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.
Friends: possibly the question I get asked the most. How to make friends in Amsterdam.
I have written about this subject before but felt reticent to tackle the “how-to” because of how personal this is. Telling someone how to make friends is similar to try to teach them “the steps to fall in love” (hate this expression, but you get the idea). We connect with people differently and my ways to make friends work for me, not necessarily for everyone else. We all need to find our own ways as there are no formulas one-size-fits-all. This being said, because the question keeps on coming – and especially so when folks realize I am also befriended with Dutchies -, I’ve realised this is a thing. I have promised someone to write about this topic (Hi, F.!) , which is a strategy I’ve been employing not to procrastinate on blog posts. So here’s my take on the friendship thing. I hope it can be useful. Also, feel free to ask any question or to share your own impressions in the comments section! Yes, we zijn zover, which is to say, here we go.
It was 2013. I had just quit my hospitality job, and I didn’t have a plan. So I did what many of us do: decided to escape the burden of not knowing what to do with my life by going traveling. I booked an inter-rail ticket which would last for one month. Once it was over I’d see what I’d do. I had never travelled alone in my entire life, at least not more than five days in a row, and to places where I’d always visited friends. Right now I was travelling alone-alone, to countries where I didn’t know a single soul. I had worked enough to maintain myself for a few months without a job so there I went. I started in Italy.
My fashion taste in 2018 is, not only a game of casualty, but an ode to sustainability. None of these clothes were new when I got them. Most of what I wore in 2018 were gifts from people who came up to me and said: “I had this at home, I don’t wear it anymore. It made me think of you so here it is”.
My number one priority once I landed in Amsterdam was: FRIENDS. My fellow Portuguese countrymen kept asking: “What about the cold?”, “What if you can’t find a job?”, “What if the Dutch are nasty?”. Their worries were trifling to me. Weather conditions didn’t matter much, and as for work difficulties or complicated people, I mean, when you’ve survived Portugal during economic scarcity, you’re ready for everything. By then I knew that I could do without my family, without a job for a while, even without a home. The one thing that could make the enterprise of moving countries come to grief was NO FRIENDS.