jeudi 26 avril 2012

Stuff Dutch people like

Being a native Dutchie myself, I do sometimes feel proud of our little country, of our soccer team, our cheese, windmills and bikes. Occasionally I feel the connection with my country while living abroad, and am reminded of my background. We are quite down to earth, and often use the slogan: "Doe normaal!" which means: "Be normal!". However, no other website makes me confront myself with my habits and other customs more than the website stuffdutchpeoplelike.com.

For example, I found out that not every nation puts a birthday calender up their toilet so if you have guests over they can check out everyone's birthday while doing their thing. Isn't it just very convenient? What else do you do while being in there, sitting and waiting?

Other than that, we congratulate each other with someone's birthday. If it's Piet's birthday, you congratulate Piet's mother, father, sisters, brothers, neighbors, friends and other family with his birthday. Myself, I just find it very nice that you think of everyone, and share the joy of Piet's birthday together. However, if I do this while being abroad, I always get incredibly weird glares my way..

Apparently, we also tend to say certain sentences a lot in public. Two examples are "dat mag niet", which means: you are not allowed to do that, and "dat kan niet", which means: that is not possible. Often when you call any customer service you will get to hear the latter unfriendly sentence. A lot of things are not possible to them, because of the many many strict rules we seem to follow in my homeland. The sentence "dat mag niet" is often said to children, when they are behaving in a bad way. Children are taught on a very young age that they should do what is right, and not behave badly. This goes of course perfectly with our very organized, strict and bureaucratic lifestyle. Okay, so that does sound boring, but in a way I believe everything is so well taken care of because of it, that I don't mind those little rules.

Another (seemingly very weird) habit is that we swear with diseases. Not so much normal diseases, but the ones that are not so common anymore. We swear with the plague, the smallpox, cholera, tuberculosis and typhus. It's not like we use these commonly, you will probably just hear them when people are in a fight, or get extremely angry with the weather (something else we Dutchies love to talk about).

So having shared some of my country's habits, I would like to know: What do you think? Are they weird? Did you burst into tears because you had to laugh out loud? Or can you actually relate to some of them?
Leave a comment below and tell us about your country's habits :)

For more funny Dutch habits, check out this website: http://stuffdutchpeoplelike.com/

lundi 23 avril 2012

Man vs. Wild : The new adventure travel

In todays society people want more, better, cooler and newer. This also goes for the travel industry. If you have some money and you want to be 'cool' you don't go to the Greek islands for a holiday anymore. For this new and wealthy generation it's just not done to go camping in France or stay on the seaside of Spain. They want something outrageous and adventurous, they need something spectacular. Or, do they maybe just want to escape from the fast pacing lives they live and discover the unknown gems of nature?

Forbes has made a list of the most remote and adventurous travel destinations in the world. It includes the Galapagos islands, Antarctica and even outer space. Most of these destinations are quite expensive and difficult to reach. On the other hand, they offer a travel that you will probably never forget. Something you will not easily do or see again and will give you lifelong memories.
Check out a few of these remote travel destination below.

The Galapagos islands
Known as the island archipelago of Darwin's theory of natural selection, the Galapagos islands offer an amazing selection of unique animal species. The archipelago is listed as a World Heritage site and strict controls and tourist access make sure the islands protects its flora and fauna. Therefore there are only flights from Guayaquil and Quito, in Ecuador. Once arrived in the Galapagos, you need to stay with a trained guide and walk on the marked paths. This destination can offer you the most amazing snorkel and diving tours, as the islands are listed in the best diving spots in the world.

As the most southern, coldest ad driest continent on Earth, Antarctica is definitely a challenge of adventure. As it is hardly touched by people, and has some permanent scientists, the continent is only populated by unique wildlife. However, traveling there is anything but easy. You have to travel to the southern tip of Argentina and pass the Drake Passage in about two days by boat. If you won't sleep on your boat, it is possible to sleep in tents during land expeditions. Temperatures can fall to -40 C at tourists destinations, but fall even to -80 further down to the South. Antarctica has an extreme climate and therefore many accidents happen every year. In case you didn't think of this yourself yet: This trip is only for die-hards and thrill-seekers.

Easter island
Considered as one of the remotest islands on earth (around 3500 km from Chile) and known for the Moai, the stone sculptures, Easter Island is on the list of remote destinations. The island offers great volcanoes, caves and white beaches. Most other sides, including the Moai, are for free and located on the coastline. The island is only accessible by taking a flight from Santiago in Chile.

Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
If you feel like some real adventure, it is possible to climb the Kilimanjaro. There are different routes to the top and there is lodging available. It is also possible to camp on the mountain, but make sure you have all necessary gear with you. You need to have a licensed guide to go with you, to make sure the journey is safe. The mountain offers amazing views and has rich flora and fauna. Flights are operated daily from Amsterdam to Kilimanjaro (JRO).

Rafting in the Grand Canyon
Many tourists go see the amazing view of the Grand Canyon every year in the United States. But only a few decide to go rafting and experience the inner beauty of the Grand Canyon. You will raft on the Colorado river and camp at night under the blue skies. Trips can be from 3 days up to a 15 day journey in which you will see the entire 225 mile Canyon.

