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  • Juan Ignacio

3 things that strike me about Amsterdam

Even within Europe you can feel a cultural shock, sometimes in places where you didn't expect it...Let's hear it from Juan which surprises Amsterdam had prepared for him!

Photo: Glove free supermarkets in the Netherlands

As you may imagine, I am an ordinary guy, not much different from most people, so I don’t see the point of posting my daily routine or minor adventures here, after all nobody cares about that except, maybe, my mother and my girlfriend. In spite of this, I would like to share some concerns about living abroad that have to do with culture shock.

To be honest, at the beginning I thought that coming to Amsterdam wouldn’t have any kind of impact on my mind, since we are all Europeans and not that far from each other, right? But then, I remembered last year when I moved to live in a town 100 km from mine and, against all odds, I was rather shocked by how suicidal people were behind the wheel, and my naiveté vanished.

1. Buying fruit at the grocery.

Back in Spain you have to wear plastic gloves to take the fruit that you want to buy so that you don’t “contaminate” the rest of it. So, the first time I went to a grocery I looked for the gloves and I wasn’t able to find them. I waited a bit to see what people did or where they took them from, “when in Amsterdam do as Amsterdamers do”.

I found out that in the Netherlands you don’t need to do that, they don’t actually have gloves. I know it might sound dumb, but, at first, I felt traumatised, not by the “polluted” fruit but by the simple action of grabbing an apple with my bare hand at the store. I had this feeling of doing something really bad, like a sin, and that someone might be looking at me and about to say “Hey! Use gloves!”

2. Drinking with teachers.

Some teachers in Spain act like demigods, they are too important to deal with human necessities. Some friends of mine even have this theory that when they get back to their office they turn themselves off until the next lesson.

The fact that one of your teachers or tutors here keeps reminding that you should go with them for some drinks, at first makes you chuckle. Then you realise that after all you are people who spend time together and that there is nothing wrong in getting to know each other better and talking about things that you wouldn’t be able to in class, so I decided to try it and it turned out to be a good idea.

3. Bikes are not that bad.

The first time you put a foot in these streets you might be overwhelmed by all the bikes, moving like herds through their own paths. But once you sit you butt on a bike saddle, and the pain is over, the experience is pretty enjoyable. Despite the motorbikes, the roads are quite safe and you can ride your bike almost anywhere.

My fear of them come from my hometown, where bikes must keep to the road most of the time, sharing space with cars. There aren’t many bike paths, and the few of them that there are, well, judge for yourself.

Photo: Not-so-cozy bike path in Spain

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My conclusion is that every move and every new city will cause culture shock, no matter how close you are to home, turning life into a constant little adventure.

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