Wednesday, October 5, 2011

First, some culture.

Wow! So things are finally starting to get busy. I find myself not having as much time to sit around as I did in the beginning. But luckily I have notebooks so I can write things down here or there so I wont forget. I think I'm finally used to how things are here, because I've gotten used to the biking to and from school, and going to class and everything. It no longer seems strange. It's still exciting, but now its getting nicer. I also have found a girl to bike to and from school on some days, which will be really nice because being alone isn't as fun on a bike.

So this post is going to be about some culture differences. First off I have to start by saying that this post is inspired by the other day when talking to my host mom. I was talking about the senior exhibit process at FA (if you don't know what that is there is an older post about it) And she suggested that cultural differences would be a really interesting area for my learning activity.

Now, when you think of the Netherlands and the United States, at first you wouldn't think that there would be really THAT many differences right? I mean yeah okay they bike everywhere, but table manners are universal right? Uhh, no. wrong. wrong wrongy wrong. Table manners are one of the things where we have found the most differences. Now, it's not that I have bad table manners or anything, American's just have these typical manners that the Dutch (and most of Europe) do not have.

This is not off topic, its part of the story. The other day Hans and Andrea went for a walk and saw some friends of theirs. Now these friends have an American daughter in law. And they got to talking and mentioned how they have an American living in their house for a year, etc. And Andrea asked if they could tell them about some cultural differences they had noticed. The humor here will be lost, but only because you all back home won't realize you do these "habits" without noticing... But Hans and Andrea found it hilarious that these people were listing things I do.
Number 1. Eating without a knife. When we eat, we use our knife to cut things, and then set it back down. The Dutch use their knife to move food onto their fork, and it remains in their hands at all times and is never set down.
2. Keeping hands on the table when eating. In America, generally when we eat we tend to leave one hand on our lap. This is usually the hand that is holding the napkin (the Dutch also do not put their napkins on their laps, and it is not considered rude if you leave it on the table). So when we're eating, our knife is on the plate and we are using one hand.
Weird to think that you do that isn't it? And those were the two main things that the friends with the American daughter in law said. The other day in a movie, Andrea even noticed that a shrink was eating EXACTLY LIKE THAT!! With his hand on his lap and only with the fork.

Then there's one other thing we do. Closing the door when people leave. Now, this is different for every household in America I think, but in my family we do it on occasion, unless the dog goes outside, then everybody goes outside. So, in America, when people leave your house you most likely say your goodbyes in the house, they walk out the door and you close it. MOST TIMES!! not always, I will admit. BUT in the Netherlands, when people leave, you walk with them to their car, and wave until you absolutely can not even see their car anymore. I do like this method a lot better though, I find it very sweet.

So now this blog post is going to get a bit unorganized because I don't know how to organize these thoughts. But Anne-Claire and I went to Amsterdam on Saturday with AFS, and we had a wonderful day with all of the exchange students. I will try to upload some pictures and do a nice blog soon. But I think it was really nice for her to have the same experience with all of the kids that I did when I came back from the Orientation camp a few weeks ago. So look for that soon.

Now onto random observations:

1 The Weather
So yes, Dutch people love to complain about the weather, but for some strange reason we just went through an entire week that it was hot!! We're talking high 70's here. And that doesn't make any sense to me at all! It didn't rain at all that week, and here I was expecting to be wearing sweaters and all of these WARM clothes by now. That's a no... It is a lot cooler this week, but still no rain yet.. It's coming though...

2 Bikes and Biking
Obviously biking is a very important part of most everyone's life, unless you own a Vespa. But when you bike all the time, you get quite good at it. So good, its almost graceful. This applies to getting off of a bike, starting a bike, and riding on the back of someone's bike.

When dutch people get off of their bike, they don't brake to get off of it. They simply swing one leg over, keep the other one on the pedal and step onto the ground, bike still going. This has taken me a LONG time to learn, but I'm a lot better at it now, while I couldn't do it at all the first month. Starting a bike is the same process as getting off of it, except in reverse. They can ride their bikes on only one foot, and then go from standing to sitting while still moving. The final graceful thing is riding on the back of a bike. When girls ride on the back of a bike (usually it is behind a guy, but sometimes behind a girl too) the bike starts moving before they sit on it. I have no idea how this works at all, but I have yet to see this process fail. And then they sit peacefully on the back of the bike, either sideways or forwards sitting like it is not a big deal at all that two people are on one bike.

Now the next part of biking applies to temperature and biking. I don't know how kids and adults bike to school in many layers in the morning. Every morning biking to school I always get really really hot! Almost to the point that I feel sweaty, so usually I don't wear a jacket, or take it off. And I go by these ladies on their bikes wearing warm coats or scarves or whatever warm thing it is, and they don't look even a bit warm! But I almost always have to push up the sleeves on my jacket or take it off.

This brings me to another point. They can ride their bikes without hands. I have only also just recently managed to do this. And even then, I can't do it all the time. Although taking off a jacket causes lots of swerving on the road. And that's yet another point about biking. The dutch can bike in perfectly straight, perfect lines. This I can not do at all. And it makes me look like a horrible bike rider because I'm always swerving a little bit, especially when going up hill.

So those are just some little things going on. Also that I signed up for a school trip to go to Berlin, Dresden and Prague in the spring and I'm really excited for that! I don't know anybody else who is going yet, but by that time I will speak dutch and can get to know other people on the trip. I'm also going to Dusseldorf, which is a very famous Christmas city in Germany. We're going to go there with school one Saturday in December. I'm also very excited for this. Soo I think that's it for now. So just keep reading my blogg!! :)

1 comment:

  1. So great to "see" you yesterday! Thanks to Emma for bringing you to me! For starters, I find it funny that I asked you questions nearly exactly tied to what you had written on this blog. That means two things: one, I need to get to your blog more, and two, you and I think alike :)

    This record of cultural differences is a great start for thinking through your SE. Keep up the list. The next step will then be thinking what you want to do with this new knowledge. Do you want to study other cultures and see if you can discern differences (like a research study)? This would be practicing the skills you are gaining in observation. Do you wan to bring some culture things back with you and try to have them take root at your home/FA/somewhere? Do you want to study more about why cultures develop the way they do -- the reasons behind why people do what they do?

    These are just some ideas off the top of my head. I will see you back here soon!