Last August, I moved from the Netherlands to Poland. During my stay here, I noticed some differences between the two cultures. When you arrived, you probably had the same experience, differences between the culture you have lived in and the Polish culture. In this blog, I will share the experiences I had in the last two months.
Probably one of the first things you think of when you think about the Netherlands are bikes. Yes, we do have a lot of them. When I arrived in Warsaw, I noticed that the traffic was a little rougher than in the Netherlands and that there were not many people using a bike and when they did, they were driving on the sidewalk. That made me decide not to buy a bike. Well, I could not keep myself to that promise. One month later, I bought one.
Riding a bike here in Warsaw is a whole new experience. In the Netherlands are nice bike roads and they are currently working on highways for bikes. Here in Warsaw are not that much bike roads and especially not in the area where I live, so that means riding the bike on the sidewalk or on the road. When you have a bike here, it is a smart idea to ride it on the sidewalk, because the cars will probably hit you.
For my fellow Erasmus students was me riding a bike a whole experience. They were surprised that I went to parties by bike. They were especially worried about me getting drunk and not being able to go back home by bike. Well, I am Dutch and when I am drunk, I am better able to bike than walking.
Honestly, I am not planning to get really drunk. The problems I have is that there are not many places to store my bike. A simple solution is placing your bike at a traffic sign and tie it on the pole of the sign.
Even the traffic is maybe not that bike-friendly to you, I can recommend you get a bike. It is an easy way of getting on your destination. Most important: you can go wherever you want whenever you want. Even when you go out is it a good idea to have one but be careful not to get too drunk and cause accidents.
In every country you go, you will find different kinds of food than you are used to. For me, in Poland, it is the same. Especially, in supermarkets. There I found out that we Dutch people are so spoiled. We have all kinds of pre-cut vegetables and potatoes, so when you buy it you only have to throw it in the pan, oven or fryer and you are as good as finished cooking. Even my international friend called me a spoiled European kid and yes, she is right. We also have packages with spice mixes for a lot of dishes, so you can see we are spoiled and lazy in the area of cooking. In Poland, you will not find a lot of these things. I learned here to actually cook by myself. I kind of enjoy it, sometimes I wish it could go a little faster, but it is fine. Google is really helpful for finding recipes or my mom, she gave a recipe for an oven-dish and for mushed potatoes.
I tried to learn the Polish language in August, so I would be able to understand and speak a little Polish. My Polish is not good enough to understand a lot of things that will be told or is noted on papers which are hanging on a lot of shop doors. So, for me, language is here a big problem, because everything is in Polish, which is logical. Sadly, in most cases, there is no English translation, if you are lucky there is a Russian translation, but I do not speak Russian. I try to continue learning the language and every day I learn something new. This is an advice I give to you: try to learn the language, because it is really helpful.
We all have a certain image of people coming from different countries, so do people have an image of the Netherlands. During the introduction week, I heard a lot of pre-judges about my country and I am going to share them with you. The first one has to do with weed. Did you already think about that? Someone asked me if weed was legal in the Netherlands and someone else asked me if it is true that only tourists smoke weed. Well for the first one it is semi-legal (yes our legislation is weird) and for the second one: yes, the most tourists are Germans and English who use, well that is at least what I think. A lot of people told me that they love Amsterdam or that they really want to this city. Personally, I hate Amsterdam, because of the permanent weed smell and the high number of tourists. Believe me, there are much better places to go. During one of the parties, I told a guy I was Dutch, and he replied with: ‘’Luckily you are not German.’’ Uhm okay weird. The best thing someone said to me was about my language, he told me that my language sounds like a drunk Englishman trying to speak German. Even when I write this, I have to laugh about it.
Confusing with Germany
One thing that happens to me a lot is that people think I am German. It does not matter if people are Polish or have another nationality. I always try to explain that I am not, that I am from one of Germany’s small neighbours. People think I am German, because of the language I speak, and maybe the accent too. My roommate thought I was German because I looked German. A little while ago, my parents were visiting me in Warsaw, and we had dinner in a restaurant, and I was talking with my parents and sister in our own language and did some translation to the waiter.
He asked us if we were from Germany. I told him we are from the Netherlands and that German and The Dutch language look a lot like each other, but a German is not able to understand us. So, for him, the languages look the same. He said probably it is the same for you with Russian and Ukrainian language. I told him that I do not have a lot of experience with these languages, but that he probably is right.
I am trying to make clear that I am not German because half of Europe hates Germany. We all know why. People are nicer to you when you are not German that is for me the reason the stress that I am Dutch.
It can be challenging to live in a different country: things you are used to, are now not that common. Even I am still in Europe, I experience a whole different culture, so you do not have to travel to the other side of the world to experience that.