To Scandinavia, we go!

Last week, I finally made my way to Sweden to visit my love, Allie (her study abroad blog is here) via bus from Eindhoven to Copenhagen. Travel time took about 12 hours…yup. Let’s just say I can survive anything after taking a night bus across 3 countries.

Upon arrival in Copenhagen, Allie “Copenhagen Expert” Woodward took me around to show me the best a few hours in the city could offer. We shopped, walked through Christiania (really cool hippie community) and got Nutella-filled crepes (which I proceeded to spill all over myself, so I ended up wearing the nutella…I REGRET NOTHING).

Other highlights include a glass of wine while were serenaded by live music on the canal, as well as some in-ground trampolines near the water, which made for good pictures.

 

After a day in Copenhagen, we took a train back to Allie’s humble abode in Lund, Sweden where she is on exchange at university there. We nommed on some dinner and got ready to go out to the Nations! They don’t really have bars in Lund, just Nations which double as bar/clubs in residential buildings. It’s a big student scene with lots of typical techno and well-dressed Swedes, drinking pricey beers and ciders. One big difference was that everyone dances when they go out there! The Dutch don’t seem to be into dancing as much as the Swedes (which is not a problem for me. I prefer a good chat on a night out, usually).

Our night at the Hallands Nation with Allie and her French friend, Jennifer, was enjoyable though!

The next day, Allie and I did a BIG brunch…American style (eggs, bacon, OJ, coffee, toast & cream cheese…the works). It was nice be able to indulge in American things and talk about stuff from home, after spending so much time without that luxury. I haven’t actually had that much contact with fellow Americans during my study abroad experience.

Allie showed me around Lund and we bought some Swedish snacks at the grocery store to prepare for our trip to the spa the next day! We went a spa in a small town, Ystad, which is ON THE BEACH. The spa was so relaxing and beautiful. The food was amazing as well (although we had a bit of trouble ordering at first…oh, language barriers).

Overall, the trip to Denmark and Sweden was one of my most fun and relaxing trips yet. Sometimes its nice to just enjoy the days slowly instead of sightseeing all day, like a typical tourist.

She’s starting early…

 

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Springtime in Holland

Being a Southern girl, from Atlanta, GA, I have my fair share of sunshine in what we call “spring” but pretty much feels like summer to everyone else. Georgia is blazing hot & humid almost every day as soon as April hits.

Here in the Netherlands, Spring has temperatures that Atlantans would complain about during winter. It’s May now, and people are still wearing winter coats, boots, scarves. It also rains weekly, at least. However, this just means that when the sun comes out and the breeze is light, everyone makes the best of it!

My favorite activity on a beautiful day in Holland is lunch, al fresco. (Here’s one of my favorite Lily Allen tracks to set the mood).

During the good weather, I also managed to squeeze in a visit to Scheveningen, a beach right outside of the Hague (den Haag), with my lovely kiwi friend Nichola. We explored a park in the city and then hung out on the chilly but still enjoyable (and extremely empty) beach.

I’ve heard the beach is insanely crowded during the summer. I think I might prefer the quietness we experienced.

After a few beachside beers and a nice chat, we retired to our hostel, where we chatted all night with new friends from France, Germany, England, and Italy….some had more to say than others. Communicating in a range of English speaking skills is always interesting.

My favorite question, which came from the French folk: “Do Americans really eat and drink while they are walking/driving?”

“…Yes. And we are experts at it.”

You never realize that eating while walking is a skill until you impress French people with your powers.

The next day, on the way back to Eindhoven, we made a pit stop in Utrecht so that we could add another city on our map of explored locations.

I loved Utrecht! It’s gorgeous and feels very laid back (much like many cities in Holland). I decided I have to revisit, for longer this time, because a few hours was not enough.

I will be making a day trip to Utrecht this week! Can’t wait to revisit one of my new favorite Dutch cities.

Tilburg Textile Museum

So right now I am in the middle of SDL which stands for “self-directed learning,” a new thing that the Industrial Design department at TU/e has implemented. Students are given the freedom to pick their own learning activities. The faculty gives recommendations for things like lectures, workshops, museums. My coach recommended the nearby Textile Museum in Tilburg, which is only a train station stop away from Eindhoven so I made a day trip for what I thought would be an average day at a museum. The Textile Museum definitely proved me wrong. So much cooler than I thought it would be!

