Amsterdive | Amsterdam based actress hosts you into her own amster-dive
Welcome to Amsterdive! I am Ana V. Martins, an actress turned content creative & social media wizard. I speak fluently Dutch, and I almost walk on water, too. Here I host you to my personal amsterdive. Selection of places & experiences in Amsterdam i find unique & ultimately make me happy. Arts & culture, alternative places & routes, stories and wonders.
When, at the first Amsterdive meet-up, I got prompted to write about the downsides of living in Amsterdam, I thought it was an unusual request. My readers know all too well that this platform centres on the positive, on what’s to celebrate about the city. I’m the type who loves a good creative challenge so I did promise them that I would write my take on the pitfalls of living here. I have written about it once before. Twice, actually. The prompt made me realise that the regulars at this site want to see the entirety of the picture, not a sum of parts. I think that some aspects I’ve parodied will be very recognisable to most people, others not at all. Here is my perspective (subjective, personal and all that) on the city of muddy canals and mad bikers after having lived here for seven years. Here we go.
Scene ONE – Winter’s a bitch
A couple of days ago, I shared a picture on my instagram stories of my morning face. With the gravity of the early hours of the day pulling down my facial features, I was basically a sloth. “I never wake up fresh and full of energy”, the caption read. An acquaintance suggested I increased the intake of raw fruits and vegetables in order to sort out the issue. The next day I got a text from a friend who’s living in the Caribbean. “While I was living in Amsterdam I woke up like that every day. I felt drained, and was struggling with daily headaches. I even went to the doctor and got my blood tested. Everything was fine. When we’re in The Netherlands, we get used to feeling like you do, but since I came here, ALL complaints were gone, just like that. Hey Ana, the sun is everything for us”. I knew what he meant with ‘us’. He meant ‘us’ Southern European, specifically ‘us’ Portuguese.
I thought that I had learned to cope with a colder climate. But the greyness, people. Gray skies can kill. “Am I depressed?” I wondered. A couple of days later a week of unusual February sun came, and I got magically cured. I was a positive person again who believes she’s blessed, and all that shit. I text back: “I think you’re right, man. NEVER again am I spending one entire winter in The Netherlands.
Scene TWO – CROWDY AF
It’s Sunday evening. I’ve spent the day working (yes, I am one of those) and, for dinner, I just want to grab something easy and not overly expensive because it’s Sunday evening, folks, why would I spend thirty euros on a meal out. I want a burger, a wrap, a pita, well, whatever form of decadently stuffed bread. And I want to read my book somewhere calm, with a cup of tea on the side. I know, I know, it is not easy to find a relatively quiet place where to read a freeking book in the evenings. Most places are noisy and hasty, but I’m determined.
Eventually, I have an idea that sounds brilliant: movie-theatres! That’s the type of mellow environment I am craving for. I live close to De Hallen which, as you guys might know, is a former tram depot that houses both a huge food hall and a movie theatre. De Hallen is the most crowdy place on earth but, again, it’s Sunday. Tomorrow people are working. I am sure that I can get my fast food there and go read at the cafe that serves the cinema.
As I enter the food hall, the annoyance takes over. There’s no seat to be found. On top of that, a lousy vegetarian burger seems to cost fifteen euros now. Urgh. Oh wait, this is why I’ve sworn I was never going back to De Hallen after past visits. Why do I forget my promises?! Eventually, I find a veggie burger under ten euros, and a safe corner where I can devour it while people-watching (at least that). I instagram-story my Sunday-drama and hurry to the cinema. Peace and quiet at last, and another promise that I am never going back to De Hallen which, I know all too well, I’ll be breaking next year.
Scene THREE – Tourists. I mean, bikes versus tourists. Oh well, bikes versus the world.
I breathe deep. I am not cycling the route Haarlemmerstraat – Central Station – Nieuwmarkt for the longest time. Today I have to, as I’m meeting friends somewhere in the East. I know how it goes already. On the Haarlemmerstraat I’ll feel like I’m about to have a stroke every two seconds. Whether it’s a scooter going a thousand miles an hour that honks right before me (it is on purpose, right?). Or the sudden stop of a delivery truck that blocks the already narrow street, causing bike traffic turmoil, with cyclists trying to overtake each other from the left and right sides of the monster. Then there will be two more of these monsters. And, out of the blue, an old lady with her walker-rollator trying to cross the road and who, thanks to a spectacular swerve, I manage not to kill. Or this crossroads where twenty cyclists face each other, and attempt at moving out of the standoff All. At. The. Same. Time. Special mention to the pizza boys on electric bikes, never older than thirteen, riding as fast as the scooters do, equally life-threatening.
By the time I get to the Prins Hendrikkade I’m almost vomiting my heart out. But the worse is yet to come: the tourists. There will always be one (or one hundred) confused tourist crossing the road without taking the slightest look around. And when you think you had seen it all, hey, there is always worse: taxi drivers. I’m pretty sure that those boxed humans intend to murder every two-wheeler they catch sight. When I try to cross the road in front of the Victoria Hotel the battle for survival is real. Bikes vs tourists vs scooters vs taxi drivers vs delivery trucks vs bike-taxis vs AH delivery bikes vs tourists on bikes.
