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Slightly culture shocked, mostly amused

Julia Bensdorp is an international student from the Netherlands. – courtesy of Julia Bensdorp

I am an International Student from The Netherlands (also known as Dutchie,) and I am only here for one semester. During my time here in the United States, I have noticed several cultural aspects that are very different to those I am used to. Some of the differences might even seem silly when you think of it. Through this piece, I am not trying to create an ‘’us vs them’’ approach. I feel very pleased, happy and blessed to be here. It is very different from home though, and I would like to share my perspective about things. 

The differences between the Netherlands and the United States are huge. One of the very first differences that I noticed during my stay in the United States was the opposing ways that Facebook is viewed here versus in the Netherlands. For example, whenever we add somebody on Facebook, we make sure that we actually know that person. Very rarely does anyone add you as a friend on Facebook if you do not recognize each other immediately. We often make sure we have had a conversation with someone in person before adding them on Facebook. Only knowing a person’s name is not enough–we want to make sure the other person we’re adding knows us too. To us, it is just weird to be “friends’’ with somebody you barely know. 

After that comes the biggest Facebook concern of them all: Facebook relationship statuses. In the Netherlands, if you’re dating a person, you obviously don’t add them right away. You don’t want to seem clingy and ready for commitment, right? You have to be very careful about the social rules and boundaries, and when you go and share the fact that you are in a relationship with someone on your profile: congratulations, you just went ‘’Facebook Official.’’

Don’t get me started on Snapchat. Though it is nearly as popular back home as it is here, the same rules for Facebook etiquette apply to Snapchat. My first day on campus, approximately 10 people came up to me to asked for my Snapchat username. I was stunned.

I began to wonder whether or not I even knew the person. Did they know me? How was I supposed to answer? In the Netherlands, we just don’t do that kind of thing. At all. Ever. You can add someone on Snapchat when you’re a very close friend, but that’s it. To me, this felt like somebody was trying to violate my personal space.

Also,we don’t ‘reply’ on Snapchat in the Netherlands. When we open a Snap, we look at it, maybe smile and then continue with our lives. When I first arrived on campus, I accidentally ignored several people who had sent Snapchats to me, not realizing that I was being incredibly rude by not answering them. It just feels unnatural to instantly reply to every Snapchat I receive. When someone sends a picture of his or her face with a caption reading “How are you doing?” am I supposed to send a picture of my face back? Isn’t that awkward? Am I overthinking the whole concept now? Can I just send a picture of the soda can right in front of me with a caption reading,“Good, how are you?”

I have concluded that Dutchies are very fond of our personal space and information. We don’t just share it right away, although I am not sure if that is a good thing. Maybe we should consider getting off of our high horses and start making more friends along the way. At least I will try that from now on. America has taught me well. 

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