Expat Experience - Becky's story
The little things
Published on : 06-12-2012, 15:09 by Becky
Even after more than 15 years living in Amsterdam, I'm still considered an expat. While some expats come and go as jobs scatter them to the four corners of the world, others of us are here to stay. Familiarity with the city and the people certainly makes things less 'foreign' than they were 15 years ago, but there is no changing the fact that my different cultural upbringing means there are ways in which I will always be a 'foreigner'. It's these differences and the acceptance of them by the international culture of Amsterdam that make this a fantastic place to live.
It was the little, every day differences that struck a chord when I first arrived. Instead of driving once or twice a week to a mega-supermarket, for example, I found myself every day in the Albert Hein. Product choice? Virtually non-existent. Instead of miles of shelves lined with an endless variety of brands, I would fight my way between fellow shoppers and surly employees stacking the shelves at peak hours to choose between two types of pasta sauces. I would then totter home on my overloaded bike, knowing full well I would be back the next day when these supplies were eaten.
Service was another area that took some getting used to. Service with a smile is not a concept that has taken universal hold here. A grumpy waiter does not mask his grumpiness with false joy in the hopes of a better tip. And you could wait all night for the bill at the end of a meal if you don't ask for it!
These types of differences are easy to pinpoint when you first arrive and fuel many discussions with other expats. But it's the more positive differences that slowly creep into your system and make you come to love Amsterdam and all it has to offer. Things like: the extreme beauty of the canals and their centuries old houses, the families of four you see making their daily commute together on a single bike, and the fact that the entire city comes out en force at the first sign of spring to sit on a terrace. Not to mention the selection of top cafes and restaurants, the cosy music venues that attract big names, the craziness of Queen's Day, and skating on the canals during those special years when it is possible.
It may encourage you to know that over time you may even come to embrace the less positive differences that you first noticed. I now find myself overwhelmed by the range of choice when I visit a supermarket in my childhood hometown. How can 57 types of mustard be necessary, let alone compete against each other? And perhaps there is something to a waiter's honesty instead of forced (over)friendliness...
At any rate, you will discover that there is more to do in this tiny city than you can possibly imagine. Whether you are single, have a family, are young or old, it's all waiting for you to discover it. For me, it's the newness, the exciting possibilities and the 'foreignness'- whether good or less good - that makes it so fun to be an expat in Amsterdam.