As I write this, I’m eating brunch in an outdoor café on the corner of Oosterpark in the southeastern part of Amsterdam, imagining (again) what it might be like to live here.
Tall blonde girls walk past me every couple of minutes, each one cuter than the last. A waiter serves me a perfect cup of coffee, a light and tasty cheese omelette and toast that is making me very happy. Next to me, one young man is smoking a pipe while his companion types away on a MacBook Air. I catch snatches of conversation in English, Dutch, French and Arabic.
I watch an endless stream of clunky Dutch black bikes roll by, baskets brimming with groceries, or front mount carrying a toddler. One bike had a baby in front and a small boy in the back, which is not uncommon here. No one wears helmets here.
Is this an urban paradise?
The Dutch have created here a particular way of life that is very intriguing to me: a blend of cosmopolitanism, Dutch practicality, urban grit, and a benevolent social welfare system. While there are pooer neighborhoods here, the worst kinds of grinding poverty and permanent underclass don’t seem to exist. Racism can be found in the press and popular sentiment, but interracial and inter-cultural relations seem more relaxed and a part of the fabric of the city more than nearly any other place I’ve ever been. Violent crime is almost unheard of, despite the prevalence of drugs and prostitution.
The only real downside is the language. I’ve spent a significant amount of time in Holland, and never mastered more than a few stock phrases (“thank you,” “goodbye,” “goddamit.”) I find the words to be complete tongue twisters and the grammar inscrutable.
That said, if I were to be offered a one year posting here, I would have a hard time saying no.
[CC-licensed "Amsterdam Bike Beauties" by Mayhem]