Today’s post is a guest blog piece from the fabulous Mims a newcomer to Amsterdam from Israel or as I like to call her a ‘
Having been in a long-distance relationship for the past couple of years, I’ve had the unique pleasure of experiencing the city as an unlikely tourist over a prolonged period. Though I couldn’t tell you much about the housing situation, I have accumulated some intriguing observations from an Amsterdam newcomers point of view.
“Amsterdam” is a long name for a small Place
I had never been to Amsterdam prior to meeting my partner. Being a notorious party town, most of my friends and acquittances would periodically visit the CBD-infused destination, which left me with the assumption that Amsterdam was a large European capital – much like London or Paris – with endless centers and parks, surrounded by suburbs so vast they could be seen from space.
Upon arrival, I quickly adjusted my expectations. Walking from Leidseplein to Dam Square and into the Red Light District, I was left with an anticlimactic feeling. “Is this it?”, I wondered as I eyed scantily clad ladies behind glass doors, feeling slightly judgmental towards my enthusiastic friends back home.
This story has a happy ending [ha!], though. Over time I grew to enjoy the relative compactness of Amsterdam, avoiding feeling overwhelmed and instead eased into a comforting familiarity. I also avoid projecting my inner monologue onto prostitutes now.
Always Use Protection
Even if you’re shopping for bell pepper. The Dutch love wrapping their fruit and vegetables in single-use plastic, often combining plastic trays with plastic wrappers as if one could mistake a tomato for a Fabergé egg.
I understand that plastic keeps produce fresh, but it seems incoherent with the local lifestyle.
A lot of Dutch people prefer to shop daily instead of stocking the fridge once or twice a week, so unless the Netherlands has a secret supply-chain issue, I fail to see who is benefitting from all the plastic.
I also recognize that recycling is encouraged and very well-developed, but wouldn’t it be wiser to minimize the overall plastic consumption and recycle the items that really can’t be replaced, like plastic bags in cereal boxes? Then again, we are talking about a nation that took on the North Sea (!), so understandably my logic could be off.
For People with Endless Thirsts and Fortified Bladders
You may think that cheese wheels and windmills are as Dutch as they come, but you’re clearly behind the times. A surprise for newcomers to Amsterdam like myself is that the locals favour countless juice and espresso bars, preferably with some Pinterest-like font on the windowpane and wicker planters taking up any room that could be used for seating.
The average commuter would gladly give up the chance of a nice sandwich for a large pomegranate juice with rice milk and turmeric.
After consuming gallons of fruit shakes and cappuccinos, you’d assume the city would be littered with restrooms. But just like Chia seeds, looking for a toilet is pointless. Shopping centres and train stations will charge you for their amenities if you’re lucky to be near one, and standalone public restrooms out in the wild are a terrible use of space.
I suppose the Dutch aren’t just the tallest people in the world, but rather highly-evolved specimens, capable of holding their bladders while consuming the most diuretic substances known to man.
Chemistry in the kitchen, or: strive to neutralize
Other than converting pee into energy, the national sport seems to be neutralizing ingredients to create unidentifiable, flavourless concoctions. Neither sweet nor salty, neither offensive nor deliberate, the Dutch strive to combine otherwise delicious ingredients to create an admirable neutral flavour of wet tissue paper. Although the best produce in the world is available at relatively low prices, the average tosti tastes like apple cores in a lettuce wrap. If you’re lucky, some charred oven-residue will provide for a rustic undertone. Otherwise, you’re about to reconsider your definition of “bland.”
Although the average tourist needs to eat, rest and urinate – all uncommon practices in Amsterdam – all is forgiven once you come across a magnificent Magnolia in bloom, or an array of Daffodils lounging on a grassy median strip.
The beauty of the spring bloom cannot be underestimated, and neither can the people trying to preserve and enjoy it year after year.
If there’s one area in which Calvinistic asceticism hasn’t taken hold, it’s the appreciation and
Mims Vilma is an Israeli newcomer to Amsterdam, Philosophy major, and occasional poet.
No newcomers to Amsterdam were hurt during the writing of this post