Delivery trucks, AH delivery bike
I used to work at the former ‘In de Olofspoort’ in the city centre (RIP to its soul) and had to follow this route every single day. It’s going to be two years that I have stopped. I do feel nostalgia for ‘In de Olofspoort’ at times but taking the decision not to work in the city centre has been the best move I have ever made for my mental health.
Scene FOUR – Oh-My-God-Dutch-people-are-so-cold
Every sentence that starts with “Dutch people” makes me start shivering. It’s the people who are cold, the food that is bad, the language that is horrible, the canals that are dirty, the weather that is even worse. Some expats complain because nobody will speak Dutch to them so they won’t have the chance to practice the language (I understand, it’s disheartening), but many of them will complain about Dutch people speaking Dutch (!). “I feel so left out at conversations in my office, it’s so difficult, Dutch people are so distressing, they are always speaking in Dutch”. One thing I run away from like the plague is the whining expat who has been living in Amsterdam on a high paying corporate job for ten years, doesn’t speak the language, and has a dislike for basically everything (except for King’s Day; Kings Day is nice) and, despite being unhappy, doesn’t do anything about it other than complaining as if their life depended on it. This is also the same person who will leave for another high paying job somewhere else and rent their apartment to other fellow expats for triple the market price because, why not.
Scene FIVE – Sorry, I don’t speak Expat
I was dancing at this bar with some acquaintances at the end of a working day. At a certain point, a friend of a friend tries to engage in a conversation. Now, I’m usually welcoming to new people. However, the only thing that I could feel in that situation was pure dread. Because I could see it coming. I knew exactly how the interaction would develop. After seven years of every single convo starting like this, I can’t even.
Where do you come from?
Oh my god, Lisbon, Lisbon is my favorite city in the world, last year I was there on holiday, and the people, and the weather, and the yellow trams and the pasteis de nata, and everything is so cheap, it’s amazing. Why are you even here?
What do you do for a living?
For how long have you been living in Amsterdam?
Do you like it?
Where in the city do you live?
Do you speak Dutch?
Are you planning to stay?
Do you miss “home”?
Do you go back often? I would go back all the time if I were you because pasteis de nata and the weather, and oh my god everything is so cheap, and by the way, Dutch people are so cold.
So after he asked the first couple of questions I’ve interrupted him. Sorry man, don’t take this personally, but today I can’t. I’ve proceeded to explain why I wasn’t willing to tell my story for the zillionth time, after a full day of work, which very often included me having to tell my story to different internationals I didn’t know personally. I tried to do this in the friendliest and most summarised way that I could. At first he raised his eyebrow, but then he seemed to have understood my point. So we’ve shifted to discussing our drinks of choice. Then, our taste in music. We cracked a few jokes. And I had a sigh of relief. Because, at that point, whatever bullshit that came to mind was more interesting than having the same old expat Q:A, yet another time. It’s like, talk to me about the weather.
She was happy though.
Scene SIX – Public transportation is the wild wild west
There I am, in front of tram 26 because, god knows why, my dentist is located at that remote site that goes by the name Ijburg – a 12 minute-tram-ride. Once said tram arrives and doors open, it’s the wild wild west. No women, no men, indeed not children or teenagers: nobody will respect any line nor basic rule of civilness. Not even the elderly. It will be a mass of bodies crammed against each other to see who gets inside first. The appearance of an older person with a walking stick will make nobody have a surge of generosity, and apparently, no remorse will follow either because people remains motionless and still as statues. Giving up your seat in favour of an older person is something unheard of in and around Amsterdam.
I can think of a couple more situations of this nature. The granny who tried to cut in line when waiting for our turn at the Stadsschouwburg’s cloakroom (and who looked at me in utter shock when I politely called out on her behaviour). The man who saw me about to park my bike on a free spot on the bike rack and, in spite of it, hurried to park theirs first. The people who were standing in line behind me at the supermarket and who run to a new cash register as it is opening regardless of me having been first in line, or irrespective of each other. The cyclists’ behaviour is the pinnacle of it all. And hey, I’m one of them now: one of the savages on two-wheels. I can’t possibly get used to the public transportation and queue madness though.
Scene SEVEN – Blackface, or don’t take away my tradition otherwise I might scream
Once upon a time, there was a country that was considered one of the most progressive in the world but still maintained a retrograde tradition which included a heinous caricature of people with color. It was an international embarrassment. In that said country, the autochtonous screamed that the Blackface practice didn’t intend to harm, people had been raised with it so under no pretext could you take their childhood memories away. That a once innocent-felt masquerade might have had an ugly origin (and therefore an ugly meaning) seemed too hard to bear so let’s focus the conversation on the innocence of children, shall we? Couldn’t they see that the slav, excuse me, “helpers” were black because they had had to climb up and down a chimney?! History in general and Colonialism in particular could have absolutely nothing to do with Blackface, this time. Like, please?
