Life in Holland is definitely a culture shock for many Chinese. But the games they're used to playing in China  - ping-pong and Shuang Sheng - help them feel at 'home' here in Holland.

It‘s 17:30, the end of another ordinary TU working day. As some students walk down the faculty's hallways, heading home, others are getting ready to play ping-pong in the faculty building's makeshift sport's room. It's not uncommon for foreign students to play certain sports outside of the TU's 'sportcentrum'. Playing soccer in a local park is common, but playing ping-pong in an academic building? While there's nothing especially wrong with the TU's sports center . in fact, there's one ping-pong table in the sports center's bar - some students simply prefer to play elsewhere.Every evening students and staff casually gather together to play ping-pong on fifth floor of the TU's Civil Engineer building. Most of the players - or at least those who play most often - are PhD students. "It's more convenient to play here than at the sports center," says Li Mingwei, a Chinese PhD student at the Civil Engineer Faculty.Of all the players, more than half are Chinese, which isn't surprising, since ping-pong is China's national sport, and most are good players, certainly by western standards. Doubles matches between different offices within the faculty are very popular, because they're usually more competitive and fun, and with doubles, more players can play at once.And when more people play, more interesting social and cultural things can occur. For example, no matter who the better player is, a Dutch player will immediately ask for advice from a fellow player if he cannot master a certain skill. This a Chinese would rarely do. Normally, Chinese think that 'you can only teach me, if you are much better than me'. Any direct advice from a fellow Chinese would more likely to be taken as some sort of challenge or criticism and be felt as an attack on one's self-esteem. Consequently, if a Chinese is not yet a good player, usually he or she would feel embarrassed and simply choose not to play.We Chinese think of this tendency as 'being modest', and it's seen as a virtue rather than a weakness. In this sense, compared to westerners, and especially the Dutch, Chinese are culturally not very open to this kind of learning process. However, that's not to say Chinese people don't enjoy this openness. Actually, this is one of characteristics that Chinese value most in foreigners. Consequently, Chinese often feel more freely able to release themselves with a foreigner, rather than a fellow Chinese, despite the often difficult language barrier.The benefit of this open attitude is obvious: the more open you are, the faster and better you learn. Two Dutch MSc students for instance began learning how to play ping-pong last year, and now they're both good players.Sports are a wonderful way to help us Chinese feel at 'home', to combat strong feelings of homesickness. Ping-pong is China's national sport and at most schools it's obligatory to play. When I play ping-pong here in Holland, it reminds me of my college life back in Beijing.AttitudeIn addition to ping-pong, a poker-like game called 'Shuang Sheng' (in North China) or '80 FEN' (in South China) helps us to relax and enjoy ourselves in our Dutch home away from home. The game, which requires four players and two decks of cards, is regularly played by students at China's universities. When there is some time to relax, for example after a stressful exam week, the dormitories are full of students playing Shuang Sheng, often all night.Here, in Delft, the game's also a popular way for Chinese students to relax. It's also common to play it after someone’s birthday party. Friends come together, celebrate, and then after dinner play Shuang Sheng. This is another difference between Chinese and Dutch culture. At most Dutch parties, with beers in hand, people just talk, talk, talk, even if, as is often the case and funny to observe, the music is too loud and people have to shout into each other's ears. The bottom line being that as long as beer is served, then it can't be a bad party, and, anyway, if you drink enough beer, you'll find a way to enjoy yourself.Chinese however like to do other things while talking. While playing Shuang Sheng, it's normal for friends to ask each other, 'how are you doing?' One hidden rule of the game is that full attention is not often given to something or someone. Talking to each other without looking at each other may appear strange or rude to the foreign eye, but it’s just one of those unexplainable cultural differences.Life changes a lot for all the Chinese students studying and living in foreign countries, far away from home. However, some things remain the same wherever we are. Many of the games and other cultural customs we engage in while at university in China are also things we do right here at TU Delft. Ultimately, we all stay the same, whatever nationality we may be, even though the outside world changes. Wherever you are, the attitude of enjoying student life prevails.(Illustration: Danny Sutjahjo)

