2012 m. liepos 17 d., antradienis

Reasons to LOVE&HATE Netherlands

       When I decided to do my Erasmus in the Netherlands I didn’t know about it almost anything. I’ve never been there before, I didn’t have an interest in it and I was never attracted to this country. Of course, I’ve heard about Amsterdam, legalized weed and football team of the country, but that was it. I was going here without big expectations, being concerned that my stay will last just those little more than 4 months and I will come back. But, of course, nothing ever goes as you plan. At the end  I totally fell in love with this country and even the language, that Dutch people hate.  There are a lot of reasons to love Netherlands and there are some to hate it, so I am going to share my observation about the best and the worst aspects about living in this country.

 I LOVE…..
       Dutch people are probably the friendliest and most polite people I’ve ever met. They always smile and greet, they start talking to you just on the street, they always switch to English when they see you don’t know Dutch. Netherlands is one of the best not native english speaking country in Europe, so everyone talks English perfectly here, even people of older generation. Sometimes it is a little embarrassing when you realize that cashier at the supermarket talks better English than you.

Here you always feel comfortable, because people are tolerant and extremely friendly. Doesn’t matter how you look like, no one would laugh at you or judge you. That’s why there is a great diversity of people – differently dressed, different behaviours, accessories etc. Sometimes you meet really strange people, like really old man in a night club or woman with the grass and leaves in her hair, but it makes life more colourful and gives you a feeling of real freedom of expression.

There are a lot of facts about Dutch people, that  I didn’t know before coming here. For example, did you know that Dutch are the tallest people in the World? Me neither. Here it is common to split the bill half/half when you go on the date and they even have an expression for that - “Let’s go Dutch”, which is actually used Worldwide.

 The common stereotype about Dutch is that they love to complain. If they don’t like the service at the restaurant they wouldn't shout or express it in any impolite way, but they would write a complaint afterwards. They write complaints about everything! Also if you are being noisy in the evening, it would take 5 minutes and the neighbour would ring your bell and warn you about calling police. But once you agree to calm down, nice conversation would follow. No aggression, no negative emotions. I love it!

People here like to shop and in the break grab a cup of coffee. That’s why shops are always full and coffee places never empty. People know how to enjoy life J . I have to admit that Dutch are also very fit – you barely meet fat people and you really often see people jogging.
The other thing that I really love about Dutch people is that they are very helpful. If you need something and you ask for help, they would do everything in order to help you. If they don’t know the answer yet, the sentence you might here very often is “I will check it for you”. And they actually do!


         Bike is a must have accessory in all seasons in the Netherlands. Everyone bikes here. Seriously, everyone – children, old people, students, drunk people, rich and poor people, women with elegant dresses and high-heels, man with suits. Bike roads are equally important as car roads, so you can safely bike in the city and from one city to another. There is a bike route, which can bring you through all country.
People ride different bikes here. I think, that some of them are older than people, who are riding them. Bike is not just a vehicle here, it is an accessory, so people decorate it with flowers, colourful bells and baskets.  People love to play with colors – you often see bikes in the most unexpected shades, as vivid blue, pink or yellow. Also white bikes are popular.
In the city center there are a lot of parking places for bikes, as well as in front of the shops or university. Bikers are the fully-fledged road users and have to respect the rules. There are signs particularly for bikes and ignoring them might cost you some money, because police is quite strict about it (my friend got a fine 45 euros for going in forbidden direction).
Biking is a lovely habit! Public transport is very expensive here, so biking saves you a lot of money, it is fast, ecologically friendly and healthy. Unconsciously every day you do a lot of exercise just by solving your daily issues in the town.

           Geographically the center of Europe is in Lithuania ( 26km north from Vilnius), but in all other senses the center of Europe is here. The Netherlands are located in the dot on the map, which is close to almost all countries in Europe. It has boarders with Belgium and Germany, which gives you an opportunity to travel around there by train or even your bike.
 The country is small and there are a lot of airports around offering cheap flights. For example, from the Maastricht, I could catch flights from 4 airports – Maastricht, Brussels, Eindhoven and Dusseldorf. All of them are located no more than 1 hour faraway.  The best thing, that flights from here are really cheap – you could get tickets to London for 5 euros and to Budapest for 2. Sounds crazy? But this is truth.  I used the advantage of good location of the Netherlands and travelled a lot, uncountable times I went to Belgium , I visited few cities in Germany, I flew to Paris, Milan and  Thessaloniki. And with all these trips I didn’t spend too much money.

