When I dreamed about moving to the Netherlands, an image that would come to mind without fail were those of the beautiful Amsterdam canal buildings. I’ve lived in the US for the last 12 years and I had never spent more than 2 consecutive months in Europe. Living in the Netherlands now is a dream come true.
My girlfriend and I move to Utrecht next week, but for now, we are in Amsterdam. Although every part of this country is special in its own way, how can I not succumb to the effortless charms of these canal houses? I love walking, and especially over the weekend, I try to walk around to enjoy the aesthetics around me as much as possible. When I tell Dutch people this, they’re only confused. “What happened to your bike?” they ask. They fully expect me to respond with a story of how I didn’t know that I needed to properly lock up my bike in Amsterdam. For a city that consistently ranks on various lists as one of the world’s safest cities, there is a ton of bike theft. Well, my Dutch acquaintances needn’t worry, I don’t have a bike, because I don’t bike, I don’t really know how to! That leaves them much more concerned that the fact that I could have had a bike that got stolen, oh well. But walking around the city comes with its own pleasures.
I can take my time gazing into the big windows of the centuries old apartment buildings. Especially at night, I like to creepily stare into the no-curtain Dutch apartments. The lights are always on, giving me a full view of what’s going on inside. I do this a lot, so if you live in Amsterdam and you’re wondering who that weirdo is creepily eyeing you from the street, that’s me! Mystery solved. And when I look into the lights of these open windows, I like to imagine a story of the lives of these people. I see two women in their mid-20s. Maybe they’re a couple, or maybe they’re sisters. Maybe they’re friends catching up over dinner. One of them had a fight with a coworker that day. They’re talking it out with a glass of wine in hand. It’s amazing what you’re imagination can do… especially when you have nothing else going on.
My favorite thing about Amsterdam is how it is a big city, but still very relaxed. In many ways, I find it paradoxical. There is a large international community, yet many of the Dutch people I know in Amsterdam only hang out with other Dutch people. The expats hang out with other expats. Amsterdam is a big city, but you wouldn’t know it from the relaxed Dutchies riding their bikes as if they’re simply enjoying the stroll. No one gets their coffee to go, they drink it sitting down– what’s the rush after all? And in spite of the four story buildings that surround me, the only people blocking my way are those damn tourists!