Soap Box

Newfoundland vs. Netherlands

Bishop's College
St. John's, Newfoundland

By Katelijne V.

Katelijne is a 17 year old girl from Holland who has come to spend a year in Newfoundland through the Rotary International Youth Exchange Program. She attends Grade 12 at Bishops College in St. John's and lives with a host family. While learning more about other people and cultures, she acts as a goodwill ambassador for her own country. She also addresses Rotary clubs and youth organizations to share her knowledge about the Netherlands. The program is designed for students to help broaden their experiences and enlighten them to different cultures. (For information on how to become an exchange student call the Rotary member in your area).

Some people in my school are already good friends of mine and know a lot about me. Other people must have thought "Who's that stranger?" when I walked into the school. And others may never notice me, although that seems pretty impossible to me.

I am writing this column about myself and how I find Newfoundland and its people. That way you will know something about me, without talking to me. My name is Katelijne. I am 17 years old and I am an exchange student from the Netherlands(NL). I am here with the Rotary Exchange program. Normally I stay with Lindsay D., who goes to Bishops, and her family. In NL, I have a mum and a dad(which seems pretty logical to me), and two younger sisters: Iris, who is 15, and Laura, who is 12. 1 also have a boyfriend, Cees. During my stay, I have to follow the four Rotary rules, also called the four D's: no drugs, no drinking, no driving, and no dating. By that last rule, it doesn't mean I can't have a boyfriend; it's just that they don't want me to come back pregnant.

Maybe some people who read this story will be shocked that I mentioned the word "pregnant". I think that is one of the cultural differences between here and NL. We talk openly about sex and also about drugs, drinking and contraceptives. In NL, you are allowed to enter bars and discos when you are 16. You can also drink beer and liquor there. To buy them in stores, you have to be 18; though I could buy anything I wanted since I was 16. Most people here get really excited when they hear this and think that everyone in NL is drunk all of the time. Nothing is less true than that. I've never really been 'loaded', nor have my friends. I do not know much about the drugs laws in NL, but I do know that we have coffee shops where you can buy soft drugs. It's legal.

In NL, you have to wait until you are 18 to get your license and it is very hard to get. You have to take driving lessons. Most people do 20 lessons before trying their first test. At least half of them fail the test and have to take another 20 lessons. Then there is still a chance that you will fail again.

The school system in NL is different, too. For example, we don't have junior high. Only the really, really smart people can go to university. If you do well in school, you can go to an HBO, which is like a technical college. There are different levels, and it is decided which level you will attend when you are 12 vears old.

Another big difference is the food. There is not as much fatty or take-out food available in NL. Maybe that's a good thing. It seems that we do more exercise in NL too. That's another difference; in NL everyone rides to school on their bike, no matter if they have to ride for an hour or just a couple of minutes; no matter if it's snowing or raining. Always!! Though, I do have to say that NL is flatter than in Newfoundland.

Here, my host parents drive me to school. I'm sure that is one of the reasons why I have gained four pounds. Ah well, I knew it would happen. Before I left NL,the rotary told me that most people who go to the USA or Canada usually gain about 20 pounds in a year.

Front Page Soap Box