Except the location, the heartbeat of Europe here you can feel because of the European institutions. It is close to Brussels, which is the center of Europe in a political sense, so some institutions are based in the Netherlands as well. Den Haag is the center of European law, Maastricht in famous because the Maastricht treaty signed here. There are a lot of meetings and visits of the officials happening, so the European institutions seem to be very close and much more real, than it seems living in Lithuania. Sometimes institutions announce open days, when every person could get it and have a tour. I was lucky to visit European Parliament this way and spend there an afternoon walking around, talking to people and discovering the structure of one of the biggest governance bodies in Europe.

The feeling of Europe you get here also because of the values and behaviour of people. In the Netherlands people are aware what European Union is and how it actually works, not only in economic sense, but in the sense of values and cultural dilemmas. At university there are often discussions organized, where students talk about future of European union, development and integration. Moral problems, as emigration and immigration are widely discussed here, sometimes with presence of important officials and representatives of European institutions. So, this is definitely  feels so much like Europe in all senses J 

 National celebrations
     To me Dutch culture seems unique and not so much influenced by the globalization. I like that they don’t own traditions that have nothing in common with their historical background (as Lithuanians do with Halloween).There are several Dutch national celebrations, that are really worth seeing and attending.
First of them is the Carnival, which is called ‘Vastenavond’  in Dutch. It is mainly celebrated in the southern provinces of the Netherlands, as North Brabant and Limburg. Maastricht is a capital of Limburg region, so I had a great chance to witness the celebration of the carnival. Here they celebrate a particular type of carnival called “Rijnlandsche Carnival’, which is a mixture between South American and Venetian traditions.

It takes place in the end of February, on the Sunday through Tuesday preceding Ash Wednesday. During the carnival everything and everyone stops working. People celebrate! Having a costume for the Carnival is a MUST for everyone, doesn’t matter if you are tourist or local. There are large shops specializing on selling just carnival attributes, so you can choose if you want to be a police man, sexy pig or devil. People don’t count money, when talk comes about the costume for the Carnival. When the day of the Carnival comes you will not recognize the city – it will be full of strange animals and diiferent kind of humans walking around. It starts with the big parade walking through all city center with variously dressed people, drums and loud music. First you just stare and admire, because it looks very exciting and unusual. Then the concerts with carnival music start all around the city and everyone is drinking beer and dancing. People have  portable bars full of alcohol and they move it everywhere they go. There is music and fun on every corner and it goes on for a couple of days like that. The culmination is choosing princess and prince of the carnival. It is the best title you can get here!

The second ‘must see’ thing is a Queens’s day. It is the celebration of the birthday of the mother of the present Queen of the Netherlands (gosh, sounds so complicated). On this day, every Dutch and non Dutch wears something orange, which is a national color of the Netherlands. People bring outside everything they could sell and all cities become a big second-hand markets. You can find the weirdest things ever there. Of course a lot of parties, beer and music everywhere are promised!

I am not sure if it is the same in all Netherlands, but Maastricht is SOOOOO good for shopping. Although Maastricht is a small town, there are a lot of shops (three H&M shops, New Yorker, two floors ZARA, Bershka etc )and these shops always have sales. I mean really ALWAYS! Every time I enter the shop there is something cool on sale. But when the BIG SALES start it is even more amazing! Then you get lovely dresses for 7 euros, skirts and shirts for 5 and 3. It is perfect for accessories and shoes as well. If you have money ( or even if you don’t ) this is a right place to spend it!

 The weather
If you want to experience the worst weather ever, you have to come to the Netherlands. Rain non-stop, crazy wind, sun mixing with the rain and wind and cold and warmth. There are no seasons here – it is autumn all the year. At the moment I am experiencing the worst summer in my life. It is raining all days,  all nights. You never see the sun, you never get tan. If the miracle happens and the sun appears don’t be too much happy, the rain will come in few hours. But if sun stays, be sure that all parks will be crowded with people lying down like vegetables on the grass and trying to catch at least a drop of sun.

