Tourists flock to Amsterdam for tulips, its liberal take on drugs and the infamous red light district. Yet there’s so much more to lure you to this fine city. Here’s some insights from a Kiwi who’s had a damn good year in the Dam.
The frequency of English, the easy lifestyle and the working holiday visa explain why people are calling Amsterdam the new London. The weather is marginally better, there’s no long daily commute, and Kiwi brunch places dominate the local cafe scene. It feels just like home, only a way cooler Euro version.
The Netherlands are not best known for great weather, so it’s a case of suns out boats out. None of those awful glass enclosed boats with tourists sardined in. People in the know have their local, who strategically cruises the waterways catching the revered sun rays. The BYO food, drinks and music strongly appeal to the Kiwi mentality. There is no better way to soak up the myriad of canals then boating with rosé tinted glasses.
Biking is perhaps the most defining attribute of Amsterdam. It’s a small city, with a population of roughly 850,000. That’s less than even Auckland. This gives it a quaint big village feel. A typical bike trip is about 10 minutes. If embarking on an arduous commute of twenty minutes or more a lot of self-motivation is required. The petite size and delightful means of transport give Amsterdam its easy way of life.
So many bikes means bike thieves. Amsterdam may be safe for you, but your bike isn’t going to be so lucky. Thieves are rampant. So much so, most bikes have two locks. Everyone has a tale of at least one stolen bike. But don’t fret, there’s such a thing as bike fixer. Give them a description of the bike you so desire, €20 and a few days later it’s yours. Just beware of bike karma. Yes this is a thing. I’ve only managed to have one bike stolen, so bike karma seems to be on my side.
Cycling is merely transport, not exercise. This and fortunate genes mean that despite most traditional delicacies being deep fried you won’t see overweight Dutchies. Local dishes include stoopwafels (baked sugar on sugar), kaasstengels (deep fried cheese sticks), bitterballen (deep fried balls with mystery meat contents). You get the gist. It’s not all bad though. Kale was cool here long before it made it to Australasia. It’s the esteemed recipe from Grandma. Raw eateries, cold pressed juice and grain bowls are all on trend, in stylish backdrops that’d make even the coolest Melbourne hipster swoon.
The Dutch are a good looking race, for the most parts tall and slender, blessed with wavy silky hair and great bone structure. The women meander about in minimal make up, unbrushed hair and look effortlessly beautiful. Dutch men’s mane of long locks defies gravity lifting off their face, even when the wind isn’t blowing. It leaves female expats with serious hair envy. How do they maintain that volume?
Dutch fashion is minimalist, with a real Scandinavian feel. Clean lines, quality fabrics and muted tones. Think greys, creams, black and white, with maybe a splash of colour like denim or navy thrown in. Patterns aren’t really appreciated, unless it’s a stripe. A minimal stripe obviously. Sneakers can be worn on any occasion, even clubbing. Nothing about their fashion screams out at you, except the animal faux fur coat. In New Zealand this would seem very bogan Westie, alluding to Outrageous Fortune days. Here women of all ages somehow make it look semi chic. I’ve not attempted to master the look.
The work life balance is incredible. That is if you can get the work side of the balance into the equation. If you can’t? No worries, there’s no shortage of incredibly cool cafes you can pretend to work in. If I counted the hours I’d spent dwelling in such establishments, it’s almost like I had a part time cafe job here. Almost.
On that note, cafes are not to be mistaken with a coffee shop. To avoid getting a perplexed stoner wondering what an almond piccolo is, head to a cafe if you’re looking for coffee. Coffee shops are just for weed. The logic behind this is still a mystery to me, but knowing the Dutch there is indeed a great rationale behind it.
If you’re ever missing the many Kiwi waterways there’s of course an amplitude of canals. I’ve spent many an hour canal sitting. Feeling the calming nature of the water minimises the stresses of life, such as not being able to find your bike, or wondering what sneakers to wear. Some of the canals are even swimmable, though they tend to be a hefty twenty minute bike ride away.
Amsterdam masters a quaint charm and outdoor vibe that most urban cities lack. Littered with green havens and terraces, the exterior spaces breath life into the city. Rooftops, parks and the canals are flooded with people chilling, chatting, drinking and listening to music. Sun basking and people watching against historic buildings proves to be the perfect pass time.
As my year here has come full circle, the tulip’s are once again in bloom. I feel very content with my slice of life this side of the world. I’ve become fully inducted in the Dutch ways, cycling about with my cold pressed juice donning pastel tones. I’ve had many a friend come visit, all falling for the magic of this place. Must be time to head on another boat trip, and drink in my appreciation of this damn fine city.