How to carry a friend...

How to carry a friend, a 20 kg wheeled-luggage, and the groceries at the same time without a car?

The facts: I am.

Julián Martínez Mercado, Mexican, 30 years old, PhD student in applied physics, living in Enschede since May 2007.

The roots: my background.

I come from Mexico City, a.k.a. "El DeFe" (Federal District in Spanish). For those who do not know it, it is an immense, surprising, chaotic, vibrant, hectic, never-sleeping, terrible, terrific city. As you already see it is a dual city, a city that you sometimes love and sometimes you hate.

I studied Mechanical Engineering at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and after getting the bachelor I decided to study a Master. I went to Germany. Then I came to The Netherlands to pursue the PhD.

The experience: my feelings, good ones, bad ones.

Now I live in Enschede, a city of around 150,000 people. I personally do not consider it a real city (if you have read the text above you may understand me). So far I have enjoyed so much my experience here. Of course there are things I dislike but I have had more positive experiences than negative ones. I am mentioning just some of them, so let’s start with the nice ones.

I like... to ride bicycle.

When you come to the Netherlands, you will be amazed of the amount of bicycles you will see. Probably, the first time you are at a train station, you will feel like taking a picture of all the bikes parked there!! All people ride bikes from little children going to school to old people going to the market. Dutch ride whatever the weather is: during cold winters, under heavy rain, against strong wind, with hot humid weather. And the infrastructure for that is very good. There are paths exclusively for bikes. There are traffic lights for bikes. The drivers respect bikers. It is just the perfect way to commute! On the other hand stealing bikes is also probably the most frequent criminal act in this country. So it is worthwhile and wise to use two locks when parking your bike.

I like... the university Campus.

The university is located in the north part of Enschede. The campus is a big green spot and there is lot of nature between the buildings of each faculty. In summer you can easily have a short picnic for lunch. If you enjoy jogging, you will adore the northern area of the campus. There are many paths in the middle of the nature and through farms with idyllic landscapes. Cow-watching is included!!

I like…the international atmosphere at University.

Universities in general are a magnet for international people. Twente is not the exception. You will meet people from all over the world and make lots of friends. You probably will end up sharing traditional foods with your friends, and also probable to spend vacation together at their places!!

I like... working with Dutch.

Dutch people are nice to work with. They are organized, they plan ahead and therefore they are efficient. If you ask for help they will be happy to help you (but you have to ask them, contrarily to Latin American culture, where we usually offer help without waiting for people to ask us).

I do not like... Dutch food.

Have you ever heard of Dutch cuisine being worldwide recognized?? Well, then I think that explains everything. Dutch are rather practical when it comes to meals. They do not spend time for cooking since they see this more like a necessity. For lunch and breakfast they eat mostly sandwiches, and when I say sandwiches this means a slice of bread, something in between and bread. Simple. They love milk-derived products. Milk is very good! Desserts are not very special as well, but the appeltaart is worthwhile!!!

I do not like... the weather.

In the Netherlands it rains a lot and also it is windy. But the worst thing it can happen is that some times the clouds are present for several days, even weeks and you do not see sunrays!! Then you get kind of bad humor or even depressed. On the other hand, with the sun on our part, summer days can be just amazing. Warm-hot temperatures and blue sky, ideal for barbequing till late night.

I do not like... that shops close early.

Shops close at 18:00 during the week and Saturdays. Sundays shops are closed!! In the beginning it was difficult to cope with this kind of schedules. You will get use to. But for sure you will experience a Sunday in which you do not have anything to eat. Do not worry you will have a friend which would like to share the food and will not let you starve.

I enjoy... the language.

Nederlands is rather a strong language, it has a harsh pronunciation of the g. Grammar is not as easy as for English. As Portuguese and Spanish are closely related the same holds for Dutch and German. If you already know one of them, then the second one will be easier for you to learn. I think there is no better analogy, in terms of closely related languages: Dutch people understand better German as do Portuguese-speaking people understand Spanish. Also the Dutch pronunciation is more difficult than German, exactly the same as some sounds in Portuguese are a real challenge for us who have Spanish as a mother tongue. Another big advantage is that without knowing Dutch one can manage to live with English. Most of the people speak fluently English, as in many of North European countries. But I rather encourage learning Dutch as it is an open door for a closer interaction with locals!!

The answer.

I hope by now the answer to the question on the title is clear. Is it not? Well, then come to the Netherlands, you will have a bike, you will have friends visiting you that you will need to pick them up at the train station after doing groceries. You will put your groceries in the side bags of the bike, your friend will be sitting on the rear rack and will pull the wheeled-luggage while you paddle. Easy isn't it?