Dutch weather really knows how to please you. It will be always sunny when you have exam week, so you can enjoy sun through the library window. It will be sunny just before you leave the house, but 2 minutes after on your way it will start raining and your hair will be destroyed and the dress wet. It knows how to freak you out and make you angry!

So , as you see there are much more reasons to love the Netherlands than hate it.Of course there are a lot more lovely things to mention about the Netherlands then I did (maybe I will write about it in the next post), but still maybe after reading this  post, some people will understand why I don’t want to leave this country and why I feel so much in love with it despite this horrible weather.
To end my love letter to the Netherlands, I want you to watch the amazing video about my town here – Maastricht.  I love it very much! Enjoy! Maastricht city visit


2012 m. liepos 15 d., sekmadienis

The best hitch-hiking story ever!

I am writing this post after waking up at 6.30, standing for hours in the rain, running by the wall in the autobahn, screaming at random people, walking through the dirt, claiming a fence on the bridge (!!) and finally having the best Dutch coffee and a desert with strawberries.  However the day turned out to be like this, the initial plan was to have a wonderful hitch-hiking trip to Frankfurt and spend there a weekend enjoying skyscrapers and wonderful night life. But as proverb says - ‘people make plans and God laughs’. But let me tell you everything from the beginning!
How the dreams break
I  always wanted to travel by hitch-hiking somewhere further than 20 km and finally I found a mate, my German neighbor Moritz, who was ready to do it with me.  Talking about the location, Maastricht is perfect place to travel from, because you can choose from 3 countries – it is on the border with Germany and Belgium and is in the bottom the Netherlands.  I’ve heard from many hitch-hikers, that Germany is a very nice place to hitch-hike – cars stop easily, people are friendly and it is safe. So, inspired by all this advantages, we decided to do a trip from Maastricht to Frankfurt.  We planned to leave on Friday and come back on Sunday, the round trip would make 600km. Weather forecast said there is a possibility of rain, but not too big. Sounds like perfect plan, isn’t it?

German couch – mission impossible

We had a nice plan, I was super excited about seeing Frankfurt, so we started a preparation. Task ‘number one’ was finding a place to sleep for two nights. Moritz used to live in Frankfurt and had some friends there, therefore we were sure we won’t face any difficulties finding accommodation. Oh how wrong were we! None of the friends were able to host us, but there still was a ‘Couch surfing’ option.

 I’ve already couchsurfed in France and Greece and it didn’t take long to find a couch there, so I was sure about the same in Frankfurt. Oh how wrong I was! After sending around 20 super informative and perfectly representative requests I got one positive answer, offering a ‘wonderful ‘ place to stay. The place was an attic with two cats living there and as ‘host’ mentioned, the place is a little stinky and we would have to sleep on the floor. Sounds perfect, but we decided to keep looking and posted in ‘emergency couch’ group, which normally works very fast. Guess if it worked for us? Yes yes, you are right, no one ever answered. When the day to travel finally came, we still didn’t have any options for sleeping, outside it was raining like hell, but we still wanted to go somewhere.  New plan was going to Eindhoven (around 100 km) and the same day coming back.

Hurricanes on the way

At 8 we left  and started hitch-hiking 200 meters from our house (we live just outside the city). Place was good, because it was not forbidden to stop, there was a place to stop and it was not a high-way and not a city. We expected to catch a car, which would bring us outside of Maastricht, so we could start catching a car for reaching Eindhoven. Although it was Saturday morning, there were a lot of cars passing by, however none of them wanted to stop. We tried all tactics –smiling, waving, standing quite, standing with the paper in our hands.  Finally it worked! So, it took only 50 mins to stop the first car. The driver was a Dutch man around 35 years old from the village nearby Maastricht, car was full of children toys and small chairs. By the time he picked us up, it was rain showering crazily. But we were inside the car and we got a motivation back, crazy weather and wind doesn’t matter!