From historical textile machines to the modern technology found in the awesome textile lab, where people are actually working, even those without any remote interest in textiles would find this museum entertaining. I know this because my company for the day, Xander, seemed pretty excited about it even though he’s not even an Industrial Designer.

See what I mean?

The best part was the main exhibit on the first floor, which contained a large collection of objects that were organized by size, shape, and color and would probably make any industrial designer or product enthusiast drool. Unfortunately I found out after getting pictures of the first thing I saw (the wall of scissors), that photography wasn’t exactly allowed in this exhibit. Oops.

But you get to see these two pictures anyway!

Don’t you feel privileged?

These scissors, banned from being brought onto planes, were collected from checked baggage.

Another interesting piece, a room filled with wooden train tracks & toys. Looks like a tree!

Now, back to the Textile Lab.

As you can tell, I was particularly fascinated with the wall of colorful thread.

The rest of the museum went a bit over my head, because the upstairs portion was filled with movies/exhibits that only had Dutch commentaries. Xander explained that the commentaries were just explaining the industrial revolution in the Netherlands and how it affected the textile industry here.

I mostly found entertainment in this little guy. Very realistic looking, don’t you think?

Funky goat.

Phew! That museum was exhausting. Time for a rest in the giant textile chair/bench?

I will close the post with some awesome street art dedicated to Amy Winehouse, which we found while exploring a bit more of Tilburg. Until next time!

10 Rules To Biking Like a Proper Dutch Cyclist

  1. Always park your bike next to a nicer bike. Not only does it deter thieves from touching your bike, but it also ensures that the person next to you won’t bang up and damage the already “vintage” at best quality of your bicycle. 

    Exhibit A: The bike on the left is from the Rijwielcentrale Bike Shop aka it definitely cost several hundred euros. My bike, on the right, is well used and cost about 30 euros. You do the math.

  2. Learn how to bike with a person on the back of your bike (and learn how to ride on the back, also). Not everyone owns a bike. You will often encounter situations where you may have brought your bike but your friend did not. This means that you’re going to probably double up to get where you’re going. I have tried riding on the back. I lasted about 5 minutes before I was just too freaked out. Of course, the Dutch are used to it because they start riding this way when they’re very young. Allie, when she visited me, was a natural at riding on the back. It depends on how comfortable you are with sitting on flat metal bars and not being able to see where you are going.
  3. Multitasking is your friend. Yep, you can pretty much do whatever you want while you are biking as far as I know. You can text. You can listen to your iPod. You can smoke. You can paint your fingernails. Whatever you want as long as it doesn’t “cause danger.” Take that as you will. I have seen people do 2 or 3 of these things at once. Crazy.
  4. Your bike is like a pack mule, so use it. Balance is especially important with this one. I have learned how to bike home after a shopping spree- I put multiple bags on my handlebars, wrap them through my fingers and I’m off! It can get a little tricky depending on how heavy the bags are and how many you have, of course, but it’s much easier than walking home with all your purchases in hand.
  5. Trick out your bike and personalize it! Since most people’s bikes are used, and most of the bodies are brown/black/navy/grey, a lot of the bikes end up looking the same. Personalization makes your bike easier to pick out of a crowd and also gives it a bit more meaning to you. The personalizations range from really girly (stores sell fake flowers for you to wind around the handlebars) to really practical (extra lights, bells, seat covers, etc). You can also buy packs to go on the back of your bike, in tons of different colors or prints. It’s up to you!
  6. Become an expert in weaving- safely. I have to admit it’s hard to get used to this rule. I am pretty good with weaving when I walk (I’m a natural at walking around in NYC- you’ll only understand this skill if you visit the city). However, weaving when I’m on a bike feels much more vulnerable for some reason. If you wait for everyone and everything to cross your path before you continue on, you will pretty much wait forever. I’ve heard you can get a hefty fine if you cross through a crosswalk without a green bike sign, but most people do it anyway…within reason.
  7. Park with caution. Bike sheds are your friend. Bike theft is so common here, it’s a bit of a risk to leave your bike locked up on an outdoor bike rack for more than a few hours. I always lock my bike to something rooted in the ground, like a sign or a pole- but that’s also because I don’t have a kickstand. People can also get pretty creative with where they park their bikes. Sometimes it takes a bit of rearranging to get your bike to fit in a spot.
  8. You don’t have to be a vicious biker, but just know that others will be. This is especially true in bigger cities, like Amsterdam. Bicyclists will run you over. They do not care about your toes, legs, arms, bags- if you are in the way, and you don’t move, chances are you’re going to get hit. I don’t like to bike like this because I think this is why lots of people (at least back home in the US) find bicyclists rather annoying. Luckily, the locals understand this and most of the time, pedestrians will wait for cyclists to pass or they will just move out of the cyclists’ path.
  9. Bike tunnels can be really cool. Okay, this isn’t really a rule. Just something I’ve noticed. I need to take pictures of the massive graffiti bike tunnel on the east side of Eindhoven, so you can understand what I’m talking about! It’s stunning.
  10. Bike in groups- it’s more fun and more active than riding in the car. Biking to a certain location with your friends can be really fun. Conversations are filled with more activity, you can see and comment on more things as you pass them, you interact with others on their bikes. Not only that, you’re getting exercise. It’s a win on multiple fronts.

