Written by Sebastian Peichl
When I came to The Netherlands to start with my master’s, my conception about this city wasn’t going further than the images of coffee-shops, canals, bikes and even windmills and cows. Somebody had told me that Dutch people are extremely direct, even rude sometimes, and that they don’t like foreigners. However, as soon as I got there, I started discovering what Amsterdam really is.
First of all, leave coffee-shops and other substances to tourists, at least on a regular basis. Amsterdam has much more to offer, from museums, theatres and exhibitions up to local markets, small shops and street art. Go beyond tourist traps and realize how much this city has to offer while you walk around the Albert Cuyp Market or visit the Moco Museum.
Furthermore, meet Dutch people. They are direct, that’s true, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Being direct means that you’ll know exactly what they think, which is something other cultures hide and that often leads to misunderstandings or misconceptions. Also, Dutch people are extremely open-minded and they defend the right of freedom in all its forms, so don’t worry about being socially accepted or fitting into society. The Netherlands in general, and Amsterdam in particular, is formed by people from all corners of this world, who speak different languages, follow different religions and have different cultures and customs, but respect each other and truly believe that, no matter who you are, you deserve to be part of it.
When you approach new people here, you’ll be astonished by the excellent English they speak, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to learn a few sentences or at least some words to be polite. After all, you are going to spend several months here and most universities offer Dutch courses for free. In addition, I would recommend you to learn about their culture, traditions and history, as it won’t only broaden your mind and knowledge, but will also help you to understand them.
Finally, explore all you can! Get lost around this city, discover, ask and learn. Because Amsterdam is such a particular and beautiful city that you’ll never get tired of it. There is always another café to visit, a new exhibition, a street you haven’t walked through yet.