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All Abroad! Dutch similarities

Follow the relay of UCPH exchange students as they narrate tales from abroad. Seventh stop, Leiden University, the Netherlands

Living in the Netherlands is in many ways similar to living in Denmark and there are few major cultural differences. That being said, I have learned a lot about the Dutch culture and the cultures of the international students I have met at the university.

The Dutch are very direct and love to complain about the weather, and even being Danish I can say that I am surprised by how often it rains; I learned to always have an umbrella close by.

A large proportion of people living in Leiden are students and it reflects on the city. There are students everywhere and there are many options for doing sports and joining clubs at the university.

The university life

Studying in Leiden is mostly similar to studying at the the University of Copenhagen. For some of my classes attendance is mandatory and for one course I have to hand in a paper every Friday.

The work you do throughout the semester makes up a part of your final grade, so the law library really has become my second home. The study load does, however, seem to vary considerably depending on the subject and the courses you take. If you study law The Hague is just 12 minutes away, allowing you to go to an afternoon hearing at the International Court of Justice.

Meeting Dutch students has proved to be hard. Most of my classes are comprised of international students and in Leiden the fraternities are very active among the Dutch students.

The city life

Leiden is very beautiful for its windmills, canals and flowers in every lamppost. Twice a week there is a market along one of the main canals, providing a chance to buy fresh stroopwaffles – Dutch caramel waffles that I have learned to love. Another traditional Dutch dish is raw herring with onions and white bread. I still have not dared tasting it, but I will before I go back.

Every year on October 3rd Leiden celebrates Ontzet – the city’s liberation from the Spanish Siege in 1574. This year it was on a Saturday and for once the weather was great allowing for great celebration with people dancing on closed off canals.

Being abroad has by far exceeded my expectations. You can suddenly find yourself going on a one-day trip to Delft with people you only met the day before. As an international student you are never bored: Amsterdam is 35 minutes away, there is probably a festival close by and everyone is keen on exploring and making new friends.

I have learned a lot of not only Dutch culture but of the cultures of the international students I have meet in Leiden and this has forced me to reflect on Danish culture and society in ways and to a degree I had not foreseen. It has been a rich experience and I would recommend everyone to go abroad.

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