Allie’s Visit/Another weekend in Amsterdam!

Writing a bit late on this, since Allie left on Monday, but I am so glad my lovely friend decided to come all the way from Sweden to visit me! Allie came into Eindhoven on Saturday, so I showed her around my town. We went shopping at the Saturday outdoor market in Woensel (and bought some awesome America shirts…while we were in Holland…haha). We ate lunch in the center, so Allie got to try the fries with mayonnaise. Allie is now a converted fan of the mayonnaise 🙂

We also did a bit of additional shopping in the Eindhoven center and then picked up some “Chinese” food- I use quotation marks because every outside food in the Netherlands has a bit of Dutch style to it because apparently, the Dutch are picky eaters. Also, their Chinese food is just different than the Chinese food you’d expect in America. Still very good though!

After a bit of rest, I took Allie out in the Stratum (street of pubs in Eindhoven’s center) to meet up with some friends. Highlights include being some of the only people dancing, as well as watching lots of karaoke in the karaoke bar- always entertaining.

On Sunday, we took a trip to Amsterdam! It was actually helpful that’d I just been there a week before, because I was much better at navigating the city this time. First off, we went to see the Anne Frank House. Like I said, it’s very powerful to be in the Secret Annex, where the Frank and Van Pels families hid during World War II. Everyone should see it at least once!

After the Anne Frank house, we walked through the flower market, where they sell pretty much everything, with a focus on tulips. After getting some snacks (fries and croissants, mmm) we went on a Canal Tour through the city, which was perfectly timed on the cusp of nightfall, when all the lights around the canal bridges look beautiful. The canal tour lasted an hour. I also highly recommend doing that at least once!

Of course, a trip to Amsterdam is incomplete without walking around the Dam and the Red Light District, so we made some excursions to those parts of the city as well. After lots of walking and a bit of dinner, we went to the “Xtra Cold” Amsterdam Ice Bar! We had to wear huge puffy jackets and gloves so that we could drink our beverages out of entirely ice glasses. Talk about cold drinks. The walls and the seating arrangements were also made out of ice- pretty cool. The eskimo bartender also apparently knows someone in school in Atlanta. He asked us what state in the US we were from before we made that connection. Talk about 6 degrees of separation.

After that, we took a late train home to Eindhoven. Monday I had to go to school to work on some projects, so Allie came with. We double-biked (the word I have devised that refers to someone riding on the back of a one-person bike). Allie has a picture of this in action. It’s pretty hilarious. Wish I could post it here!

Anyway, it was a great weekend. Now all I have to do is plan MY visit to Sweden to see Allie 🙂ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

Amsterdam Trip

During the last weekend of my Carnaval holiday, I decided to take a trip to Amsterdam! I have been before but it was a very brief trip (for 3 days, back in July 2010). I did a lot of the touristy things on my first trip- toured the Anne Frank House (recommended at least once), toured the old Heineken Brewery aka the Heineken Experience, visited the Van Gogh museum as well as the Rijksmuseum (another art museum), and did a canal tour. So on this trip to Amsterdam, I wanted to stray away from the touristy things a bit and just explore the city!

Amsterdam is a very vibrant city, even when it’s surrounded by the dark, gloomy February weather. The trip to Amsterdam was pretty spontaneous which is always fun. My new Dutch friend, Xander, and I caught the train from Eindhoven to Amsterdam which takes an hour and a half. As soon as we arrived, we got to exploring! The main concern was to find our hostel- since I hadn’t actually reserved a room. It was a bit of a challenge. We finally found the Amsterdam Hostel Leidseplein, but they didn’t have any vacancies left! Luckily, the staff was helpful and directed us to another hostel, Hostel Orfeo, and ended up with a private room so that was nice- I thought we’d be sleeping in a room with 8-10 other people!

