I arrived in Amsterdam three days ago, though jet lag has blurred all of them into a single never-ending group orientation. I am studying at the University of Amsterdam through a program called CIEE, along with a 86 other American students. We stayed at a hostel on the city’s outskirts for the first two nights, and moved into our dormitories today. I use the term “dormitory” loosely because it is nothing like the dorms of my American college experience (an enormous bedroom, non-uptight RAs, no security, and most importantly, an incredible view).
Anyway, I wanted to share three things I have noticed since my arrival in Amsterdam.
1. Environmental responsibility. Bicycle is the most popular form of transportation, and I am hoping to purchase my own bike in the next week or two. Public transport is also readily available, and many people have cars, but the number of people riding bikes at all hours of the day is incredible. Amazingly, Amsterdam is one of the cleanest cities I have ever visited. Unlike the garbage-lined streets of my beloved New York, Amsterdam is comparatively spotless. Additionally, plastic is not as popular as in the U.S. At the supermarket, you have to request a plastic bag, and it is preferred that you bring your own reusable shopping tote. If you do take a plastic bag, you’re expected to continue reusing it each time you go grocery shopping. For packaging, glass is much more widely used than plastic. I’m especially excited to save all of my glass bottles to use as flower vases around my apartment.
2. Frequency of hostile resting face (aka “bitch face,” a trait from which I suffer). The Dutch keep to themselves; they are uninterested in large tour groups, stare angrily at you if you walk in the bike lane, and are unenthusiastic small talkers. I enjoy this aspect of life in Amsterdam because at times, I do prefer to do things by myself, whether it’s grocery shopping or visiting a museum. I like the sense of independence that is prevalent in this city.
3. Hagelslag. So far, this is the only Dutch word I have learned. Hagelslag are chocolate sprinkles, and look very similar to the tasteless American sprinkles (or “jimmies” to New Englanders like myself), but are a hundred times more delicious. A popular Dutch breakfast is bread and butter, topped with hagelslag. We had dinner on a pancake boat, and ate pancakes topped with hagelslag. I had pudding for dessert last night, and there was hagelslag sprinkled on top. What a wonderful place.