Adventure travel might be the traveling of the future! The good thing about it though, is that in case you are still planning on laying on the Spanish beaches, it won't be busy, cause everyone will be on Antarctica or the Galapagos islands this summer ;)

mardi 17 avril 2012

Parents nightmare of a gap year...

It might seems like a nightmare to many parents: A gap year...

Many students nowadays choose to take a ' year off ' between high school and university. To parents it's usually not the best decision their teenager can make as they are afraid their kid will never attend university anymore. But before parents should freak out about this hype called gap year, let us look at some reasons why or why not take this year off.

So really, do students who choose to take a gap year after high school only think about partying and being extremely lazy? Not quite. It's not their plan to stay degree-less forever, it is their plan to get different experiences in other countries, learn another language or even attend high school in a foreign country. In fact, in many cases it makes students even more focused and they are more sure on what they want with their life. Cause face it, if you're young and not so experienced, how should you know what you want?

If we look at most facts and figures, many students change their degree because they didn't know what to study. Or, it takes them one or even two more years extra to graduate as they can not seem to find motivation for their studies. Sending a child to university who is not ready, may even result in a real nightmare. Better prepared students, means high completion rates in university.
Even prestigious universities like Harvard and Princeton are talking about students taking a gap year before attending their studies, to be more focused, experienced and sure of their academic journey.

Gap years can exist of many different programs and destinations. So in case your parents are persuaded by you taking a gap year, it is still necessary to have a look at the possibilities and make sure you go as prepared as possible. The planning of the gap year is almost as important as the gap year itself, as you will learn how to take care of things on your own.

Money matters
Taking a gap year costs money. Language courses, high schools years, internships or volunteering programs all cost money. Of course you can save up money or earn money during a summer job before leaving the country. In most cases a financial hand from the parents is still needed. Make sure you go prepared financially, especially in case unexpected expenses occur.

Choose the dream
Gap years can be a journey of a lifetime. It can teach you who you are and what you want in life. To be able to make this happen, it is important to choose the right program. As there are so many different websites about gap years and tons of programs, it's not so easy to make that decision. Inform yourself well before you go and make sure you go for something you think fits best with you, or, is the biggest challenge..

Planning is the key
It sounds a bit cheesy, but you do need to plan this whole thing. Make sure you know the deadlines, take care of insurances, get your malaria pills and think of an option for plan B in case your choice doesn't work out. And oh yeah, don't forget the application deadlines of universities for the year after.

And while you might start planning your maybe-expensive gap year abroad, consider the following quote:

' Travel is the only thing you'll buy that makes you richer '.

I rest my case.

jeudi 12 avril 2012

How shocking can culture be?

Imagine, you planned your first long-term trip abroad, have packed your heavy over weighted suitcase, pictures of mom and dad peeking out of your agenda and some magazines in your bag in case you'll forget your mother-tongue.

While reading this, you might think: Ready to go! But much less is true. Many people are not well prepared for a so-called culture shock. Or even less expected: a reverse culture shock!
If you think of most countries, they all have food, families eating dinner at night, a t.v., a bathroom and children going to school. So how can having dinner with your family at home, be so different from having dinner with your family abroad?

About a year ago, I planned my own backpacking trip to Thailand and Malaysia. With only 8 kilos in my backpack, I felt the king of the world and ready to go for this amazing adventure. While having never been in an Asian country before, I thought I'd knew enough looking at brochures, pictures and stories on the internet and a few Lonely Planets. The media nowadays is able to portray much more of a country than it did years ago. Everyone can see commercials on ' Malaysia truly Asia' and get a quick preview of what the country must be like. Travel agencies inform you about the beautiful temples you'll see and the good value for your money. In a way it is great that we are able to gather so much information before our departure, but on the other hand it can in no way describe what you will experience in your journey..

Arriving in Asia, I immediately felt the heat and moisture of the climate, something I'm definitely not used to. Just a few seconds later the assistant of the hotel came to greet me with the widest smile and right away it became clear to me that Asian people are one of the most welcoming people I ever met. They love showing their culture, their country, their food and everything else they have to offer. Not a moment during my travelling through Thailand and Malaysia I had doubts in my mind about their willingness of making my stay as pleasant as possible. Of course you have to get used to the bugs, the not always hygiene in public bathrooms and the not always fast pace working style.

The best way to deal with the culture shock you will experience is to not cling too much to your own culture and embrace the culture you are about to see and feel. The key word is to be open minded and to let yourself be overwhelmed by the beauty of other people, culture and food. Try something new, dare to do something you never thought you'd do before and try not be afraid of what might happen.

The world has so much richness to discover, and it's not all gold that glitters. It's in the little things that you'll learn while being abroad, that make you realize how important it is to travel. After I had returned in my own country, I tried to implement these things I've learned while being in Asia. The hospitality of the people, the try-not-to-worry-so-much attitude and the respect they show to nature and animals. Cause even though you can have either bad or good experiences abroad with different cultures, it will always change your life and will teach you that going abroad is the best choice you ever made.