Once we’d confirmed we had a place to sleep that night, we hit the city. Our hostel was near Leidseplein, a street with a lot of pubs, clubs, and restaurants…there was plenty to do. Even though Xander lives in Holland, he hadn’t actually visited Amsterdam in close to 10 years so he wanted to see the Red Light District. As expected, the Red Light District is pretty amusing. It’s also always kind of strange to walk to the Red Light District, because it’s not really a defined area (like Leidseplein is)…you just have to wander around in the general vicinity until you see, yes you guessed it, red lights.

Amsterdam is filled with tourists, even in February. Most of the English speakers that were visiting were from the UK. It was almost reverse culture shock, because suddenly people were immediately speaking English to me, instead of first saying lots of things in Dutch to which I always reply “Engels?” (English? in Dutch). So that was kind of nice but it also made me feel like people who visit JUST Amsterdam and say they’ve been to Holland didn’t really get the full experience. There’s more to the country than windmills, cheese, and tulips!

After walking through the Red Light District, we went to get some dinner and drinks. This is harder than you would think, actually. We were probably just in a touristy area, but there wasn’t much variety in the restaurants. We ended up eating a Greek place with terrible service (just don’t eat at Mykonos in the Leidseplein area…it might be the name of a really good song by the Fleet Foxes, but it is NOT a good restaurant). After dinner it was time to enjoy the Amsterdam nightlife! Our favorite pub we ended up at was an Irish pub, also in the Leidseplein area. At one point we ventured over to another popular spot at night, Rembrantplein. This area was good for clubs but that wasn’t really mine or Xander’s scene. It was still fun to walk around though, because it had a huge square in the middle and there were lots of people about.

One great difference between Amsterdam and Eindhoven was the opening/closing hours of all the stores and bars. There were stores open well past midnight and the bars/pubs were open until about 4 or 5am. This is quite the opposite in Eindhoven, where stores close at 6pm and bars close at 2am. Another favorite spot of the night was a Sports Bar (I’m pretty sure that was the name, actually…) also in the Leidseplein. It was clearly catered towards tourists because it had the best deals on food and drinks! All in all, it was a pretty good Saturday night in Amsterdam, with lots of entertaining people. It’s impossible to get bored there because there’s plenty of people-watching possibilities.

For breakfast, I finally ate what everyone gushes about when they come back from the NL…a giant pancake! I got strawberries on top and it was sooo delicious. That day, we had more daytime to explore the city so we walked through the Flower Market (soooo many tulips) as well as all of the hot shopping streets. I didn’t buy anything on this trip, but I took notes for next time 🙂 We did another typical tourist thing and visited The Bulldog, to try a fancy cocktail. The Bulldog is apparently where Snoop Dogg and all the other celebrities who visit Amsterdam hang out. The fact that they have an 800 euro bottle of Dom on the menu is proof.

One other place that we walked through multiple times is the Dam. It’s a huge square in the middle of the city and the buildings surrounding the square are just beautiful. There are also lots of street performers at the Dam. So, if you’re ever in Amsterdam, you probably need to check out the Dam as well!

I’m glad we took a trip to Amsterdam because as it turns out I’m going back there this coming Sunday! The lovely Allie Woodward is leaving her humble Swedish abode and is visiting me here in the Netherlands for the weekend! I will be showing her around Eindhoven on Saturday and then we’ll take a trip to Amsterdam together on Sunday. I can’t wait!

TONS of swans swimming in the Amsterdam canals at night!

Amsterdam at night- hard to see detail but easy to tell its beautiful.

What would a trip to Amsterdam be without a picture of bikes?

Comic Sans- an terrible, unavoidable font, even in the design-tastic country of Holland.

The famous club, the Bulldog.

Delicious pancake breakfast!

Daytime view of the canals

A view of the Dam, although it is actually much more expansive than my iPhone camera can show.

Grocery Shopping Pictures

Maybe I’m a little strange for wanting to photo document this, but I took some pictures on my recent trip to Albert Heijn.

Hagelslag- the name for the chocolate sprinkles that Dutch people eat on top of buttered bread. They will eat this for breakfast but also lunch. Yes. Lunch.

