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"I was twenty minutes late and had to pay 52 euros"

Yes, he owns a Volkswagen (“together with my brother and sister, it’s a Passat”) and yes, like most German students, he has parking problems. After two parking tickets (“I was 20 minutes late and had to pay €52”) he has now found a secret parking place for his VW.

For free? “I’m not sure, it’s in front of a house, but at the moment I don’t pay anything.”

A half-German/half-Swiss first-year bachelor’s student of European Studies, still lives in his hometown Aachen, but is searching for a room in Maastricht. “More passively than actively”, he laughs.

Orange is a typical Dutch colour. Do you know why? He is thinking really hard. “Wait”, he says, “we heard something about it in a lecture – it’s got to do with his­tory. But I can’t remember what it was.”

Willem van Oranje maybe? A bell is ringing in his head, but not loudly enough.

Never seen a Dutch fan of the national soccer team? Okay, now we’re talking, he seems to think: “Last summer I was in Switzerland, in Basel. It was during the European championships. It was great, the whole city was orange. I didn’t see a single hooligan. The Dutch were really peaceful, had a lot of fun. I think Basel was glad it was home to the Dutch and not to the Germans.”

Cheap coffee and petrol, and the best Carnival gear. He lives in Aachen and thinks it’s an advantage to live close to the Dutch–German border. His mum always goes to the Dutch supermarket just across the border (“something like C1000?”), and he knows the way to the Maastricht coffeeshops. Not that he smokes a lot of pot – on the contrary. But every time friends from far away pay him a visit he has to take them to the famous coffeeshops. Smiling: “Oh no, now I can’t show this article to my mum!” Or he takes them to Amsterdam. “An Italian friend that I met on my trip to Australia was eager to visit the capital of the Netherlands; he had heard so much about the red light district and the coffeeshops.”

Do you know the name of the Dutch Queen? Silence.

You don’t read the tabloids at the hairdresser’s? “No.” Puzzling. “Oh yes, I did know this, of course – Beatrix.”

Have you met a Dutch student lately?

“Yes, just today in the library at the copy machine. But we talked in English. I don’t speak Dutch but I’ll probably start to study it next year.”

Do you have a favourite Dutch singer or musician?

“I really like the house music they play here, but I couldn’t name a favourite DJ from the Netherlands. Anyway, clubbing in Maastricht is cool – I always have a lot of fun when I go out here.”

 

Jessica Bucher

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