The Land of Tulips & Wooden Shoes & Tall People: Alexandra in Amsterdam

Well here’s where I talk about Amsterdam. I’m from West Michigan where most of my friends are from Dutch ancestry. Here’s a little secret about Europeans while we’re on the topic: they hate when Americans say they’re “½ Dutch and ½ English”. We’re Americans, and if we’re white, that’s what our parents were and that’s where we’re from, and our connections to Europe are not notable to them. Just a warning.

Anyways, I thought I knew a few things about the Netherlands. Well, I had a lot to learn. Like, there are way less tulips than I imagined. And way more canals. Oh man are the canals beautiful. I also learned that the Red Light District has such a solid history that very rarely do churches or anyone else besides foreign business men interfere with its business. I learned that most prostitutes in that area choose to be there, want to be there, love the massive amount of money they’re making, and safely choose the men they do or do not want to sleep with. And don’t take pictures of them, that’s just rude. I also learned that police partner with schools and courts to make sure that kids don’t go into their adult lives with a criminal record by offering programs that help them realize the consequences of their crimes without having to bear the consequences from their childhood for the rest of their lives. I learned that The Netherlands deals with the school to prison pipeline early and intensely with that kind of method. And they also give kids college education for cheap; the concept of paying tens of thousands of dollars (or more) for school is absolutely mind-blowing (and absurd) to them. Turns out Amsterdam isn’t just windmill cookies and wooden shoes (although I did spot a wooden shoe boat on a canal, the epitome of my imagination of the place).

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I have to say, the food in Amsterdam didn’t wow me. But what did wow me was that I could feel sort of at home and familiar with the city after just under 2 weeks. I arrived alone on a national holiday and only had directions to our hostel that involved the currently closed public transit so after wandering around the city lost with no phone/GPS and no direction and not speaking the language I thought I’d never make it. I did! I bet I could still navigate the walk to the train station or the main square or the area where all the “happening” bars and restaurants are. I regretfully can’t say that I navigated it by bike, because the Dutch are even more intense and intimidating when they’re on those. ONE DAY

But wait in line for the Anne Frank House. It’ll take your breath away. And go when the tulips are blooming, I do regret getting out of the city to see those. Spend a day reading in the park, everyone else in the city does. Give biking a go. And Definitely go for a boat ride down the canals, for as long as possible. Drink the good coffee and bread and get a sugar rush from the pancakes. Journal by the water. Wear heals so you fit in with the tall Dutch folks.

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