The Shallow Man, has lived in Amsterdam far too long to seriously consider himself an expat. I think that after ten years here, I consider myself to be pretty well integrated. I date Dutch girls. If I find a euro coin on the street, it puts me in a fantastic mood and I tell everyone that I meet that day about my lucky find. I’m no longer shocked when I see women on the tram, bus or train in the morning with wet hair and I’ve even dated a woman that smokes.
I no longer get annoyed when I see women or men wearing jeans in a michelin star restaurant, and I don’t even count the number of brown shoes that I see while out and about in Amsterdam. If a group of women block the entrance to a bar, as they are busy smoking, I even accept that this belongs to Dutch culture.
I watch Pauw and Witterman, read het Parool and the Volkskrant at weekends, do all my food shopping in Dutch, have some good Dutch friends, dus am pretty bloody integrated.
Tricky, a British singer who in the nineties reached what I would consider to be his creative peak with an album called Maxinquaye, had a song called hell is round the corner, which brings me to the subject of today’s post, expat events.
In his never ending mission to provide information on various aspects of life in the Netherlands, the Shallow Man decided to attend a couple of expat events which were taking place on valentine’s day. Such gatherings used to be a fixed part of the Shallow Man social calendar. However, once I worked out how to date Dutch women, frequenting such events was no longer strictly essential. I shall provide an honest review of both parties I attended, and if this leads to my perfectly dressed self being banned from such events in the future, meaning that I’ll no longer be asked questions such as:
“How long have you lived here?”
“What do you do for a living?”
“What brought you to Amsterdam” To which the only answer is “a plane actually”
Then bring it on. The things I do for my readers!
It takes every kind of people
The Shallow Man, strolled the short distance to the College Hotel from his bachelor pad in the Pijp, to attend a Valentines day masquerade expat party. The former secondary school was renovated in 2005, shortly after the Shallow Man moved to the neighborhood. Apart from this, as well as a chic bar, restaurant and Hotel, it also doubles as a training school for students who are on courses in hospitality management.
Arriving fashionably late, as I entered the beautiful bar area of the hotel, it was the busiest I’d ever seen it. The place had more customers than the first day of a sale at de Bijenkorf. As one would expect of an expat event, the majority of people were well dressed, and many, (the Shallow Man not included) wore masks.
The Accent was on friendliness
Most of the colors of the rainbow were represented, all speaking English with many accents. Apart from running into the unfriendliest Dutch woman the Shallow Man has ever encountered, (unusual as she also hosts Expat events) the rest of the crowd were a bunch of friendly and sociable people. Italians, Bulgarians, Dutch, British, Spanish, Americans and Lithuanians mingled happily. In fact they had no choice but to mingle as the place was so busy that we were all pressed up against each other like commuters on the London underground during rush hour. Not having newspapers with which to avoid eye contact, led to plenty of sparkling conversation.
In spite of the overwhelming number of people at the event, the staff behind the bar, several of whom were trainees, did an excellent job of serving a thirsty crowd of customers. The place was hot, as were many of the Antelopes, or so I’m told. Being a professional, (a professional what you might ask) I didn’t notice, but am told this by friends who were at the event.
The crowd was predominantly of people in their thirties and above. One thing I was told by a shocked expat, was that the hotel charges fifteen euros for a glass of champagne, which made me laugh, while the person in question whose wallet was being emptied of his hard earned cash was almost in tears. That aside, the hotel bar makes great cocktails and unlike many places in Amsterdam understands that if a vodka orange is ordered that this doesn’t mean that fanta or any other fizzy orange is a substitute for freshly squeezed juice.
The Alphabet Club Valentines party
As the place became busier, and whether due to drink, the heat of the building or a combination of both, temperatures rose and the Shallow Man headed to his second event of the night, the alphabet club Valentine’s party at the escape lounge. The Alphabet Club exists to raise money for good causes. They do so by organising numerous events throughout the year to which its members can donate money for charity. Refreshingly, it’s a group that has a .org domain name as it was intended to be used, for good causes, not for pure profit, which is more than can be said about other groups I can think of ending with a .org name.
The Good thing about the party
It raised money for charity
The escape lounge is aptly named. My first thoughts upon entering were, “get me out of here” If anyone from a film production company is reading this, and is looking for a location to shoot a horror film, please contact the escape lounge. It was a first class dump. It looks as if someone set off a bomb inside and they still haven’t finished renovating it. Stupidly for the Shallow Man, who knows from years of experience, never to drink wine in a nightclub, I drank a glass of white wine that not only nearly made me go blind, but left me with a headache that lasted for two days. I think that their supplier mixed up medical anaesthetic with white wine.
The same hugely multicultural crowd were in attendance, many wearing masks, but due to the dire state of the club, somehow the atmosphere was odd to say the least. The music played at the event reminded me of the time my old IPod started playing up and would play tracks at random for a minute at a time. Some of the men appeared to have not seen actual females for quite some time and were chasing after them with the subtlety of a dog sniffing a lamp post.
Had I bought a can of paint, applied a single coat to one part of a wall in the Shallow Man bachelor pad and watched it dry, that would have been more exciting than the event I attended. On the plus side it was only a ten minute taxi ride home thus confirming that hell is indeed around the corner.
No expats were hurt during the writing of this article.
The Shallow Man would like to add that the alphabet club normally hosts superb parties and were unfortunate in choosing such a poor venue.
The Shallow Man Guide to Dating the Dutch is available from the following web stores.