We’re already almost a week into our time here, which is crazy. We’ve been busy overcoming illnesses and jet lag, going to orientations and meetings, and getting acquainted with our new home. I’m happy to say that my cold is finally clearing up, and I had a wonderful night’s sleep last night.
The first few days we were here it was sunny and gorgeous outside. Winter here is…quite nice. It’s been 40’s and 50’s this whole week, even when it’s raining. Yesterday and today have been rainy days, but it’s still pretty here even when it’s raining. It definitely doesn’t bring me down, and it doesn’t bring the Dutch down either.
Everyone moves very fast here, no matter what the weather is like, and no matter what time it is. You always have to be paying attention. People on foot seem to have the right of way. You kind of just have to start walking across the street, and any bikers or motorists on the move just stop for you (or drive around you). If you wait for an opening in traffic, you most likely won’t ever move. It’s definitely taking some getting used to.
Things move just as quickly at grocery stores. If you’re stopped in the middle of an aisle, no one has any problem with reaching in front of you to grab what they need. You have to be bagging your groceries as the cashier is ringing up your items, and your wallet better already be out when they tell you what you owe.
Most people here do speak English, but they will speak to you in Dutch until you indicate that you don’t understand. The community here is very diverse. There is no “Dutch look.” It’s really quite special. So, unless I’m acting super American, I can pass as a normal Dutch girl.
A few of us have been trying to learn some Dutch. We’ve got some basic phrases down. Hello, goodbye, please, thank you, etc. We were told it was more polite to ask if we can speak English first than it is to just start talking to people in English. So, the other day when I became desperate enough to buy cough medicine, I went to the store and asked, “Kan ik engels spreken? (Can I speak English?)” I was praying that Google hadn’t failed me, and it didn’t! The nice lady at the store said yes and I told her what I was looking for. She asked me a couple questions about my symptoms and sold me some cough medicine. I was so sick, and I was so happy about how incredibly kind and helpful she was that I was near tears as I left the store.
Yesterday we had our orientation, which was actually pretty fun. We got a really awesome tour of Leiden, and I found so many more places that I want to go to. I finally tried this coffee place that our living coordinator described as, “The best coffee in Europe.” The coffee was indeed delicious, but I’ll have to try some others before I agree with his description. We also met many of our fellow students. They are from all over the world. Mexico, France, Ukraine, Greece, Spain, Thailand, you name it. Some of them speak five languages. The amount of culture I am surrounded with is incredible, and I am so excited to be able to meet so many different people.
Orientation ended with a little gathering at an Italian restaurant. Webster reserved a private area in the upstairs portion of the restaurant, complete with snacks and an open bar. Yes, we had an open bar at our orientation. No big deal. I finally tried Heineken, which is everywhere here. It’s basically the equivalent of Budweiser in the States. The difference being that the Heineken was delicious and Budweiser is gross.
Tomorrow we’re going to check out the Saturday farmer’s market, which features tons of vendors selling all kinds of food and goods. We’re especially excited about the fresh produce we’ve heard about. Then, classes start Monday. I’m actually pretty excited to meet my teachers and classmates. I’m not excited for homework, but it’s a small price to pay for this adventure that I’m on 🙂