Pill Groningen

Birth Control Pills are Running Low. In Groningen Too.

By Yujia Yang


Women in the Netherlands may soon be unable to purchase their birth control pills, Microgynon 30 and some unnamed brand of the same medication, because a large batch of pills produced in Asia were recently rejected. The Stand explores how the threat of a shortage is affecting women in Groningen.

Annika Brouwer, the manager of Venema Pharmacy in Groningen, said: “We are relying on remaining stocks. But if you want to come back tomorrow? Sorry, we do not have it anymore because currently we only have one box left for one person to use for a month.”

She added, “Microgynon 30 is one of the most reliable oral contraceptive pills, also it usually makes your periods regular, lighter and less painful, which means that it is more acceptable for people. People still need it, but we have problems with supply.”

Other pharmacies like Boterdiep Pharmacy and Oosterpark Pharmacy have similar situation, but they have more boxes left than Venema Pharmacy. Stijn de Haas, the cashier of Boterdiep Pharmacy said, “I expect that the shortage did not last very long.”

The shortage is only impacting this specific type of pill, Stijn told us for the time being, people can use alternative medication.

However, according to Lori Smith, a medical, health and wellness freelancer, wrote on MedicalNewsToday: switching from accustomed contraceptive medication to another type is not an easy thing because birth control pills always have side effects and they directly affect people’s hormonal system, which is highly likely to cause other health problems like weight gain and reduced immune function.

A student from university of Groningen, Pascale* used prescription to buy Microgynon 30 a couple of days ago, but the pharmacy told her that they are running out of it. Then, they said that they can provide another one with the same component but different brand. She said, “To be honest, I feel weird because it does not make me feel safe as usual.”

In response to this, Stijn explained, “In this case, you could go ask your doctor what other medicine you could use except Microgynon 30 because they know your physical condition. But then again, I believe that this situation will return to normal soon.”

does not want to give full name

Divide Between Dutch and International Students?

By Sophie Pizzimenti


The academic year has started, and Groningen University is welcoming thousands of international students who have mixed feelings towards blending into Dutch society and integrating with their fellow students.

A debate was sparked last year from the publication of the UKrant article “When Dutch ‘directness’ hurts” by Megan Embry, in which she discussed discrimination received by internationals from local students. The article highlighted the divided views of students regarding the relationship between the two groups.

Interviewing Dutch and internationals at the RUG campus regarding the topic of discrimination and how they feel about their relationship with their classmates, different opinions came out.

Sitting outside the library, speaking Spanish among themselves, bachelor students Xenia Ramos and Carla Heterington said that, not only do they not feel welcomed, they feel highly excluded by the Dutch students.

“I think it is difficult if you are international student here in your first week because Dutch people are very close to each other and they don’t welcome other people. She is my friend and I am glad I know her because, if not, you really have to find another international student,” said Carla, who has just arrived and is in her first year of her bachelor.

Xenia and Carla also addressed the issue of discrimination, saying they did receive comments about their identity as Spanish which made them feel uncomfortable among their fellow Dutch students.

When confronted with the topic, a few Dutch students highlighted the tendency of Dutch and internationals to stay among their respective groups, resulting in a strong division.

Dutch student M.M.* studying international law, said: “There is a huge gap between a Dutch student here and internationals. We experience it ourselves, because in the first year and second year for our bachelor we were put in a class with international students and there was a huge gap, because all the international students knew each other, and we [Dutch students] were there thinking ‘what to do?’; and you kind of isolate yourself then.”

Similarly, Dutch student Lianne Pit, studying for a Masters in German Education, said she believes the interaction is limited as knowing the Dutch people in her class leads her to stick with them.

Most of the students indicated language as the main cause of the divide.

Tjitske Kommerie, a Dutch student studying with Lianne, said “it can be hard, especially when your English isn’t that good or when you are nervous about speaking in English because you think it’s not good enough to make yourself understandable.”

Wouter Baas, a Dutch student from the same course, is also bothered by the necessity of using English with internationals as they do not learn Dutch. “My opinion is that, when you come here to study you also have to show some interest in the country you are moving to. Not a lot of international students do this, learning the language and not stay in their international bubble and not expecting everybody to speak in English,” he said.

