We have been here a week and it has been a lovely experience. Fun, friendly & altogether beautiful. However, we have noticed some significant differences in life here as it compares to our former home. We are anticipating missing some things we love about the good ol’ US of A; some are just funny quirks. While this list will grow and adjust… here is week one’s culture shocks.
1. No cold medicine – Katie and I both were suffering from intense colds on arrival and we desperately wanted a good nights sleep hopped up on NyQuil or whatever else would conk us out. We believed it to be strange when there was no medicine in the convenience stores, but were confident when we stepped into the Apotheek (pharmacy in Dutch) that we would be fine. Wrong. “Here in the Netherlands we don’t use cold medicine like in America. You just need some Vitamin C and plenty of rest.” Needless to say, we’ll definitely be stocking up on cold meds the time we’re home.
2. Everyone speaks English, but nobody speaks English – We were told time and time again that everyone speaks English. This is true. Everyone speaks English as a second language, but everyday conversation in Amsterdam takes place in Dutch. In our first 5 days here, we’ve only overheard 3 conversations in English. We can not understand signs, side conversations, or automated instructions; and we have to start every conversation with a request for English. Luckily the Dutch are very nice.
3. Bikes rule the road – Another thing we had heard about but it has to be seen to be believed: Everyone rides bikes. Babies ride bikes (driven by their parents). People eat on bikes, they talk on their phones on bikes, they walk their dogs on bikes. Many people don’t even use their hands. The Bike traffic is much more intense than cars. It’s impressive.
4. Must ask for check and people don’t drink water – When eating in a restaurant the wait staff will not bring a check unless prompted. This is nice because their is no rush to move along. The Dutch usually don’t get water with their meals, as well. This begs the question, why are the Dutch not more dehydrated. They drink coffee and alcohol by the boatloads. Water, not so much.
5. Cheep wine – The wine is very reasonably priced. No bottle over 10 Euros. And glasses of wine and beer at restaurants are super cheep. Lucky us!
6. Fresh bread everywhere – The bread here is amazing. Really delicious. Come visit so you can eat it.
7. Cheese heaven – Cheese shops are the Starbucks of Amsterdam – there’s one on every corner! For those of you who know Katie, you know she loves cheese. It’s her defining quality. The huge yellow orange rounds of cheese can be spotted on every street with samples a plenty. Upon entering our first cheese shop, Katie nearly wept of happiness. I am starting to suspect her intentions in choosing Amsterdam to move.
8. No curtains – Most places don’t have curtains. Not a problem for me, Katie finds it a little disconcerting.
9. Mondays are dead – We have been waking up very early because of the time change, and jet lag. On Monday, we went to take care of business, and found that no place was open. No stores, restaurants, nothing. Apparently Mondays in Amsterdam don’t start until noon.
10. Cars drive on the sidewalk – The cars are much smaller than cars in the US. There is one brand of car that literally looks like it’s been cut in half. Sometimes, the cars will just pull onto the sidewalk and drive/park by where we are walking. They seem safe and haven’t bothered us… just something a little different.
11. Great coffee – Good, cheep coffee is abundant. Katie has relied on many cappuccinos to get her through our crazy jet lag. Forget asking for almond milk, soy milk, or even low fat milk.
12. No clothes dryers – The Dutch have washing machines, but we were curious when we couldn’t find a dryer. We thought maybe they were technologically advanced and finally combined the washer and dryer into one ultimate machine. Unfortunately, the Dutch just hang their clothes to dry. It’s not nearly as nice as a freshly dried towel or t-shirt, but I’m sure we’ll get used to it.
13. Face-wash is hard to come by – After searching many stores we finally found something that will hold us over, but this is definitely another thing Katie will be stocking up on next time we’re in the states.