The most stressful 200 meters in my life

The man was going to some place around Maastricht and offered to bring us on the road going to the direction of Eindhoven, where it is very convenient to hitch-hike. In 5 mins we were standing in front of the entrance to a highway. However, there was some reconstruction happening, so in order to reach the highway we had to walk around 200 meters by the wall built along the way. Those 200 meters turned to be the most stressful in my life! Large, super fast cars were passing in the distance of 10 cm and the worst thing that at the same time it was raining and cars started signaling and people were shouting on us from their cars. I was totally stressed, almost running and there was no escape, because we had to reach the highway and we couldn’t go back.  I started to yell on passing cars as well and it brought some relief actually J

No hitch-hiker soul found
Luckily we didn’t die on the highway and police didn’t come to pick us up. Finally we were standing in front of the sign ‘Eindhoven’, we had paper with the same word in our hands and despite the wind and rain really good mood. However all our motivation to hitch-hike was gone in around one hour. We were cold and wet and annoyed by people. At the moment when we started to yell at every car passing and stopping I realized that we are the worst hitch-hikers ever. We started giving up to fast and we were not ready to face difficulties as shitty weather and annoying people.


In around an hour I had unstoppable wish to finish this adventure and go back home, but it turned to be a problem as well. There were two ways to leave the place we were standing at – taking away by the wall (which we did already and it was horrible) or crossing all highway. But then we had an idea to escape through all this reconstruction area, which was around. We noticed the bridge, which could take us to the safe road going to the city, although it was blocked by two fences. We claimed the fences, Moritz scratched the hand, and our shoes were all in dirt. We were laughing like crazy, people passing were looking at us, as we would be mad (maybe they were right).

Happy end

To finish the story about the trip, that didn’t happen I have to say that our journey we ended up in a beautiful restaurant with the terrace, having delicious coffee and eating strawberry deserts.  The conclusion of the day was that we definitely are not hitch-hikers and I am never hitch-hiking again. Probably, to travel this way you need to have a real desire to it and don’t give up too soon.  Another thing I have to admit, that after bad couchsurfing experience I am getting my stereotypes about Germans back ( and also getting bad impression about dutch drivers). By the way, when we were back home we got to know, that there was kind of hurricane in Frankfurt, with falling trees and water all around the city, how happy I was we were not there! Anyway, in two weeks we have planned another trip, not hitch-hiking this time, so follow the blog and don’t miss real story J!


2012 m. liepos 13 d., penktadienis

When in doubt - choose Erasmus!

 Last 5 months I was living in foreign country, 90% of the words I said were in English, I was meeting people from all the World, writing never ending papers, partying all nights, reading hundred pages a day, travelling, cooking with friends, drinking the best beer in the World, organizing crowded parties, experiencing new cultures and growing in a personal and professional way. I was having the time of my life! Guess, how is this period of life called? Yes, it is E-RAS-MUS!

        5 months, 7 countries visited, 30 credits earned, hundreds of kilometres biked, uncountable amount of amazing people met,1 unforgettable experience lived – this is the result of my Erasmus. Not too big, not too small, but definitely amazing, stunning and awesome! So, let me tell you the story, which is must read for those, who are in doubt if doing Erasmus or not!

Omg, I have to study!
Formally Erasmus is a student exchange program, giving opportunity to study for one semester or longer in a university abroad with the scholarship for all study period. For my Erasmus I’ve chosen town called Maastricht in the Limburg province of the Netherlands. It has a large university, which mostly drives the life of whole town. University is presented as modern and international – “Leading in learning” is the slogan (although people like to rephrase it for leading in Germans ). University is very young (it was established in 1976), although very well ranked in Europe.

    Studies at university didn’t require a lot of attendance. I had classes just 2-3 times a week for a few hours, however some part of lovely free time that I’ve got had to be spent in the library, reading hundreds of pages and writing assignments. When you are Erasmus student in Maastricht university (or as I’ve heard in Netherlands generally), you  have to study. Yes, a big surprise! But actually, I loved the fact, that I had to take all this study pressure, because at the end it really feels like I’ve learned something and my brain is still functioningJ. What was really joyful about the studies is the freedom that is given to students. You are free to choose everything regarding your studies, starting with the selection of courses, finishing with the selection of topics you will work on or the dates of exams (here it is possible to unsubscribe from exam and take it later, if you don’t feel ready). As Dutch students say, people should be able to plan their time according to their needs and university has to provide this opportunity, because students are adults. So, as a student here you can fully manage your study program and moderate it as it seems the best for you – professors are flexible and in most cases very open to the ideas of students.  After 3 years at Vilnius University, I felt like escaping from ‘communist regime, such a breath of fresh air J However nothing is perfect, neither are these studies. Although there were many aspects, that were lovely, sometimes studies seemed to be too theoretical and just didn’t make sense (most probably because of my extremely practical studies back home).