Year after year, the autochtonous failed to realise the intrinsic racism of the practice and religiously passed it on to their children who would later scream, like their parents had, that they too had been innocent. Children are so pure. All of this turmoil wasn’t fair after all because it was THEIR culture, and nobody had the right to mess up with THEIR fun and blah. In the meanwhile, nobody broke the cycle because tradition is holy. Despite not intending to harm, the autochthonous kept on harming. People of colour kept on feeling belittled and dehumanised, more or less consciously. In fact, people of all colours and walks of life progressively stood up against Zwarte Piet (Black Piet). A tradition that portrayed racist stereotypes cannot have a place in a society that stands for Human Rights. And yet, every December there he was, this white-bearded man on a horse in fancy red garments and a hat, distributing presents and sweets, followed by “helpers” who were all small and dumb and naughty and very black.
Why blackface is still part of Dutch holidays - YouTube
Feel free to let me know your thoughts on all this. Debate and constructive critique are welcome!
This story is dedicated to Linda, Jan, Giulia, Bernardo, Vanessa, Shari, Theodora, Sima, and Pavlina
We did it. And I’ve promised you a piece of writing on it. Here it is.
On a sunny Saturday ten of us came together at cultural cafe Oko Melting Point in Amsterdam. You had seen the event on Facebook. Or perhaps you saw a mention on Instagram, or maybe you got the newsletter. In any case, for some reason, every single one of you thought it was a good idea to trade free access to vitamin D for this thing called “Hear Here – An Amsterdive meet-up”. And you really were there. Not the way that we sometimes show up to a networking event. You guys were actually present, which was the core value of the meet-up.
I started by telling you a story about my grandfather. How he made an impact at a certain point in my life for the fact that he had retained one precious slice of information about me. He still knew the answer I gave as a child when someone asked me what I wanted to become when I grew older. But here’s what I didn’t tell you: I never had much contact with this grandpa of mine. From all of my family members, he was the least likely to know. Or so I thought. Yet, the very fact that he was present when we came together changed everything. He was far from imagining he’d be the main character in a gathering I’d organise almost ten years after that day in which he reminded me: “Whether a painter, whether a writer”.
If life were a movie, after the epiphany I had at my grandpa’s place at 25 years old, I’d have thrown myself into furious creation. I’d sat down and written every day at my desk overlooking the river Tejo in Lisbon until I had finished a book. I would’ve created a blog, written daily blog posts about life in a then relatively desolate and unknown capital city and became “THA blogger”. Or I would’ve picked up painting again. I would’ve visited my father. Make him teach me his techniques and pencils would’ve saved my life.
Instead, I sat down and had all these ideas that I didn’t put to practice. And I did try all these other things. I’ve studied Theatre at Uni so I did some acting after that. I’ve created blogs about art-house-cinema and about creative fashion. And a personal one. I put up a plan, together with a couple other folks, to renew an old movie-theatre and gloriously open it back to the public, which we never really acted on. I started a masters in Art and Communication which I dropped shortly afterwards to initiate a career as a chef. Working as a sushi-girl didn’t last because, in Portugal, that was really dog’s life.
The view from Oko
Jumping to NOW: I’m typing on my laptop from my living room and writing for likeminds and organising meet-ups that bring us together and give an extra dimension to this thing called Amsterdive. So blogging it is (what else?). Content creation, they call it in the meanwhile. I had devoted most of my adult’s life to blogs. Makes sense.
Life works in mysterious ways and, apparently, I had to try all of these things, and “fail” at all of them, and live all of these adventures, and travel, and love different people, to get here now. Some things remain mysteries partly. Why did it take me so long to embrace my creative path fully, why did I have to spend half my life procrastinating, why was it so difficult to get out of the “artistic closet” (still working on it), why so much resistance. I have the Freudian and the Jungian answers. Perhaps a more holistic overview of these struggles will be more clear in a couple of decades. These questions were the root that made me want to ask you, during the meet-up, about where you came from. Not the country, but the place that sets you alive. Is it music? Is it macrame? Is it backflipping? Can you remember your essence? What are you craving? I finished my grandpa’s story that afternoon with “and today I want to help YOU remember”. I hope you did. I hope it takes you less long than it did with me, but if it doesn’t, I hope you know it’s okay and we’re all trying to figure it out.
During the first “Hear Here” you all shared a stories about yourselves. We had coffee, tea, cake. Then we discussed topics like intimacy, creativity, purposeful work, change, inspiration, stability, making friends, making time for reading and for long walks. All of them brought by your thirsty brains (was about to say thirsty beings but then I wondered if it sounded too alien-like). We dived deep, which was all I could wish for the meet-up. Later, I met Jan @instamsterdammer at a different event and, in between cocktails and a glamorous marketing speech none of us was very interested in, he whispers to me: “I realised the other day what happened at your meet-up”. I squinted. “People wanted to learn how to be (more) human”.
Thank you for your patience, my dear readers. Excuse me if it took me almost one month to write this thank you note and to review a meet that was, for me, one of 2019’s highlights. Maybe this is an apology to myself. For that, I made that kid who wanted to become a writer or a painter wait for too long. I want to create more. I want to create more consistently. I want to create. And I want to continue learning to be more human, as usual, having Amsterdam as the playground. Because now I know that I’m not alone in this.
