Oxana, MBA Management, Maastricht University, The Netherlands
For me, a good sense of humor is an essential quality for any person with whom I wish to communicate. Good in this case is synonymous with similar. This means being able to perceive funny situations in the same way as each other and to understand the same context when joking.
I was happy to discover, on many occasions, that my Russian sense of humor is very similar to the Dutch sense of humor. Examples are many.
I could exclaim, “What a beautiful morning!” if it was pouring rain, and my Dutch friends would laugh appreciatively.
A Dutch colleague of mine, who happened to lose his coffee mug, complained while he was trying to drink from a new mug that, “It is just not the same.” You can imagine my big smile at this remark full of touchingly strong attachment towards quite a simple object!
At a photo-shop in Maastricht a photographer advised me that “a smile is permitted” when I was looking far too serious when having my passport-sized photo taken.
I can easily imagine that a Russian photographer would say just the same! I also appreciate the remarkable ability of the Dutch people to gently poke fun at themselves, which is not uncommon among the Russians too!
However, for the sake of accurateness I must admit that although an exception rather than a rule, there are cases when our ideas of what is funny differ. I was also surprised to learn that more and more US schools were looking for foreign teachers, so that put me on the track of studying abroad.
For instance, when I tell Dutch people that it takes me 27 hours in Russia to travel by train from Moscow to my native city Ekaterinburg, they think it is a joke – but it is not!
Another example of a misunderstanding occurred when I was discussing a rental agreement with my would-be landlord. The landlord was just at the point of emphasizing that animals are not allowed in the house when a calm, big and sophisticated looking cat slowly walked into the room where we were sitting as if wanting to prove the opposite. I remember very well that I was the only one to greet the cat with a smile.
You cannot rely on finding a source of additional income after you arrive. The institutions have very limited funds for supporting students. If you are from an EU or EEA member state, however, you may be entitled to a regular student grant or to a refund of the tuition fees.