Now that I’m back from my Summer Engagement Abroad Module in the Netherlands and Germany, I reflect on my time in Amsterdam as the best part of the trip. The unique cultural associations, ease of transportation, ability to communicate everywhere in my native tongue, and access to the advanced technological infrastructure in the Netherlands—which facilitated communication between my loved ones abroad and allowed me to stay abreast on current events—all contributed to why Amsterdam is definitely a city I plan to revisit in the future.
My first impressions regarding the chaotic nature of Amsterdam’s cycling infrastructure are perceived as a feature of the city, not a bug. It’s important to take note of the learning curve required for tourists not familiar with the Dutch rules of the road.
Basically, bikes rule! Once you hop on a bike, you’ll understand the vulnerability of being a cyclist and why this demographic is given precedence over all other modes of transportation. Although, it may also be prudent to not follow all the examples set by the Dutch when on their bikes.
Specifically, it’s not uncommon the see cyclist multitasking on their cell phones while riding. Do not attempt this! Especially since their years of experience on bikes in the city trump any and all of your nostalgic childhood memories of riding bikes.
My advice for individuals looking at staying for extended periods in Amsterdam is this: Get a bike, learn the basics of Dutch vocabulary, and consider taking up amateur photography.
The reasons for getting a bike are innumerable. It’s a cheap, fast, and efficient mode of transportation. An extensive cycling infrastructure is supported throughout the entire country, too. So if you’re traveling by train or boat, you can bring your bike along with you to your next destination.
Learning the basics of Dutch vocabulary is not necessary; however, it would be greatly appreciated. Although the majority of the population has a high level of English proficiency, an attempt at speaking Dutch will engender relationships much quicker than arrogantly dismissing this fundamental pillar of Dutch culture.
Simply attempting to speak the language will become a conversation starter since the friendly demeanor of the Dutch would surely require that they help you in your quest to improve your Dutch vocabulary.
If you’re interested in staying in Amsterdam for a while, be sure to bring a dependable camera. The city is beautiful, especially in the summer. One can never get enough shots of the classic buildings along the canals, the ubiquitous tulips of the country, and the myriad cultural artifacts such as hand-painted wooden shoes, delftware, ceramic cows, and more.
People watching is another pastime. Potential photo opportunities abound with the eclectic mix of people from all around the world coming to Amsterdam. From the architecture to the eccentric people, a photographer will never leave without at least one fantastic image.
So the next time you’re in Europe, be sure to visit the lovely city of Amsterdam. While you’re there, grab your camera, hop on a bike, and explore the patchwork of canals surrounding the city. You will undoubtedly not regret it—that is, if you remember how to ride a bike. Perhaps you should brush up on that skill first.