In the Netherlands I go to university in Groningen. Groningen lies in the north of the Netherlands, and Amsterdam is about 2 hours away by train. Fear not though, because when you’ve been to Groningen Amsterdam won’t be interesting for you. It’s the most vibrant student town in the Netherlands. It has almost 200.000 inhabitants, and students form a significant part of this population. There are about 30.000 students here, which includes thousands of international students. At the university there are several programs taught entirely in English. The English language capability is also quite well developed. Not only in the classroom, but also on the streets everybody will speak at least a bit of English. Tuition fees are not that high, about 1800 euros a year. In return you get lectures in a top 100 ranked university in the world, a top 30 University in Europe and you can experience the famous Dutch culture.
It’s quite a bit more expensive to live in Groningen compared to Krakow. The housing market here is consistently overheating, which drives up prices because of ruthless real estate companies. For my small 14m2 room in a shared student house I paid 375 euros(1500zl), not far from the utmost center. The biggest difference can be seen in supermarkets, pubs, and restaurants. One of the things I was disappointed most with in Groningen is the fact that when you order a real beer/piwo in a bar you always get a disgusting 250ml glass. Yet you still pay double the price compared to here, while you’re getting less value for money. This is one of the reasons most students don’t eat or drink out, and do most of their pre-drinking at home.
Nightlife in Groningen however is great. The center is quite well connected, everything can be done by bike and later by foot. We don’t have the biggest clubs such as in Krakow, but there are a few. The most popular type of venue is a hybrid between a club and a bar. It looks like a bar, but it has a dancefloor as well. Going out in Groningen is actually not that expensive. There are some horribly smelling places where you can get a shot for a euro, or get 13(small) beers for 10 euro. This includes a sausage fest and an overall sense of degeneracy. For 10 euros therefore you can have a good night, since bars and clubs don’t charge entry. I can say I spend more here in Krakow for a night out than I do in Groningen.
One thing that people will be surely interested in is the Dutch tolerance to marijuana. It’s true that the selling of marijuana is completely allowed in legislated coffeeshops, where you can get what you want for a fair price. People always stereotype people from the Netherlands how I would miss the green here, but personally I’m not a big fan. This goes the same for my friends, international students value this privilege far more, mostly because they haven’t experienced it in a legal way in their own country. It is allowed, but not on the street, keep it in the privacy of your own home. A gram is about 7 euros.
People that have met me can say that I’m quite passionate about biking and bikes in general, even after an incident that happened here. In my town you do everything by bike. You go to class by bike, you go to the store by bike, you go partying by bike, and you return by bike. Another example of Dutch tolerance is that cycling after you’re wasted is completely allowed. It’s not hard to acquire a bike here. In Groningen we have a lot of friendly bikesalesmen that during the night show up and will try and sell you a bike for the reasonable price of 5-10 euros. Off course, you might be quite naïve and think that this honest gentleman is selling his sisters/moms/brothers bike. In reality this is mostly not the case. Bikes are constantly getting stolen in Groningen and sold by junkies the next night. While it is illegal to partake in these activities, the chance of getting arrested are quite low, and police generally isn’t very proactive with these issues. About 7 of my bikes have been stolen, and I’ve bought others as well for a small fee. I see it as a circle of life, you see people riding a bike that was once yours, other people see the same. As long as we’re sharing transportation, I don’t see it as a problem.
I’d like to end my story with a nice video, which shows the biking mentality that is part of my city. I hope to have given you a good overview about what Groningen is all about.
Joost van Leer