Sunday, June 15, 2014

Falling in love in 4 weeks

Moving to Amsterdam may have been a huge mistake. Yes, I'm back in the Netherlands and after weeks/months of room searching I am now living in a city that has effortlessly snagged the title of my favorite city/favorite place I've ever lived. Considering that I live in a very quiet (ie slightly dull) part of the city, am currently swamped with thesis writing, got my wallet stolen upon stepping off the bus into my new neighborhood on the first day (it's really actually quiet and safe, I promise!), and have had some bad luck with bikes since returning it is quite impressive that I suddenly find myself in love with this city and am on the verge of becoming as arrogant as all the other Amsterdammers that I used to make fun of before I lived here. Before moving to this fabulous city, I would find myself a bit irritated with the comments from Amsterdam residents along the lines of: I would never live anywhere else in the Netherlands, no Utrecht is boring there's nothing going on, ehhh den Haag is too posh, Rotterdam is ugly, sure that city is nice but it's not Amsterdam. Yep, Amsterdammers are snobs about their city. Yet as I discovered this morning volunteering at a home for the elderly and helping with a quiz (all in Dutch) about Amsterdam only 4 in 10 people living in Amsterdam were actually born in this city. So what is all the hype about?

I feel that I do have some qualifications to promote this city since I lived/traveled quite a few places (if I may be a bit arrogant for the moment). But I must state two potential biases in my analysis (the word bias only reminds me of my thesis that I'm procrastinating on at the moment): 1. It's World Cup season which means all of the Netherlands is decked out in orange to support their dear and incredibly awesome team. This makes the atmosphere in this city even more electric. 2. It's summer in the Netherlands which is the rare two months out of the year where the sun is generally shining more often than it's raining. This means all things outdoors for the city's residents, a long with multiple festivals every weekend.

Buuuut, biases aside this city is still pretty amazing. So why am I so in love with this city and feeling utterly horrified of the thought of moving ANYWHERE else in the world (extremely shocking I know!)?

1. The diversity. In case you didn't know, Amsterdam is home to 174 nationalities. This is almost as many nationalities as countries in the world. Although to me New York feels more diverse (150 nationalities) simply because I think there are more numbers of each nationality represented, in Amsterdam everyone is just living together. While there are more immigrant heavy neighborhoods, there really isn't a part of the city that isn't diverse. Add the thousands of tourists who swarm this city all months out of the year and you can expect to hear many, many different languages walking around. It's like visiting the whole world by just walking out your doorstep.

2. The size. Amsterdam is super super small both population wise and in land size. I think there are only around 700,000 people living here (probably depending on how you count the city limits). I live "far" (ish) from the city center yet I am pretty much a 20-30 min bike ride from anything I want to do that's outside of my neighborhood. Although Amsterdam is the largest city in the Netherlands because of it's small size it has a very neighborhood feel. My housemates know everyone living in our building and when I step outside my door I feel like I'm part of the neighborhood. Each neighborhood has it's own market (weekly or more often) including organic markets! And finally because Amsterdam is so small, you can be cycling in the midst of the craziness that is the city center and then suddenly find yourself in the Dutch countryside. Plus, you're super close to one of my favorite airports in the world where the rest of the world is waiting to be explored!

3. Its beautiful. There's a reason why tourists flock to this city. With its canal lined streets (yes Delft was also beautiful) and its often crooked old narrow houses shoved together so neatly, you often feel like you've stepped into another century. Although I live not so close to the city center I do live in the oldest part of the city actually. Near where the East India Trading company was. I can cycle 5 minutes to a line of extremely old houses along the water and feel like I'm in a time where people paid for their beer with the fish they caught that day, where everyone knows everyone and people gather in the evenings to catch up on the local village gossip. Yet all this is in the Netherlands' biggest city!

4. The life. Amsterdam may be small but it's not short on things to do. It's incredibly frustrating to be locked inside most of the time writing my thesis because literally every weekend there seems to be multiple festivals. Its also the only city (in my food obsessed opinion) where you can find nice food. A few weeks ago I was in food paradise at a food truck festival in one of Amsterdam's many parks. I even got my fill of long lost kimchi.

5. The parks. In general the city is dense and crowded (at least if you're near tourist invested central station) but there are no shortage of parks and green spaces that are currently being thoroughly enjoyed with the fabulous weather we've been having.

6. Biking. This is obvious since it is the Netherlands but where else in the world can I literally bike EVERYWHERE? Amazing.

I actually feel depressed at the thought of being forced to leave this city if I don't manage to find a job or PhD within a reasonable radius of it. Maybe I'll start hating it once the endless rain starts again? Apologies in advance to anyone who has to be the recipient of my newly acquired arrogance. I know there are a lot of other nice places in the world that I'm sure I would also be happy living in. In the meantime I'm going to try and finish up this stupid (well actually I like it a lot) thesis so I can go play outside and enjoy this amazing city.