International: Amsterdam Views

7 april 2016, 09:00

Auteur: Mya Berger

This article was originally published on Maximum Amsterdam


Amsterdam is not only the capital city of the Dutch, it is also a multicultural mix of foreign students, expats and other people from abroad. In this monthly column, our international editors share their perspective with us. Today: Mya Berger (18), who was born in Rabat (Morocco), speaks French and has lived in Switzerland, before moving here.


A lot of people have a conception of what Amsterdam is before visiting. People see it as the land of the free, filled with drugs, sex or underground partying. When they think of Amsterdam they also see canals and bikes; the old cheese stores. Outsiders have a paradoxical and biased view of what this city is.

I didn’t have any of those ideals. I didn’t even know how people viewed Amsterdam. I went there because of the university; and truly started thinking about the city only a few weeks before moving. Most of my friends would joke about it. They implied that the lifestyle I would lead was going to be “hardcore”. After hearing “you’re going there for the drugs” and “you’ll probably end up working in the Red Light District” a thousand times, I started getting worried. Where was I going? What situation was I getting into? Never have I been so surprised.

‘I immediately felt at home and accepted,
even though I was a complete stranger.’

Giving out names of places wouldn’t suffice in describing what Amsterdam means to me. It’s not about the architecture, the canals and the multitude of hipster-like cafés and bars. It’s not about the museums, old squatting places, cultural centers or clubs. It’s “bigger” than that. If I had to define it I would say that it’s more about the feeling you get from the city. I immediately felt at home and accepted, even though I was a complete stranger. And I haven’t met one person that would say the contrary.

IMG_9978I started having a much idealized notion of the city’s inhabitant lifestyle. I moved here in the summer of 2015, when one could still see the sun from time to time. The people flowing through Amsterdam by bike, walking in a nonchalant way on the pavement or simply sitting in Vondelpark kind of stole my heart. They gave off this kind of worry-free and cool vibe.

Walking through the streets, having a nice bike ride or spending afternoons next to the canals and parks are my personal favorite. It can’t be stressed enough that the best thing that one can do to truly experience the city is to get lost in it.

‘The best thing that one can do to truly
experience the city is to get lost in it.’

There is something about the way the sun is reflected on the canals. And there is something about the light surrounding Amsterdam that fascinates me. Even if it doesn’t look like it, it plays a big role in making it a great city.

‘There is something about the light surrounding Amsterdam that fascinates me.’

As the days went by the weather “deteriorated”. The sunny days turned into cold and rainy days. I started going to different market places, spent numerous afternoons in cafés and nights in clubs and bar. I discovered that the city is as good during summer than winter.


Do I need to mention the different conceptual exhibitions? The museums and artsy neighborhoods? The (not so) underground art scene, is actually something worth trying. The range of work of art offered is at the same time easy to access (cheap and unexclusive), but also of high quality. You’ll then get to hear about amazing bands and artists, coming from all over the world to perform in Amsterdam. The cultural centers and old squats are pretty amazing. Most of them are community projects that puts an art gallery, cinema, club, bar, radio and café all in one place. I especially appreciate the gathering of locals and the effort they put in different things, for example cultural centers, free food market or workshops.

Amsterdam is a hub of artistic and intellectual expression, and it never fails to surprise me.

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