Travel,

Living in Amsterdam – What moved me, amused me and downright confused me!

 

Boats crusing along the famous Amsterdam canals.

 

Call it a love story or simply call me crazy but my move to Amsterdam was none other than to follow my heart… I fell in love with an even crazier Dutch guy and when his Australian working visa ran out and he asked me to move to Europe, it only seemed natural to say ‘yea why not’? From that moment on it’s been a wild adventure of ups and downs, ins and outs and everything in between.

My introduction to Amsterdam was a memorable experience, in my 3rd week of European living; there we were in the packed tram with about 3 stops left to our destination; I failed to notice the man holding his mouth and pushing his way through the crowd rushing towards the exit doors like a rugby player running towards that goal line… But unfortunately I was the goal line and instead of hurling a ball over it he hurled a projectile of vomit which landed on the floor, on the door and unfortunately on me. Welcome to Amsterdam I thought as the shocked passengers looked at us both and an awkward silence ensued. So yes there were just some things I could not prepare myself for, and being vomited on was definitely not on my top list of things to do whilst living there.

 

I took this picture of my boyfriend and our new friend Miguel, walking home in the early morning after a great night out, this was my very first weekend in Amsterdam. We just met Miguel that night and have become great friends since with him.

 

 

There was also the space issue or lack thereof that seems to continuously haunt Amsterdam. Ok I suppose it is one of the most densely populated cities in the world and I should not have been surprised at the tiny apartments, ridiculously vertically aligned ‘Dutch’ Stairs and lack of nature, but it was still an adjustment coming from a country that is the same size as mainland USA with an abundance of mountains, rivers, beaches and wildlife. I would get so annoyed at the upstairs neighbours who would have their washing machine on at various times of the day, bang bang bang is all I would hear for about 15-30 minutes at a time as their washing machine sounded like it was having an epileptic fit banging away like an out of control Jackhammer…Oh how dirty can your clothes be I would think to myself? It wasn’t until I was in bed one morning and heard the familiar sound of the ‘bang, bang’ but this time it was accompanied by a female voice moaning ‘Ja Ja’ which in Dutch means ‘Yes Yes’ and it dawned on me that it wasn’t their washing machine that was making this sound but it was the bed banging from their ahem ‘extra’ curricular activities… I should’ve known they weren’t that pedantic with the washing…

One of the BEST things (in my humble opinion) I found about living in Amsterdam is the bicycle lifestyle so heavily promoted and bonus!! Helmets are not law in Amsterdam so you will never get the dreaded helmet hair or feel like a right geek wearing a silly helmet, and it really helps that the place is as flat as a pancake so the biggest ‘hill’ you might have to ride over is a lone speed bump, or a passed out body that came out of the coffee shop and didn’t make it back to the Hostel. To put it bluntly – Bicycles RULE Amsterdam and I loved it! Bicycles are almost like a currency there, junkies will steal your bike and then you buy another bike from another junkie… Just to make it clear though I do not promote buying bikes from junkies, buy at your own discretion OR if you absolutely need to get a bike for around 20 EUR…

 

Bike parking in Amsterdam. Trust me you never want to forget where you parked your bike!!

 

I will miss the days cycling carefree to work in Sloterdijk or riding through Westerpark at midnight after a few too many drinks, and laughing so much because our lights didn’t work so here we were trying to juggle a drink in one hand and our phones in the other to use as a bike ‘light’ as we made our way to the nightclub, and the best one of them all… Getting my bike stuck in the tram tracks (another alcohol induced failure) and falling off it right outside a packed pub…ahhh yes those are precious memories that will forever be etched into my memory and will always put a smile on my face when I think of Amsterdam. I will unashamedly say that YES a bicycle is the best way to travel, it is cheap its good fitness and it saves gas fumes in the environment. I only wish more countries would adopt this super cool mode of transport and instead of treating us cyclists like the enemy, start putting us in our rightful place as Kings and Queens of the road. Imagine the amount of car exhaust fumes eliminated and healthy people there would be if we all just started cycling to work. But I think the best thing about Amsterdam (which is usually the case) were the people I met and lifelong friends I made! I have never had so many international friends in all my life then when I lived there, from Italians to Germans, Dutch and everything in between it was an awesome experience living in another country and being surrounded by a cultural mecca on a daily basis. It truly opens your eyes and heart to experience and appreciate human beings regardless of ethnicity or belief systems. There is a satisfaction of not only learning from others but teaching them aswell, absorbing their culture and letting it enlighten you but also showing them your culture and seeing their appreciation and awe of what is so special to you. Amsterdam is truly one of the prettiest cities I have ever lived in. I would wake up in the morning and cycle through gorgeous buildings and the cutest alleyways feeling like I was going through some Hollywood movie set.

 

Some of my favourite streets in Amsterdam.

 

Last but not least though there was one thing that utterly confused me, it is called Sinterklaas and is the Dutch version of Santa Klaus. With this ‘Sinterklaas’ there is a character in it called Zwarte Piet which literally translates to Black Pete. During this time of festivities, people literally make their faces black to represent Black Pete and are the little ‘helpers’ running around during the parade. I was definitely a little confused and a little amused whilst witnessing this unusual celebration. But oh well, as they say – when in Rome… Did this downgrade my opinion of the beautiful and welcoming place that Amsterdam was to me? Heck no! I would move back in a heartbeat and  I can definitely say this city is like a second home to me and I look forward to the day I can return to those pavements with my Omafiet, a wine and Dutch cheese in my basket, a breeze in my hair and a visit to a good friend as my destination.