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 column, our international editors share their perspective with us. Today: Stefanos Yowhannes from Stavanger, Norway.
I was living in Santa Barbara, California.
My college campus lay right next to the beach. This meant that every day I was exposed to everlasting sunshine and limited to shorts and t-shirts as the only suitable clothing wear. Perfect, right? Well, apparently not for me. I longed back for a city filled with bohemian cafes, small streets and organized chaos. Strangely, I even missed the rain and grey days. I think Santa Barbara was too small for my liking, and the hobbies of surfing, hiking and yoga didn’t suit me.
I was studying for an exam when a friend of mine asked why I didn’t just apply to the University of Amsterdam.
“Worst case scenario, they say no,” she argued. True, I couldn’t disagree with that statement. Plus, it was a good university in a cool city. Why not?
So, I applied and wow, I got in. I was going to live in Amsterdam. The Amsterdam.
I am living in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Amsterdam is like the girl in your class who looks amazing, and then, when you get to know her, you instantly fall in love. After only living here for a few weeks, you get hooked. The endless number of museums, coffee places and restaurants create a social hub built on innovation and inclusion. To namedrop specific places would do injustice to the rest of the city. All corners of the city, from Nieuw-West to Oost, and Zuid to Noord, never disappoint. Whether you are a bohemian lover or an outdoor enthusiast, Amsterdam gives everybody what they are looking for.
Once I settled in at the start of the semester, I began to visit more events and exhibitions by myself. I can’t stress enough how valuable it was to have the opportunity to go to these places around the city. For one, I noticed that I never came across the same thing twice, but more importantly, I realized that in order to fully integrate into any city’s society, you need to indulge yourself in the city itself.
Biking in Amsterdam is comparable to the Tour de France but with traffic lights and cars (and exceptionally slower cyclists).
One of the main characteristics that define Amsterdam as a city is biking. After moving away from the car driven society in the US, I found biking very relaxing and suitable. The fact that so many people bike every day adds charm to the city and makes Amsterdam stand out even more. You could say biking in Amsterdam is comparable to the Tour de France but with traffic lights and cars (and exceptionally slower cyclists). The main culprit of slow cycling are the tourists. There is no doubt you will encounter tourists roaming the streets for coffee shops, and frustrations can run high. However, all in all, this is the most flexible way to get around the city and once you manage to know your way around without Google Maps (yes, it took me some time), biking is way more enjoyable.
Amsterdam is a multicultural society designed by open minded people. Inclusion of all races and cultures have made the city grow and aspire to greater heights. The intellectual ideal is rated high, which is why I think people view ‘Amsterdammers’ as very tolerant and well informed. Their openness to conversation and their acceptance of “different” people are values accepted throughout the city. Even though the city is officially the capital of the Netherlands, it’s as well a capital of liberalism and expression which goes beyond national borders.