Lianne Pit, Wouter Baas, Tjitske Kommerie and Niklas Kingman

Arno Hegedus, a Hungarian student of International Law, hopes to be able to create long lasting friendships with Dutch students and to connect with their culture.

However, on this matter Wouter Baas replied, “These kind of relations can only exist if you can master the language very well. We talk now in a very formal way […] but if you talk about personal feelings and so on, it’s very difficult, for me at least, to do this in English.”

Arno Hegedus and Ife Bolaji, a fellow classmate from Nigeria, believe this division could be reduced if international students were given more chances to learn Dutch. “Language is the way to someone’s heart,” concluded Bolaji.

*Chooses to remain anonymous

No House or Bad House?

By Benjie Beer


While debate rages over the lack of student housing in Groningen this year, the question is: is all the housing on offer worth it?

In a large, dark, musky room, Max Müller, 19, a Bachelors student from Germany, points to a set of pipes that jut intrusively from the wall. With no overhead lighting present, he then scans the torch from his phone over the ceiling, finding several holes where polystyrene boards once covered the filth-encrusted wires and rusty piping. On the sill of a window with no latch lie several mouse droppings, and in the corner is an enormous hole that falls through to the floor below. Overlooking the pained scene are the words written large on the wall: ‘VIP Area’.

‘This is what they gave us,’ says Müller with a dejected sigh. ‘And we all hate it’.

Müller and his nine housemates were among many new students who thought they had struck it lucky by signing for a house in Groningen only to find the reality that awaited was anything but fortunate. Their ‘flat’ is a disused nightclub, stripped of its bars and most of its furniture; the air is dusty, damp and cold, and the surfaces are decorated with an endless assortment of chemical stains. Whatever aspirations these students may have had for healthy living are now as trampled as the dirt that lines the floorboards – where, indeed, there are floorboards at all.

‘There is mould everywhere,’ says Isi Dimitriadis, 24, a Masters student from Greece. ‘We don’t have heaters or proper internet. We even found a dead bat when we moved in… They just don’t care about us.’

When it comes to student housing, the debate in Groningen this year has centred almost entirely around the lack of it. What has gone largely undiscussed is the terrible state of some of the housing students do have.

The Groningen Municipality Council will meet tonight to discuss new measures to tackle rogue landlords, in particular a proposed law that would issue landlords licenses that can be revoked if they misbehave. The immediate problem, however, is that, were a license to be revoked, the tenants would have to leave the property.

‘While I think this is a good idea,’ says Müller, ‘there should be some sort of support for the students if they are ejected.’

‘It is really appalling, no matter what,’ argues Dimitriadis. ‘If I had known it would be like this, I would never have come.’


Wilde times arrive in Groningen

Wilde Times Arrive in Groningen

By Clémence Waller


Torment, hedonism, vice and a damned soul, all hidden behind an agelessly beautiful and fragile facade. This is the perfectly sinful recipe which is destined to be revealed to the world as Groningen prepares to rip the veil off a new play, Dorian, premiering at the end of September.

Fans of The Picture of Dorian Gray will immerse themselves in a modern new retelling of the grim tale and will be swept up in the infamous debauchery of the titular character. Though, theatre-goers beware, for they might find that the mirror may reveal their darkest most hidden secrets and desires for all to see.

To celebrate the upcoming play, Van der Velde bookshop, in association with the Theater Company Noord Nederlands Toneel (NNT), hosted a Wilde livestream on September 20th in their store with a panel of guests stars such as University of Groningen Oscar Wilde Specialist Kees de Vries, and the playwright of Dorian, Robbert van Heuven. They discussed a variety of subjects ranging from Oscar Wilde’s personal life, to his work, and to the play itself and its development.

The store was buzzing with the excited chatter of passionate audience members from different walks of life all hoping to vividly discuss, debate and delve deeper into the mind of the man behind the book.Wilde Times

This event drew one particular fan into its midst.  Alexa Rodriguez described her particular attraction to Oscar Wilde. “He is my favorite author of his generation. I even based my bachelor thesis on him and his works. He was flamboyant; a dandy and had a way he presented himself to the world.”

