Barbora 13 mei 2017

De Slowaakse Barbora ontdekt tijdens haar High School Holland avontuur allemaal nieuwe dingen. Zo ontdekte zij onze ‘obsessie’ met brood en de gezelligheid bij het avondeten!

Sentiment and a reality check

Sometimes all we need is an adventure to cleanse the bitter taste of life from our souls. I do believe that life gets bitter when lived without a movement. When we stagnate. Whereas most people just simply exist, I want to live. I need to move around a bit. Shuffle my surroundings. I want to wake up in cities I don’t know my way around, to have conversations in languages I can’t entirely comprehend and to love all those foreign hearts. I want my feet to be dirty, my hair to be messy and my eyes to sparkle at the end of the day. There is always this tremendous longing in my heart, to be someplace else, to be lost, to be far away from the same old. But enough of my sentiment, reality check: I’m not even adult enough to resist the urge to destroy the bubble wrap. Also, not hipster (and rich) enough to purchase a van and live my life by Tumblr quotes. I could only see one way of escaping the ordinary, of living the life people write novels about.


A life changing experience thanks to High School Holland

The High School Holland exchange program, the opportunity to get a whole new life for six months. Now, having done more than half of my exchange in the Netherlands, I already feel like I’ll never be at home again because part of my heart will always be elsewhere. I guess that’s the price we pay for the richness of knowing and loving people in more than one place. It’s going to be extremely hard for me to leave. I can’t even begin to explain how much my life has changed throughout these past three months.


Diving deeper in the core of the Dutch culture and society

I get to do everything I never had time for at home, in Slovakia. Reading books, explore new music, eat better and living a greener life. I grow stronger, mentally and physically, as the solitude and constant cycling have been giving me a tough time. Nevertheless, it’s all worth it. I’m meeting new people, learning new words and exploring bits of myself every single day. With every person I meet, the invisible net of international friendships grows bigger. With every new word I learn, I dive deeper to the core of the Dutch culture and society.


Differences between Slovakia and the Netherlands

In Slovakia, I lacked most of what I found in the Netherlands. There are numerous differences between these two homes of mine. Our schools are nothing like the one I’m attending here. Back home we get significantly more information but we sit, listen and memorize. Here, we think and learn how to make connections. I think the second way of learning is more important in today’s world. Despite the fact, that the Dutch educational system is far more modern and progressive that ours, I must say, that Dutch people suck at geography. Before anyone gets offended, let me list a few reasons below:

  1. Slovakia is located in Central Europe and the fact that we’ve been part of the Eastern block for a few decades doesn’t change our geographical location, therefore we still are a Central European country. Not an Eastern European country, nor a part of the USSR. Central Europe. The very centre of Europe lays in the middle of Slovakia. And no, I don’t speak Russian.
  2. No, it’s not the same as Czech Republic, or even better, Czechoslovakia. Where do you live, in 1980’s? We’ve been divided for more than 20 years, people.
  3. It’s Slovakia, not Slovenia. That’s a different country. But I get that this one might confuse you, for even our embassies must meet regularly every single month to exchange the post.


An extremely flat country with the sea

Now that you’re properly educated, we can move on to other differences. Just from the visual point of view, whereas we have loads of mountains, the Netherlands is extremely flat but these guys have the sea and that’s the most exciting thing for someone from a land-locked country. The Dutch are surprisingly warm and welcoming and far more open-minded than the Slovaks (let’s blame communism for this one).


The common obsession with bread

However, for me, the biggest difference is food. In Slovakia, lunch is usually the biggest meal of the day whereas here it’s dinner. By the way, I’ll never understand this common obsession with bread in the Netherlands. These people eat bread for breakfast, bread for snack and bread for lunch. When they get home from school or work and crave some food, the best idea appears to be? Yes, it’s bread! Have I mentioned bread? I bet they just casually pull out a slice of bread from beneath the pillow whenever they need some late-night snack.


Dinners are extremely gezellig

Okay, enough about the bread. As I said, dinner is the biggest meal of the day and Dutch people surely now how to dinner! The whole family sits together, eats and talks about their day. We don’t really have this tradition in Slovakia, at least my family doesn’t. I find it extremely gezellig. As a matter of fact, I feel like everything is very gezellig here. The way people approach you and talk to you, the atmosphere in my host-family or the smell of freshly baked stroopwafels.


Go places, see people and live where things happen

In January, I wasn’t sure what I would be doing here, but now I know it’s not really about what you do but rather about what you experience. What surrounds you. What shapes you. All you have to do is to let it all in. As the dearest F.S. Fitzgerald said: ‘I want to go places and see people. I want my mind to grow. I want to live where things happen on a big scale’. That’s what I’ve been trying to do and so far, I think I’m succeeding. Before I left, I had asked myself this question: building a life for seventeen years and leaving it for six months or building a life for six months and then leaving it forever. Which is harder? I think I’d go with the second option.



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