Get to Know an Amsterdammer


In the first of another semi-regular series that will be appearing on these pages, you'll meet an Amsterdammer and find out their views and perspectives on this interesting and infinitely contrasted place.

The profiles you read won't be limited to life-long Dutch people, mind you. I will be providing as genuine a snapshot as I can of the place, which means speaking with a big range of people, from expats to visitors to whoever won't punch me in the face as I approach them randomly.

I stumbled upon our first interviewee in a local Coffee Company. These places (a dozen or so in Amsterdam) serve up pretty average coffee and equally mediocre snacks, but they make up for it in coziness and good people-watching, whether you're sitting at a long communal table or outside anytime it's not snowing.

Name: Marc

Age: 39

Profession: Account Manager for one of the big insurance companies in Holland

How long have you lived in Amsterdam?

All my life, so 29 … eh … 39 years. I was born in the neighbourhood called ‘de Kinkerbuurt’ at the edge of the centre. During university I started living with my girlfriend in the centre, just 5 minutes walk to the east of ‘de Leidseplein’. After 7 years we moved to the other side, near the ‘Elandsgracht’, and doubled in size (two children).

List three quick words to describe the city, the first things that come to your mind:

Versatile, free and intense!

What are some of of your favourite things about living here? (These can be specific places, bars, stores, parks, neighbourhoods, and/or general feelings about the people or the vibe - really anything you can think of). (Ed. - Marc provided almost all the website links as well, which was enormously helpful)

I really like the accessibility of things and people in Amsterdam. The way you and I met for example, in the Coffee Company. It’s most of the time possible to ask anybody anything. Everybody is living apart together. [Note from Editor: "living apart together" is a great expression]. Feels a little like a village.

Also Amsterdam has four seasons, so every emotion of life and nature passes through during the year. I like that for the balance.

Favourite saying from the Dutch rock artist and painter Herman Brood who lived in Amsterdam: “I don’t collect money, I collect moments."

My favourite spots are:

‘Het Vondelpark’ (our own Central Park). We use this park for almost everything. Recreation (with the children), sports, hangout with friends, birthdayparties, ice skating, passing through by bike on our way to school, BBQ’s, music festivals, Queensday, and so on.

Coffee Company’: for socialising/meeting friends and people, working (wifi access), reading newspapers (our dutch Starbucks).

Burgermeester’ for the best Dutch hamburger [Editor's second note: I strenuously disagree with this one, having just been to Cafe Parck; but it's Marc's interview, not mine, so I will shut up].

Het Kaasboertje’: cheese-store in ‘de Pijp’, where they know everything about cheese and you’re not allowed to buy anything without tasting first.

Foodware’: fresh organic take-away food, cooked with passion (I sound like an ad).

Rakang’: my favourite thai-food restaurant. Service with the biggest smile (try the ‘Tom Ka Kai’ soup).

Van Dobben’: my favourite place for a fast Dutch lunch (but open till 2:00 am), especially a ‘broodje kroket’ and their Filet Americain. [Editor's third and perhaps final note; Filet Americain is a reddish spread of dubious origins that is a huge favourite among Nederlanders]

Holtkamp’: royal dutch pastries (lemon merenque pie and also ‘kroketten’).

De 9 straatjes’: nice little shopping streets with all kind of shops.

Artis’: our town zoo/parc.

‘Ben Cohen’: best shoarma place.

Sichuan’: Chinese restaurant with a superb (Michelin star) Peking Duck menu

IJscuypje’: icecreamstore

Spare Time’: clothing store

The Old Man’: Boardstore


Sugar Factory





Tuschinski art deco movie theatre

I can go on for hours...

Other favourites: Museums, our canal(house)s, expensive shopping in the PC Hooftstraat, ice skating at ‘het Museumplein’.

All sights are walkable (is that a word?) [Ed. - yes], but a real ‘Amsterdammer’ uses a bicycle (with children seats and a big basket for groceries).

What do you like the least about living here?

Parking policy/costs, all the construction works (new subway Noord-Zuidlijn), Amsterdam Noord neighbourhood.

If you weren't living here, where would you want to live?

San Francisco, USA. Been there a few times, has the same vibe as Amsterdam in a way.

Foreign Fun


Part of the fun of experiencing new cultures is to see how they manage to translate their words into the English language, or at least a distant cousin of it.

In Lisbon recently, the menu for a seafood-filled 'Spaghetti Mediterraneo' offered a delicious combination of 'octopus, shrimp, and selfish with oil', which was at once a source of laughter and a painful reminder of my hormonal teenage years.

The sign below was seen at a hotel gym in Carcavelos, not far from Lisbon but far from motivating. The 'need to use Snickers' to enter the gym seems a little counter-productive.

Just last night at Amsterdam's excellent Cafe Parck, a fantastic hamburger can be followed by the slightly less appetizing-sounding 'apple pie and wipe cream':

I'll be on the lookout for more - perhaps as my own form of payback for repeatedly massacring a few foreign languages myself in the past 12 months.