Monthly Archives: August 2008

Share your resources

Hello, Erasmus Mundus students and alumni!

September is almost here. To welcome the new batch of EM students, we created a new Resources page with links to useful websites in each European country. I’m sure you have some URLs bookmarked in your browser that you can share. Just list them in a comment below and I will add the links to the Resources page.


Categories: Life in Europe | 4 Comments

The Dutch smell like babies

by Alfredo R. Paloyo

Like Jill, I also did the European Master in Law and Economics (EMLE). My term allocation was Rotterdam, Hamburg, and Bologna. The reasons for choosing each location were simple: Rotterdam, because it was the organizer of the program for non‐European students; Hamburg, because I had an aunt and cousin living in Frankfurt; Bologna, because I had another aunt living in Rome. (Filipino diaspora much?)

De Kubuswoningen, Rotterdam

I was excited. It was going to be my first time outside the Philippines. (Hong Kong does not count!) I arrived at Schipol Airport in Amsterdam and was immediately amazed at how tall the people are in the Netherlands. You see, in the Philippines, at 5’9”, I would be above average for the Filipino male. In the Netherlands, I was constantly and painfully reminded of how dwarf‐like I must have seemed to them. Later on, my consolation was that I didn’t have any Dutch classmate (though there was one Swedish girl who could stomp me to death if she wanted to).

The author at Kinderdijk

My conjecture is that the Dutch are the giants walking the Earth because of their diet.1People eat so much dairy there that it must contribute somehow to their bone mass (think of all that calcium!). Over the course of the last couple of decades, they have overtaken other countries in trying to touch the sky. Presumably because of natural selection, the Dutch have evolved as the people with the lowest occurrence of lactose intolerance in its population.2

Lunch in the cafeteria of Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam was always a source of some laughter among the non-Dutch students. We would quite literally stare at Dutch student after Dutch student waiting for their turn at the cashier, taking nothing with them but a cheese sandwich, milk, and yogurt for dessert. Of course, in the morning, they already had at least one glass of milk—naturally to drink together with their müsli or cereal that was drowning in milk to begin with.

So it finally dawned on me why the scent that I would always smell when I come close to a Dutch person is so familiar. I noticed it immediately after settling into the city. I would walk around, somehow manage to come less than a foot away from a random Dutch person on the street, and then I would smell it. To be sure, it wasn’t an unpleasant smell—just oddly familiar. And then it hit me: the Dutch smell like babies.

1 The average height in the Netherlands is 6’0.8” as of 2004, according to Wikipedia.
2 Only 1 percent of the Dutch population is lactose intolerant. Almost all Southeast Asians (98 percent), in contrast, are lactose intolerant. See

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Talk About Mañana y Siestas (Talk About Tomorrow and Naps)

Two years ago, I was living in a small town called Puerto Real, in the southernmost tip of Spain. Puerto Real is located in the historical city of Cadiz. Cadiz was believed to be one of the first cities in Europe, and is best known for Cristobal Colon’s (Christopher Columbus) starting point for his voyage to the Caribbean Sea.

Monumento a las Cortes de Cádiz. They say it was built when the city was established.

Apart from the history, Cadiz is rich in culture but is industrialized because of the port. However, whilst I was living there, I felt that I was on an eternal holiday. As for Puerto Real, I felt that I was on an eternal slumber.

When you talk about Spain, it reminds you of Catholicism and the frailes, the bullfights and flamenco, the mañana attitude and the siesta. I remember finding it hard to adjust to the super laid back kind of life. The extravagant and lively parties, carnavals and fiestas. The two hour siestas. The closing hours of establishments. And of course the long list of national and regional holidays.

Free beer, oysters and tapas at the Carnaval Opening in the Plaza de Espana

Establishments open at 9 in the morning and close at 2 in the afternoon. Sometimes, some of them open at 4 in the afternoon, and stay open until 9 in the evening. Sometimes, if the establishment is owned by a family, expect that it might not open again for the rest of the day. I disliked this fact during the first month. I disliked it even more, because my stomach would growl in hunger whilst listening to lectures in Uni. Yes, lunch was at 2 p.m. And dinner should be around 10 in the evening so they say.

I liked living in a city with a country-side charm and personality though. Everyone smiles and says hello to you in the streets. Strangers strike up conversations with you whilst waiting for the bus. When you are lost, even if they can only speak 3 to 4 words of English, they will still try their best to help you out in anyway they can. In stores, they always say gracias (thank you) and hasta luego (see you later) even if they don’t expect to see you again. Cars stop when they see you are crossing a street even if you are not walking on a pedestrian lane. They are patient and they appreciate everything that they have. They are very expressive. You could still see old people kiss and hold hands whilst walking on the street.

“These oysters are aphrodisiacs! Want to meet me later?” Drunken man wooing female customers

The downside though… They are very expressive. It is sometimes embarrassing to suddenly see adults make-out in streets, in Uni grounds and everywhere. And sometimes, it also involves rated-PG activities too. Another thing too, they love dogs and all the creatures. However, they don’t pick up the excrement. So after my first couple of months there, I became an expert of eyeing poo and evading it whilst walking on the pavement.

Puerto Real and Cadiz was sunny and the people were enveloped with sunshine that is why they seemingly are eternally happy and friendly. They are passionate and loving. I loved the tapas and the jamon. You could see the cucinero’s (cook’s) passion in it.

Ever since I went to the UK, I began to miss it. I never thought I would, because the place made me really slow down to the point that I became lazy. But I do. I miss Puerto Real and Cadiz.

Vera Christine F. Horigue
Joint Master in Water and Coastal Management
Universidad de Cadiz, España and University of Plymouth, United Kingdom

Categories: Life in Europe | 1 Comment

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