This is the first post in a series that will highlight things I’m learning as I go. From the mundane everything to the panic-stricken moments, here’s what I (now) know:

1. No one takes credit cards. I have found exactly one business in Utrecht that takes Mastercard, Visa, or American Express. One. No grocery store, McDonald’s, or shopping mall takes plastic. I was planning on using my Mastercard debit, so I was very surprised by this! Luckily, debit cards work fine in ATMs.

It turns out that for everything else, there’s chipknip, not Mastercard. Chipknips look a lot like debit cards, but they have a gold area on them that looks a lot like a SIM card. You can buy a prepaid one with 10 or 20 euro on them (I’ve found dispensers in the Faculty of Humanities library), or you can open a bank account and get one.

2. Opening a bank account is pretty easy. If you’re going to be here for at least a year, Universiteit Utrecht has an arrangement with Rabobank that seems simple to navigate. If you’ll only be here for a semester, ING bank will let you open an account even before you receive your BSN—the tax number you get when you register with the city. All they require is proof of identity (passport) and proof that you’re enrolled (student ID). Super easy.

3. Filet Americain is raw beef. I may have mentioned this before, but I’m still kind of distraught about it. I want to keep other hapless Americans from making my mistakes.

4. Duct tape is called gaffa tape. The Dutch tend to use British words rather than American, so if you’re searching for it, ask for “gaffa” rather than “duct.”

5. They use the metric system. Okay, yeah, I knew to expect Celsius and kilometers, but I somehow missed the part where Europeans measure things in milliliters and liters. If you’re planning to cook some American comfort food, slip a set of measuring spoons in your luggage. You won’t regret it!


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