When you’re an international in Groningen, how do you make new friends?
Of course you can hang out with other internationals, but could you hang out with the locals too? Do you even want to hang out with the locals?
Yesterday I went to the international Here & Now meet-up at the Jonge Harten Theaterfestival. It was organized by Anastasia from Latvia. Her first year in Groningen she had a lot fun at school, but afterwards she had to go home alone. She had no social circle. No friends. Nothing to do but study. A year later she started joining clubs and going to events she liked. It turned out to be a good way to get connected. That’s why, after her art education at Minerva, she created the Here & Now platform which includes this meeting.
In this meeting internationals shared stories about being an international, explained tactics on getting connected and complained about how bad the food. Nadia, a Mexican girl said: “The tortilla’s in the Albert Heijn are the most depressing thing.”
Brandon, a young man from New York has a real hands-on approach to hanging out with the locals. He created Humans of Groningen and even joined an Ice Skating club! How more Dutch can you get? He, like more people in the meeting, is learning Dutch. Sometimes he actively joins in on Dutch conversations. Other times he listens intently.
Nadia once joined a softball club. Here she had to routinely ask for translation. She had to fight just to be recognized as part of the group. Others in the meeting recognized her story. The Dutch so quickly start talking in their own language to each other, even when an international is part of that conversation.
Some of them admitted to just giving up on being friends with the Dutch. They may act very kind, but: “Dutch people keep together… You will always be an outsider.” In the end some people did have (good) Dutch friends, others none at all.
Except for me there was only one Dutch guy in the group. His name was Luc (and he looks like Justin from 13 Reasons Why). He organizes music nights every week to connect all kinds of people. He’s the exact opposite of how this group sees the Dutchies. I sadly do fit their bill. I’ve had a couple of international students in my class and I never once tried to connect with them. Well I did triy once, with a Mexican/Spanish girl, who I liked, not out of curiosity of her culture but because of… external factors.
After this meeting I start wondering: should I try more actively to make friends with internationals? Should I join an international club? Then I remember I was good friends with a Latvian housemate once. I even visited him in Riga for a week. But now when I look at my agenda, see how busy I am, I tell myself: “Maybe later, after Jonge Harten when I’m not too busy.”