Isanya Köhne

It’s three weeks in and people are picking up on the many important movements that are going on. Acknowledging that everyone matters, no matter people’s colour of skin or sexual preference is top priority these days, and for good reason, as these communities have long tried to get others aware. To honour this month, each week we give this platform to someone who can proudly say is part of the LGBTQ+ community, and that can shed a little light on how it’s like in the Netherlands. 

This week, we have the pleasure of introducing you to yet another Brazilian; Mateus from the southern, green city Curitiba. A year ago he graduated from his studies there in Public relations, but back in 2017 he was in the Netherlands for an exchange abroad. An experience of a lifetime, he says!


Mateus

1. In your own words, how would you describe the LGBTQ+ community (in general)? What makes you feel accepted in a country, in this regard? 

“I believe that our community is all about the meaning of the word ‘community’. We really take it serious. It doesn’t matter where in the world you find yourself, everywhere you’re welcome and people will make you feel accepted. LGBTQ+ is about love.”

2. Before coming to the Netherlands, did you worry that people would judge you in your Erasmus/new city regarding your sexual preference?

“Not really. But I think that’s because I’ve always known that the Netherlands is a ‘gay friendly’ country, so to say. I didn’t think that much about it because I had a feeling I’d be welcome.”

3. The Netherlands is known to be relatively open-minded, especially regarding this community, would you agree with this? Why or why not? 

“Yes, I do agree with that. As I said, I knew about the image of the Netherlands in this regard before coming here and I experienced it first hand when I got here. People don’t seem to make a big fuss about sexuality like they can do in other countries, my own included. It doesn’t matter if you’re gay, bi, transgender, you’re just you, another person that belongs. The way the Dutch see and treat individuals as they are is very unique and admirable.”  

4. What was/is your general experience like here in the Netherlands? And in regards to the LGBTQ+ community, is there anything that really stood or stands out?

“In 2017 I studied for a semester in the Netherlands, which was one of the greatest experiences I’ve had in my entire life so far. I’ve made many friendships that still last today, and memories hard to forget (luckily!). I’ve developed and gotten to know myself better. It was a great moment to get in touch with who I am. Living in a place where the culture is so different from your home country, and sharing a house with people from all over the world, really made me feel like a citizen of the world.” 

 

5. Can you tell us any particular story that either shocked or amazed you during your stay here in the Netherlands? Multiple stories are welcome! 

“Yes! The summer here in the Netherlands was the first summer I experienced on the Northern Hemisphere and it is by far one of the greatest things I miss from my time in the Netherlands. During summer in Brazil, the sun goes down around 7.30/8PM and in the Netherlands the day lasts till 10 or 11PM even, and that was mind blowing for me. The experiences of staying out with friends, grabbing a drink at the canal or biking around at 10PM with an orange sunset behind us, are things I’ll never be able to fully describe.”

6. The aftermath: how do you look back at your time here in the Netherlands? Would you say you developed in any particular way because of the country?

“I have most definitely developed while I was in the Netherlands. Specifically becoming more straightforward, a Dutch way of going about. In Brazil we’re very used to taking long journeys to say simple things. It’s a very odd habit that we always feel that the other person might feel offended by something we have to say. If there’s something to talk about that’s uncomfortable, you’ll have to find a very polite way of approaching that conversation. But in the Netherlands, they’re just very practical that way, and simply communicate directly about it and therefore resolve it. I think that’s remarkable.”

7. Which tips would you give to someone who’s contemplating doing their Erasmus/exchange/a full-time study in the Netherlands? Is there any advice they need to hear before coming here?

“Based on my own experience I don’t think there’s something incredibly important. But the Netherlands is a great country, and the people usually make foreigners feel very welcome regardless of the colour of their skin or their sexual orientation. Especially in the LGBTQ+ community, as I said before, you’ll be welcomed with open arms.”

8. Pride month this year will look a little different than it usually does, is there anything, in particular, you’d hope this month will bring to the people? And in what ways do you think the Netherlands can develop more in light of the LGBTQ+ community? 

“One thing the Netherlands could do better in regards to the LGBTQ+ community, is to highlight the people of colour within this community more. It’s never done enough, especially during a month full of protests against racism all over the world. We need to embrace this cause more than ever and make it part of our paths. We need to stand up and grab the chance we have to fight racism and shed light on this minority, also within our community.”

So, not only in regards to the LGBTQ+ community is the Netherlands a nice environment to come and live in, be it for six months or five years. It’s a country that provides you with the opportunity to develop yourself and simply figure out who you’d like to be. A big thanks to Mateus for shedding a little light on both our country as the LGBTQ+ community here. We hope everyone is safe out there and that this month (and beyond) provides enough opportunities to strive for a more inclusive world!