International: Amsterdam Views

This article was originally published on Maximum Amsterdam

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‘AMSTERDAM IS EVERYONE’S PLACE TO BE’

Amsterdam is not only the capital city of the Dutch, it is also a multicultural mix of foreign students, expats and other people from abroad. In this monthly column, our international editors share their perspective with us. Today: Josefine Emilie Andersen (20), who was born in Aalborg (Denmark), speaks German and French (besides English and the Scandinavian languages), and lived in Luxembourg for 15 years, before moving here.

TEXT BY JOSEFINE EMILIE ANDERSEN
PHOTOGRAPHY BY OLIVIER OVERBERG

I arrive at Amsterdam central station after a seven hour train ride from Luxembourg. With me I’m carrying a backpack and a Hummel shoulder bag containing a spare set of clothes and some essentials for my short stay. It’s dark when I arrive and I’m exhausted from switching trains and sitting in uncomfortable seats all day – with the occasional drunk trying to strike up a conversation with me.

As I stand there looking at Amsterdam I feel a little overwhelmed by the incessant flow of people walking in and out of the train station, the many lights in the cafés, coffeeshops, restaurants and boats on the canal close by the train station.

‘I picture myself in a year’s time
strolling around the streets of Amsterdam
looking just as important as everyone here.’

Yet, I can’t help but smile. Having lived in such a tame, safe and quiet place like Luxembourg, I think to myself: this is what living must feel like. Having not even graduated high school yet, I picture myself in a year’s time strolling around the streets of Amsterdam looking just as important as everyone here. As if they have a place to be; as if Amsterdam is their place to be.

Only a few seconds later the smell of marijuana hits me. A man who has just sparked up a big joint approaches and introduces himself to me. He’s friendly, telling me that he’s from Poland and asking me if this is my first time in Amsterdam. I feel myself grinning enormously. I’m not sure what it is – the fact that he is smoking a doobie that big so nonchalantly in the middle of the street, or the fact that he takes so much interest in chitchatting with me while I wait for my cab.

‘Strangers are friendly and start
conversations out of the blue.’

The next few days are similar to this. Strangers are friendly and start conversations out of the blue, everyone is interested in why I am here and where I am from. So naturally, as I leave I cannot wait to move here.

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‘At least cyclists here have priority in traffic.’

My next visit to Amsterdam I’m accompanied by my father, with our car full of moving boxes. My life, reduced to a few boxes. The next few days feel are a frenzy. I’m busy getting used to my bike and the reckless way in which people bike; at least cyclists here have priority in traffic. Once getting used to my bike I need to set up a bank account. To do that I need a Dutch phone number. To get a Dutch phone number I need a Dutch bank account. And every official letter or paper is in Dutch.

Although my second visit isn’t nearly as fun and intriguing as my first, I soon get used to the language and learn to understand it. This makes integrating into Dutch society much easier. I learnt that the Dutch love their fries and mayo – and they adore it when you try to learn their language.

And the fact that anytime I like, I can go explore the many streets and canals of Amsterdam and get lost in them, makes up for my tough first week living here and the difficulties I still face integrating into Dutch society.