Introducing The Stand Off: The Stand’s First Live Broadcast!

Welcome!

We came back from our hiatus with a brand new journalistic endeavour: radio. The last few weeks we, the 18 journalists in training at the University of Groningen, have worked very hard to put together our first ever live radio production. 

We, critical journalism students, have broadcasted an hour long show with the aim to challenge your perspectives during this festive period.

We discussed big topics such as the power of investigative journalists who were just coined the TIME’s person of the year, the future of journalism, and media representation. To lighten the mood we also presented stories on love, Christmas, and the everlasting banter between our two pairs of hosts. 

It aired on Thursday the 20th of December at 2pm CET!

This show has been fully written and produced by students. The Stand Off had a team of 18 young students working around the clock. This show was created, curated and edited by William MacMaster and Hannah van der Wurff, the editors of the show. The first dynamic presenter duo consists of Valerie Scholtz and Benjie Beer and the second duo of Frank Verschuren and Anne de Vries. The two ladies running the studio are Annewil Schippers (studio producer) and Dimi Karapanagiotou (studio director). The fantastic foursome that put together the segments specifically produced for the show are Sophie Pizzimenti, Gabriele Cruciata, Natalie Lange and Rebekah Daunt. Out on the streets with a microphone and a million questions were Edward Szekeres, Clemence Waller, Juliane Glahn and Tadhg O’Sullivan, the live reporters. Without our social media team, consisting of Oscar Cheng-Kai, Wu and Yujia Yang, all of you, our listeners, would not have known the show was even happening. 

Enjoy!


Her Body, His Words

By Dimitra Karapanagiotou, Hannah van der Wurff and Anne de Vries

There, on a bustling street in Brussels, dotted with bars and restaurants packed with people, walk Zoë and her friends. “Wait!” Zoë hears, and she turns around to see a man point at her behind and say, “there’s something falling out of your back pocket.” “What is it,” she urges the man while she reaches for her pockets. Her friends push for her to come along and ignore the man. As he approaches, still pointing at her behind, Zoë spots the man’s friend laughing and before she can connect the dots, the man grabs her ass.

As a reflex, she lashes out at him and yells: “Fuck off!”

“It felt like a violation of my body,” said Zoë (21), a London resident. Besides the fury and adrenaline she felt, she had been angry at herself for trusting the stranger on the street and disregarding her friends’ warning. “Ideally, we should be in a world where I shouldn’t ‘have known’.”

After the eruption of #MeToo one year ago – showing the magnitude of sexual intimidation and harassment – several European cities such as Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Paris have introduced legislation in response. The offender can be fined at an average of 190 euros in the Netherlands and up to 750 euros in France. According to a 2018 report by IOS, a statistics bureau, most of this intimidation includes whistling, catcalling, being followed, and physical harassment.

These newly enforced legislations also follow a call by UN Women and their Dutch division for municipalities to start saying #HereToo. This in the name of ‘Safe Streets’, a recent Dutch initiative to counter street intimidation, for the over 80% of women who have experienced sexual intimidation in public.

While Zoë’s example of physical harassment is gripping, it isn’t extraordinary. Many women have different experiences with street intimidation. It happens so often, Zoë said, that she’s “gotten used to it, in a sad way.”

Making her way home alone on a dark recent Tuesday night, Sophie (21), a student in Rotterdam, didn’t expect to bump into anyone in the quiet residential area where she lives. Making her way down the main road her neck hairs stood right up when she heard heavy footsteps that did not match hers. “Maybe it is just a man going home,” she thought, as she strayed off the main road to reassure herself that it was her imagination. He turned the corner with her. In the ten-minute walk that followed, she quickened her pace as the man narrowed the distance between them. Taken over by anger and fear she turned around, looked him in the eye and shouted at him to leave her alone. He bolted.

She tries not to walk home alone anymore.