This shopping basket is the cool one you can wheel around on the floor because of the optional long handle. Dear grocery stores of America, take note.

This is "America" wine. By a Dutch generic brand. Do you see the humor as well?

The best soda everrrr. It's very popular here. It tastes slightly less synthetic than orange Fanta in the US and therefore 10 times more awesome. Name for orange soda here is sinas (and orange juice = sinaas-appelsap...why it has the word apple in it, I do not know.)

CARNAVAL!

Hey! So I haven’t written in what feels like an eternity, because I was consumed with my week-long holiday for Carnaval!

In the Netherlands, Carnaval is only celebrated below a certain point in the country. Traditionally, Northern Holland had more Protestant roots, while the South of Holland was more Catholic. So, it is most commonly celebrated in the Southern part of the Netherlands. Carnaval starts the Friday before Ash Wednesday in order to celebrate the last days before lent. It continues until the Tuesday before that Wednesday.

After personally experiencing Carnaval for 3-4 days, I think it can best be described as Halloween combined with a Gay Pride Parade. I say this because there is a LOT of color, a lot of happy people, and lots of costumes! Some people put a lot of effort into their costumes and others just wear something really crazy looking. Some popular costumes: the guys from LMFAO, fairy tale characters, cowboys, pirates, etc. Cross dressing was pretty popular; I definitely saw more than one male Tinkerbell or male Snow White.

Since I am an international student on a budget, I went with a simple, cheap costume option- a bunny! I have bunnies on the brain because there are more rabbits here than there are squirrels in the US. Also, the rabbits all congregate so you will see hundreds of them in just one field. It’s so adorable. Anyway, the bunny ears worked out well because I could wear them with multiple outfits. Glad I stretched a 15 euro costume over 4 nights of fun 🙂

Eindhoven is a pretty hot city for Carnaval, at least on Saturday (because Saturday and Sunday are the biggest nights). The city center was so crowded, I took 10x longer to navigate. People were EVERYWHERE. Of course, this can get a little dirty in the streets, especially in a rainy country like the Netherlands. Carnaval is not for the faint hearted, that is for sure.

The best part about Carnaval is the patriotism. The whole weekend is filled with loud, Dutch techno-ish songs that everyone knows the words to. I talked to a few locals who would translate some of the song lyrics for me- they still make no sense- but it’s quite funny to watch everyone get so into the moment.

Also, if you’ve ever wanted to dance on a pool table, stage, bar, bench…Carnaval is that time. Go forth and dance your heart out, just make sure you wear a costume because if not- this is direct quote from a Dutch friend- “If you don’t dress stupid, you will look really, really stupid.”

Another great part about Carnaval is that everyone is pretty open and friendly- you meet a LOT of people and then you hang out with them for the rest of the night! My New Zealander friend Nichola, who dressed as a pirate, was my wingwoman and we met plenty of fun Dutch people. One group of Dutch guys, who were also students in the city, took us to a karaoke bar and I sang with them in Dutch! My pronunciation is actually getting pretty good 🙂 And I am picking up on vocab pretty fast! People aren’t joking when they say the best way to learn a language is to live in the country. We also sang some classic songs in English at the karaoke bar- my personal favorite was singing Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen.

At the end of Carnaval, there is a tradition to eat the head of a small piece of herring. The pubs provide the herring to patrons for free. I regret to say I did not participate. I am open to trying new foods and new things here, but consuming a fish’s face, I will not do!

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Carnaval friends that we sang karaoke with!

So, if you take away anything from this post, it’s that you should at least once in your life travel to Europe for Carnaval. I really enjoyed my time experiencing the Dutch carnaval and I can only hope I get to come back in the future!

Dutch Culture

Okay, so I feel like after a few weeks I have learned a bit about Dutch culture.

Eating

A typical Dutch diet goes something like this. Breakfast? Bread. All kinds. Lunch? Bread. With either butter & sprinkles on top, a sausage in between, or just stacked on top of other slices. (Not. Joking.) Dinner? Everything else they’d want. Probably more bread. I ate a slice of pizza for lunch once, and one of the Dutch students told me “that’s something I’d eat for dinner.” And by the way, a sandwich here is 90% bread and 10% meat, cucumbers, eggs and cheese. Oh, I forgot cheese! Insert a slice of cheese at each meal. Also, the beverage of choice is coffee (koffie) and lots of it. I love it because I already loved coffee and European coffee is so great. Plus, the obsession with coffee means that teachers/instructors suggest a “coffee break” every hour or so. In the bars, EVERYONE drinks beer. Liquor and wine are pretty rare. Probably because the beer is so good! The beers are also very very small. They like small portion sizes here. I’d say the average beer size looks like 3 or 4 shotglasses worth of beer in the same small cup design that all the bars serve with.

