• Student blogger

Dutch culture vs. life at home

Catch up with Josefine, our Semester in Amsterdam Blogger, and learn about the cultural differences that she has noticed in Amsterdam compared to her hometown Copenhagen, Denmark.


September has flown by so fast, and I can't believe it's almost October already. It feels like it went from 30 degrees to 15 and from sunny to non-stop rain in a minute. But I truly enjoy autumn and seeing the trees and the landscape changing color is so beautiful. Since beginning my studies at the university, I haven't had much time to explore the city. However, I have tried to get as much out of my weekends, and I have enjoyed going to all the markets and going for long walks along the canals and in the parks. My impression of the city so far definitely exceeds my expectations. I don't even know how to start describing this city. Amsterdam is truly unique. This city is so full of life in so many ways—the old aesthetic buildings, the beautiful parks, and the astonishing canals everywhere. No description will do Amsterdam justice – you must experience it to capture the atmosphere entirely.

A market stall selling sweet foods

Differences in atmosphere

I will give some examples that will hopefully give you an understanding of what it is like here. The other day, I was out biking and suddenly heard some music. I was biking in the middle of nowhere, so I couldn't understand where the music was coming from. I bike under a bridge, and a man is standing all by himself practising his saxophone. I wondered if the reason why he was practising in this kind of odd location might be because of the acoustics. Anyway, it sounded great and certainly put a smile on my face.


Another example is from the other day at VU, where a couple of students just began dancing salsa in the middle of the schoolyard during lunch break. Everybody was cheering them on, and the atmosphere was just full of joy.


These examples are just a few of many that capture the atmosphere of Amsterdam and the people here. It seems that nobody is concerned about what people think about them. They just live their lives. This is something I truly enjoy about the Dutch people, as they differ from Danes in this way. I have never seen a Danish man practicing saxophone under a bridge, and I have never experienced a couple of students dancing in the middle of a lunch break. I think most Danes might be too self-conscious to do something like that.


I have never seen a Danish man practising saxophone under a bridge, and I have never experienced a couple of students dancing in the middle of a lunch break. I think most Danes might be too self-conscious to do something like that.

Another thing I've learned about the Dutch people is that they are so friendly and accommodating. I figured the Dutch people would be similar to the Danish people, but I must admit, the Danes could learn something from the Dutch. At the VU and every store, restaurant, and café I have been to, the people will be so friendly and helpful, ask questions about where I am from, and engage in conversation with me. That is something I truly enjoy about the Dutch people.

A view of the Amsterdam canal bridges on a grey day

Lessons that Dutch learn from the Danes

That being said, there is one thing the Dutch people could learn from the Danes. It didn't come as a surprise to me to find out how many people bike in Amsterdam. But it did shock me to find out how few Dutch people are wearing bike helmets!? In Denmark, we also bike a lot, but most Danes wear helmets. But in Amsterdam, I still haven't seen one person wearing a helmet on a bike. So I must say that the Danes got the Dutch regarding biking safety.

Pancakes with butter and powder sugar and strawberries

The Amsterdam food-scene

As said before, I haven't had much time yet to explore Amsterdam that much, which also includes the food scene. However, when I get to go out and explore the city, that, of course, implies tasting as much of all the delicious food as possible. The food scene in Amsterdam is very diverse, and you can find whatever you want. From Indian to French food, from sweet to salty, and everything in between, you can find it all in Amsterdam. I haven't tried much of the local food yet, but I have eaten maybe 100 stroopwafels already – they are crazy good! Especially a fresh warm stroopwafel from a market! Another local food I have tried is, of course, the poffertjes. This Sunday, I went to one of the many pancake-houses they have here in Amsterdam, and I finally got to try the infamous poffertjes, which was also incredible! I must admit that there is one local food I have been dreading to try out, which is the herring. It might take a bit more courage for me to try it out, but it is definitely something I must try while I'm here.

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