Arent Da Haas agreed on what he thought made Oscar Wilde and specifically The Picture of Dorian Gray so interesting. He was fascinated when he found out about “the transformation from the book and how the story was transferred into the modern context of the artworld.”

“Oscar Wilde was a literary superstar!” exclaimed panelist Kees de Vries. In an interview with The Stand, he declared: “Dorian gray is not portrayed negatively in the book. The idea that limitation due to morality is corrosive is one of the key themes of the book.” He added, “Oscar Wilde venerates lying for lyings sakes, playing with artificiality and that has some kind of artistic empowerment.”

“Oscar Wilde always impresses and still sells today,’’ commented Inge Abbring, events coordinator at Van der Velde Akerkhof.

Miriam Zuidema, an employee of the bookstore, looks forward to these kinds of events. She explained that she “loves seeing the faces behind the book and the reader reactions to launches or lectures.’’

Whilst the event was a clear success from the point of view of NNT, Van de Velde and the guests, a little sentiment of disappointment lingered amongst the public.  “I had hoped there would be more of a discussion between the speakers and the audience, not so much a presentation of the play,” explained Da Haas.

Guy Weizman, the artistic director who commissioned the play, elaborated on his passion for the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray: “I was inspired by the book and I fell in love with it. I thought it would be a good idea to set it in a modern setting because a historical one is not very interesting”.

The irony is not lost on the public. Dorian tells the story of a young art student influenced by an art gallerist. “It will not be at all a faithful retelling of the book. The audience can expect a few surprises”. Whilst that may be true, art remains one of the primary themes of the play.

Dorian premieres on September 29th at 8:15 pm at the Stadsschouburg on Bloemsingle.


Folkingestraat Unsafe Space for Everyone

By Annewil Schippers


With its combination of wandering tourists, commuters hurrying to the central station, strolling window-shoppers and ruthless university students on bikes, Groningen’s Folkingestraat is notorious for its poor accessibility. Add confusing traffic rules and it’s the perfect recipe for the most dangerous street in the city. 

In the Folkingestraat chaos, Clemence Waller, a French student at RUG, was run over by a cyclist last week. “I was seriously injured. This street is way too dangerous and I don’t understand how it works.” 

Another group of young tourists, Muna Osman (Germany), Redha Benseddik (France) and David Grössl (The Netherlands) explain that they find the traffic situation confusing. “Why the hell are there cyclists here?” says David. 

It is not just tourists and international visitors who are skeptical of the traffic situation, but also locals. 

Stadjer Geertruida Noorman has had a front row view on Folkingestraat for years, because she is a regular customer at Huis de Beurs at the end of street. “There should be way more regulation. The current situation is not clear enough.” Noorman has witnessed many accidents over the past year. 

Noorman was in an accident herself at a similar situation in the narrow and busy Poelestraat recently, where she collided with a cyclist and sprained her wrist.

Locals Pelle van Vliet and Henk van Dam agree with Noorman and mention that they witnessed a serious collision between two cyclists several days ago. 

Pelle van Vliet (left) and Henk van Dam (third left) spend many hours of the week watching the traffic in Folkingestraat.

The busy shopping street, which consists of a brick cycling lane and narrow sidewalks at the same level, has long been a troublesome area and therefore Gemeente Groningen has made efforts to improve it by means of a “shared space” in one section of the street in April 2017.

The idea, inspired by the shared space zones in Leeuwarden, entails a spatial experiment that removes any traffic regulations and forces both cyclists and pedestrians to use the same lane. The accompanying report explains that the two main ideas behind the experiment are that its chaotic nature forces road users to be more careful and encourages cyclists to choose an alternative route.

Whether the idea has been successful remains disputed. “I guess the danger lies in the fact that the regulation is inconsistent. I would argue for a complete implementation of shared space or no implementation at all,” says Van Dam.

The Gemeente Groningen Spatial Planning department did not respond to attempts to reach them for a comment.

Student City Groningen a Curse or Blessing?

By Valerie Scholz


Each year a wave of new students floods into Groningen, which is currently already home to about 60,000 students. Groningen’s locals or “Stadjers” have to share their city and brace their nerves.

