While many headed for warmer weather or back home to visit loved ones, the Northwestern field hockey team traveled to the Netherlands over spring break to sightsee and play several exhibition games. As the home of four members of the field hockey team and a field hockey-crazy country, the Netherlands served as a perfect destination for the Wildcats. Northwestern matched up against the former club teams of several of its Dutch players, and the players were able to meet their teammates’ families and see their hometowns.
We sat down with with sophomore Saar de Breij and redshirt junior Charlotte Vaziri to recap the trip.
The following transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Saar de Breij:
What was your favorite part about being a host for your teammates?
Everyone had a lot of questions which was really fun because normally I’m the one with all the questions so I was like the tour guide which was really fun. We had a dinner at my house so everyone could see where I lived and where I grew up which was the most fun. We played my old club, so everyone saw my life before I came here, which was cool. They got a better idea of who I am and where I grew up.
What are some of the cultural differences between Netherlands and the United States?
Dutch people are very direct. We just say what we think and Americans are nicer about it. Even in the team, you can see it sometimes. We have four Dutchies on the team and we’re just pretty direct and just say what we think if something is wrong. Some Americans don’t really take that.
How does the Dutch field hockey culture compare to the American one?
Different, like really different. Dutch people, we start to play field hockey when we are like five or six so I’ve been playing for thirteen years almost fourteen. We are more skilled, like it’s a lot more skill-based, but Americans are a lot more physical and they work harder. So when we played my club, they beat us with skills and they were really good, but since we just kept running and kept working, we beat them like 6-2, which was great.
What was it like going back and playing your home club?
I was really nervous because I sorta couldn’t lose. I invited all my friends and family and old teammates that were still at the club so a lot of people came to watch us. And of course I said “Yeah we’re really good. We’re not that skilled but we’re really good,” so if we lose, we just can’t really do that. I was nervous and then we scored the first goal and it was all good. But it was one of the highlights of the whole week for me, to play my old club and run into people I played with or knew.
How did the competition compare to Big Ten competition?
I was kinda surprised at how laid-back the other teams were. They didn’t really press us hard. They kinda let us do our own thing and then whenever we got near the goal, that’s when they would react. They kinda attacked not as a unit but like an individual would go themselves.
What were some of the differences in field hockey culture between the Netherlands and the United States?
One weird thing is, for example, Michigan is our big rival. After a game we can’t even look them in the face. There’s reports about the fans yelling at one another. But in Holland it’s kind of part of the culture, you go with the other team, you get dinner with them after the game and you just intermix. The language barrier helped a bit. For example when we beat another team, we could just pretend that we didn’t know Dutch that well. I’m just kidding. They were lovely. They would completely forget about the score of the game and just interact with us. So that was cool. Their sportsmanship was just unparalleled.
What were some cultural differences between the Netherlands and the United States?
Their diets. All of them are very healthy looking yet ever meal is like carb with a side of carbs as I said. Another thing was they would bike everywhere which was kind of shocking. At one point it was snowing but everyone was just biking around. All of them had these presumptions about Americans, they liked to make fun of Trump a lot.
Did the trip bring your team closer?
I got closer to my teammates than I ever have before. People always say when you travel with people you really get to know them and that definitely was the case here. Especially for the foreign players, that was an opportunity to see them in their element. We got to meet their families who we usually don’t get to see.
Were there any big takeaways from the trip?
When I would order something, I couldn’t do it, I didn’t know the language. So it made me appreciate all my foreign teammates went through transitioning to the United States. The professors don’t take into account that English is their second language and we thought our teammates were just shy but they just don’t know the language and seeing them learn English and everything makes you recognize how hard that process is. It really quite respectable that they are able to adjust this way at a top-level academic institution, top-level athletic institution. It’s kinda humbling I would say.