ITC is a multicultural environment to study in. People of different nationalities and cultural backgrounds walk through the halls of the ITC building every day. For many of them it's the first time in the Netherlands, and some of them experienced cultural shock when they first arrived. Read the short stories below to find out how international students experience the Dutch culture.
Lydia Bakecura - Uganda "The first shock was of course the weather. I have never experienced winter before. There is a huge difference between the Netherlands and Uganda if it comes to relationships among people, especially neighbors. In my culture, it is completely natural to know all your neighbors. I know absolutely everybody in my village. People are brought up to get to know people around them and to help each other. Neighbors are almost considered extended family. Here you can live next to somebody for years and not know them at all. Another shock was related to cycling. Dutch people are famous for their bikes, but I was still surprised to see that everybody cycles – men, women, children. Where I come from, women are not supposed to ride a bike. The attitude towards religion is also different here. Going to church is not really important for most people. It took me a while to get used to that."
Matthew Dimal - Phillippines "I have lived in different countries in the past so there was no huge shock. what I noticed though, is the fact that Dutch people, especially women, seem to be more confident and independent They are free to do anything they like. Dutch society truly celebrates equality and diversity and it is very open, accepting and tolerant. That applies to everything - religion included. Church communities here are much smaller in size, but they are more open-minded if it comes to religious freedom. And to mention something specific - there are some social rules that are different from Asia. For example, if it comes to food. In Asia, you simply put snacks on the table an people can take as much as they like. Here, it is impolite to eat more than one cookie unless the host offers it to you."
Amy Lynne Butler - USA "I have been coming to the Netherlands for about 4 years, but I still remember things that I thought were strange at first. There are many subtle social differences. Dutch people are generally more honest and less dramatic than Americans. They are also a bit more open towards strangers – for example, it is normal to greet people you don’t know on the street or in a doctor’s office. This might be related to the sense of security. There is a high crime rate in USA and people are generally more cautious. Also, Dutch people are very tolerant and open-minded, for example if it comes to minorities or gay people. Not to forget, Dutch people seem to be much closer to their families and they visit each other all time."
Jelena Marjanovic - Serbia "I was expecting a big cultural shock when I first arrived, but I was surprised with how similar the culture and people are here. I expected everybody to be cold and introverted, but Dutch people are very friendly and open towards others. That might have something to do with the big amount of foreigners that live in the Netherlands. I’d never seen so many people from so many different parts of the world at one place before. That is not common in Serbia. However, if I had to point out the main difference between the Netherlands and Serbia, it would be the sense of humor. I can’t make the same jokes as I would make back home, because people might not understand them."
Kunal Sood - India "I was a bit surprised with how the local people reacted to me as a foreigner. I expected them to keep their distance, but everybody has been very friendly and welcoming. Dutch people are generally warm and accepting towards others. What I like about the Dutch society is the fact that everybody seems to spend a lot of time with their families, especially during weekends and evenings. At 6 pm everything stops and everybody goes home for a family dinner. On the other hand, formalities, such as making an appointment, seem to take much longer here. Everything has its specific rules, you need to follow them and getting anything done takes a long time."
Jorge Eduardo Morales Maldonaldo - Guatemala "People from Guatemala have a western mind set, and so I didn’t feel any major difference between ours and Dutch culture. However, I found it – and I still find it – difficult to obtain practical information, for example about public transport. People are not always willing to explain how things work and only refer me to a website or a document. I also think the attitude towards religion is a bit different here. For instance, using churches for public events seems a bit odd to me. On a positive note, there is an incredible public order and security in the Netherlands. I’m actually not sure what police officers do here! Everybody seems to follow the rules and respect others."