Two months ago, during her stay in the US, Josien (20), an exchange student in Phoenix, Arizona, was walking around with a cart in a supermarket. She was leaning on it as she scanned the shelves. She was strolling through an aisle full of people, when, all of a sudden, a man in his sixties whistled at her and looked her up and down. She stood still and felt aware of her body. Perplexed she thought: “Are you really doing this?” She debated whether she should say something but decided to walk on.

Speaking to The Stand, neither Josien, Sophie nor Zoë were certain what they’d done to provoke the intimidation, or how they could have avoided it.

But it’s not just these explicit accounts of intimidation that jar these women. ‘The look’ that they receive every day makes you feel “like someone is undressing you with his eyes.” It is a look that makes you feel “objectified”, said Josien. It happens during the most mundane moments of daily life, such as walking home or going to class, and “you’re no longer the woman going from A to B,” but the man has taken charge of your feelings. Josien said, “I hate that that’s possible.”

The few men that agreed to speak to The Stand for this article seemed unaware that grabbing, following and catcalling cause fear.

“In your mind, you’re doing nothing wrong” said Stefano (26), a landscaper, while remembering the times he and his friends catcalled women. Driving in a car, they’d try to capture the attention of women passing by, shouting “pussy”, “mamma mia” or just making a loud noise, before driving away, laughing. It seemed like a game to them without the “intention to be offensive,” according to Stefano. They never thought about what the women felt in that moment. He said: “We always see things from a male point of view.”

Other men in Groningen expressed similar views. Hudayfah (23), a student, told The Stand he finds it hard to see the harm in whistling at a girl, although he can imagine that a girl would feel unsafe when that happens.

“I’m not permanently afraid or something,” Josien says. Each incident lasts only for a moment but it happens so often that it affects her. “You see all of the scenarios in your head.” Which is why she doesn’t engage whenever it happens, as she fears that it might get worse if she does.

Some men have started to pay attention to women’s feelings on the matter too. Stefano said this is what changed his behaviour. His girlfriend made him realize how being catcalled in the street makes girls feel and how it affects them, such as having to change their clothes, posture and behaviour when leaving the house. Now, he no longer finds catcalling funny. However, he can still understand the male perspective. He feels that as long as men don’t bring women down and treat them “like an object,” they can joke around with their friends.

Catcalling and other forms of street intimidation are also a way for men to prove themselves to other men, thinks Stefano. When feeling insecure about themselves, men “try to bring out a kind of bravery, manpower, trying to not treat the woman as an equal but as an instrument, to be equal to other men.”

Both Zoë and Josien can see how male street intimidation can be a result of vulnerability. Whether it’s an inability to communicate sexual attraction to women, or to assert some kind of power and, as Josien says, to feel like “a real haantje” (a classic alpha male).

In the end, Stefano doesn’t think that “people that catcall ever get the girl.”


 

language barrier netherlands

Crossing the Language Barrier in the Netherlands

By Juliane Glahn

Internationals coming to the Netherlands are struggling to integrate into Dutch society until they learn the language. But improving language skills is hard if there is no one to practice with.

“I felt really isolated before I learned the language,” Samantha MacKenzie (24) says.

Originally from Canada, she moved to the Netherlands two years ago to be with her boyfriend. Living in a small village where most of the population is older and unable to speak English, she could barely communicate with others. Often MacKenzie relied on her partner to help her with everyday tasks such as grocery shopping. “It was a big loss of independence for me.”

Ashley Richardson (33), a migrant from the U.S., agrees that learning Dutch helped her integrate more into her country of choice. “You can get away with English in places like Amsterdam or other international places such as Groningen,” she says. But in order to form connections with citizens, speaking Dutch is important.

Even though the two are constantly surrounded by Dutch and learned it through language courses at the University of Groningen, native speakers’ desire to be helpful often got in their way of practicing. “A lot of Dutch people speak really good English,” Richardson says.

MacKenzie always tries to speak Dutch, but “if I hesitate at all, then everyone switches to English.”

Especially in grocery stores, cashiers are quick to address customers in English if they notice the person is not a native speaker.