The market of cultures – pick what you like

       Maastricht University is advertised as international with 43% foreign students, although a large part of international students are Germans.  Even though you still have a chance to meet people from all over the World, because university is quite popular to come for exchange from Asia, US and Canada. In this mixture of cultures, you can choose who you want to get to know. I had friends from really various places in the World, as South Korea, Hong-Kong, Canada, Bulgaria, Germany, Hungary, Chile, Italy etc. As an exchange student you mostly live in this exchange people community, which is extremely fun and of course international.  People are keen to promote and share their cultures. We had kind of a tradition of organizing “international nights”, where people from certain country would cook their traditional food and tell about their culture. Of course, it was done in Erasmus style, with loads of fun and wine, although it still gave an opportunity to learn about the cultures.
Sharing Erasmus period with people from all other the World makes you change a lot. First of all, you get rid of the stereotypes, mostly the ones about nationalities and cultures. I would never think before, that one of my best friends and soul mates could be a person from totally different culture, coming from the country thousands kilometres far away, but I’ve got a friend from South Korea. It is amazingly surprising how well you can get along with the person, despite all cultural prejudices. At the end you understand that cultural differences that everyone around is discussing is nothing! No-thing! The most important is who you are, not from where you are. Of course at the end it hurts, when you have to say ‘bye’ and you wish our planet would be smaller, there would be no oceans and Ryanair would fly to Asia. Despite all the tears that might drop out of your eyes, it is really worth it!
Another cultural discovery I made in Maastricht are German people. I was one of those people believing stereotypes about them – not friendly, boring, need tutorials for everything, arrogant etc.  I met different German people here and some of them actually confirmed these stereotypes, but having German roommate and hanging out together a lot, made me rethink my attitude. Once again you see that not the nationality, but the personality matters. I can make ‘Nazi’ jokes about my German friend and he can joke about ‘poor life’ and attraction to steal the things of Eastern Europeans. Yes, there is a difference between our lives, but it makes our friendship even stronger and funnier. 
      After some time spent in this intercultural environment you cannot imagine yourself living differently. This diversity of colors, accents and attitudes becomes an addiction. And then you want Erasmus to last forever, because it’s so wonderful (believe me, it’s truth J)
Party every day, party every night
Immediately after hearing word “Erasmus” most people would think about unstoppable parties. And they will be right. Hell yeah , Erasmus is not possible without house parties, going out on weekdays and visiting clubs with mainstream music, where you would never go in your normal life ! It is obligatory to have a crappy song that every Erasmus person in the Uni would know and you would remember of your exchange period immediately while hearing.
Honestly, Maastricht is not the best place for going out. For the extreme party lovers and those, who prefer fancy clubs there will be no place to party here. You can find some places to dance, but it is never exciting there. However, when you are Erasmus, you can have fun everywhere! Actually, Erasmus people are tend to hang out as a closed community in their private house parties. For me those were the ones, where I had the most fun.  Maybe because once in a lifetime I had a large party space and I was able to organize parties myself (gosh, such an amazing feeling, hehe J ). Sometimes something broke down, sometime police came, sometimes people fell down from the bikes while going home, but always it was a lot of fun!
        Doesn’t matter if you are a party animal, or quite person, preferring to sit in the bar with the beer, you will find your people and your way to have fun. Of course if you want to (if you try really hard, you can manage not to have fun during your Erasmus, but it’s quite difficult, sorryJ).  
Now my Erasmus is over and all friends are back to their countries. But as I told, you want Erasmus to last forever and you never want to leave the place where you experienced so many wonderful things! So, I am still in Maastricht, doing internship here for another 3 moths.  But it is another story that I might tell you later ;)


2012 m. kovo 15 d., ketvirtadienis

Maastricht street fashion

Yesterday I had a feeling, that spring finally came to Maastricht! Very unusual - sun was shining!:) I couldn't resist this persfect sunny and warm weather and just stay at home or library,so I had a walk  in the city center and observed how poeple changed their looks from winter to spring collections. Here is what I found: 
Black clothes,white flower,red lips - everythinh brilliant. Except those glitter parts of a tights :)


Blue-jeans style.Here I like the scarf and shoes of a girl. Boy's jeans and shoes - baaad.