P.S. You guys requested I wrote two articles. One on the downsides of living in Amsterdam. The next one on why is it important to learn Dutch as a foreigner. I’m on it.
In the break of two appointments in the Spiegelkwartier I find myself taking a stroll along the bustling Spiegelgracht, a route favoured by a million tourists every year. I’d just gone on a private Rijksmusem tour (check it out here, if you wish) and while my mind was reproducing Jan Steen’s households and Rembrandt’s merchant couples, and going through possible words to convey the nuances of my blogger’s friend voice while she spoke of how Van Gogh got inspired by the latter, my eyes got stuck in these prints of human body parts, and colourful birds, and canal houses, displayed in wooden boxes by both sides of an open door. I step back to read the sign above me and almost get murdered by a furious cyclist. Jumping back to the sidewalk prooved equally life-threatening, with me having to squeeze between a wall of passer-by’s until I finally managed to take a breath and look up. It said, Antiquariaat Hoogkamp.
Spiegelgracht & the Rijksmuseum in the distance
The human body parts got my full attention for a while. A heart and its arteries and auricles at first, afterwards, an image of the dissection of eyes, in a sort of minimalistic vintage style. And then the epiphany: my best friend’s birthday was around the corner, and not only was I NOT going to forget it, I’d also send him a present over to northern altitudes, where he lives. That was it, perfect excuse to BUY. I grabbed the eyes and walked into the little store, and over to the counter, where a white-haired gentleman was busy doing some math. I looked around, and found myself surrounded by hundreds of line engravings depicting elements of the natural world (animals, trees, botanical elements) and peculiar images of Amsterdam (canals, boats, traditional houses, popular monuments). “Are you Mr. Hoogkamp?”. He was, and he was into small talk as well. “There are not so many authenthic local shops anymore around town. I am so happy I’ve found you”, I declared, while the gentleman was packing the print. “Is this a gift?”, he inquired, followed by a “What’s your friend’s name?”. I smiled at what I assumed to be plain personal curiosity. As I answered, he proceeded to write the name on a piece of paper, in a delightful old-school lettering style, which he attached to the print. I felt exhilarated. I was sending in a gift, as opposed to my usual birthdays blank, AND I was sending something personalised as well.
“It’s not easy, you know. To stay in business while big money takes over. Someone told me I should open an online store instead but, you see, I’m just one man. I do all this on my own.”. In a world of virtual commerce and mass production, I told him how valuable and special his physical store was. Yesterday, when brainstorming on what to write about for my first ever Spotted by Locals article, I suddenly knew. I would tell everyone about it. The local gem with a real person inside, who still does everything by himself, and doesn’t maintain social media accounts. The place where you can get a precious souvenir you won’t find anywhere else, nor be able to order online. The local shop where, on a sunny afternoon, Mr. Hoogkamp made me feel just a little bit more human, in between appoinments, at the Spiegelgracht, in Amsterdam.
Prints, prints and more prints
Let me know your thoughts! // If you have appetite for more stories hop on Amsterdive’s Instagram, YouTube channel, and Facebook for some cross-channel goodness.
“Do you think it’s possible?” – I questioned while moulding sourdough. Tom, my new friend, was teaching me the wonders of making bread with your own two hands while slicing limes for mojitos at the same time. That morning we had make wholewheat pancakes for breakfast, now we were making bread loafs, and I had just asked if we could make wholewheat pizzas for dinner. Apparently, Tom could make just about anything. He was the kind of person who grew vegetables on his own garden, and chicken, and repaired stuff, and travelled half of the world on his own and – not unimportant – also had an excellent music taste. Curious fact, he was surnamed after de Windt. Take off that Belgian “t” and, there you have, a poetic promise of greatness.
The perfect pancake
It was the first time ever that I was making bread. In my head, making pizza from scratch would be sort of the next logical step. “Do you think it’s possible?”, I cautiously asked, afraid I was asking too much. “Of course!” he replied immediately. “Of course! Everything is possible”, and he handed me a glass of mojito. “Here, try it.”. No one had ever told me that everything was possible. No one. Not even my dear mother, who thinks I am capable of everything. And no one had ever told me so with such conviction. I sipped the tasty liquid, trying to process, grinning like an idiot. It was not about the bread, nor the pizzas, anymore. The energy of that guy and the underlying mindset of his words were what struck me. Could it be that upon having an idea someone wouldn’t even question the convenience of the feasibility of it? Did people like that even exist?
Tom, and the experiences we’ve shared together during that trip, all were a source of inspiration for years to come. So when I started creating videos for my YouTube channel and decided that I wanted to interview everyone who’s been an inspiration for me, Tom was high on the list.
Mum, I’m on YouTube!
