Written by Catherine Talbot.

I have officially survived my first few weeks in The Netherlands. I have swapped waiting at train lines in Lincoln to waiting for bikes to pass in Zwolle and I have to say that I love every minute.

Student Catherine Talbot says living in The Netherlands is proving to be a challenge. Photo: Cat Talbot
Student Catherine Talbot has swapped her life in Lincoln for an exchange of six months in The Netherlands at Windersheim University. Photo: Cat Talbot

I was hoping for a much warmer climate (clearly my research was not great) and have actually been granted with freezing cold temperatures and snow. But, I have invested in a warmer coat and gloves and a proper Dutch bike. I feel like I fit in already.

Over my first few weeks I have done all the typical things a tourist would do – I have got lost and had to ask for directions despite owning a map. I have tried the local delicacies and have struggled to understand the language daily.

Considering this is going to my home for the next six months I have made every effort to move away from the tourist ways and become a local resident. I am learning the language, buying local food and even managed to give someone else directions.

As for the bike, well that is a whole new adventure in itself. They are everywhere. A study has proven that there are more bikes than people in The Netherlands and trust me, that I can believe.

Getting to grips with the bikes in Zwolle is a real challenge she says. Photo: Cat Talbot
Getting to grips with the bikes in Zwolle is a real challenge she says. Photo: Cat Talbot

I brought a lovely second hand bike and took to the roads. Initially the thought that scared me the most was being on the other side of the road but when I got the bike, that thought was pushed firmly aside and replaced with a whole new fear: the brakes.

In Holland, like many other European countries the brakes are not located on the handle bars. The control is all in your feet and to stop you have to pedal backwards. You can imagine the shock I had when I found this out.

Thankfully, I am now fully used to this new brake system and will probably find it weird going back to the English ways.

One thing is for sure, Zwolle is beautiful, despite the cold weather. I am a short walk from the city centre full of old buildings, canals and cute cafés. I do not think I will ever get bored of the view.

I am also an extremely cheap train ride away from Amsterdam which means weekly visits to yet another beautiful Dutch city. All in all I would say I am going to be just fine here.