Sororities and fraternities tend to be associated with the US, but don’t be fooled because the Dutch have them too.
It’s the whole package: the brutal hazing, the Latin jargon, and the weird rituals included. One of them is wearing a jacket that hasn’t been washed for years.🤦♀️Why exactly?
What is it?
First off, you should know that fraternities and sororities in the Netherlands have a long history. The oldest and second-largest studentenvereeniging (student union) Vindicat atque Polit (or just Vindicat, for short) was founded in Groningen in 1815.
As an outsider, you are most likely to notice the presence of these student unions in your favourite Dutch student city during late August and early September.
This is when the infamous ontgroening (hazing) takes place, the initiation period for new, potential members.
See a group of girls jump into a canal during the early morning hours? Stumble into a bunch of dazed-looking eighteen-year-olds dripping in paint? Read news headlines of hospital admissions due to alcohol poisoning, pneumonia, and psychological torture?
Yup, that’s Dutch student society culture for you.
But we were talking about wearing a gross, unwashed jacket, weren’t we? So, what’s that all about?
Why do they do it?
Not washing either yourself or items of clothing seems to be a recurring theme in studentenvereeniging culture.
It’s certainly part of the hazing culture, where potential members are not allowed to wash themselves for extended periods of time — even after doing things such as jumping in the canals or sleeping on garbage.
Turns out, even after having successfully survived the hazing period, the not-washing thing seems to stick around. Members of one fraternity, for instance, are not allowed to wash their ties. Ever.
The jacket that is never being washed is specific to the rowing association Aegir, which is a sister society of Vindicat. Every new competition rower is handed a jacket from the sportsman or woman that has come before them.
The rule? The jacket can only be washed if the rowing team wins the Varsity, the biggest student rowing competition in the Netherlands.
The catch? Well, for one, some of the jackets have been around since the 1980s. And secondly, Aegir has won the Varsity race six times thus far. The last time? In 1982. 🤦
You can do the math yourself.
Why is it quirky?
Well, maybe quirky is a bit positive but it’s definitely pretty weird. Just another sort-of-extreme and kind-of-concerning item to add to the long list of reasons why it’s probably better not to join a Dutch studentenvereeniging.
Should you join in?
Don’t get us wrong, not every student society in the Netherlands is riddled with such weird traditions and rituals. Some are pretty harmless.
So, if you’re thinking about joining a Dutch fraternity of sorority, do your research and pick wisely.
What do you think of this Dutch quirk? Have you experienced it? Tell us in the comments below!
Editor’s note: This article was originally published in December 2021, but was fully updated in March 2023 for your reading pleasure.