If you have been wondering why I have been missing in action for the past month, then I have got some really exciting news for you all – I have moved to Amsterdam! Yes, I truly have! So I have been sort of busy settling in, looking for a house and in general, getting my bearings around. Everyone has been asking me how this came about ? Well, let’s just say I got lucky ;-). Truth be told, my current company had an opening in Amsterdam which I decided to take up – a new challenge and an opportunity to travel Europe seemed just like the right thing at the right time in my life, and I decided to go for it. My friends and family constantly want to know if this is a short term/long term/midterm plan and to be honest, I don’t really know. There are many if’s and but’s (as always) and I think life is too unpredictable to plan too far ahead, BUT while I am here, I intend to make the most (and even more), of this experience.
Did someone say a little change is a good thing 😛
This is my fifth week in Amsterdam, and honestly it doesn’t really feel like it’s been just a few weeks, because Amsterdam is a pretty easy city to settle into (except getting a house which I am still struggling for, but more on that later). The city is diverse, compact, walkable, friendly and beautiful. It seems to have everything that you would expect in a global city, but it is still cozy and comforting in so many ways. One third of the city’s people is expats so you don’t really feel or look like a “foreigner”. And if like me, you thought your dark hair or eyes will be considered exotic here and warrant any special attention, you are surely in for some disappointment ;-).
It is still early days for me here, so I can’t really claim to have understood this city inside out (yet).But what I can say with certainty is that Amsterdam is far far more than its reputation of being Europe’s sin city (owning to it tolerance for prostitution and drugs, which is an obvious draw for tourists from around the world but a big cliché if you ask me). So what are these other almost “love at first sight” things about Amsterdam that have me hooked? Read on –
Walking around Amsterdam is like being transported to a different era – the buildings, the architecture, the houses seem so antique and beautiful. Every time I walk around the city, I feel like I am in a yesteryears movie and my view is filtered “vintage”.
Amsterdam has four main canals – Herengracht, Keizersgracht, Prinsengracht and Singelgracht, which are surrounded by the very sought after canal houses, bars, cafes and shops. The canals add a character to Amsterdam like nothing else – you can take a boat through the canals and see Amsterdam from the waters, or cycle around on a rented bike. I have come to love the open cafes on these canals where you can catch a leisurely beer on a sunny day.
While my favorite thing to do is to just walk around the city, probably the most after sought after mode of transport in Amsterdam is bicycles – it’s cheap, it’s fast and it’s extremely fun. It is said that there are more bicycles in this city than there are people, so you can understand how popular this is. While I still haven’t bought a bike, I do plan to once I get a house (which has caused me quite a bit of heart burn, but like I said, more on that later). The city is extremely systemic and well planned for cyclists, with separate tracks that get pretty packed on a balmy summer weekend and during peak office times. I find it extremely fascinating to see men and women on bicycles which have a seat attached to the front/back for the kids or a big cart in front, holding as many as three kids, going about their daily business. I have this really strong urge to get a bike shortly, I think it will be a true test of how “well integrated I am” ;-).
Till now, I have found the Dutch to be friendly, neither too little nor too much but very straightforward people. Almost everyone speaks English or at least tries to, so communication is not really a problem. I was talking to my house agent about my enthusiasm to learn Dutch and he told me that almost everyone who comes to the city has an inclination in the beginning to learn the language, but many do not make the effort since it is not really needed. However, locals appreciate if you know the language since it showcases a keen interest in their culture, and is also useful in a social context. I have learnt a few Dutch words and my feeble attempts on the language have been met with enthusiasm and encouragement from most people.
In my short time here, I have come to appreciate this city’s level of tolerance, a strong focus on personal freedom and just really letting you be. With 177 nationalities living in Amsterdam, this is the city with the highest diversity globally, which says a lot. And not only this, there seems to be encouragement and support for all communities, irrespective of color, language or sexual orientation which is pretty amazing.
photo credit: P1230608 via photopin (license)
With world class museums, a rich art heritage, embracing of music, dance, food, films from around the globe, Amsterdam is really like a melting pot of different experiences. I have been regularly referring to iamsterdam.com for things to do over the weekend, and am pretty amazed by all that happens at any moment in time here. I have also come to love yourlittleblackbook.me from Anne, who always has great tips and recommendations from her experiences around the city.
And then there is some…
While experiencing a different country is an enriching experience, it is not as bright and shiny as it seems on the outside. There are moments of indecisiveness that I guess everyone away from home faces, moments that strike you unexpectedly and make you think – will I come to love life here? Will I make any meaningful friendships? What about life back home, where one has the comfort of familiarity, long standing friendships and relationships? Will I be able to keep up with life back home? And in today’s day and age of short attention spans and ever busy lives, will people be able to keep up with a friend so far away? Someone wise said distance is a true test of strength – and that is what I remind myself in these moments of uncertainty! What the road ahead holds, only time can tell…
Have you ever lived outside your home country ? What were your experiences ?
All pictures which are not mine have been duly acknowledged.