A Blog by International Students at Leiden University

Beer Cantus

One of the main complaints I hear from international students in Leiden, and in the Netherlands as a whole, is that it is not exactly easy to develop a friendship with Dutch students. The complaint goes: it´s hard to get to know them because they already have their social life built up here with people they grew up with; they don´t really engage with international students and so on…The situation is especially true if the Dutch student is part of a Dutch fraternity. The biggest ones here in Leiden are (forgive me if I am mistaken) Minerva, Augustinus…and they have dozens of their ‘houses’ spread through Leiden where (usually) only fraternity members can live and have their own party and meeting headquarters. They also have a whole bunch of very particular traditions of initiation and what not…

Anyway, there are already cool groups in Leiden that try to bridge the gap between internationals and Dutch student. One of them is the buddy program of Leiden United (insert FB link). Although I am not part of it, I know it tries to mingle local and external students of Leiden University through events, dinners parties etc. and that might be a good way to start.

Other organizations also try to create opportunities for these two ‘worlds’ to overlap. Last week ISN took some students to a traditional Beer Cantus in Augustinus headquarters. What is a beer cantus you ask? (No shame in that, I had noooo idea what to expect also haha) . In a nutshell is when people get together to drink beer and sing hahahah. Here´s what Wikipedia says:

“A cantus (Latin for ‘singing’, derived from ‘cantare’), is an activity organised by BelgianDutchFrenchBaltic and Afrikaans student organisationsand fraternities. A cantus mainly involves singing traditional songs and drinking beer. It is governed by strict traditional rules. The use of this dates back a few centuries and was inspired by German student organisations.” (


Here you can see a bit of the room and its benches…also, you can see how white I get in this European Autumn


Some more people…I think we were around 60 people overall

Before the start all the students (both Dutch and international) sat on those long benches across the room and then we received a booklet with the songs that we would sing. Unfortunately my booklet got soaking wet from the beer and I could not keep it. You can find the examples of some of the songs we sang that night in the end of this post =)

Augustinus had two ‘masters of ceremony’ that walked on top of the tables and that would ‘guide’ us through the songs. Before the start they also informed us how the whole thing was going to work out. They would shout SILENCIO (silence in latin) and everyone should be quiet. After that they would introduce us to the next song and we all had to sing it as loud as we could. In the end they would say this Latin thing that I cannot remember and all the students would shout another Latin saying back (which I also can´t recall), finally we had to drink up our glass of beer.


Fraternity Boys


A student was summoned to help with the leading of one of the songs

Yes, we had to drink a glass of beer after each and every song and those who tried to cheat (by not drinking it until the end of by not filling their glasses up to the edge) would be ‘punished’ by having to drink an extra glass. I´ve heard that originally in Cantus they would make the students drink beers out of boots or socks, so I got pretty happy for this time they made we get the beers out of buckets.


Students with their lyrics booklet, on the left, a student that was summoned to help with the leading of one of the songs and the buckets of beer on the table

I admit I don´t recall the order we sang the songs but  I sure remember that both Dutch and internationals had fun together.After the cantus ended we all went downstairs to continue the party with what they call a Dixo. There once again students, regardless of their nationality, have loads of fun together.


Picture of the aftercantus Dixo

All in all, it is definitely possible to get to know and have friends Dutch students…it might require you going into ‘their’ world, but I wholeheartedly recommend this event to anyone – at least once – since joining Dutch traditions will definitely enrich your experience =)

Some of the songs we sang =)

Fools Garden- Lemon Tree

Robbie Williams- Angels

Journey- Don´t Stop Believing

John Denver- Country Roads,Take me Home

Billy Joel- Piano Man

The Dubliners- The Wild Rover

Beatles- Hey Jude

Oasis- Wonderwall


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This entry was posted on November 30, 2013 by in Beatriz (Bia), Culture, ISN and tagged , .

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