American Writer in Amsterdam: 6 Months

I’ve been in Amsterdam for six months and it’s already time for me to say goodbye. Only temporarily! But still. I’ve absolutely fallen in love with this city, and even though I haven’t even left yet, I miss it already. I’m returning in March, and I’m sure this next few months in New York with family and friends will be awesome, but I can’t wait to come back and settle in again.

In the short time I’ve been here, I’ve seen a lot, done a lot, and learned a lot. Here are a few, mostly insignificant, thoughts and observations about my first 6 months in Amsterdam.

  1. There is something for everyone is this city. It seems like no matter where you come from, what you’re into, or what you want to be, you can find a community here. I absolutely love that.
  2. Amsterdam is the perfect balance of big city and small town—and I say this coming from NYC, so I consider most places “small town”. There’s a lot happening here, a lot of different cultures, so many things to do. Even on lonely days, just chilling out or wandering around, I’m constantly stimulated by the city itself. And still, it manages to stay cozy and close-knit.
  3. Jaywalking is not only acceptable here, but it’s normal! Alone. With locals. In front of police. No more dirty looks when I cross on green! The world is normal again.
  4. Happiness and quality of life are valued way higher here than back home, though this doesn’t seem unique to Amsterdam. I got the same impression living in Hamburg, and even just visiting other European cities. People are encouraged to travel, rest, and afforded the means to care for themselves so much better here.
  5. Canals are as wondrous as they seem. Houseboats are fucking amazing. There are VERY few things in life that top a boat ride when it’s warm out. And Amsterdam Pride and water parades are my new favorite thing.
  6. There is a TON of untapped potential in Amsterdam. And I can only speak in a creative sense, but there are so many artistic offerings and ideas that I love in the States—especially in NYC, where no artistic venture has gone unexplored—that just don’t exist here. Especially for English speakers. Granted, this is a non-English speaking country, but it’s also packed with expats and tourists. It seems like Amsterdam would be a creative entrepreneur’s dream.
  7. In a full year in Hamburg, I couldn’t PAY anyone to come see me. My sister came for a weekend, my mom for a day. In six months in Amsterdam, I’ve had NINE visitors.
  8. Dutch is super similar to German, despite what both the Dutch and the Germans claim. Once I actually start trying, I thinking I’ll pick it up pretty fast.
  9. Though not as hard as it was in Hamburg, it’s also really difficult to connect with people here. I get it—when you’ve lived in a place your whole life, you don’t really need to make new friends and may not be as open to getting to know new people you stumble upon in cafes. However, as someone who came to this city— where I didn’t know a single person—alone, the people I stumble upon in cafés and the like are my only shot at making friends. In general, I’m always keen to compliment strangers, hang out with randoms, befriend bartenders and baristas and the guy bagging my groceries. I’ll follow just about anyone I meet on Instagram, love a good Facebook friend, and will almost always say yes to a coffee date. So living alone in a culture where people are less willing to connect, even on something as superficial as social media, is something I’m still struggling with.
  10. Advice to women (& maybe men, but I can’t vouch for that): NEVER assume that because a guy expresses interest, he doesn’t have a girlfriend. This may be universal advice, but in my experience, it’s especially relevant here.
  11. My two most valuable Amsterdam acquisitions: My museum card and my Pathé Unlimitied subscription. I can think of few things I’ve enjoyed more in the past few months than movies and museums.
  12. Close second to movies and museums: Bar Bukowski, IJscuypje, Sweet Cup and Piccolo, Pancakes Amsterdam, and Waterstones.
  13. Only tourists hang out in coffee shops. I actually rarely meet people who smoke in general. The first thing people ask about when I tell them I live in Amsterdam is weed and the Red Light District. They assume everyone I know here is sex-crazed pothead, but in reality, it’s the complete opposite. There is SO much more to this city than sex and weed, though I’m not gonna lie—sometimes it’s really great to be able to openly get high in the park on a sunny day.
  14. People in Amsterdam are stylish as fuck. This is the best dressed city I’ve ever been to, in my own humble opinion.
  15. Zwarte Piet. WHAT THE FUCK. How did I not know this existed before I got here?! If you’re black/a POC/not an asshole, and you plan on coming to Amsterdam for the holidays, check this out before you get here. It’s NOT something you want to be blindsided by.
  16. I still miss food from home. And 24-hour trains. And my mom. I miss my mom most of all.


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