9th - 16th April
As well as this we had the opportunity to attend the carnival celebrations during Spring break. For weeks before we were due to get off we had heard about these celebrations, our lecturers had told us about the costumes they were making and the plans that were being made. I had really no idea what was entailed but eager to embrace all opportunities of particpating in Dutch culture we headed off for the day to Den Bosch to see what all the hype was about. I can definitely say I was not disappointed, the streets were packed to capacity with people all dressed in outrageous costumes and in a very jolly mood. Apparently there is a ‘Carnival Committee’ set up every year whose sole aim is to stop anybody from being serious during carnival time. Looking back it was a great day, there was a brilliant atmosphere, parades on the streets to keep us entertained, brass bands playing music and to add to it it was the first proper day of sunshine.
As well as this there have been many smaller yet prominent aspects of Dutch culture that have both surprised me and made me reflect on our culture back at home. The Dutch greet people they know well with three kisses alternating on both cheeks. At first I must say I was quite taken back seeing this! I realised how reserved we are back home with a hug being the closest contact and that only being with a person you know very well. Having become more accustomed to this greeting and having the opportunity to experience it when saying my last goodbye to my teacher on teaching practice I must admit it is very personal and nice. In saying this I don’t think it is something I will take home with me, I can’t imagine my friends taking kindly to it at all!
In saying this there are certain aspects of Dutch culture I have been quite shocked with. I have come to realise that the Irish are generally very polite and mannerly people when it comes to interacting with others. In supermarkets when a new till opens, people don’t allow those in the front of the queue who have waited the longest to go to it. Instead it’s a case of whoever gets there first, I’d say my face was priceless the first time I seen this happening. As well as this I have noticed people don’t hold the door open for you or stand back and let someone else through the door. Personally I think these are simple gestures that add to a culture of people. Even though I have come to participate fully in the Dutch culture, I haven’t let the Irish side down; we are still as polite and mannerly as ever!
Personally I am really enjoying participating in another culture; it is definitely a learning curve. There are things which I will take back with me when I leave The Netherlands but there are other aspects I won’t be adopting. What John Abbott says is true of me having experienced many cultures on this Erasmus experience. He states “Every man’s ability may be strengthened or increased by culture.” My knowledge has been broadened and I am open to new ways of participating in society. As I have said I feel like I have become a part of the culture, one could compare this with the words of Marcel Proust, seeing with new eyes. I feel with this broader outlook it will benefit me as a teacher in including and providing for children of different cultures in my classes in the future.