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Typical NL: Extremely well organised

Coming from a German university, I was initially surprised to see how organised and efficient everything at UM is. You might not believe me, but compared to other European universities, Maastricht is bliss. Students here tend to complain if they have to wait a few weeks to get their exam results. I graduated recently from a Belgian university and was told that I would have to wait approximately six months (!) to receive my degree certificate because "it needs to be signed by the rector, and he is a busy man".

Sometimes, Dutch efficiency goes a bit too far though; for example, when initiatives for cooperation between faculties fail because the one faculty would have to pay the other faculty for the use of their resources. Shouldn't there be more cooperation inside the same institution? At first I thought that such incidents would be caused by UM's devotion to economics, but no, I’ve discovered that efficiency is something typically Dutch. Yes, even I as a German think so.

Sometimes this is great! For example, the DigID system which allows you to interact with official institutions from the comfort of your own home is a wonderful system. I love it. The problems start, however, if your issue can't be solved online or on the phone. For the sake of efficiency, everything in the Netherlands is centralised. These information centres, however, are all located somewhere far, far away. When I came to live here and registered at the city hall, I was asked to also register at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which is located in The Hague. If you want to get a citizen service number (formerly the sofi number) you have to drive to Heerlen. If you need to solve an urgent issue with the IB-Group you have to go all the way to Sittard. And I bet there are more examples I just haven’t encountered yet. It's always the same: sit on the train for 30 minutes (or more), wait for 30 minutes, have a 5-minute appointment, then wait for the next train until you can come all the way back. How can you call that efficient?

There must be some reason other than efficiency for these centres, and I know what it is: Yes, it's fun and exciting to live in a foreign country, but how often do you actually visit other places? A trip to Amsterdam maybe, or Brussels, or Cologne, but how much of the Netherlands do you see while studying here? Exactly! That's why the Dutch government has come up with these provincial centres. They’re an invitation to foreign students: look, there’s more to the Netherlands than Maastricht – go and visit these places, discover, explore! It's the only logical explanation I can think of.


Tim Aretz



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