This is a phenomenon that Maarten Sijpkes (52) vowed to counter. Many internationals come to his stand ‘Stropiewafel’ at the Vismarkt in Groningen, where he sells the popular traditional Dutch treat. When non-natives order in Dutch, he responds in Dutch as much as possible. “You learn through speaking,” Sijpkes says. He doesn’t want to stop people from learning the language but rather encourage them.

He even teaches his customers who don’t speak any Dutch some words: When two girls approach his stand and ask for a “waffle” in English, he tells them the proper pronunciation of the sweet. The rest of the exchange between the three is bilingual. “Geniet,” Sijpkes says while handing over the stroopwafels, “enjoy.”

“More and more internationals are trying to speak Dutch to me,” he says, adding, “here they can at least learn a few basic words.”


 

The one night stand

An Homage to Her

by Edward J Szekeres

A friend of mine recently lent me a book written by a teenager about other teenagers. “It´s basically a cluster of thoughts and opinions on love by a bunch of teens,” she said. Seeing its strikingly pink cover and smelling the sweet scent of fragrance rising from its pages, I did not expect the book to provide me with an enriching psychological exposé of the hearts and minds of today´s adolescents.

“Just wait and see,” said my bookworm friend with a cheeky smile, releasing another aromatic cloud of her perfume. So I waited, and I saw. And it only took a few seconds.

There it was, at the very beginning of the book, under a heading ostensibly claiming to explain the “Theory of Love”, a sentence that hit me right between the eyes: “The main problem of people today is not that they fall in love too fast, but that they fall in love with anyone who dares to show them a wounded soul, the brutal truth or exciting savagery. We don´t fall in love with the person, we fall in love with their story.”

I have been in a long-distance relationship for more than 6 years. Me and my girlfriend, L, bore the blows of the expanding physical remoteness between us with much-tried resilience. I have grown to know L as a tremendously strong and patient woman who had slowly but surely become my soulmate, my best friend and the light of my life, all in the span of roughly half a decade.

During our turbulent time “together”, however, we lived in a combined 4 countries and rarely saw each other for longer than a couple days. You must have heard of “weekend relationships” before. Well, ours was more in the category of “once in a blue moon” relationships. I don´t think we have been physically together for even a quarter of those six years.

Nurturing the love you share with someone who is so close yet so far requires a specific kind of care and attention. Compensating for the lack of the other´s physical presence is extremely demanding, both mentally and physically. At one point, it all became too much. I realised that the bridge we built over the glooming gap swallowing nearly all possible physical proximity was connecting our past and not our future. A future that was menacingly uncertain.

We were together for our story, not in spite of it. We cherished its legacy and did not want to let go. It was full of cracks chronically longing for repair, but help was only one bridge too far.

It is quite ironic that the first ever column published in the shade cast by the “One Night Stand” title is all but a feeble effort to come up with a self-assuring apology. Or maybe it´s just a cry for forgiveness, a desperate last-ditch attempt to salvage the remnants of my sanity. But then again, irony is the little chili pepper that spices up the stirred soup of our thoughts and feelings. And boy, do I like soup!

DISLCAIMER: Please excuse my sentimentality, but I can´t cope otherwise. The fabric of these sentences consists of randomly selected threads of thoughts and quotes that are confusingly floating around my gasping brain cells. They have been picked from my personal library of memories and relics but most of them do not belong to me. I only borrowed them from the genius and creative minds of others. However, as my customised collection of poignant titbits has not been tended to in a systematic fashion you would expect from a properly functioning library, I am missing the slightest idea of where they came from or whose creative spirit gave birth to them. So please accept my apology for not keeping my records in order and I hope I won´t offend anyone by omitting to give credit where credit is due.

As I am writing these words drunk from a relentless rage against the dying light of my relationship, I am using up my precious wordcount on this hopeless crusade to demonstrate that ideas are bulletproof, eternal and universal while being the property of no one and everyone at the same time. But now that we have (hopefully) settled the plagiarism issue, let´s get to it.

