Thoughts on Amsterdam: why you should cheat on your city (Laura)
Amsterdam isn’t just a pretty face. It’s the type of well-rounded place you want to take home to meet you parents, to join your life to. And if you already have joined your life to a place, Amsterdam is the type of place that makes you want to commit metropolitan adultery.
There are so many reasons to love Amsterdam. It keeps you intrigued and satisfied with its mix of casual edginess, classic good looks, interesting history, and a sensitive, compassionate side…and a little sugar whenever you’re in the mood. And did I mention multilingual, polite, and cultured? What more could you want?
Amsterdam is not like some places that have to try so hard to be cool and different. This place just IS cool and different. Want to be able to smoke weed with a cappuccino in a mellow cafe? No big deal. Don’t want to be anywhere near weed? No big deal— there are thousand of cool places to hang out that don’t involve smoking. Want to be able to marry whoever you love? No one is going to stop you here. Want to ride your bike while carrying a door? No one will stop you from doing that either. It’s a place that lets you be who you are.
Speaking of, the biking is one of the things I love most about amsterdam. As a fellow bike commuter, I am completely green with envy of Amsterdamers. Every day 350,000 of their 750,000 inhabitants ride a bike. Why wouldn’t they when the get to enjoy all of the following benefits:
– a designated bike lane with complete right of way and their own traffic lights
– the major bike thoroughfare through vondelpark, like central park if central park were designed with bikers in mind
– no hills. Not one.
– riding side by side with your friends, family, colleagues, boyfriend…because everybody bikes
– health and good looks, because they all look great on their bikes
– no helmet head, because bikers are so safe and protected that no one wears helmets, not even kids
– catching a ride with a friend, which either looks like sitting side-saddle on the back rack, or sitting on your own bike but just holding onto the shoulder of a friend who is pedalling or mopeding next to you
– quality time with your one, two or three children arranged somehow on your bike using a combo of additional child seats or trailers as you take them home from school and talk and laugh all the way home instead of listen to the radio, play with the iPad, or generally ignore each other
– having the ability to carry anything you could possibly want on your bike– we saw people eating sandwiches and drinking coffee, “walking” their dogs, texting, carrying groceries, hauling guitars and construction equipment, holding umbrellas, and carrying sports equipment all while biking.
Amsterdam is also my perfect match because it is very compassionate. It takes care of its citizens and, as a result, there are quite literally no homeless people or beggars even in the touristy areas. They make sure everyone has housing, healthcare, education, and food. While this means relatively high taxes, people understand this is the cost of keeping the whole society well. Somehow they do this while still encouraging entrepreneurship and fostering growth. But you don’t see the huge extremes in living conditions– no big mansions and poor projects like in New York City. Rather, people seem to live simply and contentedly and do not get caught up with ostentatious living or “keeping up with the Hooges’.” It is almost as if Tolstoy knew these thoughts were on my mind, because yesterday my favorite character Levin in Ana Karenina said in response to Oblonsky envying him his happiness with his simple country life, “Perhaps because I rejoice in what I have, and don’t fret for what I haven’t.” It seems to me this is a crucial lesson on happiness.
If I haven’t convinced you to cheat on your city yet, let me also add that amsterdam will keep you interested in the long-run, not like unions based on physical attraction alone. The history here is fascinating, from Dutch trading to the tulip frenzy to WWII occupation to Rembrant and the Dutch masters to the fact that the city is built on wooden piles… when the physical attraction has worn off you’ll still have lots of things to talk about and learn from Amsterdam.
Thanks to Noor and Ted and Amy for showing us a great time. Mike and I will definitely be back!
My Dutch twin: