"Gerard Mols? Can I have more hints?"


Spreek je Nederlands? Paul Gebhardt, a German master’s student of Financial Economics, laughs. “Ja, een beetje.” He did a Dutch course in the first year of his bachelor’s programme, he says – a little uncertainly – in Dutch. And last summer he picked it up again. “I had a job interview in Amsterdam and thought it would be good if I could speak Dutch more fluently.” He continues in English: “My Dutch friends don’t speak Dutch with me – if you’re in a hurry, for example, it’s not convenient. And when I go to Albert Heijn in Maastricht everybody speaks English. In France you can learn French more easily because nobody speaks English. In Spain it’s the same. Maybe it’s easier in Amsterdam? You don’t think so?”

Met a Dutch student lately? “Of course, I met some today in class. Our group is very mixed, some Dutch, Germans, people from Eastern Europe, a guy from Australia.”

What’s your favourite programme on Dutch television? He smiles broadly: “Top Gear. It’s on Veronica; it’s subtitled because it’s from the BBC. I try to read the subtitles.”

His favourite Dutch movie? Gebhardt has to think really hard. “That strange family who lives in a wealthy house, with a cigar-smoking mama, a son in an American car … Flodders. Most Germans think it’s a German movie. You have these kinds of families everywhere.” He has also seen the first five minutes of Geert Wilders’s Fitna. “Wilders is a right-wing politician, and I thought his film about Islam was too biased. I’ve also seen a movie by the Dutch director who was killed on the street in Amsterdam. Yes, Theo van Gogh.”

What about Dutch pop bands? Laughing again: “I have to be careful. My answer would be: are there any? It’s the same as with Flodders – you often think it’s British or German. Just like Philips. Every German thinks it’s a German company. It’s their marketing strategy.” Then: “André Rieu I know. It’s not pop and it’s not really my kind of music, but maybe next year I will see his concert at the Vrijthof. I saw it on television and people seemed to be having fun.”

Who is Gerard Mols? “Can I have more hints?” He has something to do with the board of the university. “Wasn’t he minister of education and now dean of my faculty? Oh no, our dean is the guy with the curly hair, Jos Lemmink.” No, Mols was not part of the government. “Of course – the minister was Jo Ritzen, I knew that, you can’t write that I didn’t! Is Gerard Mols the major of Maastricht?” No, he is the rector of Maastricht University. “When he reads this, I can forget about an academic career.”


Riki Janssen

Loraine Bodewes Fotografie

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