It’s true, I do miss chicken salt. Europe is obsessed with putting mayo on their chips, which is fine, but it’s no chicken salt. Just needed to get that off my chest.
I’ve been living in Utrecht for almost 2 months now, which means a lot has happened since my last article. I’ve gotten used to riding my bike on the wrong/right side of the road with 100s of other people, and I’m on a 40-day streak on Duolingo for my Dutch.
In a few days I have my first exam, as the average Utrecht student does 2 subjects per term (rather than 4 subjects a semester). That means while everyone back home is cramming for their end of semester exams and pulling all-nighters to finish their last essay, I’m doing the exact same thing. For my 100% exam (send help and coffee for this one), I have learnt the basics of Dutch history and the Dutch legal system in only 6 weeks. Being a civil law system (as opposed to the common law systems of the UK, the US and Australia), it actually has been relevant to my studies and quite interesting, despite some of the doubts some Australian friends have expressed. My other course that’s wrapping up is International Organized Crime (sounds much more interesting, right??), which has also opened my eyes to all sorts of things, especially the importance of the relations between European countries – did you realise that Germany borders 9 other countries? And that the port of Rotterdam is one of the primary transit points for smuggling operations? Lowkey this paragraph might be a bit of exam study… and this whole article could be exam procrastination.
To keep myself busy in addition to my 6 contact hours per week (sorry to rub it in to the students back home), I’ve picked up a few extra-curricular activities. On a Wednesday evening, I bus out to my beginner’s course for horse-riding! After that I sometimes head out to the Utrecht Netball Club, one of two in the Netherlands. I’ve also tried my hand at korfball, a sport like netball (but not if you ask the Dutch).
The Dutch people themselves are incredible – the stereotype is that they’re tall, very direct, tolerant and are quite stingy with their money/time/personal space etc. This has been largely true, but generally they’re very warm and welcoming. Also, not all of them are tall, to the disappointment of some of my single friends.
Overall, this city is “gezellig” – an untranslatable Dutch word for all things positive, cosy, convivial; just for general good vibes. It’s been good to me so far, but it will be interesting to see what happens as the weather gets colder and the rain gets harder. I suppose if it gets too bad, I can just jump across the border to somewhere? Such a foreign concept for an Australian, a few weekends ago I was in Copenhagen, and the weekend before that was Brussels, this weekend is Switzerland – all just a bus ride away!