YouTube channel?, I can hear you say, what are you talking about? Yes, I have a YouTube channel to which you can – I hope you will – subscribe here. It’s interesting because whenever I tell a friend that I’m doing this they say that they had no idea and that I don’t promote my work enough. So here I am doing the thing: telling everyone about it: I HAVE A YOUTUBE CHANNEL. I’m a newbie which is exciting because *possibilities*. A world of them. For now I need to reach this wonderful round number of 100 subscribers so that I can personalise the channel. This means that I NEED YOUR HELP. Yeah, like caps lock – dramatic.
As for Tom, you can get to know him here. We talked purpose, drive, spontaneity, meaningful work, and we intertwined all of it with the stories of how we met and how he started Pacha Greens, his business of organic micro-greens.
Let me know what you though of this venture. Looking to hear your impressions!
Friends. Possibly the question I get asked the most. How to make friends in Amsterdam.
I have written about this subject but felt reticent to create a ‘how-to’ post because of how personal it is. Telling someone how to make friends is similar to try to teach them how to ‘fall in love’ (hate this expression, but you get the idea). My ways to make friends work for me, and I guess everyone needs to find their own as there is no one-size-fits-all success formula. Nevertheless, the question keeps on coming – and especially so when folks realize I am also befriended with Dutchies -, so I guess it is a thing. I have promised a reader to write about this topic (Hi, F.!) , which is a strategy I’ve been employing not to procrastinate on blog posts. So here’s my take on the friendship thing. I hope it can be useful. Also, feel free to ask any question or to share your own impressions in the comments section! Here we go.
Pic. Tiago Rosado
The struggle with building a social and affective life from scratch is something akin to everyone who experiences moving countries. It is indeed an enormous task, and even more so when people come in positions of ‘relative comfort’ such as a good job, or together with a partner, which is the situation of many people I speak to. Why might comfort be a disadvantage? Well, what I’ve been observing tells me that when we have the convenience of a bit of comfort, we hold on to it. Our job is important so we work more; we are happy to have our loved one around so we seek solace in them which are, of course, sensible things to do. However, if you remain in your comfort zone… you know what tends to happen: nothing. The thing is, humans are not good at putting themselves in uncomfortable territory. It feels counterproductive. If this is your situation, you will have to make an extra effort. You see, the fact that I’ve arrived alone and jobless heightened my drive ‘to act’ on building my social life for my life ‘depended on it’. Seven years ago I was very open to pretty much everyone I had the slightest click with. I regarded them as my life-belt.
Long story short: for me, it all started with F., a good friend from my teen years with whom I used to go out partying back in the wild days. When I made the decision to move I sent him an e-mail asking if he could help me find accommodation in Amsterdam. He was the one to connect me to the girl who became my first flatmate, Miss K. When I arrived she was sort of my only friend. Then she introduced me to her friends and schoolmates. In the meanwhile I had been ‘networking’ like a freak. Before moving I reached out to bloggers I used to follow and checked if they were open to meet. I maintained a personal blog too so that helped in the way that they could see that, if nothing else, I was a “real person’ who could write. I also reached to acquaintances who lived here. One of those was so well-connected already that he introduced me to a great number of interesting people right from the start, mostly creative types, which was my drill. This combination of things has set me off to a good start. Then, there was daily effort.
At the workshop Meaningful Work and Money
When I arrived in the city my priority was quantity. The more people I met, the better. It was sort of a survival strategy that I have employed instinctively. I just wanted to avoid feeling lonely like the plague. This is how a frailty becomes a strength. Everyone I clicked with got an invition for a coffee / beer / party at my place / or a fun program together with the ‘friends’ I already had. Most people accepted. Sometimes I had to remind them of the invitation, with an e-mail or text – that was usually when we’d set a specific date to meet. From then on it’d usually flow. I met a few people just once or twice, but a few have become friends with who I started hanging out on a regular basis. There was another thing that helped: upon one month of my arrival, Miss K. and me started organising these parties at our place. We’d invite everyone we knew and tell them to bring whoever they wanted. I remember having 50 people in the house, and half of them I didn’t know, which was great: so many potential friendships! Also, everyone was thrilled to be invited to a party thrown by a complete stranger who treats them as a friend. People react very warmingly to generosity, I can assure you that.
Before I go on with some tips, I need to make a distinction here. Knowing a lot of people is different from having a lot of friends. I know a considerable amount of people in Amsterdam but I haven’t always had this many friends I know I can rely on. The quantity strategy will only work until a certain point. You will eventually end up feeling lonely if you act like more is better. Second step to my journey was narrowing it down, and finding a crowd that I resonated with. I didn’t find it in just one particular group of people. What is typical me is to have different groups of friends from various walks of life, social backgrounds, nationalities. But it sure was of massive importance to find my community of arsty / creative peeps with who I could identify. Those types tend to be more adventurous and spice life up a bit more, which makes me feel alive and, basically, not like I’m an alien.
If I had to generate some general rules of thumb for making friends, they would be:
# 1: Use the internet to your advantage: the power of the internet lies in the potential it has to bring people together and enable them to find their crowd. Reach out, reach out, reach out. Try to contact people in the same situation as yours. For instance, I only got responses from bloggers with a similar reach of mine. Everyone who was ‘bigger’ was simply too busy to reply as they probably had a lot of requests of different sorts coming in. Meet-up is an excellent way of meeting people with similar interests of yours. Instagram as well. I have met a lot of cool people at public instameets. Do you follow a few folks who live in Amsterdam who you relate to? Invite them for a coffee. Here’s an example of how I did that. I’ve heard of some Facebook groups that work really well, too. Do your research!