Transportation

One thing I love is that no one judges you or thinks you’re weird for your transportation method. (Except for maybe that fact that I don’t officially own a bike yet…people kinda judge me on that, haha). Everyone walks, bikes, or *maybe* takes the bus. I’ve seen lots of people on the bus but none of my friends or classmates have mentioned it. Most people have a very active form of transportation. I love walking because it’s just enough activity for me each day (25 min walk to university) and it gives me more time to soak in the surroundings. I’m planning on buying a bike lock for bike Juan is loaning me, but just haven’t yet. One downside to the bikes here- they are constantly stolen! My Spanish flatmate, Juan, invited me to dinner with two other Spaniard friends (from Madrid) Liticia and Jorge, a few nights ago. They told me that they have both had their bikes stolen multiple times. Most people here buy a more expensive lock than their actual bike. I think I will like biking here because of the bike friendliness- but I don’t know about biking in the US. It makes me very nervous to think of biking on the roads, since biking on sidewalks is illegal…

Living

I thought that adjusting to the living conditions that most Europeans adhere to would bother me more, but it’s been an easy adjustment. Thankfully my apartment has a washer, and for drying- my favorite thing ever- I drape my clothes on the heater in my room! I know it sounds really ghetto but it’s pretty quick & easy, and your clothes get sooo warm by the time you pull them off 🙂 it’s just best way to end up with a toasty pair of socks before bed. The kitchen is small (to be expected) with a stove that you light, and a microwave my flatmate previously purchased- yes that’s right, no oven. I actually can do without an oven if necessary. I’m not really dependent on it. Also, we’ve heard that the second hand appliance shop has mini ovens for only 15 euro, so if necessary, we can buy one of those! I prefer eating ready-made things (fruit, sandwiches, crackers, veggies, etc). and luckily the supermarkets have all those things! Speaking of supermarkets, as you’ve already read, my favorite is Albert Heijn. If you happen to read my lovely friend Allie Woodward’s blog, you’ll remember she said you have to buy your grocery bags here (her here is Sweden). The same is for the Netherlands. You just buy those reusable grocery tote bags. I keep one folded up in backpack in case I decide to run into the grocery store on the way home. One great thing about the Albert Heijn- you know those mini baskets you use if you’re only picking up a few things? Well those baskets here have the standard small handles for carrying, but also have a big, long handle that you can use if you decide to put your basket on the ground (it has wheels too). So great if you’re only getting a few things, but they’re heavy (milk, water, etc.) Why don’t we have those in America?!

Stereotypes

Well I never heard stereotypes about the Dutch people before I came here so I can’t really comment on that. Dutch people are for the most part, the same as I remember from my short Amsterdam trip in 2010: easy-going, friendly, intelligent, and very tall haha. This is the first place I’ve felt dwarfed by everyone else! I don’t mind it though. I spent my whole youth feeling awkwardly taller than everyone else in my grade so being around taller people makes me feel more normal, if that makes sense. Anyway, the response when people hear I’m from the US is pretty amusing. Most of the Dutch people don’t know where Georgia is, unless they’ve heard of Georgia Tech already (see, we actually are famous!). The most common response to hearing where I am from is, “Oh, well I’ve been to New York/California.” If they do know where Georgia is, they ask me why I don’t have a “drawl.” Then I say I have a slight one, but I “turn it off” when I’m here. The people I ate lunch with once begged me to speak in a Southern accent and I obliged. The responses, especially from the males, were quite hilarious. They begged me to keep talking like that, haha. So I guess Irish/British accents are to us American girls as American Southern accents are to those Dutch boys?

Most people either get really excited when they hear I’m from the US, and then ask me all kinds of questions, others just don’t seem to care either way. One thing I find amusing is that America is referenced EVERYWHERE here. They listen to American music, get inspiration from American companies (I hear Google and Apple referenced multiple times a day), there are stores boasting that they sell American styles, people discuss American politics and politicians all the time, etc. This has actually been quite helpful in the whole culture-shock process. It makes me feel more at home!