One of my favorite parts about living in New York was combining friend groups from different aspects of my life. Hockey friends, rugby friends, work friends—connecting people was a weekly occurrence. Needless to say, moving to a new country where I knew hardly anyone was slightly horrifying. Luckily, when friends heard that I was relocating to Amsterdam, the connections started to flow in. It was almost as if everyone has a friend who lives here.
Friends, family, and of course, dogs
Shamelessly, I sat at my computer and sent email after email to other Fulbrighters, friends of friends, and scoured the web for expat meet-ups. I’ve received recommendations from people who have lived, or visited Amsterdam, and so many friends of friends have been willing to meet up for coffee/lunch/dinner/canal boat tours. Additionally, the wealth of information about Dutch culture has helped tremendously in my transition.
Friday, I met up with Christina, a lawyer who is completing a Fulbright on immigration reform. We went for my first bite of Indonesian food at in the canal ring.
Totally INto INdonesian food
Saturday, I met up with Caroline, who is a friend of a Teach for America friend. We went to Los Feliz, a delicious Mexican restaurant in De Pijp.
Caroline and her new dog Blue, showing off Blue steel
We then explored the madness that was National Tulip (tourist) Day at Dam Square.
The Tulips are in there somewhere...
I ended the night by meeting up with Christina again, eating some amazing ramen at FouFow, then checking out the Amsterdam Light Festival on a canal boat tour.
The seven bridges might be the eighth wonder of the world
Learning about the intricacies of Amsterdam culture from more experienced expats, and from Dutch citizens who live here has catalyzed my critical thinking. Many people that I have spoken to about my research say that although The Netherlands seems socially progressive on paper, they are not as forward thinking as outsiders believe. In week one, I am starting to examine how queer visibility in Amsterdam excludes queer people of color, and the growing tension between the Dutch ideal of “being normal” and living in a pluralistic society.
Though I love surrounding myself with people, this week has also given me more time to independently explore. Despite being alone, when I am traveling to class, libraries, eating, I still find myself starting conversations with the people around me.
For instance, Thursday night, on the way home from Den Haag I stopped at a bar for dinner and asked the bartender far a local beer recommendation. He placed a Two Chefs ale in front of me. From my right side a women exclaimed, “What is that nonsense, why wouldn’t you give her my beer?”
She turned to me and elaborated, “My sister and I started a brewery Gebrouwen door Vrouwen, it means brewed by women.” We chatted for a bit and she handed me a stack of postcards advertising their beers. Out of 40 microbreweries in Amsterdam they are the only one completely owned and operated by women.
I now officially have a favorite Dutch beer (and brewery)
Move aside Sandy, there are some new Pink Ladies in town
Traveling by myself is a unique experience. While I do not have any friends next to me to share the moment with, it makes me more likely strike up a conversation with a total stranger. Many of these conversations teach me so much more about the culture than I would have ever learned if I wasn’t alone.
What is that cheesy Girl Scout song? Make new friends, but keep the old, some are silver and others gold... Though I am not in the business of ranking my friends as silver or gold, I can say that I am looking forward to connecting my American friends to my amazing new Dutch friends in The Netherlands.
Have you ever been to Amsterdam? Any recommendations? Do you know anyone who lives within 5 hours of me?