5 surprising things you should know as a true Groninger
Are you thinking about visiting or studying in Groningen anytime soon? If you’re not acquainted with the “Dutch way” of living in the Netherlands as an international yet, you might hold some valid stereotypes about life here. Windmills, tulip fields, wooden clogs, and the flat “underwater land”? Besides these beautiful Dutch clichés, I want to share some of my personal insights about the true Groninger (cultural) experience with you!
1. Groninger offers these 2 remarkable “record” places (for having fun!)
Are you about to visit Groningen for the first time or are you currently busy juggling your student life, academics, and social activities? Guess what: there are some “great attractions” you have to explore that no other city in the Netherlands or even Europe can brag about.
Let’s say you want to take your friends out at night in Groningen. Well, you should consider the popular and biggest pub/restaurant/café in Europe, The Drie Gezusters (with the capacity of around 3.800 people!) on the Grote Markt. Inside of 4 connected buildings, there are 20 bars with dance floors, each with its own music genre. Sounds unbelievable, right? However, if you prefer less mainstream places, check out some cool spots like VERA and the bar street in Level 4 of the Virtual Groninger game!
The second “record place” is the impressive Excalibur climbing tower located in one of my favorite natural areas in Groningen called Kardinge. With a height of 37 meters, it’s the biggest man-made outdoor climbing wall in Europe (definitely built for more experienced climbers!). I love going running there and “hiking” to the tiny hill of Kardingebult near Excalibur!
2. Don’t expect a fancy culinary experience. Try some Dutch snacks!
When someone asks me what kind of food they should try in the Netherlands, I always mention my favorite stroopwafel (wafer waffle with caramel filling), vla (custard dessert/toetje), and toasted bread with hagelslag (chocolate sprinkles)! Besides these snacks, I’d encourage you to try some of these exceptional specialties:
An eierbal (a fried ball with a hard-boiled egg wrapped in bread crumbs) and bitterball (fried meatballs) from the Vismarkt and the Grote Markt
FEBO wall (an automat-vended fast food place) with fried snacks like krokets, frikandellen
Haring - a raw herring with onion that is actually edible but I wouldn’t take it to the library as a snack...
Groninger mustard soup - well, the name speaks for itself but I haven’t tried a good one in the city yet!
3. The typical Dutch likes saving money (is MYTH!) and is direct (partly true)
There’s a worldwide saying “going Dutch” implying that each person would pay their own expenses on a date. Supposedly, the phrase comes from the 17th century when the British and Dutch fought over trade deals. From what I observed with my Dutch acquaintances, it is true that they like to be straightforward with splitting all expenses equally. I think it’s quite nice to be clear and fair as long as no one’s feelings get hurt! The Dutch people are also pretty direct to the point so you don’t need to do any “second-guessing” with them. I can also sense that the locals, especially here in Groningen, are very down-to-earth and open-minded. Of course, I wouldn’t like to generalize this observation to everyone but I’d say most internationals would agree with me. But don’t take my word for granted and go speak to some Dutchies!
4. Biking like a pro (also in the rain) will make your life easier
It doesn’t matter if you already think you’re an experienced biker. Here in the Netherlands, you have to pay extra attention to all the rules on the road even though you essentially have more rights than cars and pedestrians. Just make sure to only use headphones and don’t hold your phone while biking, turn on your lights at night (otherwise you get fined!). There are some unspoken rules you should follow when giving rights to other fellow cyclists but check out the City Central. They organize really cool and helpful biking workshops and provide tips for cycling trips around and beyond Groningen.
And a friendly reminder: no worries if you’re struggling on your bike sometimes. Everyone has probably (almost) been in a bike accident, especially when hurrying and not paying attention to the road. And also the frequent rain showers make it a bit more difficult to manage cycling and accepting the harsh truth that the sunny weather looked promising just a few minutes ago.
"And a friendly reminder: no worries if you’re struggling on your bike sometimes"
5. The housing crisis is REAL.
With the new start of the academic year, lots of international students have been coming to Groningen after a year of online education. Unfortunately, hundreds of students haven’t found a place to live and are mostly forced to stay at their friends’ places or do couch surfing through SOS Groningen. And what’s even more frustrating? Besides having a hard time with the frequent “Dutch only, no internationals” rental requirement, they also face a lot of scams and have to deal with finding housing while studying. It’s saddening for me to see some of my friends struggling and going back to their home countries. I hope the university and the city are now much more aware of the severity of the crisis and are actively striving to find a solution to provide homeless students with new homes!
Do you want to see more of Linda as an Ambassador of Groningen? Follow Linda and the other ambassadors via the Instagram account of the Become a virtual Groninger game and stay in touch.
Making the most of it podcast
A podcast series on living, loving and growing in international Groningen. The podcast is created by ESN Groningen in collaboration with Here & Now in Groningen and The Student Hotel Groningen.