Sunday, June 19, 2011

Amsterdam: First Glance, Part I

I've been in Amsterdam for about 4 months now. I've had some time to settle in and soak up the atmosphere, the language, and local attitudes. In many ways, it's still too soon to form real opinions, so this isn't a definitive snapshot of life in Europe for a brown outsider. But I think it's a pretty close indicator.

Opening Hours

Everything closes at 6. If you need to fix your bicycle, you need to take time off work to get it done. Supermarkets open till 8pm, which is a small mercy. Thursdays are special, some shops (note: some, not all) are open till 8pm.

To an Asian, this is the weirdest thing ever. In Asia, even stationery stores are open till 9 or 10pm. The city doesn't even begin to sleep until about 11pm.

Over here, by 8pm, most stores are shuttered, and only food and beverage, and entertainment facilities are open.


I'm a South Asian, and I've lived a goodly portion of my life in South-East Asia. I come from a heritage of North Indian, and Thai food, arguably some of the best food ever invented. I have high standards for food.

Unfortunately, the Dutch don't know how to eat.

It's a little disappointing because their southern neighbours the Italians have made an art-form of the thing, and their near neighbours the French have a good taste for the stuff.

Honestly, though, it's okay. Amsterdam is awesome in so many other ways, and is home to so many visible minorities that finding good food isn't hard at all. The only thing is, it won't be Dutch.


Tellers at banks don't take cash.

I needed to pay my deposit and first month's rent to move into my new apartment. I had applied for an account, got an account number, but I hadn't received my ATM card, which comes in the post. My putative landlord wanted a bank transfer, it's easier for tax purposes, he told me.

The tellers were behind the counter, serving customers. But they wouldn't take cash. I did a double-take when I heard it the first time. I politely asked the young lady from ABN AMRO to repeat herself. Yup. Those people there? Inside the bank? Behind the counter? Your money is no good with them.

I talked my landlord into accepting cash.

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I write essays in my spare time on things that are important to me. The ones that I feel are any good, or make any sense, I put them up here. :)