Popular in Maastricht - wearing sweaters with university name and shorts,of course. I think anywhere before I didn't see that many girls wearing shorts as here.

Bike is "must-have" accessorie in Maastricht all the time :)
Youth style. Boy looks really good!
Have a look at high-heels on the right - LOVELY!
Super simple. Uggs should be left in winter.
Here I like skirt,shoes and the fact,that everything together looks colorful

2012 m. kovo 12 d., pirmadienis

How it feels to be lithuanian abroad

On the 11th of March there is a big celebration in Lithuania. It is the day,when our country got back its independence. Streets are full of people, controversial parades of "patriotic youth" take place, flags wawe everywhere. Every lithuanian, who is proud to be lithuanian somehow marks this day. This year, while Lithuania was singing national athem all together, I was thousands kilometres away. But,what is suprsising, I felt so close to my country, as I never felt while living there.
Usually during this kind of national celebrations, people of one nationality abroad are used to stick together. However, I think, that it should  be the opposite. It's always nice to share your culture, open it to other people, make them admire it as you do. So, that's why on 11th of March I decided to organize Lithuanian night for foreigners -  with traditional food, music and games to discover our country, culture and language. Another reason was that Lithuania is really a hidden treasure of Europe, that almost no one knows about it (like it would be in Africa or other side ofthe World). I like the most,when you tell someone "I am from Lithuania" and you see that person actually doesn't have an idea about it, but pretends to know and after says "Oh, I know your capital Tallin (or more often Riga) is very nice". Being lithuanian abroad is not that easy as turkish or chineese,who meet their culture or people on every corner and can buy their tradition food in specialized markets worldwide. You cannot that easily meet lithuanian culture everywhere, so you have to keep it in your heart and soul and become as an ambasador - promote it and share.
And when you try to share it, you discover how curious and interested people actually are. You see koreans or hungarians trying to pronounce difficult words in lithuanian language, you see italians gazing at pictures of your country, you hear people saying how delicious lithuanian food is, and you feel that your country is not just a dot on the map for them anymore.
 And you feel that your home, your culture is not far at all, it's just here, around you. And it will always be, if you manage to bring it everywhere you go!

2012 m. kovo 4 d., sekmadienis

Hello! I'm Kristina, I'm 22 and I am a journalist. Since I was very small child, people used to tell me, that I always look happy. Sometimes it sounded like: "Oh, you look so happy!" or "I'm jealous, that you manage to be happy" or (this is the best) "Why are you so happy?". And they were always right, I'm happy! I could hardly remember any day in my life when since sunrise till sunset I wouldn't have any minute of happiness :)

"What makes you being happy? " - would you ask. Well, I've been asking myself this quesion many times and I've got so many answers - travelling, friends, family, challenges! But on the top I would put DISCOVERIES. Nothing else could compare to this feeling, when you get to know, to see, to hear, to feel something new, that you never experienced before. Everytime you discover something new, you change, you add one more color to the painting of your life. And if you never stop doing it, imagine how beautiful and colorful life you will have :)!

In order to share my desire to the discoveries with other people, I decided to start writing it down. At the moment I am leaving in the Netherlands, in the city called Maastricht. This place inspired me with its variety of colors! Here you can meet people from all the corners of the World, talk different languages, visit squatter houses and fancy clubs at the same time, listen to all kinds of music you like, meet strange and extraordinary people, hear stories of their lives, do yoga exercise and after smoke a joint with your guru. Colors, colors, colors!!!

In this blog, called "Colors of life" I will make you discover amazing things, places and people. I promise, you will find al ot of colors and positive emotions here!

Be happy,