One of the most striking things I find so far is Dutch sociality. Utrecht as a student city is full of young, energetic and easygoing people. This contributes to a relaxed and open atmosphere to be found everywhere you go, especially cafés and bars.
In this blog I would like to focus on cafés.
Holland is a coffee-drinking nation and therefore has lots of cute cafés on every corner. Dutch people love to drink their “kopje koffie” and chat for hours. People do not only chat when being at a café but also do their work for university there. Whether it is to work on a group assignment, read a your papers or write this blog, everything is possible and seen. Usually people sit at big tables, with their stuff spread out and have agitated conversations. What must not be missing is coffee and if you are hungry a “broodje” (in our understanding a sandwich with any filling you desire).
The staff tries to make you feel comfortable and is not intrusive by trying to sell you as many drinks as possible. Therefore it does not matter if you just stay for 5 min or 2h and drink one cup of coffee in the whole time.
This kind of setting is really inviting for the 30’000 students Utrecht hosts through out the year and combines the Dutch coffee culture with the needs of any student. It’s a place for group work, free Wi-Fi, drinks and food.
These kinds of cafés are rarely seen in Switzerland (besides Starbucks). Most cafés do not like to see students using the tables for several hours but have a different target group of customers.
As for myself, I started to like coffee and now drink it at a café on a daily basis when I am doing my homework with some friends. The combination of doing homework and socializing at the same time makes my days fuller and more interesting. Homework becomes fun and I like the feeling of being in the same boat as my study friends.
At home I tend to do my homework and study by myself and meet up with my friends for the breaks throughout the day. In my mindset at home I feel like that I might “loose” time when doing my homework at a café, as I might be talking to my friends the whole time instead of working. My experience here is that you get as much work done while drinking coffee as you would when being at the library as the atmosphere at the cafés is study friendly.
In general I think that, compared to Holland, Switzerland does not have such a prominent coffee culture. Maybe Swiss students are generally more stressed and do not combine the social aspect of drinking coffee with getting their homework done. Whether this has to do with being more focused on our career due to social expectations, not liking coffee in general, going out for a coffee on a daily basis being too expensive or no need to socialize this much is up to the individual person. But it would definitely be worth trying it once in a while.