L taught me to speak the language of wordless emotion. She brought colour to the chaos of my life and fed me a rich soup of thoughts and feelings with a fork so sharp it shut my mouth at once. She took me to the devil´s carnival where the brutal din of cheap music, booze, hate and lust defined this world in its absolute madness and insanity. And then, suddenly, she deepened the night into silence and rest and banished my demons with her angelic smile.

We fought fiercely for our chance to finally be together. We fought bravely. We battled through the mud that makes up the maze and riddles of fondness and attachment with our hearts filled with passion and desire. Our tenderness was both illicit and intimate at the same time. We fought for each other.

We were wanderers, never lost, always home. My time spent with her was still and endless and the places we visited were fenceless. For a while, we even transcended the ominous jaws of distance. She flashed fleeting glimpses of eternity in front of my eyes and her gaze broke through the fiery clouds of doubt, pride and vanity. And the world beyond the trappings of our minds glimmered, just out of reach.

Of all the fish in the sea, I was so glad she swam to me. But after more than 6 years, I am finally ready to let her go back in the ocean of unexplored hopes and opportunities. Our roads have led us away from each other. Have they led us astray? I am not sure. But they led us too far. Our lives became overburdened with our personalised habits and routines and we missed out on that fabled entanglement that made all distance seem trivial. In blunt terms, our love has become a burden in and of itself.

Now, as I am watching her slowly sink to depths most would drown in, my heart is full of sorrow knowing that I will not be there when she rises to new heights, sitting on the wings of someone else.    Yet, the legacy of what we had will always be worth carrying a torch for. As long as the flame of that torch is lit, our memories will not die.  In my heart and in my mind, I will always be with her. Because how do you go back to being strangers with someone who has seen your soul?

L was one of the very few fucks I actually gave in this life. And I will continue giving that fuck unless stated otherwise.

Lest I forget.

Goodbye, L.


 

Severe Flooding Hits Capital of Taiwan

By Oscar Cheng-Kai, Wu

 

A storm has caused flash flooding in the Taiwanese capital. According to local media and several sources, no casualties have been reported, but the flooding is disrupting daily life. The Stand spoke to a professor who specializes in urban planning to understand the issue.

Charles Lee, a sociology student from the National Taiwan University, said that “It is dangerous to ride my motorbike on those flooding sections because it either risks the whole bike to shut down due to water cooling, or me falling down on the slippery ground and thus injuring myself. So I decided to take a walk, though it takes about one hour instead of 15 minutes on normal days.”

It is estimated that more than 4 inches of water poured into the city. Some regions in the city had been choked by 2 inches of muddy water.

Flash flooding had spilled over the surface and almost reached the entrance of underground tunnels. Many entrances and exits of the system had been closed by the Metro Rapid Transit, Taipei’s subway system beforehand.

Some of the city’s areas reported extreme traffic congestion. In other flooded regions, people were trapped on isle-like high grounds, waiting for the water that surrounded them to draw away.

Vun Kong-Ti, a NTU student who majors in politics said: “Luckily, I avoided the flooding by staying on high ground that night.”

Kong-Ti later told the Stand about what should be done in order to free the city from the curse of occasional flooding, “The city needs a revolutionary renovation that does focus on reducing the impact of the inevitable future flooding on people’s daily life.”

Professor Liao Kuei-Hsien, who specializes in urban planning and water management, offers her assessment of the cause: “The infrastructure is outdated and only serves the purpose of guiding the water out as rapidly as possible. But it no longer works in times of extreme downpouring like this.”

“We spend a lot of budget on transforming the river in order to guide the current. By removing obstacles along the river, we actually make things worse because it will result in the flash flooding in the downstream which is exactly the problem that our capital has” she said.

She suggested there should be a shift of perception for both policymakers and ordinary people: “The authority should review the spatial planning and people’s perceptions need to change.” she also suggested. “People need to accept flooding is actually inevitable during times like this and adjust their lifestyle to a more flooding-resilient fashion.”


 

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. 

Folkingestraat
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. 

Folkingestraat
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