This week has been though on me for several reasons. Among these, the fact that it was pointed out to me that I was the only one in the lab who did not speak the local language (a.k.a. dutch). A few weeks ago, our lab was reorganized, and people (who happened to be my international colleagues) moved out. And now I’m alone. And I’am also the only girl left. (Although, a few girl undergrads are joining now). It’s tough.
It does not mean I don’t like my colleagues. The opposite actually. They’re all nice guys, and we do all get along very well. But, they are all dutch, share the same culture, interests, and it’s difficult not to feel like a stranger sometimes; even after nearly 2 years in the lab.
I miss being in a lab with over 20 different nationalities and even more spoken languages. Sharing and discovering other cultures, dishes, discussions. The Melting Pot a lab should be.
When moving, my thoughts were the following. Netherlands = Europe; all labs speak english; and it’s like 5 hours away from France. How different can it get ?
The answer is more then what you would think. The french latin culture is quite different from the dutch germanic one (This ranges from gastronomy to way of life). Although all professional meetings are done in English, coffee breaks are sometimes in dutch, and leave me sitting there and trying to grasp a few words (if I’m the only “international” sitting there, I understand it’s less obvious to speak english for some people, but it’s still rude).
It’s something to be aware of if you want to move to a foreign country with a language you don’t master. Honestly, it is a very good experience, but I think I might be more careful with this in the future.
I’d be interested to have your thoughts on that subject …