As this is my last column I thought I’d share a few lessons that I have learnt while living here these past nine months. Firstly, cycling is not just popular in the Netherlands it’s a way of life for the Dutch. I have seen a cyclist ride while carrying groceries and texting at the same time, 4 year olds out of training wheels ride within the cycling lane on a main road and dogs strapped to the back of panniers chilling while their owners chauffeur them throughout the city. All over the world, Holland is lauded for its cycle-centric culture. Here I was thinking it was because the Netherlands was trying to be environmentally friendly. Nup, turns out they’re just lazy. I’ve seen one dutchman abandon his bicycle in the middle of the street after his wheel burst rather than try pushing it.
Secondly, Australians (like myself) are impatient. One of my first memories of Maastricht is being given a ten minute break during class and thinking how great of an idea it would be to spend that time getting coffee. I race to Coffee-Lovers cafe and can't believe my luck. Only four people in front of me in line! Flash-forward twenty minutes later and I'm handed a coffee that would have only taken ten minutes in Sydney. Dear Coffee-Lovers: I understand that sometimes you're understaffed but using the two people you do have to take turns writing down orders and then make the coffee is so frustrating to this Australian, I would rather watch one server take my order, make it and then drink the order right in front of me all the while making awkward eye contact.
Last, but certainly not least: one language is not enough. Before I came to the Netherlands I knew Europeans were often bi-lingual. However, I had no idea they were more likely to be polylingual, which is defined as the ability to look down upon the people who only speak two languages as linguistic plebs. Whenever I, apologetically, told these people about my "condition" as a mono-lingual they would look at me sympathetically and then casually mutter, "idiot" in one of the languages I didn't speak. I can only guess that’s what they said though because (Sorry!) I only speak English. I found out that in many European countries, to graduate from high-school, one had to be proficient in English even though it was likely not their first language. In Australia, if somebody becomes fluent in another language we usually ship them off to that country so that we can stop feeling bad about ourselves. Maybe I should finally learn Dutch so that I too can get kicked out of Australia and back into Holland.
Jordan Mullins, alumna UCM