Cycling: Part and Parcel of the Dutch Culture

Ever been on a bike before? Student Ambassador Shucheesmita recently cycled in the Netherlands for the first time. In this blog she shares her cycling experiences.

Posted by Shucheesmita Simonti - Student Ambassador(Bangladesh) - International Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University at Sep 14, 2018 10:30 AM
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Before arriving to the Netherlands, one of the few things that captivated me was the cycling culture in the country- cycling is part and parcel of the Dutch culture. On the very first day I arrived in the Hague, it was one of the first things that had me my eyes wide open with surprise and amazement. People of all ages were cycling, with such confidence and grace. Even though it was a cold day, the sight of people cycling was a heartwarming sight, especially for me given my own story.
I will share my personal bittersweet love story with cycling and tell you why it is important to learn cycling in the Netherlands and what it can offer you, if you are ready to take the challenge and how to go about cycling if you are in a similar situation like mine.

 

Cycling - Shucheesmita 1

Cycling and I- a bittersweet love story

Personally speaking, cycling and I happen to have a bittersweet love story. I tried to learn cycling when I was as young as five/six, and one failed attempt and ending up with bruises led to end of my aspirations. And given that Bangladesh, my homeland has major road safety issues, I never imagined of reviving my interest in cycling again. But coming to the Netherlands reminded me of my old dreams. But for a long time, I tried to avoid trying to learn cycling. I am afraid of vehicles and the childhood memories do not help either.

But one of the amazing things I experienced here in the Netherlands is that the country teaches you to be more confident in yourself and more often than not, I have been blessed with the kindness of strangers on different occasions. Recently, after practicing cycling in front of my student housing for weeks, I decided to tackle my fears with the help of a friend, Lorenza who happily agreed to guide me.

Cycling - Shucheesmita 2

I fell down once and second time, when I nearly escaped falling, I got down from my bike to take a short break. An elderly woman in her 70’s was passing by and she stopped, waiting for the signal to turn green. She asked me ‘Is it difficult for you?’

‘It is my first time’ I replied.

‘You will get better. It will be okay.’ She smiled and waved at me as she rode away. And recharged by her kind words, I rode my cycle again and resumed.

For me, someone who gets nervous and anxious from different things including the idea of driving, it was a moment of achievement and for once, I felt happy to have learned something that appears to be integral to the Dutch culture. And trust me, if I could learn how to cycle, many others who experience similar feelings can overcome the fear too. For those of you who are reading this and wondering if it is worth it, let me tell you why you should learn cycling while you are in the Netherlands. It will be an amazing experience if you learn to cycle.

Why should you learn cycling in the Netherlands?

If you really want to experience the Dutch culture, this is one of the things you must learn. I emphasize, “YOU MUST LEARN”. Why so? Because:

  • Here, it is one of the common modes of transportation. You find people, young and old alike, cycling their way to work, study or elsewhere.
  • The cycling skills of the people here is more than impressive. I have even seen people having sandwiches while cycling!
  • There is a lot in this small, beautiful country to explore for you if you can cycle, as the only other alternative might be a car which is not as inexpensive as a cycle.
  • It is a lot of fun! Just feeling the wind can be refreshing, unless it is too windy of course!
  • It can also open up earning opportunities for you! Many students work part time with companies such as Deliveroo, and make good money!

So, before you begin….

Before you begin, you must get yourself acquainted with the traffic rules of the country. A little bit of researching is all you require.

What if you never cycled before? Well, if you have never cycled before and have weak nerves as me, I would recommend that you start with small steps, ‘baby steps’ in my words. Practice in front of your housing, in parks before you are confident enough to go out in the roads.

Don’t be shy! Ask your friends for help. Observe how others cycle. Also keep an eye on different Facebook groups of international students and expats, to find out about bike tours for newcomers.

Lastly ,try to let go of your fears! From my experience, I can tell that fear can make it a daunting experience, so work on your fears if this is what is holding you back. I am still not very good at cycling, there are still moments when I get nervous but I am taking one step at a time and loving every moment of it.

Happy Cycling! Ik Hou Van Fietsen!

Posted by Shucheesmita Simonti - Student Ambassador(Bangladesh) - International Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University at Sep 14, 2018 10:30 AM
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