# 2: Do not refrain from showing interest and taking initiative: In case this is something you struggle with, know that this is also something that you can train. It will feel uncomfortable at first but, like everything else, it does get better with practice. Observation helps. It is true that I tend to be an extrovert but I haven’t always been this social: I’ve learned to be spontaneous through careful observation and example of outgoing people who surrounded me throughout the years.
# 4: Cultivate: Let’s say you already know a fair amount of people – you would just like to get closer to some of them. Invite them to a dinner at your place. Instead of throwing a general “what if we…” at people, take the initiative, and make it oficial. Make a Facebook event or write an e-mail, and be specific about when and where. People tend to respond only to concrete plans.
# 5: Understand the power of community: Bonding is what keeps people together, and they usually need context for that. Community gives context and creates unforgettable memories, which, again, makes people stick together. What I mean is, together we are stronger. Try not to be a separatist, like: on Monday I’ll meet up with Jan and on Tuesday with Tessa. It is more powerful if you bring everyone together and have everyone befriend each other. Okay, if you work at a huge company and you want to gather all of your coworkers at your place, perhaps this ain’t happening. But you can always invite all of the people to a concert you’re attending. Or simply, to drinks at the bar next door. Again, make specific and clear plans. ‘Who’, ‘when’, ‘where’, ‘why’, for instance: “Friday evening drinks to chill out after a work week”. If there’s no clear ‘why’ other than you wanting to socialize, say that something like “I’d love to dance with you all tonight” or “I’d love us to get drunk together” or “Let’s whine January away over massive amounts of cake”. This last one is optional because maybe you’re not into big groups. But you can do exactly the same thing with three friends of yours.
The last tip is self-explanatory but it has to be stated: negativity won’t take you anywhere. The reason why I’m saying this is the following. I meet a lot of people who express the desire to make friends only to start bitching about “Dutch people” in the next sentence. Many of them, I come to realize, have no clue about Dutch culture, but they think they know, they have read something somewhere, or ‘hear-say has it that’… I say, forget it. Forget all of it, even if you have had an unpleasant experience. Making friends starts with two basic things: curiosity and openness. When you come with a preconceived idea of how people will act, you will only confirm your worst suspitions. Forget everything you think you know about the Dutch, or whatever nationality for that matter. Start like a blank page, with genuine interest, and see where that leads you. You need to act on this one no matter how many times you felt you were rejected or unsuccessful. I do not believe that this one is conditional. I mean, sure, you will be able to connect through whining but the people who will be receptive to that mindset are the ones who are equally clueless and lonely, and most of them will end up leaving Amsterdam, sooner or later. And you’ll end up in the same situation again. It all boils down to: good people are attracted to positive energy and good intents. People make the place and, like it or not, you’re part of it now, so gather your energy, make an effort, and give it your best.
Now I look forward to hearing from you! What are your takes on making friends in a new country? Do you reckon with any of the above? What’s working for you? Feel free to share your experience as it might be of use to others!
It was 2013. I had just quit my hospitality job, and I didn’t have a plan. So I did what many of us do: decided to escape the burden of not knowing what to do with my life by going traveling. I booked an inter-rail ticket which would last for one month. Once it was over I’d see what I’d do. I had never travelled alone in my entire life, at least not more than five days in a row, and to places where I’d always visited friends. Right now I was travelling alone-alone, to countries where I didn’t know a single soul. I had worked enough to maintain myself for a few months without a job so there I went. I started in Italy.
Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Long story short, I surfed couches of strangers all the way: Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Serbia, and finally, Bosnia and Herzegovina. During the first month I used my inter-rail ticket. Mini-buses took me around Eastern Europe during the second month and a half. I did have a lot of guidance from my couchsurfing hosts, but they too had to work, and had private lives and busy schedules, so I’ve spent a good deal of time exploring unknown cities on my own. This was when I found a website that allowed for a turning point in the way I travelled: Spotted by Locals. From then on I didn’t have to waste time with touristy stuff and could dive directly into what really interested me: the places frequented by locals. The real life of the cities, thus. No more Lonely Planets nor guides written for the “general public”. Now I could travel ‘independently’ because I had access to the info I needed to navigate every city in the way I wanted, and could ditch the time spent on endless research, in favor of more time spent exploring. For a person like me who dislikes the hassle of travel planning, and tends to improvise as she goes, SbL was THE THING.
