Impressions of Amsterdam


After being here for a month, I'm seeing a few patterns emerge about the city and its people. What follows are a series of opinions, observations, images, and often entirely inappropriate generalizations (all men are bad for this, right?).

  • Dutch kids - toddlers and young kids between say 3 and 8 years of age - are brats. Loud, fussy, and prone to public tantrums. I'm not sure why this is, although it has been corroborated by several friends as well. More research is needed.
  • Dutch women - likely as a result of a lifetime of biking - have fantastic, er, backsides. More research is needed.
  • Dutch men often use the mantra "We're straightforward and blunt is all - the Dutch are known for being direct." To this I say: This is true, and it is often a refreshing break from North American passive-aggressiveness. But sometimes you're just being a d**k. Don't confuse the two.
  • The Water Mafia. For a country surrounded by water, it is incredibly scarce in restaurants and other public places - gyms, parks, etc. You'll regularly need to shell out a few Euros for a bottle in a restaurant or a gym, after being told there is no tap water available. This will also regularly occur while seeing the tap right in front of you.
  • The bureaucracy surrounding the work permit/legal resident process is so convoluted that the Dutch themselves have an expression for it - "van het kast naar de muur." Loosely translated, this means being sent from "the cabinet to the wall" - a metaphor of sorts for being sent back and forth with little progress.

  • While I was warned about this through a number of websites prior to leaving, I still wasn't prepared for this level of frustration (4 trips thus far to two separate arms of government - one involved an incredibly pleasant and helpful lady, 2 others that were confrontational, and the most recent one with a man who chose a blend of the twoapproaches). All had separate advice that contradicted the previous one, and the last gentleman even told me "not to believe everyone" I speak to at his office. (Including himself, presumably).
  • I liken the above process to a root canal. You know well ahead of time that it's necessary and that it is going to be unpleasant, and you try to steel yourself for it. But when the day arrives, it still sucks.

A canal route
  • The tram-attendant-as-entertainer is a beautiful thing, and should be adopted in all forms of public transit globally. Not every tram worker does it, but it's happened a handful of times - where the person, male or female, sings the information about the next stop, cracks jokes, even addresses certain people personally with things like "Hey, nice jacket" to a stylish woman, or "Veel plezier met je bier" (have fun with your beer) to a group of young partiers. This all occurs via microphone so all passengers can hear it, and everyone ends up smiling and laughing. On public transit - imagine people smiling! A revolutionary concept to be sure.
  • The fall/early winter weather can be wet, and windy, but almost every day we're provided some sun and a chance to hop on the bike, or to take photos like the ones on this posting - with an amazing light. A good little metaphor for life, if you'll permit a moment of fromage - some darkness at times, even heavy during some seasons, but light is never far away.

    Culture Club


    Firstly, an apology for the delay between posts. I have spent the better part of two weeks alternating between normal and curled up in the fetal position with a bad gut.

    I'm not sure what the Dutch equivalent is for Montezuma's Revenge (how about Von de Zuma's ?), but the cumulative effects of a lifetime's worth of bread, sugar, and cheese crammed into one month, along with small but very regular amounts of beer on an admittedly wussy constitution has caught up to me. Hence, the past week in particular has been a little low on energy and mirth, and lower still on blogging.

    Onto the latest, more palatable update... Amsterdam has more than its share of cultural opportunities, and I've been able to enjoy them more and more as I get to know people and my way around the city.

    Two recent outings of late: the Van Gogh Museum and the International Documentary Film Festival (when clicking on this link, you'll see a British flag at the top left to view the site in English). I will get to the IDFF on a subsequent post

    The museum does a really nice job of laying out Van Gogh's progression as an artist and regression as a person. You get a very good sense of what made him tick, and how unfortunate it was that he battled with his own mind. But he's not the madman that many of us think of - he had years of normal, if lonely at times, living - travelling to Paris, meeting other artists and making friends.

    His letters, mostly to his brother, are all over the museum, and his art work goes from very dark, somewhat melancholy work to brighter, more uplifting work once he spends time in Paris.


    The tour leads you to a gift shop at the end. Much has been made of the cruel fact that Vincent Van Gogh struggled financially while he was alive, but you soon realize someone is making a boatload of money off of the Van Gogh name now. You can buy everything Van Gogh here - prints of course, but also pens, notepads, backpacks, umbrellas, purses, and about 20 other products.

    I was half-expecting to see logo'd adult diapers - sold for those times when you "really have to Van Gogh". There's even an iPhone app which is pretty brilliantly done. It all strangely doesn't feel crass though - most of the stuff is very tastefully done.


    It's worth a trip for sure to the museum for a few hours at least - the entry fee of 12.50 Euros is not too steep to see one of history's most prominent artists.

    Downstairs, the work of a really impressive Belgian artist named Alfred Stevens is currently on display as well. The photo at the top of the page - taken surreptitiously to avoid the wrath of the menacing 70-year-old security guard - show the rooms where his collection is shown. Otherwise, this posting is light on photos, I know - there are no cameras allowed in the museum - sorry!