Mitchell McWoods is in no rush to leave Rotterdam behind. In fact, the recent graduate doesn’t seem to be in any rush at all, showing none of the signs of an existential crisis that graduates tend to exude once they realise student life is over. Sitting in The Reef, an aquatic-themed coffeeshop near the city center, McWoods lights up a joint stuffed with Pineapple Kush and reminisces about his years of studying at the Erasmus University.
“I love Holland,” said McWoods, who recently completed his Bachelor’s in Communication and Media (IBCOM). “Well, I love and hate it. My first impression was that everyone is chill, laid-back, and friendly. It changed a bit over the years—I started to realize a lot of Dutch people are a bit…what’s the word…stingy. But they’re honest, sincere people, which I like.”
McWoods puts the marijuana cigarette to his lips, inhales, and lets out a billow of white smoke.
“It does piss me off that my bike gets stolen all the time. I go through about three bikes a year, which makes about 15 bikes over the past five years. That’s a shitload of bikes.”
Making Dutch Friends
Leaving the bubble of internationals that live in Rotterdam and integrating with the Dutch people is often said to be quite challenging for international students, especially since learning the Dutch language is hardly required for living in this city. For McWoods, however, befriending the Dutch people hasn’t been a problem.
“I have one close friend who was born and raised in Rotterdam, and I’ve been working in bars since I came here so I’ve encountered a lot of the locals, plus all my work colleagues over the years. I worked at Fenix Food Factory, De Gele Kanarie, and a new bar in the west called Weelde. Through work I’ve come to learn the basics of Dutch.”
“‘Een bier? Vier vijftig, alstublieft (€4.50).” McWoods says, confirming his knowledge of rudimentary Dutch bar talk.
Still, while bartending is a good entry point to the Dutch language, they say falling in love is the best way to learn a foreign language. So McWoods, have you had any romantic affairs with a Dutchie?
“That’s a good question actually. I think Dutch women are intimidating. They’re all so pretty and tall…and bossy. Maybe not bossy, but it’s hard to explain. They’re direct. A Dutch girl is far different than, I don’t know, a French girl.”
“I mean there is this one lady at my work who is amazing and almost as tall as me. And people being as tall as me tends to put me on my toes in a certain sense since I’m not used to it.”
As much as Erasmus University gave McWoods what one might call a proper education, living in Rotterdam schooled the graduate in something entirely different: music.
“Growing up in Luxembourg was, culturally speaking, very boring. So, when I came here and found there were all these different kinds of electronic music—house, techno, and all the subgenres—I loved it. I loved all the big parties they would throw in the dockyards and the warehouses. It was completely new way of enjoying music and socialising compared to what I was used to.”
McWoods admits he may have enjoyed those parties a bit too much his first year in Rotterdam. Originally the graduate was studying liberal arts at Erasmus University College (EUC), but he ‘basically gave up’ halfway through the second semester of the year. Taking another drag of the ever-shrinking joint, a few more honest reminiscences arise out of McWoods–much like the bubbles that constantly pop up in the fish-less aquariums inside The Reef.
“I wasn’t very focused. Back then EUC was just getting started and I thought it was all a bit unprofessional. Then again, I wasn’t so professional either. I always thought I should have taken a gap year before starting university—some breather time before studying again, you know.”
While the books weren’t getting much attention in his early days at Erasmus, the turntables were. McWoods fell in love with DJing four years ago after ’messing around at some house parties’, and not long after, he played his first set at Toffler, the underground metro tunnel-turned-club.
“Back then we were throwing parties at Toffler called Locked In and I was basically just playing heavy ass techno. These days it’s pretty rare for me to play techno. Now I’m more into breakbeats, jungle, electro—the more interesting stuff.”
After the last of the doobie was smoked up, McWoods and I exited the smoky lagoon that is The Reef and stepped outside into the blistering 39 degrees heat. The rapid change of temperature reminded me suddenly of a question that I had—for some reason—forgot to ask: what does McWoods think of the Dutch weather?
“I think people bitch too much about the weather.”
And with that bit of Dutch directness, McWoods displayed that he’s integrating quite well with the people of the Netherlands.
Although the real name of the Mitchel McWoods is known to the editorial staff, his name was altered upon a request from the interviewee.