One of the first spots I discovered thanks to SbL, in Zagreb, Croatia
Two months and a half had passed when I finally retreated to Amsterdam. I hadn’t have any epiphany on what to do with my life as I had hoped, but one thing I knew: I wanted to write about everything I had experienced, from every country’s hidden gems to every single person I met. Connecting on such an intimate level with so many generous people who offered me a place to sleep, a meal, and their company, was life-changing. The kindness of complete strangers has never ceased to amaze me. In Amsterdam I got visited by many of those strangers-turned-friends. Three of them moved to Amsterdam, and became some of my best friends (!). Proud Amsterdammer as I was, I wanted every visitor to experience the very things I loved about my step-city. I shaped that love in itineraries and tips for everyone who stayed over. A couple of years later my blog Amsterdive became the center of my life. Spotted by Locals remained my trusted companion every time I traveled. I used it again in 2017 during my trips to London, Copenhagen and Oslo, that some of you might have followed on my insta-stories. Eventually, the sensible thing to do was to to give back to the community. In December 2018, I finally became a spotter.
Sympla, Budapest, Hungary
Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to present you with my first batch of articles for the Amsterdam blog of Spotted by Locals: here is a bouquet of my absolute favorites in the city I call home. Places where I’ve made my first friends and acquaintances, events that helped me ground and create roots in a new culture, locations where I fell in love. In the meanwhile I learned to speak fluent Dutch, changed jobs, saw romantic relashionships fall apart, moved houses countless times, had a nervous meltdown, crafted new professional paths. After seven years these remain THE SPOTS. Here are some remarkable moments tied to them:
At the Ping Pong Night I met one of my best friends, Linda Nouta. Funnily enough, I’ve never played Ping-Pong there for fear of embarrassing myself.
At the NDSM I’ve attended my first ever Burning Man event, have jumped naked in the Ij, and have fallen in love, among many other charming things.
At MKZ I have learned that a complete vegan meal can cost five euros as long as I am willing to wash my own dishes, seat at a communal table, and listen to punk rock during the course of the feast. Which I totally am.
At pub Soundgarden I made the first friends in this city and have played table-soccer tournaments as if there were no tomorrow.
I bought this year’s birthday gift for my best-friend at Antiquariaat Hoogkamp, and I swear you can find something there for you best-friend too.
That’s it for now, folks! Which spots did you already know, and which are a complete novelty? Tell me everything! In any case, I sincerely hope you get all itchy to go explore. Thank you so much everyone for reading!
My fashion taste in 2018 is, not only a game of casualty, but an ode to sustainability. None of these clothes were new when I got them. Most of what I wore in 2018 were gifts from people who came up to me and said: “I had this at home, I don’t wear it anymore. It made me think of you so here it is”.
Most of the times I prefer gifts that were previously owned by the person who’s bringing them over. It feels a little bit like “oh, they’ve chosen me to keep the wholy grail!”. Except that instead of wholy it is used, and instead of a grail, they’re skirts, sweaters, pants, earrings, bennies and the sorts. I’m a sucker for objects with a story. And it’s fascinating to see how random second hand gifts can end up defining my visual aesthetics so much. It’s like I don’t get to decide but “life” decides for me. Pieces I’m not fond of are returned to sender with a polite “Hmm, don’t think I could wear it” / “It’s not my size” / “The god of minimalism won’t allow me to take home a single extra piece of clothing”. Since the offer is honest in the first place, I get to keep only what I truly love, as opposed to something the other person bought especially for me and that politeness now holds me back from refusing. And, according to the god of minimalism (aka Marie Kondo), we should only keep what “sparks joy”. Without further ado let’s take a peek at the garments that sparked joy . Also, I encourage you to express love or hate for the outfits you’re about to put your eyes on. Especially if you manage to make me laugh.
2018 started like this (picture at your left). This dress was bought in Petticoat at the Jordaan neighborhood and it is an awesome versatile piece of fabric because it goes with everything. Combine it with the right accessories and you’re good to attend the most bizarre NYE party of the year. Get a tan and, again, the right accessories, and you’re ready to shine at a posh summer party.
My favorite summer dress. A gift from Viola, my Dutch teacher. She used to wear it in the 70’s. Now she’s 70 herself and she thought the dress would suit my body type.
Got this skirt at a very remarkable clothing swap, brought it with me unsure of if I’d actually wear it because it made me think of the hippies with dogs from the festivals of my adolescence. Now, I declare: this skirt is the best. It’s a two in one: you can wear it on both sides. All I need is to do is to combine it with a plain shirt and I’ve a cool outfit without even having to use my brain. By the way, I should wear my glasses more often.
I had good fun in this swimming suit, purchased at Marbles Vintage (Harlemmerdijk). I call it “my spacesuit”
A summer jumpsuit gifted by my yogi friend Catarina because it was too tight on her. “It’ll look amazing on you”, she said. Paired it up with with leggings once, and went to FOAM (right image).
And then Gay Pride came. I had this white dress hanguing in my wardrobe, but it is so short and sassy (and almost see-through) that I don’t feel especially comfortable wearing it in regular day-life. However this is total Pride-feel. And it helped raise my spirits. My dearest Elizabeth did, too!
My number one priority once I landed in Amsterdam was: FRIENDS. My fellow Portuguese countrymen kept asking: “What about the cold?”, “What if you can’t find a job?”, “What if the Dutch are nasty?”. Their worries were trifling to me. Weather conditions didn’t matter much, and as for work difficulties or complicated people, I mean, when you’ve survived Portugal during economic scarcity, you’re ready for everything. By then I knew that I could do without my family, without a job for a while, even without a home. The one thing that could make the enterprise of moving countries come to grief was NO FRIENDS.
