When, at the first Amsterdive meet-up, I got prompted to write about the downsides of living in Amsterdam, I thought it was an unusual request. My readers know all too well that this platform centres on the positive, on what’s to celebrate about the city. I’m the type who loves a good creative challenge so I did promise them that I would write my take on the pitfalls of living here. I have written about it once before. Twice, actually. The prompt made me realise that the regulars at this site want to see the entirety of the picture, not a sum of parts. I think that some aspects I’ve parodied will be very recognisable to most people, others not at all. Here is my perspective (subjective, personal and all that) on the city of muddy canals and mad bikers after having lived here for seven years. Here we go.
This story is dedicated to Linda, Jan, Giulia, Bernardo, Vanessa, Shari, Theodora, Sima, and Pavlina
We did it. And I’ve promised you a piece of writing on it. Here it is.
On a sunny Saturday ten of us came together at cultural cafe Oko Melting Point in Amsterdam. You had seen the event on Facebook. Or perhaps you saw a mention on Instagram, or maybe you got the newsletter. In any case, for some reason, every single one of you thought it was a good idea to trade free access to vitamin D for this thing called “Hear Here – An Amsterdive meet-up”. And you really were there. Not the way that we sometimes show up to a networking event. You guys were actually present, which was the core value of the meet-up.
When I was invited to a try-out at co-work The Thinking Hut, I was thrilled. I all starts with a name. They call themselves creative co-work, and that sounds just right for me. The idea of toiling in a hut brings out the hippie in me, which is my most playful side and, I risk saying, the best one. I like to create in vibrant places that do not feel like traditional offices. So I was willing to have a steady workplace of my own for the first time in my content creator life and take the opportunity to do a semi sugar & caffeine detox (in which I failed spectacularly, by the way).
I have been doing the freelance thing from cafes since I’ve kicked out Amsterdive. If you follow me on social media, you know how passionate I am for third wave coffee places. If a day passes without a visit to a cafe that means I’m sick. However, I also love creating together with other freelancers, and it is handy to have a dedicated space for that. I dislike working from home, and cafes are not always quiet or spacious, and many of them do not provide power sockets. Plus, I had the feeling I was spending way too much money on fancy coffee and cake. I’ve been increasingly interested in co-work spaces as a laboratorium for exciting projects and collaborative labours — a place where ideas take shape. Plus, I love this idea of a community of freelancers from different fields doing their thing together and stimulating each other along the way.
In the break of two appointments in the Spiegelkwartier I find myself taking a stroll along the bustling Spiegelgracht, a route favoured by a million tourists every year. I’d just gone on a private Rijksmusem tour (check it out here, if you wish) and while my mind was reproducing Jan Steen’s households and Rembrandt’s merchant couples, and going through possible words to convey the nuances of my blogger’s friend voice while she spoke of how Van Gogh got inspired by the latter, my eyes got stuck in these prints of human body parts, and colourful birds, and canal houses, displayed in wooden boxes by both sides of an open door. I step back to read the sign above me and almost get murdered by a furious cyclist. Jumping back to the sidewalk prooved equally life-threatening, with me having to squeeze between a wall of passer-by’s until I finally managed to take a breath and look up. It said, Antiquariaat Hoogkamp.
“Do you think it’s possible?” – I questioned while moulding sourdough. Tom, my new friend, was teaching me the wonders of making bread with your own two hands while slicing limes for mojitos at the same time. That morning we had make wholewheat pancakes for breakfast, now we were making bread loafs, and I had just asked if we could make wholewheat pizzas for dinner. Apparently, Tom could make just about anything. He was the kind of person who grew vegetables on his own garden, and chicken, and repaired stuff, and travelled half of the world on his own and – not unimportant – also had an excellent music taste. Curious fact, he was surnamed after de Windt. Take off that Belgian “t” and, there you have, a poetic promise of greatness.