We are celebrating our 75th anniversary as British Council in the Netherlands in 2020-21 by sharing 75 personal stories from people who have a special connection to both the UK and the Netherlands. Read the 75 NL-UK stories and join us in celebrating our 75th anniversary. Watch the personal story from Onno van Wilgenburg and expand the boxes below to read the full stories by Mathilde Bosma and Lara Neervoort. New stories will be added in the months to come.
75 UK-NL Stories - Student life
Many happy memories come to mind when I think back to my time studying at the University of Birmingham five years ago. The stunning red brick university buildings, especially during autumn. Of the one-pound national express bus deals; they allowed me to view Bristol’s finest street art, go punting in Cambridge and enjoy high tea in Oxford. Memories of the unique British pub culture. A place that brings together people of all ages, that offers affordable local food and where you can feel all hot and flustered in a Christmas sweater during holiday season.
Some things took time getting used to. Like having to wear five sweaters at home to avoid skyrocketing electricity bills. Beers double the size the ones back home and a considerably higher average drinking speed. Figuring out how to crack jokes without being too direct or offensive.
But soon enough I felt at home. I had an amazing group of international friends. University life was exciting. There were societies I could join ranging from the Harry Potter society to the hummus society. The diverse background of our teachers and my fellow students made it a really interesting study environment. And procrastination was not an issue with the library being open at all times during exam period.
I never got used to partying in short skirts or high heels, or wearing no jacket during winter, but I’ll always have friends across the globe and a terrible British accent.
Congratulations to the British Council on the 75th anniversary of your work in the Netherlands. My British experience started when I got admitted to the MSc programme Psychology of Economic Life at the London School of Economics, something that I was very pleased about. The British Council helped me secure my place at LSE by offering the IELTS test that I gladly got good scores on.
My Master’s at LSE was an incredible experience for me: we were taught in a small class of only 30 students who had come from all over the world to learn about this niche combination of economics and behavioural science aimed at making existing business models more sustainable. Living in the vibrant city of London from September 2018 onwards is very stimulating. For me, the city has everything to offer you can possibly think of, from going to the ballet to underground night clubs and eating food from cuisines all over the world.
I built a very diverse friend group in London, including people from the US, Libya, Lebanon, the UK and the Netherlands. The fact that London attracts people from every corner of the world is what I find very inspiring and has taught me a lot about different cultures and my personal values.
Although I feel like the UK and the Netherlands are culturally quite similar, there were a few times that the cultural differences surprised me. When I was trying to find out whether a British professor wanted to supervise my thesis, he kept saying he found my thesis topic “interesting” but after a few conversations I still couldn’t figure out whether he wanted to work with me or not. When I asked him directly, he gave a very polite answer but it was still unclear to me. The Dutch directness is definitely something I had to work on, also when I entered the corporate world in the UK.
Currently I find myself working in a very interesting bubble, namely as Innovation Advisor at the Dutch Embassy in London. Working with 80 Dutch people in the UK feels very special. We do constantly interact with our British network of innovation and research partners that we connect to Dutch innovative companies and research institutes, which enables me to keep learning about British culture. Being in a relationship with an Englishman also taught me a lot about things I hadn’t encountered in the Netherlands such as cricket, rugby, English breakfasts and pints at the pub.
Although living in London during the pandemic wasn’t always easy, I am still really enjoying my time here and hope to strengthen the ties between the North Sea Neighbours in my work for the Embassy. Thanks to the British Council for this opportunity to share my UK-NL story and congratulations again on your jubilee.