I keep writing about law school related stuff, but this blog is directed at international students who, besides choice in university, will also want to learn about the many features of Dutch culture and customs. There are great resources available on other sites and I am sure the UU has some information available that I do not know about, but here is my take on it.
Like most major cities, you can get almost anywhere in Utrecht by using the public transportation system. However, Holland is unique in that most people use a bicycle instead. Looking at our infrastructure, it becomes pretty obvious that the city is used to a lot of people using their bikes as transportation. Bicycles are such a common sight in the Netherlands that they are the first thing most foreign students notice when they come here. They also notice that bicycles tend to pay no attention to the rules and go wherever they please. When crossing the street, pay special attention to them.
The Netherlands cannot boast about their food like France or Italy can. We do however have some special products you will most likely encounter when visiting. We have amazing cheeses and some special sweets and not-so-sweets. Very special though is a place we call a ‘snackbar’. It is similar to a fast food restaurant, but other countries do not really have an equivalent as far as I know. Basically, you got there and give your order, after which it is all deep-fried. Obviously you can get fries there, but also deep-fried breaded chicken, breaded ragout, breaded cheese, breaded anything. Also, something we call a frikandel.
We also have a few ‘weird’ celebrations that are not celebrated in other countries. The two most iconic are queen’s day, where everyone gets drunk, wears orange, and celebrates the queen’s mother’s birthday as if it were her own (the humor is not lost on us), while the other is St. Nick’s day, where everyone eats candy, sings songs, exchanges cheap home-made presents and praises a Santa look-alike.
One other thing that you are bound to notice is that almost everyone is willing to speak your language. Dutch people pride themselves with their language skills and love showing them off. As such, a large portion of the population speaks a decent amount of French, German, Italian and Spanish and almost everyone can speak English. Nine times out of ten if you ask a question in English to Dutch people, they will understand you perfectly.