Not surprisingly, I am frequently asked, “why Amsterdam?” It’s a fair question. I have no family or friends there. I don’t speak Dutch. There are fewer black people than in Brooklyn. I have no way to make money there. I haven’t spent even a full day in Amsterdam. So yeah, fair question. In fact, it’s a wonder why more people don’t try to talk me out of it.
Here are a few of the most common reasons I typically cite when asked, as well as a few that typically go unmentioned:
I love to travel. Living in a country that’s a short flight or train ride away from so many others sounds dreamy. I could easily get to other European countries. And I’d be that much closer to anywhere in Africa. Plus, it’s close enough to NY to allow me to visit pretty easily. Never mind the fact that I won’t likely have much spending money. I see myself visiting London, Barcelona, Naples, Greek Islands, Casablanca, Cape Town. No limits!
I visited central Amsterdam while on a layover, returning from Ghana to NYC. Got off the plane and hopped on a train into the city. It was super early on a Sunday morning. As soon as I stepped out of the train station, I said (out loud), “I could live here.” Before I even laid eyes on some of the more beautiful parts of the city, I could sense its charm. It felt comfortable and strangely calming. No one rushing around and very little noise on the street. And on this Sunday morning, I appreciated the sleepy nature of the city. Very few stores were open and even fewer people were out (and some of them were clearly the previous night’s leftovers). The hours posted on most businesses indicated a much later opening time on Sundays. I can get down with a place that sleeps in on Sunday. Now in fairness, this actually did bug me a bit at the time because I was desperately searching for a meal. I was having more luck finding coffee shops than bagels. One coffee shop advertised “Free Breakfast!” Upon inquiring, the really nice man told me, “Oh I’m sorry. We’re all out of breakfast. But we have weed.” Regardless, I was charmed.
And yes, speaking of coffee shops…they are definitely worth considering. I’m not ashamed to admit that I happen to enjoy an herbal refreshment on occasion. It would be nice to live in a place that isn’t so uptight and paranoid about it. I imagine myself with a Sunday afternoon routine, including a bike ride and a good newspaper or magazine.
But I don’t want people to assume that this is the primary or only reason I would want to live in Amsterdam. Hopefully I get more credit than that.
I have the best of intentions to learn Dutch, I promise. But I fear it won’t come so easily. As I’m learning, language barriers won’t be an issue. Instead, I should be able to get around and involved pretty easily.
I love the idea of bike parking lots. Amsterdam is, by far, the most bike friendly city I’ve ever been in. When I was a kid, I used to love riding my bike. But as an adult, I’ve never owned one. Living in a city where I would basically be peer-pressured into owning a bike would be a great influence on me. Exercise, fresh air, environmentally friendly…that’s the way to go. And everyone seemed so happy and calm on their bikes. This could, perhaps, be the solution to my road rage.
Okay, this one is going to make me seem really shallow. But I’m being honest here, right? Although I constantly complain about being harassed by strange men on the street, I’d be lying if I said it’s not kinda flattering. Turning heads is not necessarily a bad thing. Feeling exhausted and dressed like a bum, several black men in Amsterdam still took notice. I remember thinking, “hm, they like black women with nappy hair here.” And since I’ll be traveling single, I’d prefer to live in a place where I am considered attractive. Wouldn’t anyone?
Chubby cats on windowsills, dogs with fancy collars jogging alongside their owners’ bikes, and pet boutiques abound. I can vibe with any city that respects its animals. My spoiled cat and I could do pretty well in a place like that.