Top Hospitality Management School Les Roches students visit Europe

How history and culture shape nations

13 Feb 2014 | by Les Roches


With only 7 months left of my postgraduate study course, I felt that it was important to spend every holiday wisely and travel to as many countries as there are in the European continent.

So, this last December holidays, I chose to travel to Belgium and the Netherlands. Firstly, it was easy to cover 2 countries adequately in 11 days; secondly, I was informed that both countries seemed to have better temperatures in the winter than other parts of Europe.

The trip came and went quickly, but it was another memorable vacation because the culture and history of these two countries were so diverse and interesting.

It was even more enjoyable with great company – I was travelling with friends from Les Roches, all of us from different countries.

Need some inspirations for gifts next holiday season? Check out the Christmas Markets!

op Hospitality Management School Les Roches students visit Europe
Europe is known for its variety of Christmas markets and hand-made gifts

As the Christmas holiday drew near, Christmas markets began popping up around different cities in Europe. It was no exception in Belgium and Netherlands. While we were in Brussels, we had a great time visiting different stores and also purchasing souvenirs for our family and friends back home. What’s great was that most of these souvenirs were handmade and totally unique. One of my favorite stores was a hand puppet store where you can tell an interactive story with just one hand. Perfect for kids!

Whatever happened in the past – The stories behind the canals and buildings…

After travelling around Europe for a while, it is easy to think that one city looks like another. Every city has at least one old cathedral, and perhaps a clock tower – Brussels had St Catherine’s and Amsterdam had her Old and New

Top Hospitality Management School Les Roches students visit Europe
The more unusual architecture in Rotterdam.

Church. However, what made some of these cities more unique than the rest were the canals, as these were countries which predominantly relied on shipping for trade, and their cities were equipped with canals for convenient access by cargo ships. We saw this in Bruges and Amsterdam, where the city had an intricate water ways.

On the other hand. Rotterdam, which suffered massive damage during bombardments in World War II, had the opportunity of introducing more interesting architecture into its modern city, including cube houses, suitable for residential or retail purposes.

Eyebrow raising points of interests

Did you know that there is a large Surinamese population in the Netherlands? My friends and I were quite surprised as well, and learned that it was because Suriname was an important Dutch colony and many of them emigrated in the 1970s following the country’s independence.

Top Hospitality Management School Les Roches students visit Europe
Amsterdam has many points of interest.

Another thing that we found fascinating was how the red-light district in the Netherlands became famous, and to find random sculptures placed around the city that are reference to it.

We also learned that in the Netherlands, coffee is not the only item that is being served in these special coffee shops! These places have a very distinct scent, which (un)fortunately, I am unable to appreciate. But it was eye-opening to learn why it became popular.

To avoid spoiling the trip for you, I’d recommend joining a local tour to hear more of these stories.

This trip to Belgium and the Netherlands has allowed me better understand and appreciate the diversity around me.

Also, as a history geek, I absolutely loved seeing how past events from war and colonisation have shaped the nations and made them the countries they are today. It is such a privilege to not only be studying hospitality in Europe, but also having an insight into countries with such rich history and culture.

As Rene Descartes say, ‘Travelling is almost like talking with those of other centuries’… Now if only walls could speak.

Les Roches


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