December 16, 2021
By Elisa Peset Martin
Feat. Thirza and Finn
‘Eat like an emperor during the day, eat like a beggar at night’. This Chinese saying does not match the ‘broodje met kaas’ (a slice of bread with some cheese) most people at University Leiden eat for lunch. This simple cheese sandwich is nothing compared to what people in China have for lunch seeing how lunch is the most important meal of the day for them. So, the ‘broodje met kaas’ becomes a confrontation of how differently things are done in this country.
This year, 55% of the first years of CADS is international so, imagine how many people had a ‘broodje met kaas’-moment when arriving to the Netherlands. This anxious, confused feeling and distress when exposed to a new, strange, cultural environment is called a culture shock. We asked a few of the CADS students, both Dutch and international, about some culture shocks they have experienced.
Finn, a student from China, was used to ‘eat like an emperor during the day’. He tells us about a Chinese traditional nutrition theory where a lot is eaten during the day in order to get enough energy. Later, dinner would be a light, simple meal to get some good sleep afterwards.
‘I still remember my first school day in Leiden University when I was told there is only one cold sandwich I can eat for lunch’
Back in China, Finn was used to having lunch in the public cafeteria of his school and getting a lunchbreak of around two hours every day because a luxurious lunch is seen there as a part of human welfare. Therefore, the simple, short lunch break he got here at Leiden resulted in a huge culture shock:
‘after I realized it would be my life for the coming 3 years the shock turned into sadness, but however, now I am getting used to it.’
Another student, Thirza, introduced us to another concept related to our subject: reverse culture shocks. This is a culture shock when going back to a place you have already been before, because it is different from how you remember it.
This happened to her when going back to Salzburg in Austria. She got confronted with this busy, fast-moving city.
‘All this would sound pretty normal for 17-year-old me, but now I was completely dumbfounded by the huge difference from my previous destinations.’
She started to wonder if she would be able to live in such a busy environment. She said:
‘It seems that the culture shock that I had not at all anticipated here, has already settled in.’
(Reverse) culture shocks can come when you least expect it and the cause might be the littlest, most specific thing. It’s hard to deal with these anxious and confused feelings but after some time, it will become easier to find a balance.