Totally Honest Reasons I Chose Amsterdam

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:

It’s Centrally-located

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!

Chemistry

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.

Coffee Shops

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.

English Friendly

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.

Bikes

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.

Flirts

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?


Spoiled Animals

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.

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16 thoughts on “Totally Honest Reasons I Chose Amsterdam

  1. I often wonder how people want justification for the places we want to go and yet, uncritical about the places they inhabit right now, even though they hold a myriad of complaints

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  2. I applied to the University of Amsterdam and I’m looking to move there by next fall (regardless of the result). I’m nervous about finding a Black social circle for myself there. Right or wrong, it’s very important for me to find that community anywhere I live. This post was reassuring to me. Having been to Amsterdam, I completely understand everything you describe here.

    I’d like to add a couple reasons of my own, since I am moving there as well. One thing I loved about Amsterdam is that any store I walked into seemed to be playing music I loved. I’m talking about fantastic original, underground Hip Hop. Also, walking in Amsterdam felt like I was walking on a bridge, everywhere I went. I was literally in love.

    But… I will need to find me some Black men. What can I say. I know what I like.

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    • Hey there, don’t worry about finding that social circle. Black folks do live in pockets in the Netherlands. But we really are everywhere – and plenty diverse. So whatever/whoever you’re looking for, you’ll find them. You might have more trouble finding Black men to date. Not as many of them. And that’s a mystery I have yet to crack. But I refuse to be like the numerous people who laughed at me when I told them I wanted to find a Black man here. Not only is it not funny, it’s possible…anything is possible! So I simply will encourage you to come to find some Black friends and a Black man. DO it! And best of luck on your UvA application!!

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  3. Hi guys, I was looking for a masters programme at Amsterdam University via Google and I saw your comments! Sounds interesting. Saudasc; did you get accepted and if so what were the specific compulsory requirements?

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  4. Thanks for sharing this! I am traveling to Amsterdam solo in a couple weeks, and this has lightened my perspective. I look forward to enjoying the city and seeking for fellow black people – where are the pockets that they are typically found?

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    • Hi JerseyGirl,
      I’m so sorry that I didn’t see you message sooner. You’ve probably already visited Amsterdam. But just in case, you’ll want to check out Amsterdam Southeast (Zuidoost) to find the largest population of Black people. You’ll also find a mix of Black and brown in Amsterdam Oost (east). We’re scattered throughout the city. But I’d say those are the locations with the biggest “pockets.” I hope you had a wonderful visit!!

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      • Better late than never, thank you for your reply! As soon as I exited Centraal Station, like you, I just knew. This beautiful city proved to be my favorite.

        I am actually back in Amsterdam, again, as we speak. Popped over for a weekend as I am on expat assignment in Bucharest.

        Thanks for the intel. I definitely plan on swinging through this time and the next. But will say that Amsterdam is so full of tall, handsome men of many colors – I am open to them all 🙂

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  5. Hi there. I see this post is an old one but thought why not ask a question anyway. I’m currently living in Spain and I’m trying to find a job in Amsterdam. I have little savings left though. What do you suggest logistically speaking?

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    • Hi amtminor, I definitely suggest nailing down a job, or maybe a temporary assignment, before you make the move. The job market isn’t easy anywhere and the competition is tough. If you speak multiple languages, you’re at an advantage in NL. You might try an agency, like http://undutchables.nl, for a placement. Best of luck to you!

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  6. Wow- I’m here in Amsterdam right now! This is my third day here and I’ll be leaving tomorrow. Wish I’d found your post sooner. This was my first visit and I love the city! I’m at the hotel now, but will be getting out later. If you see this comment and can recommend somewhere to dine in the oost or zuidoost, please do!

    LadyBlack

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    • Hey LadyBlack! While you’re in oost, check out Dappermarkt to do some shopping (or people watching). At the end of Dapperstraat (where the market is located), you’ll reach Wijttenbachstraat. My favorite Surinamese food is there: Lalla Rookh. So yum. Enjoy the rest of your time in the city!!

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  7. Hi blackgirlgone. I am a 60 y/o African American man who is so tired of the racism in the US, and I want to move out of the country if possible. I’ve been intrigued by the Netherlands [Amsterdam] for many years. My only real concern is, health care. I have a disability and don’t know anything about the quality of health care in the country. Also, I’m concerned about finding a mate as I’d really like to get married. Can you provide any enlightenment ? Thanks !

    best,

    Brian

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  8. Hey am an african girl who loves to travel, am gonna be in amsterdam in the next week nov 4 to nov9 2015, am looking for a free spirited person to hang out with and enjoy the sights are u available??Will most definitely checkout the Suriname Se restaurant am a foodie, lemme know

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  9. Omg ! I Just found your blog and I was thinking… I need to get to know this city better and know there is like a Black inner circle ! Lol
    I just relocated from Ghana 3 weeks ago and with no family or friends here . Would love to have a coffee with you so you can give me advices about how to get around! 🙂

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