No friends was a deal breaker for me. Here’s why: if you miss your family, friends usually act like one, especially in a city where everybody is on their own. In case you’re down for not having a job, a friend always cheers you up, plus they will probably come up with the most precious tips conducive to finding one. If you’ve got no home, a friend will offer you theirs. It’s this simple.
For my family’s greatest horror, during my first month in Amsterdam I did not work. All I did was make friends. I spent a couple of afternoons job hunting and, the rest of the time, I socialised, went places, made appointments, met-up with people. I could endure everything except for being alone in the world. As you might imagine I became much more open than what I was back in my homeland, and I dropped any sense of shame when it comes to expressing a desire to stay in touch with someone, and do stuff together. And I can’t remember a time in which my initiative was not well-received.
Seven years forward my idea of family has been reshaped. I have always believed that family was a concept that went way beyond blood ties. Nowadays, I couldn’t be more sure of that. For me, the biggest treasure in the world are still my friends. My inside is now screaming cheeeesyyyy!, and also but it’s truuuuuueeee! This long introduction brings me to Bianca Alexiuc. Bianca is someone I got close with last year, following a photoshoot for Tula Amsterdam, of which result I absolutely adored. This girl is special. It’s not only the way that she looks at things, it’s her comforting energy, how committed she is to her work and how insightful. And it’s also about the quality of the attention she gives you. I knew that Bianca is currently focusing on family photography. This fact sparked an idea: what if she came over to photograph my modern family?
I decided to have the signing of the rental contract for my apartment as an excuse to celebrate. This is a meaningful event because, if I don’t burn down the house in the meanwhile, I can stay here for as long as I want. If you live in Amsterdam or read this post, you know how big of a deal this is. And I said, come for late brunch. It was a last-minute thing and, despite the fact that a couple of them couldn’t make it, I still had with me some of my most cherished friends in this city. How I met a few of them does make for a great story as well.
We were all sitting at the table engulfing food like happy piggies when Bianca showed up and joined the feast. Before we knew, it was time for the family photo. In order to recreate the mood, just click the song below. This was our soundtrack for the shoot (I’m bloody serious).
Then Tico, the cat, joined us while the other cat was hiding in the closet. From here I’ll let you guess the stories that brought me together with these ones: there were two people in this group that I met in Serbia (!), someone I met online, someone I met at the Dutch course, someone I met at late late hours at Pacific Parc, someone I met via my Frisian ex-partner, someone I met at a house viewing. And oh, my cats came all the way from Portugal.
Having these creatures around makes my bad hair day depicted in the photos utterly unimportant. Because of them, my days are sweet and moving countries was piece of cake. The only thing I’m missing here is an ugly sweater. But I’ll keep that one for the next late brunch.
Might you want to join your own family for a photoshoot, call Bianca for the job. In case my modern family doesn’t convince you, her portfolio will.
Thank you so so much, Bianca, for registering my modern family. Oh, in fact, thank you so much for being part of it too.
It’s all in the name: Dance Connects Company. This modern dance company is here to bring together people of all ages by the way of movement and, since connection is my drill, there I went to the Amsterdams Theaterhuis, on a freezing cold Saturday evening. I knew that Rita, a friend of mine, was dancing with them. I really wanted to finally see her on stage.
Abstract performances are never easy to put to words and the non-verbal is where the magic lies for me. I’m so tired of intellectualising everything that I love it when I watch something that fulfils me by the way of the senses, and stays within a realm of perception that doesn’t necessarily asks to be translated to language. In any case, there are always ideas that you formulate during an experience of this kind, oftentimes a story. The story that played in my mind while watching [mi:t] was a matriarchal one.
At [mi:t] I saw women of all shapes, sizes, ages, degrees of proficiency in movement, all together on the stage, as one organism. One big family. They took me on a journey of life seasons. I saw myself, and my mother, and the grandmas of this world, and my mother wanting to reach out to me, and me ebbing towards her and flowing away, and being sometimes fierce and hard, and other times understanding and loving, and my best girlfriend was there, and my girlfriends and their mothers, and their struggles and encounters. All the women I know were there somehow, with bodyshapes and a palette of emotions that I can recognise, as a woman myself. Women NOT trying to “empower each other”, not glamorizing their lives, not TED talking. Women being women. Expressing their needs. Mirroring each other. Allowing themselves to be seen and acknowledged, #nofilter.
These are the women I know. Women who say, this is my story, and who own it and their bodies, and their very presence in the world. Not in-your-face, not wanting to prove anything, not wearing a t-shirt with the letters f e m i n i s t grouped together, just in case you didn’t understand. Yet, their presence exploded life in all directions.
And then there was the beauty of the organism, and a sense of delicate rawness in the movements of the dancers, and the live music adding poetry to it all.
I’d say, go watch it because you’ll get inspired. As simple as that.