How safe is Groningen during the night

10 november 2020

Door: Jona Hax

After completing a series of introductory posts for all my fellow expats in Groningen, I think it is now time to focus on some essential topics concerning the night council. In my opinion, all the internationals like myself need to learn the full picture of the places and cultures they will live with, including nightlife, so get ready to take some notes.

When it comes to choosing cities or spaces where we plan to live, I think most of us look for the same fundamental feature, it has to be a place where we would feel safe. In today’s world, where technology and security systems have significantly developed, one could say, streets, neighborhoods, and communities, are now better monitored and feel safer than ever before. Europe, out of all places, is a rather safe place, or is it? Take a moment to think about this.

If we specifically refer to the Netherlands, crime rates in this country are relatively low, compared to its neighboring countries. According to Osac(2020) tourists and visitors in big Dutch cities are generally safe and not targeted for crime, but they should remain vigilant nonetheless. Despite the well-functioning and efficient systems in place, this report suggests, it is always a good idea to pay attention to your surroundings. This advice, in my opinion, should be applicable everywhere.

In this blog, I want to talk specifically about the night culture, life and safety in the city of Groningen. First off, let me tell you some good news. According to an official police report, the overall crime rate in Groningen is low, and the city is quite safe (PolitieNL, 2020) in other words, a good, promising start if you happen to start your studies here.

Throughout the years that I have been living in the city, during the late-night hours, I have never encountered unpleasant situations or incidents. It is a unique case, I know. However, this is not to assume that nothing happens during the late hours in the city, crime is present here, too. Even though the city feels very safe and is constantly under police supervision, it still has a long way to go to make everyone who walks in the night alone feel safe.

Sometimes you might run into drunk people standing on the side of the streets, or standing at the entrance of coffee shops, especially on Thursdays or weekends (these days are the most popular for people to get drunk and go out partying) Whistling, catcalling, curses, and many other inappropriate comments or jokes, are still being thrown around, clearly to trigger folks in the streets, oftentimes even hurt their feelings. Physical attacks are less common but do tend to appear now and then. Last but not least, I want to mention one of the most concerning issues in the city, unsolicited sexual behavior. The latter is a sensitive topic that many want to avoid, but it is a phenomenon among us that needs to be urgently addressed. At the night council, the board is working hard towards finding solutions and reducing the number of cases.

No one ever wishes to encounter the previously mentioned scenarios, I am certain of that, but the thing is they do happen and hurt people on various levels. It was that the reason why when I moved to the city, the first thing I wanted to get informed about was safety and crime rates, to obtain a realistic picture of what the city was like. It helped a great deal to talk to locals, my Dutch friends, and ask advice whenever I was in hesitation or doubting certain decisions.

I remember when I first went out to do a pub crawl in Groningen, that’s what it’s called here I was 19 and was always super vigilant about the people in my vicinity. As an expat, I always felt like I had to be extra cautious wherever I went, especially the places I wasn’t familiar with. Some of my other fellow expat friends felt the same so we always stayed cautious to prevent unpleasant incidents. Call it a cultural thing or whatever you like, but when you come from a developing country, you are raised to think that anybody can be a suspicious person, so better to be safe than sorry. And we carry that mindset with us everywhere we go.                 

I think one of the strategies that helped me to keep things always under control, was the fact that I didn’t drink nor smoked. Yes being healthy has its perks too, you know :). Because I was the one who was sober at all times, I took upon myself the role of the bodyguard and made sure that all my girlfriends would enjoy the night and get home safe. But honestly, this is a role that anyone can take, as long as you’re not too tipsy and able to intervene when needed. Having a person that checks on everyone can make you feel much safer. You might think, but there are security guards at the pubs/bars, right? Yes, indeed, people are supervising these places, but they cannot be everywhere at the same time. The issue of safety in closed spaces is also one of the main themes that Nachtraad is working on and currently developing strategies. For more information on this, stay tuned for the coming blogs.

But let’s now focus on the outside, public spaces in Groningen. During late-night walks or bike rides, seeing police troops monitoring the city streets, some of them even on horses, (I am a huge horse fan so it’s always nice seeing them) gave me that feeling of safety and made me less anxious about the people in my vicinity. I stuck to a group of friends whom I trusted, and we always made sure to signal to each other whenever we would feel uncomfortable or in danger. My friends do the same when they go out with their friends and I’d recommend you to have some strategy, too. It can always get handy.

Sometimes we might not be the actual target but our possessions could instead. The Dutch police authorities suggest that to be safe, you should keep all valuable things like wallets, passports, and credit cards in zipped pockets or fastened bags when you are walking in the streets. I would say the same goes for bikes, especially at night when you park, make sure to lock, or double lock it, otherwise there could be a good chance they can get stolen. Bike theft is very popular in Groningen, just a warning.

So you see, there are still quite a few unpleasant scenarios that can be improved or avoided, and that is the reason why platforms like Nachtraad exist. The night council is working hard to make Groningen a safer city and inform the locals and expats on safety precautions. They are always busy developing various informative and sensitizing campaigns on three main topics:

-The cultural diversity, lively Groningen

– Cultural change, informing people on cases of unsolicited behavior, cases of sexual assault

– Night city hall, providing a safe space accessible for everyone.

To find out more about the three key topics, I suggest you navigate the website and look for our upcoming blogs. We will focus on every single one of the key topics and provide you with a list of tips and advice that you can follow to have a safe, pleasant, and enjoyable experience in the city of Groningen.

Remember, when we all acknowledge the problem we accomplish the first difficult step, informing people on what is a real danger. What is left to do afterward is to seek solutions and engage people in informative discussions, like the blogs we post here, so we hope you will take these ideas and discuss them with your friends, too

Take care and wish you well folks.

Kind regards,

Jona Hax