Last year, I met my best friend Joris in my accounting class. He answered a question in class and I could tell that he had some sort of accent, so after the first class I asked him where he was from. He told me that he was from the Netherlands and therefore spoke Dutch. At that time, I never would’ve believed it if someone had told me that we would become best friends and 10 months later I would be visiting him in the Netherlands during summer vacation!
At the end of last year, Joris invited me to visit him, his family and friends in the Netherlands over summer vacation. I had never been to Europe before, so I figured it would be the perfect opportunity to go since I would have my own personal tour guide! I was extremely excited once I bought my plane ticket, but still couldn’t believe that I was actually going until I had to start packing for my trip.
Going to the Netherlands was one of the best and most fun experiences of my life! I was only there for a week, but we packed a lot into every moment that I was there! I flew into Dusseldorf, Germany because it is the closest airport to Joris’ house in Maastricht. Joris and his friend Rob picked me up from the airport and we immediately went back to Holland, but stopped in a few places on the way. The first culture shock I experienced after landing (other than the language difference) was how fast Europeans drive! In Germany, there is no speed limit so Joris was driving 240 kilometers per hour. I felt like I was on a roller coaster!! I was pretty scared, but realized that everyone around us was driving the same speed. It was scary to get used to at first, but not as difficult as getting used to driving “normal” speeds once I got back to the U.S.
While I was in Nederland, Joris and I stayed some nights at his parent’s house in Ospel and the other nights in his house in Maastricht where he lives with four of his friends. We also went to Belgium for two days. Belgium was BEAUTIFUL! We watched one of Joris’ friend’s tennis tournament. After that we went to a restaurant that had gorgeous outside seating! The people in The Netherlands and Belgium both keep up their gardens and are very creative with their plants. I felt like I was in Alice in Wonderland! While we were in Belgium, we also went to a strip mall by the beach. It was a sunny and warm day outside, so it was nice to walk around and see everyone enjoying the weather. Everyone in Europe rides their bike as a form of transportation, not necessarily only for exercise, so I saw a TON of cyclists! There were also these cool pedal rides that you could rent for the day that we saw a lot of children riding. They were all brightly colored and looked like a lot of fun! All the children in both The Netherlands and Belgium were so well behaved in public and very polite too!
Before I went to visit Joris, I tried to learn some Dutch so I would be able to understand a little while I was over there. One of the words I learned in Dutch for “good bye” was “tot ziens”. One day, Joris and I were driving with his friends and passed a McDonalds that had a sign outside that said “tot ziens” and I got very excited because I had not heard any one say it yet. We ended up getting out of the car to take a picture with the sign! It’s one of my favorite pictures from my trip!
The last day I was in The Netherlands, we visited Amsterdam for the day. I fell in love with the architecture and truly enjoyed being there and experiencing their culture. Unlike Americans, Europeans do not rush when they eat. Because of this, restaurant service in Europe is very different than in America. It was so nice to sit down and enjoy every meal. Instead of rushing to get in and out of a restaurant, we had long conversations and stayed at some restaurants for as long as 2 hours!
Joris and his friends got a kick out of me being a tourist and enjoyed taking lots of pictures with me. It was a “once in a lifetime experience” to be able to visit Joris in his country and have him and his friends show me around! The Netherlands had a bunch of different festivals going on while I was visiting. We attended three different ones. They had a lot of rides, plenty of food, music and dancing! I enjoyed all of the different colored lights on all of the buildings and rides! A good portion of the people in The Netherlands spoke English, but I definitely needed to know more Dutch than I had learned to successfully get around. Luckily I had Joris and his friends to translate everything for me and help me order food! I was finally starting to get comfortable ordering for myself when the week was over. I can’t believe how much I learned about another culture and language in such a short amount of time. It would have been a completely different experience if I didn’t have mijn beste vriend, Joris with me! I am very good friends with Joris’ friends in The Netherlands, so it is really cool to keep in touch with them now that I am back in America. A few of them are even coming to visit us soon! I am super excited to see them again and show them around my “stomping grounds” at Marist and hopefully even show them where I live in Massachusetts! Joris is such a great friend to me and I am very lucky to have been able to visit him in The Netherlands. All of that just from being in accounting class together!