Daily Life in Groningen and Culture Shock by Lydia Klumb

Moving to Europe for 6 months is no small feat. There are bags to pack, flights to catch, and living accommodations to secure. If all of that weren’t enough, a completely different country means different cultures and customs you aren’t used to. Personally, I was expecting much more of a culture shock than I experienced when moving to the Netherlands.

For the most part, life in Groningen, Netherlands is fairly similar to how it had been in Charleston. I wake up, get ready, go to class, study, do homework, and hang out with friends. My experience with culture shock was never one big thing, but a series of small things that added up. Things like switching to a new time zone and jet lag, using euros instead of dollars, walking and biking everywhere instead of using cars, temperature in Celsius not Fahrenheit everything being in military time, people speaking Dutch to you before switching to English after learning you don’t understand them, having more bikes on the road than cars, and much colder weather than the sunny, blue skies of Charleston. There are a few things that I still haven’t quite gotten used to during my time here, such as the school system and the time difference between here and home.

The Dutch school system is what I would consider the largest culture shock I have experienced here so far. It is completely different from the American school system. My semester is split into two “blocks”, with three courses per block. The grading system is on a scale of 1-10 instead of A-F. The lectures are 2 hours long instead of one hour. Perhaps the largest, and most challenging, difference between the two is that for all of my classes so far, I only have one grade, my final exam. There are no essays, no homework assignments, no tests, quizzes, projects, group work, nothing until the final exam. As you can imagine, this is quite intimidating, and it’s hard to feel prepared for a test that will make or break your entire grade. It is completely unexpected, but I miss having homework and tests that could pad my final grade a bit and put less pressure on the final exams.

The second largest difference between the Netherlands and the US is the time difference. Groningen is 6 hours ahead of Charleston. This means that I can’t communicate with family or friends until after 1pm at the earliest, and they can’t communicate with me after 5pm. Most of the time, when I am talking to my family I am getting ready to go to sleep and the sun hasn’t even set. Since I am an out of state student, it isn’t that different having to communicate with my family through the phone and not seeing them for months at a time, but there is a difference between knowing that they are just a few hours away by car and knowing that they are 8 hours away by plane.

Ultimately, I have had an AMAZING experience in Europe so far, and can’t wait for the months to come. The culture shock was nowhere near as prominent as I was expecting, and for the most part my daily routine is similar to back home. However, I now have the added benefit of being in an adorable Dutch town, surrounded by students my age, and with the ability to travel to entirely different countries for a weekend trip. I couldn’t be happier, and I already know that this experience will be something I will never forget.

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