It‘s 17:30, the end of another ordinary TU working day. As some students walk down the faculty's hallways, heading home, others are getting ready to play ping-pong in the faculty building's makeshift sport's room. It's not uncommon for foreign students to play certain sports outside of the TU's 'sportcentrum'. Playing soccer in a local park is common, but playing ping-pong in an academic building? While there's nothing especially wrong with the TU's sports center . in fact, there's one ping-pong table in the sports center's bar - some students simply prefer to play elsewhere.Every evening students and staff casually gather together to play ping-pong on fifth floor of the TU's Civil Engineer building. Most of the players - or at least those who play most often - are PhD students. "It's more convenient to play here than at the sports center," says Li Mingwei, a Chinese PhD student at the Civil Engineer Faculty.Of all the players, more than half are Chinese, which isn't surprising, since ping-pong is China's national sport, and most are good players, certainly by western standards. Doubles matches between different offices within the faculty are very popular, because they're usually more competitive and fun, and with doubles, more players can play at once.And when more people play, more interesting social and cultural things can occur. For example, no matter who the better player is, a Dutch player will immediately ask for advice from a fellow player if he cannot master a certain skill. This a Chinese would rarely do. Normally, Chinese think that 'you can only teach me, if you are much better than me'. Any direct advice from a fellow Chinese would more likely to be taken as some sort of challenge or criticism and be felt as an attack on one's self-esteem. Consequently, if a Chinese is not yet a good player, usually he or she would feel embarrassed and simply choose not to play.We Chinese think of this tendency as 'being modest', and it's seen as a virtue rather than a weakness. In this sense, compared to westerners, and especially the Dutch, Chinese are culturally not very open to this kind of learning process. However, that's not to say Chinese people don't enjoy this openness. Actually, this is one of characteristics that Chinese value most in foreigners. Consequently, Chinese often feel more freely able to release themselves with a foreigner, rather than a fellow Chinese, despite the often difficult language barrier.The benefit of this open attitude is obvious: the more open you are, the faster and better you learn. Two Dutch MSc students for instance began learning how to play ping-pong last year, and now they're both good players.Sports are a wonderful way to help us Chinese feel at 'home', to combat strong feelings of homesickness. Ping-pong is China's national sport and at most schools it's obligatory to play. When I play ping-pong here in Holland, it reminds me of my college life back in Beijing.AttitudeIn addition to ping-pong, a poker-like game called 'Shuang Sheng' (in North China) or '80 FEN' (in South China) helps us to relax and enjoy ourselves in our Dutch home away from home. The game, which requires four players and two decks of cards, is regularly played by students at China's universities. When there is some time to relax, for example after a stressful exam week, the dormitories are full of students playing Shuang Sheng, often all night.Here, in Delft, the game's also a popular way for Chinese students to relax. It's also common to play it after someone’s birthday party. Friends come together, celebrate, and then after dinner play Shuang Sheng. This is another difference between Chinese and Dutch culture. At most Dutch parties, with beers in hand, people just talk, talk, talk, even if, as is often the case and funny to observe, the music is too loud and people have to shout into each other's ears. The bottom line being that as long as beer is served, then it can't be a bad party, and, anyway, if you drink enough beer, you'll find a way to enjoy yourself.Chinese however like to do other things while talking. While playing Shuang Sheng, it's normal for friends to ask each other, 'how are you doing?' One hidden rule of the game is that full attention is not often given to something or someone. Talking to each other without looking at each other may appear strange or rude to the foreign eye, but it’s just one of those unexplainable cultural differences.Life changes a lot for all the Chinese students studying and living in foreign countries, far away from home. However, some things remain the same wherever we are. Many of the games and other cultural customs we engage in while at university in China are also things we do right here at TU Delft. Ultimately, we all stay the same, whatever nationality we may be, even though the outside world changes. Wherever you are, the attitude of enjoying student life prevails.(Illustration: Danny Sutjahjo)