Groningen; Oosterstraat; 2 AM: the air is buzzing with sounds. Slurred shouts and ringing laughter echo off the facades, mixing with the sharp noise of cavalry horse hoofbeats on the pavement. A vomiting girl is crouching in the shadow of a narrow alleyway.

The sidewalk resembles a maze, carelessly parked or fallen-over bicycles creating dangerous tripping hazards for pedestrians. A state of madness? No, just an ordinary weekend night in the student city of Groningen.

Daniel Stok works at the fast-food kiosk ‘Big Snack Hoek‘ on the corner of Oosterstraat and remarks that students become a plague, “when they go out at night, drink a lot of alcohol and use drugs.” Stok witnesses police interventions and conflicts “almost every week.”

Not only their ceaseless party-spirit can make students a nuisance to Stadjers, their poor performance on the busy bike lanes drive residents mad. Stadjer Meeke Breemhaan is astonished that “especially the students from abroad just can’t ride a bike!”

Stadjer Ralph Lindeman worries “young people don’t care as much to keep the city clean.” Although the police charges penalties as high as €140 for littering, empty beer cans and wine bottles can be spotted in entryways of houses or next to overflowing trash cans.

Psychology student Raima Harding is aware of students’ impact on the city of Groningen. She understands the frequent discontent due to disturbances in the locals’ daily routines. Nevertheless, she remains confident that “students from different cultures are bringing liveliness and something new, exciting to the city.”

Lastly, most of Groningen’s Stadjers also see the potential for their city deriving from the many young minds. And in spite of regular indifferences, they stay positive. Big Snack Hoek‘ employee Daniel Stok sees an advantage, as “students are very good for the business.”

The Hotel Schimmelpenninck Front Office Manager* receives guest complaints concerning noise almost every day, but she remains serene: “people shouldn’t come here for a restful holiday,” she says, “we even inform about the noise on our website.”

Master student Raima lastly suggests that international students should “embrace Dutch culture and language,” as this can lead to better mutual understanding and respect between Stadjers and students.

* Chooses to remain anonymous


The Cookie that Divides the Nation

By Frank Verschuren


It is the end of summer, which means Dutch people are soaking up the last rays of sun embroiled in an annual divisive debate: is it moral to sell pepernoten already?

Excited customers scour De Pepernotenfabriek in droves, sampling pepernoten in a wide range of flavours – from ‘Bailey’s’ to ‘Tajine’ – as though it were the very first time a shop like this ever opened in Groningen.

That is the perk of a seasonal store: every year brings a new grand opening – a sense of novel yet familiar festive tingles for customers with a nostalgic bone.

One spicy, gingerbread-like whiff of a fresh batch of pepernoten and any Dutchman, old or new, hears the Sinterklaas songs swell from memories of winter’s past – along with visions of  snow gracing the windows of warm, cozy rooms filled with family and friends.

A pepernoot is so much more than a simple cookie.

“When I eat my first pepernoot of the year, I feel like I’m 10 years old again, snuggled by the fireplace with my Sinterklaas gifts,” says Janiev Azulai (26), as he reaches for a bag of chocolate-covered pepernoten, “It’s like winter in a bag.”

While many customers of the Pepernotenfabriek would agree with this sentiment, one look outside the store is enough to break the nostalgic spell cast by even the most fragrant pepernoot.

It is a blazing September day. People wear shorts and sunglasses, and shirtless students cycle to the nearby lake – beach towels tucked under their arms.

Should pepernoten be sold this early?

While some, like Janiev Azulai, could eat pepernoten all year round, others believe that companies selling pepernoten in the summer are eroding a Dutch tradition by stretching the window for seasonal products far beyond their moment, all in the name of profit.

“I’ll wait until December to eat my first pepernoot,” says Niels Boon (21), regarding the bustle at the Pepernotenfabriek with a look of disgust.

Can an outside perspective help to breach the stalemate?

Yunji Sun, an international student from China, can relate to the woes of the pepernoot-traditionalists.

In China, she explains, a popular snack called mooncake is eaten only during the annual mid-autumn festival.

“You could eat mooncake outside of the festivities,” she says, “But it would simply feel wrong.”

After trying her first pepernoot, however, she does not get what all the fuss is about anyway.

“They taste rather plain to me.”