Lots of people have asked lately how I’m settling in since the move to Amsterdam. It’s been a week now, so I feel like I should be getting the hang of things here. But is that actually happening yet? It’s a complicated question, really. Amsterdam certainly doesn’t feel like “home” yet. Jessica isn’t here yet, I don’t have a full-time job, I don’t have a Dutch bank account or cell phone, and we don’t have more permanent housing lined up. Aside from all of that stuff, though, I really do like it here, and I already think we made the right decision. Once I have the job thing sorted out (several interviews this week, looking good so far), and Jessica is here, I feel like it will be smooth sailing. That is when the real settling in will happen.
So, with that in mind, I wanted to share some things I’ve noticed in the first week:
– The people here seem mostly happy. I see a lot more people smiling here than I feel like I do in a lot of other cities that I’ve been, especially American cities. People in cars wait for you to cross the street. Tram drivers greet you as you enter. There definitely is a culture of tolerance in Amsterdam, and I think that tolerance goes a long way towards helping people feel accepted, which certainly increases overall happiness.
– It is seriously beautiful here. Old buildings, canals, tulips, slanty canal homes, step gables, quaint cafes, hidden gardens and courtyards . . There is something picturesque around literally every corner.
– I’ve notice that I feel short here. I’ve never felt short before. At first, I thought maybe it was just due to feeling a little bit like an outsider or being a little timid in a new place. But the feeling persisted for the whole week. So, i decided to do a bit of research. At 5′ 11″ I am a few inches above average for men in the good ol’ US of A. However, the average height for men in the Netherlands is about 5′ 11″, and for women it’s 5′ 6″!
– Amsterdam really is ALIVE. I can’t communicate this enough. People are out doing stuff. Day, Night, wet, dry, it doesn’t matter. Anywhere you go, something is going on. People are walking or biking or sitting at a cafe. Tourists are looking at maps and taking in the usual sights. Various markets are always going on. Street performers are doing their thing. I really enjoy just picking a spot, sitting on a bench, and watching the world go by for an hour or so. There is so much going on all the time.
– It is really super diverse here. Now, I know that part of the reason it seems diverse is because Amsterdam is a major tourist destination, so people of all nationalities are around. Even still, it’s pretty awesome. I have heard so many languages spoken in the past week, I can’t even count them. The other day, I was at a tapas bar, run and staffed by Spaniards, speaking Spanish. At the table next to me were two German men. Just behind me, people were speaking Dutch. A few tables down, there were some Brits. I hear French, Italian, and Japanese being spoken all the time.
– The city center is really, really old, really really small, and really really densely populated (something like 8 sq.km and 85,000 people). There is so much history here. The oldest still-standing home in Amsterdam ( Begijnhof 34, which I actually saw today) dates from 1425. Fourteen Twenty-Five. It’s almost 600 years old, and people still live there! I can’t imagine what history the collective occupants of that address saw during the last 600 years. FYI, The oldest building, period, in Amsterdam, is the Oude Kerk (Old Church), in the heart of the Red Light District, which dates from about 1250 (making it 750+ years old).
– Real public transportation is awesome. This is something that I realized from Day 1 the first time I came to Amsterdam a few years ago. Trains, trams, buses, Metro. It’s all easily accessible, gets you just about everywhere, and is not super expensive. If you come to Amsterdam, It is likely you will arrive at Amsterdam Centraal Station. Once you exit the building, cross the street (beware trams and bikes!), head into the GVB building, and pick yourself up a 7 day transit pass. For 32 Euros, you get 168 hours of all-you-can-ride on any GVB run transit. It’s a bargain.
– Before I moved here, I spent a combined 4 weeks or so in Amsterdam, throughout a good cross-secition the year. The weather was great. Warm in the summer, cold but manageable in the winter. I don’t think it rained three days in those four weeks. What I have learned in the last week is that It really does rain A LOT here. I mean, a lot. I got here on Sunday, and today is the following Sunday. It rained EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. On and off, drizzle and downpour. I also learned this week that biking in traffic in the pouring rain is not the least bit fun.
So, that about wraps up my first week in Amsterdam!