by: in General
Kehr Woche blog

Maastricht is experiencing a new dynamic: student en stad, a project that addresses the usual issues inherent to a university city, such as the specific needs of the young, diverse student population and the negative side-effects, commonly summarized by the Dutch term “studentenoverlast”. The Maastricht student council’s efforts to build bridges between the traditional city inhabitants and the student population have seen major progress in facilitating dialogue between the two parties. Last weekend I attended an event hosted by the student council together with the representatives of the city quarters. I was extremely impressed by the fresh wind that students bring into the debate on how to transform Maastricht into a true university city. Of course, the problems caused by a large part of the student population were also addressed: too many bicycles lying on the street, problems with garbage disposal, noise. The discussion was heartwarming and it assured me that this initiative will help bring people closer together.

The discussion reminded me of my own life as a student in Heidelberg: for a time I lived with other students in a flat of an apartment building that was otherwise filled with elderly people. The complaints about “these students” were quite frequent. And there was Kehrwoche. For those unfamiliar with this term, it refers to a tradition in (southern) Germany where you have to take terms cleaning the stairs and the entrance area of the whole building once a week. Behind the door of the building was a sign that announced those in charge that week. For example: Kehrwoche – this week: Martin Paul. I can tell you that I typically ignored the sign until the last day when I realized that my name was up. But after coming home late, I wanted to sleep rather than clean the stairs. And because the stairs looked clean as always, I did not see the need. To avoid the “Hausmeister” getting on my case I simply put the doormats up to give the impression that somebody had indeed cleaned the stairs that day. And it worked. In the three years that I lived there, the stairs always looked super-clean, despite my sabotage of the Kehrwoche rule.

Enjoy life while you’re young
When I moved out I went to say good-bye to my neighbour, an elderly lady. She then told me that she knew all along that I was faking it and that she had actually cleaned the stairs on the days I was supposed to. She said: “I did not have a problem with this. I know you students have other priorities and you should enjoy life while you are young”. I was flabbergasted and thanked her by bringing her flowers. I have never forgotten this. I do not mind living next to a student house with all the noise and garbage problems that come along with it. Actually, if I come out of the house and find a bicycle lying on my sidewalk, I will quietly pick it up and put it back into its place in honour of my former neighbour.