This blog story is especially written for all the new incoming international students this semester. But it is also full of funny recognizable items for students who already spent some time here. A while ago you decided to go on exchange in Utrecht. A good choice of course, since this city is an underestimated hidden treasure of the Netherlands. Well, as you might know, we Dutchies are quite organized and we like to plan ahead. Far ahead. There is a Dutch saying ‘Een goede voorbereiding is het halve werk.’ [in English: Being well-prepared is half the work.] Which means that if you’re well-prepared for something, the actual task is not going to be too hard. That’s exactly why I want to share some preparation tips for your exchange here in Utrecht. What should or shouldn’t you bring? What is essential to know before arrival?
It happens to everyone: half the stuff you packed goes back home unused while you miss a lot of items which you didn’t bring. Some clothing advice will prevent this. And no, I’m not going to tell you to bring clothes for every kind of weather. It’s truth though, but obvious for the Dutch climate. No, I want to tell you that the dress code for most of the clubs here is ‘casual’. No need for fancy dresses and neat trousers. Speaking of dresses; make sure you’re able to cycle in them. If not, you probably won’t wear it very often during your stay in Utrecht since everything is done by bike (going to university, going grocery shopping and going out at night). To finish up the clothing subject: let’s talk about shoes. The streets –literally- are to be found one of the most women-unfriendly streets. Why? Because the paving exist of really small stones in with you can get stuck very easily with high heels. Funny if you realize the city is known as a female city among students since there are more female than male students.
Maybe even more important than physical items are the mental things. What is the fundamental foreknowledge to make your arrival in Utrecht easier? In the paragraph above is already mentioned we Dutchies do everything by bike, also doing grocery shopping. So let’s focus on that. The most common supermarket is the Albert Heijn. I’m not going to ramble on about groceries. Just watch this video of comedian John Fealey about shopping at Albert Heijn for the full pre-Holland experience.
In addition to this video I have to mention: nowadays you don’t have to price your vegetables and fruits anymore at the Albert Heijn, but at some others you do. You still have to put it in the bags yourself and you have the opportunity to weigh the items.
Besides the daily routines there are plenty of holidays in the Netherlands. Probably one of the most known holiday is Queenday [in Dutch: Koninginnedag]. Listen to John Fealey one more time in attempt to understand the true spirit of Queensday.
For this video I also have an additional comment: since 2014 we celebrate King’s Day [in Dutch: Koningsdag] instead of Queensday, because we have a king, Willem-Alexander, now. This holiday is celebrated on the actual birthday of the king, April 27th. So no more confusing stories about the birthday of the –by now- grandmother of the king. Fact remains that whenever this holiday is on a Sunday, it will be moved to the day before. Which had as result that the very first King’s Day was on April 26th 2014. Very very confusing for all the tourist. Most of them didn’t even know Queensday switched to King’s Day, let alone that they knew King’s Day was celebrated a day earlier. Oh those Dutchies…