Knowing the Dutch is an amazing experience and trying things the Dutch way is another fun. Ten years ago when I first sat in the metro, I could not stop being amazed at the height of the people.
I could not believe people could be so tall that they have to bend to stand in the metro. Being an Indian, I could not relate to girls being as tall as men touching the roof of a train. I was overawed by them. My mother’s words started ringing in my ears-” whenever you come across an elevated soul –try look up to them”. But here in the Netherlands, I think the saying needs to go by literal meaning and not by the “figurative”. Meaning, you happen to actually look up at every tall Dutch, even if they are not an elevated soul. This happens naturally as your neck moves up while you are talking to them.
They are incredibly towering and they make average height people look like dwarfs. My Dutch neighbor Mr. Arie Groen was one such tall man who would make my inlaws feel so short when they visited us. Just for your information, Dutch are currently the tallest people on the earth.
One thing I still do not understand, if in general Dutch are so tall, why are their roofs so low and toilets so small?
Well people aside, to me, Amsterdam itself, looked like an ultimate beauty on earth. My first day out in Holland was spent walking by the canals, enjoying the look of frozen bikes, canals, and the beautiful bushes laden in snow. I was finding words to capture the beauty in my writing and indubitably I was falling short of expression for God’s lovely creation. For the locals, it was a usual sight but to me, it was like a fairyland and it still is.
Riding a bicycle in the Amsterdam city center and crossing the little bridges is considered the best way egt yourself acquainted with the city, but I found the boat ride equally good. We took the boat and enjoyed looking at the old townhouses, tall, narrow, and quaint buildings. The sight of houseboats gave the perfect impression of Dutch coziness and its importance to the local lifestyle.
We crossed through the most popular places in Amsterdam. These included the flower market, diamond traders, cheese shops, and, the museums.
Despite, the astounding exquisiteness around, the most scenic areas of Amsterdam looked quite modest to me. The air of prosperity seemed to reign without the display of excessive lavishness.
The online reports reveal that there are more than 8 lakh millionaires amongst 17.28 million inhabitants in the Netherlands. In spite of this high ratio yet, you will never find show off as a Dutch trait. They believe in being simple, frugal, and down to earth. This is highly impressive and no doubt, the world appreciates that. We were still so excited and were continuing to fathom the awesome Amsterdam.
Next, that flabbergasted me was the crowded, stacked cycle stands and the well-laid cycling tracks across the country. A prominent feature of this land that the world admires.
So well planned! The only word that my family could utter was “WOW, I want to be one of them”. In fact, a published report mentioned that there are around 881,000 bicycles, being used by Amsterdammers daily. What a number indeed!
Amsterdam is one of Europe’s most bike-friendly cities. The best part is most of the people follow rules at traffic signals that makes cycling a real experience. Don’t miss I said, “most” not everybody, so watch out for accidents as well.
Whatever you are a tourist, student, artist, parent, principal, director, lawyer, banker, or teacher all prefer to bike. No one can escape falling in love with it.
The feel of riding the bike took me back to my school days in India. I could not imagine after 20 years I will be one in the crowd in the Netherlands reviving childhood days. It did happen within the first few weeks of our coming to the Netherlands. Our first vehicle was my husband’s sports bike with some 27 gears. The next one was mine with 23.
I was never aware of cycles having so many gears until we bought our bikes. Within a month, we bought bikes for our children too and took our first step towards becoming Dutch.
However, that day, when I was overjoyed with the biking tracks, I found myself amidst a nasty gesture thrown by a Dutch woman. Something that I had only read but had then encountered. The lady shouted at me, “Hey you! You expats come to our country and don’t even know that biking tracks are not for walking”.
Mistakes happen and Dutch also walk on the biking tracks, but they are probably excused. Well, that was rude but trust me the day you do the same consider yourself as a typical Dutch. Everything rosy cannot make a full day…so there I had my share.