Fifteen Rules: How To Become An Amsterdammer

I can be quite a biased person when it comes to cities built on the water or in immediate proximity to it. I love water and everything it is associated with; however, it is one thing to come somewhere just for a couple of days as a tourist, but an entirely different thing to actually stay there for a long period of time and try to blend in. Amsterdam is a multi-faced and multicultural city that also dictates its own rules.

  • Wear comfortable and practical clothes. The probability of meeting a woman who wears high heels and a fancy dress, or, God forbid, lets herself freeze in a furious cold wind in a mini-skirt, is about the same as coming in contact with live aliens. However, it does not mean that the citizens of Amsterdam do not have a sense of beauty. On the contrary, they love the minimalistic style and appreciate the beauty of the soul. Moreover, current fashion trends have offered a host of dress options for those who want to look gorgeous without putting their own health at risk.
  • A bit more about clothes. The proclivity for simplicity and convenience does not mean that Amsterdammers are limiting their choice of color to the ones which are suitable for the local weather, such as black, gray, khaki, and brown.

    Woman in red / Photo: Flickr – José Vieira da Silva
  • Spend some time on a boat. Many Amsterdamers are renting out their boats. Certainly, they have minimal amenities: no morning buffets like the ones you would expect at a hotel, but we love camping trips for the surrounding environment, not because they offer us a chance to spend the night in a sleeping bag.
  • If you are a freelancer, it is quite natural for you to work even while on vacation. In that case, you should visit one of the co-working spaces which are in abundance in the city. It would be a great chance not only to switch gears but also to make a lot of useful acquaintances. People in Amsterdam speak fluent English (unlike the French or the Germans, the locals do not reckon that foreigners should learn their native language), so there would not a problem with the language barrier.
  • Bicycle. You will have to get used to it sooner or later. The bicycle allows you not only to move faster around the city, it is also a stylish means of doing a daily amount of much needed physical activity.
  • Sunny weather in Amsterdam is a good enough reason to go outside and at least take a stroll along the canals and sit on a park bench. What to do if the weather is sunny but chilly? See paragraph 1, which tells you about clothes.

    Early Spring at Leidseplein, Amsterdam / Photo: Flickr – Roman Boed
  • Take a creative approach and always say what is on your mind. Amsterdam is multi-faced and multi-national (more than 180 nationalities live here), and very socially inclusive. The people are open to everything new or interesting and are willing to listen if you have something worth sharing. Are you looking for a place where you can launch your well-elaborated start-up? This city would be the best location.
  • Be tolerant, especially with regard to the political and religious views of others, sexual orientation, and marijuana consumption. Amsterdam was the first city in the world where same-sex marriages were legalized. So, judge not and you will not be judged.
  • Be punctual. The Dutch value this personal trait very highly; also be polite and friendly.
  • Become fond of coffee. The average Amsterdamer drinks at least three cups of this beverage a day. It is not surprising, considering the fact that the city is filled with cafeterias where an amazing coffee is brewed. It would be strange not to get addicted to that drink.
  • After the coffee, you should “develop a taste” for festivals. The citizens of Amsterdam are big lovers of quality music and entertainment (and scrumptious food, of course). Besides, a concert in the park would be yet another reason to spend some time outdoors.
  • Take an imaginative approach towards shopping. The best places for this activity would be showrooms or concept stores, where furniture, accessories for the interior, clothes, shoes, books, and bijouterie of various brands are sold under one roof. And you will most certainly find a tiny coffee shop in some secluded corner. Flea markets should be another mandatory part of your shopping program.
  • Visit museums, especially since they are located in the Museum Quarter in close proximity to each other. Take a coffee break between visits to exhibitions, and then share your experiences with friends while enjoying a pint of craft beer at the nearest pub.
  • If you plan on staying in the city for a long time and have already begun setting up your own nest, then just forget about curtains. Instead, create an atmosphere of gezelligheid (coziness – translator’s note). Buy some candles, lap blankets, and soft pillows; get a cat and a fireplace. You can find more about the importance of domestic comfort for people who live in Northern Europe in the book Hygge: The Secret of Danish Happiness, written by Mike Viking.
  • Become fond of water, because living in Amsterdam is virtually the same as living in Venice.
    Amsterdam on boat / Photo: Flickr – _dChris


The autumn in Amsterdam is very real. It is the most charismatic season in Amsterdam.

On weekdays, the autumn’s dreary dampness is muffled by the number of people who hurry to work. On Fridays and Saturdays, the city is filled with an intoxicating marijuana smoke that is coming out of the coffee shops and spreading along the streets. Sunday morning is the time when you can meet only two types of people: the first are those who still feel the echoes of yesterday’s party and go out in a drizzly rain in search of a hearty breakfast; the second are the joggers who go out for a run along the canals.

On Sundays, the city becomes noticeably emptier; almost all establishments are closed. A strong and dank wind blows the leaves along the sidewalks and onto umbrellas with broken spokes which did not survive Saturday night and are now lying promiscuously in puddles. Large maple leaves, which look like they have been amateurishly colored by a child, get stuck between the spokes of the parked bicycles, cover the roofs of residential boats, and adorn the narrow benches.

As night falls, the wind only gets stronger. By the early morning, the heavy knocking of large rain drops on the window frames become an accompaniment to the sonorous howling of the wind in tree crowns. From time to time, the wet branches tap plaintively on the window, pressing the leaves to the glass, as if asking you to let them inside the house. The shutter, which has been left open for the night, is flapping rhythmically, whirling up the dusty curtains of a milky-white color. And in the morning, after finally closing the window, you step on the fallen leaves which are scattered on the carpet. The room is filled with the smell of rain, the musty odor of leaves, and the rich aroma of pastry from the coffee shop just around the corner. The sound of someone dropping cups is heard from downstairs and signifies the beginning of a new day and a new life.

The Amsterdammers are always “in the saddle”; despite an almost hurricane-like wind, they sprightly spin the pedals in a hunched position with hoods pulled tightly over their heads, hurrying on their errands. At the same time, they talk on the phone, carry umbrellas, chat with the children who are being packed into a baby box which is fastened to the front side of a bicycle, listen to music, and drink coffee. They even manage to obey the traffic laws.

Snowy Amsterdam / Photo: Flickr – Lauri Väin

Consequently, the pedestrians have to pay twice as much attention, being forced to yield not only to cars but also to bicycles. If you are an inexperienced bicycle rider, do not even try to make up for the lost cycling time while in Amsterdam. It would be better for you to get acquainted with the city on foot.

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