask my corridor mates to translate them for me, and they always do. They are very friendly here and they always want to help me or my Chinese friends.’

Dutch food is a thing Xu still isn’t used to. ‘Once a Dutch friend laughed when he saw I was eating potatoes with rice. He said: you don’t eat potatoes with rice, you eat them as a main dish. I had to laugh too, because I didn’t know they were so important.’ / RK

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