It was just another Friday night in Tilburg. I was sipping on a refreshing glass of wheat beer on the Taphuys terrace with a couple of friends (no, it’s never too cold for us Finns to take a seat outside). That’s when we saw them. Gathered in a crowd, huddling close to each other like emperor penguins, taking shelter from the ever-present winds of Tilburg.
The new international students.
After the first encounter, I started spotting them everywhere, which made me relive the struggle of the first weeks in Tillytown.
First there was the credit card confusion. Wherever I flashed my Visa, or Mastercard, or any other globally recognized payment method, the cashier just shrugged at me and asked for a Dutch pinpas. Even some picky ATMs spat out my foreign card, so the first days were built around trying to acquire cash. By mid-September, I had so much change in the bottom of my bag that I sounded like an old-school prison guard carrying the keys to all the facility’s cells.
I was also terrified of biking in the promised land of the cyclists. Whenever I made a mistake – and that was every hour of every day – angry Dutch grandmas would yell at me. It was a major headache trying to memorize where I left my new means of transportation after a daunting day at the uni. Let’s not even get started about the Dutch biking innovations, such as underground parking garages. They’re next level. I can’t even imagine what a shock the Dutch biking scene is for the students who don’t even know how to ride a bike.
Thinking back to all the those obstacles from the past makes me realize that I’m already a grown-ass Tilburger. Most of the time, I can make it through the day without humiliating myself in public – after 6 months of training, I can even recycle now! The train ticket system still doesn’t make any sense to me, and I’m blissfully lost in the world of day tickets, chip cards and toeslags. But I still have another semester left to figure it out.
Dear newcomers, welcome! It won’t be long before you know where to get the best pizza on campus and what party bikes are.