As I began my adventure to the Netherlands to study my Masters I never really understood the massive cultures differences I would face and things I would learn by living in a country that was not my own. I thought since the Dutch spoke perfect English that I would be fine. How naive I now feel.
It was more than just a language barrier but the foods they ate, their lifestyle and their way of doing things. Whilst I had to get used to all the small things, taking my shoes off in the house, eating at 6pm, not being able to find that amazing Melbourne brunch spot. It made me realise it was more than just the Dutch not speaking the same language, it was all the culture differences as well. All the small things I was doing wrong or couldn’t find, reiterated I wasn’t at home and I was in a different country.
One of the biggest problems I had was going to the supermarket. Who knew this could cause the biggest anxiety! I had to remember to take my eco friendly bags otherwise you had to pay. I couldn’t find any of the food I knew or wanted. And paying became one of the most stressful experiences. It suddenly became a race to quickly put the food in the bags, hand my discount tokens while juggling to pay with money I was not accustomed to (so just using notes for about two months) and trying to be as quick as possible while everyone else behind me wondered what this girl was doing. Then the checkout lady would say something to me in dutch and I just nodded my head and said have a nice day. Two months later I realised she was asking if I wanted a receipt.
Living with room mates from other countries constantly showed differences between me and my room mates cultures. We had an extremely different way of doing things. To the foods we ate, what we cooked and the way we lived our lives. I think this would be one of the hardest experiences I have had, trying to adapt to their way of life while being so use to my own. Even cooking for my room mates made me nervous for the first two months. I would have to gear myself up to cook that night and make it a whole afternoon adventure from buying the exact ingredients and making sure no one was home so I could have the time and space to make the meal. I think for the first two months I was the only one eating the food that I had cooked. I remember the biggest compliment I had was last week when I saw the pan was empty from my cooking. Success! I had finally mastered something they liked. To be honest I hadn’t really liked the meal I had cooked but I knew it was something they would eat, so that was enough.
While at times I felt like this experience was a bad decision and I emailed my best friend asking how I would survive and thinking all her advice sounded like crap. I know I have become a stronger person from this experience and learnt so much about myself and the people around me. Even though I have travelled and backpacked around the world, living somewhere with real commitments of study makes travel completely different.
Besides all these struggles I can see improvements in myself and know I have developed into a better person from all of this. I believe these struggles and experiences are necessary for everyone to have. In the end they make you a better person ready to take on anything. Sometimes you just need a little bit of time to get use to everything, even if it means hating it for a while!