Bikes and furniture
Especially for Germans living close to the Dutch boarder, studying in the Netherlands may appear very appealing. Not only do cities like Maastricht offer an excellent education at (comparatively) low fees for European citizen. But what is more, the home loving German should not be opposed to many cultural differences between the Dutch and the German culture….Should he?
Instead of -again- praising the Netherlands and especially Maastricht for its high level education, this article shall show differences that stand out particularly to German (law) students that moved to Maastricht in order to get a (Master’s) degree. Especially when being used to the German law system there may be a few (humorous) differences that one will probably happen to face when studying in Maastricht. Therefore, if you plan to go to Maastricht pay careful attention, because the following may be relevant for your upcoming experience.
When spending one year in a foreign country for many students learning the local language luckily still ranks as a high priority. In this field the University of Maastricht supports its students and offers free language courses to first year bachelor and master students. Completion of the courses will be awarded with up to an official A2 certificate. So far so good, but isn’t Dutch and German more or less the same? The University even offers courses especially for German speakers, so I probably already inherited the talent for Dutch.
Indeed, many Dutch and German words sound relatively similar. This phenomenon con be observed especially in Limburg (the region in which Maastricht is located), due to the local accent that is even closer to German than Dutch already is. The reality looks a bit different. One of the most well-known differences is the use of “See”, and “Meer”. While in Germany “See” means lake and “Meer” means sea this is completely the opposite in Dutch. The main problem lies somewhere else, namely in words that sound familiar but are written in an, at least for Germans “unique”, way. Many words, even though sounding familiar sometimes are written completely different. Who doesn’t like to listen to music? Luckily the work for music in Dutch sounds very familiar, apart from the fact that you write it “muziek”. Given that there are countless of these words, Dutch should not be underestimated by German natives.
In my point of view the University of Maastricht here provides a very good offer for its students. Nevertheless it should be noted that the courses consume a fair amount of time and only have take a limited number of participants. Even though it is possible to do the course no matter when during the first year, if dropping out it is not allowed to re-register for the courses. So take the offer while keeping this information in mind.
Given that Maastricht is a rather small city in the south, mostly inhabited by students one could get the view that living here might be cheaper than living in bigger cities in Germany. For me the first doubts arose that moment a local student told me that he always drives to Germany, given that stores like Edeka and Rewe are both extremely cheap. A view that can only be supported when taking the view of an Maastricht local, given that these stores are considered to be rather expensive by German locals.
Even though Maastricht has relatively many different stores with both international (e.g. Aldi or Lidl) and national (e.g. Jumbo or Albert Heijn) stores, the prices in general are rather high compared to German supermarkets. This doesn’t only apply to a certain product field, but rather in general. Therefore, when calculating your monthly living costs in advance, keep in mind that grocery shopping may be a bit more expected than what you are used to.
Notwithstanding that the following topic doesn’t fit completely in the field of grocery shopping, I still could not leave one thing unmentioned, given that in my eyes they may be regarded as the Dutch apology for high prices in the Netherlands: All-purpose stores.
As already implied, the Netherlands and especially Maastricht are rather expensive. However, there is a specific type of stores that, at least for many Germans, may be unknown so far. In these stores it is generally possible to purchase everything. And the best thing is that you can purchase it at a rather cheap price. Stores like Action and SoLow offer an immense variety of products that are especially handy when you need everyday objects like kitchen devices, plates, tools or office supplies. What is more, they sell lots of decoration and even cleaning articles and sweets. In general I started to always check these stores before I buy anything somewhere else, because it tends to be way cheaper action or SoLow. In Maastricht you can find Action at three locations and one SoLow directly located in the center.
In Germany it is a trend to complain about to few public holidays. However, taking a look at the Dutch system this trend can only be considered as complaining at a high level. Many famous holidays like the All Saints Day on the first of November or better known as the day after Halloween are not free at all. It therefore may be important to check beforehand if a public holiday is considered as such also in the Netherlands. Nevertheless, this has not yet stopped students in Maastricht from having an amazing party.
Bikes and Furniture
It appears a bit obvious and already over discussed, but still it shall be mentioned shortly also here:. Maastricht is all about bikes. If you manage to live at least close to the city center you can go everywhere in absolutely no time. In order to find furniture and bikes at a decent price it may be helpful to join the various Facebook-groups.(e.g. sharing is caring, but money is money or Free stuff Maastricht) In many of these groups people and especially students post daily what they are offering due to removals or similar. In this regards: remember to check out Action before shopping somewhere else. Also while you are there, buy a big lock for your bike, given that bikes tend to disappear rather often in Maastricht.
Even though not as important as earlier topics as a former German law student it seemed to be necessary to mention given that they are unavoidable, which becomes clear to students starting at least on the first tutorial session. Given the commonness of this learning method it is fairly easy to buy flashcards as you can find them in any papeterie in any size and color for a reasonable price. Therefore Germans may sometimes refer to German papeterie stores as “Flashcard-heaven”.
In the Netherlands the flashcard system is rather unknown. Even though Maastricht may still be considered rather progressive when it comes to international supplies, flashcards still are rather rare to find. Given that only few stores sell these cards (without the support of advertising the store “Post Maastricht” close to the train station has a limited supply of these cards) it is not easy to uphold the German learning tradition.
Concluding to this, if you want to stick to your learning method it is advisable to either bring your own Flashcards, freshly purchased in Flashcard heaven, or to stick to the limited offer of the local stores. Also it may be noted that it always triggers an interesting reaction when explaining the flashcard system to international students.
Studying in the Netherlands surely is a unique and amazing experience and especially the University of Maastricht is supporting its students in a variety of ways by offering many different programs regarding studying but also beyond. In order to make the best of your stay here take some time in advance to consider on how to fill your schedule. Rest assured that there are enough offers that you can choose from. In this regard one last tip is to attend the INCOM week where you will get loads of information on different activities and get to know Maastricht city as well as new people.
I hope that I could give you at least a small impression on some topics that for me seemed rather new and surprising. Of course there is a huge variety of other new and somewhat unexpected experience waiting, but even we Germans don’t like too many spoilers.
Written by Korbinian Zellner