A lot of what makes your experience when traveling to a new city is noticing the feeling you get while you’re there. Not surprisingly, the feeling I got when I was in Amsterdam was super freaking chill. The atmosphere here is so relaxed and so happy, you’re wondering if everyone is on drugs. And then you remember you’re in Amsterdam – OF COURSE everyone is on drugs.
I experienced many things while on this trip: I went to the Hemp, Marijuana and Hash museum, stood outside Anne Frank’s house, spent New Years Eve at a Moulin Rouge burlesque show, and even went to my very first Rave. I had such a great time doing all of these things, but they weren’t what made the trip for me. The three, extremely simple things that did, however, and thus instilling my love for Amsterdam, include the following:
1. Everyone Spoke English
So maybe I’m a little ignorant when traveling to foreign countries and expecting everyone to know my language when I don’t know theirs, but it is very intimidating to be in a place and not being able to understand what’s going on, so it’s really nice when that barrier is eliminated. Amsterdam, for me, was my Germany-feeling, English-speaking haven. Being able to go into a shop in Amsterdam and having everyone not only understand what I’m saying, but who also have the ability to converse flawlessly in return is such an absolute relief. I was instantly comforted, all because I felt like I was experiencing a foreign city without having the stress of not being able to understand a foreign language. SUCCESS.
2. Everyone Smoked Pot
I always found Canada’s criminalization of marijuana and marijuana users to be a huge mistake. I’m an advocate for its legalization, and after visiting Amsterdam, this sentiment has only be strengthened. Forget about the political, economical, and medical benefits for a minute, and just think about the psychological.
Everyone in Amsterdam was so RELAXED. Everyone was super chilled out and incredibly friendly, with not a care in the world. These people weren’t pot heads or addicts wearing tye-dye t-shirts singing Kumbaya in the streets. These were functioning, every day working citizens who just seemed happier. I mean, you cannot walk down a street in Amsterdam without smelling the aroma of weed. It is such an embedded part of every day life here, and the normalization of this plant is absolutely incredible. People have created a culture of acceptance and controlled utilization of marijuana, and are using it in a way that is benefiting themselves as well as their society. It was super cool to see these effects first hand, and to see what my own country could be like if it just took this same initiative.
3. Everyone Rode Bikes
I know that choosing to ride a bike over driving a car is great for the environment, and good for you for being so considerate, but I absolutely hate driving behind bikers. I never know where they’re going, I don’t trust them not to swerve out in front of me, and I hate having to slow to a crawl behind them since they’re only going ten kilometers an hour. It’s absolutely dreadful.
But Amsterdam? They got it right.
Everyone rides a bike here. It is the preferred mode of transport in the city, and it can be because the city has made it so – it is completely bike and car friendly, harmoniously bringing the two together. Alongside every single street, they have specified bike lanes, they have traffic signs and lights directing the traffic for cyclists, and because bikers are so common, they actually use the hand signals that they’re supposed to. I went out on a tour of the city on a bike and it was marvellous. No hassle at all; It was simple, relaxing and such an incredible way to experience the city. It is a lot easier to be environmentally friendly when your society shows it’s support by allowing this lifestyle to be as accessible as possible. It’s truly splendid.
I could go on about all of the touristy things I did and the parties I went to as well, but it isn’t anything you haven’t heard before. These pleasant surprises are what made the trip for me. These small, seemingly insignificant aspects of my trip made all the difference in the world, and are exactly what make Amsterdam so unique and special from all of the other places I’ve traveled to. I know these things don’t sound like much, and I know it seems a bit boring, but I’m telling you, these few tweaks in society had such an impact on all of the touristy things I did do. They’re what made the trip such a wonderful experience, and it just goes to show how big the small things in life can really be.