12 ODD OBSERVATIONS ABOUT AMSTERDAM

I recently returned from a week-long trip in Amsterdam. It was an amazing time in an amazing city!

I made a number of observations about people’s way of life in Amsterdam. Things that seemed very strange to me as an American, but helped me realize that the American way of life isn’t the only, or even best, way to live.

Amsterdam also taught me some amazing life lessons that I think you’ll find interesting and helpful in your own life. I write about them after the list of 12 odd observations.

Here’s my list of 12 really odd observations about Amsterdam:

#1 – Young children are transported in cargo bikes.

Instead of the typical bicycle seat in the back of a bike, young kids (about 5 years old and under) sit in a wagon-like area located in front of the handle bar, behind the front wheel. See the picture above (usually an adult is on the bike..ha..ha.)

This area can fit a few kids depending on the size of the cargo area.

Since most people get around on bicycles rather than cars, these cargo bikes seem to be the primary way parents get their young children to and from school each day.

I was shocked to see how many kids live in the city. I would say there are about the same amount as you would see in a typical suburb in the U.S., which means there are thousands of young kids each morning going to school in cargo bikes. Older kids ride their own bikes.

No mini-vans, but lots of cargo bikes. It’s an amusing sight to see.

2. The coffee is made for tiny people.


(Picture: This is my thumb. Notice how big the coffee cup filled only halfway in comparison. Craziness.)

Every morning I have 2 cups of 12oz. coffee. I went on the trip wanting to experience the famous cafés of Amsterdam.

I was disappointed to discover the coffee is made for tiny people. More specifically, it’s made for people about 1-2 feet tall.

The coffee cups are about the height of the my thumb, and only filled about 2/3 full. I take one sip and I’m done with a cup of coffee.

One time I ordered 4 cups of Americano’s costing me $12. I laughed out loud when given 4 cups, each about 2 inches tall, filled halfway. Insane.

After a few days, I finally found a Starbucks near my apartment and went there to grab my morning coffee each day. I was in heaven.

3. There are about 800,000 thousand residents and 1.2 million bicycles.

(Picture: I took this near Central Station. This was only about 1/4 of the bikes I was looking at as I took the shot.)

That means there are 50% more bicycles than people in Amsterdam!

Bikes are the main way people get around in Amsterdam. They’re everywhere.

Instead of car garages, there are bike garages. One garage near Central Station holds 2,500 bicycles (many more bikes than you see in the pic above), and when I passed it at 10pm it was nearly filled to capacity.

If not in a garage, bicycles are parked along the sidewalks everywhere you go. A typical street has hundreds of bikes lined up as far as the eye can see.

For the most part, bikes are ridden on a special section of the sidewalk. This section takes up most of the sidewalk and is quite wide. During “rush hour” they get quite congested.

The bike sidewalks are only one way, which means there are people traveling on both sides of the sidewalk, going in opposite directions.

This makes is a daring adventure to walk across the street on foot. You have to look out for the bikes, cross the street, then go across another bike lane.

There were a number of times I wasn’t paying attention and almost got hit by a bicyclist. Crazy.

4. Mopeds and tiny cars are allowed on the bike path.

(Picture: A tiny car you see all over Amsterdam. It’s about the size of a go cart. Hilarious!)

It’s quite a site to see mopeds and a special type of tiny 2 passenger car travel on the bike path.

For 2 days, my transportation was solely on a bike. A number of times mopeds zipped by, just inches away from me.

They have a way of sneaking up on you. It can be really frightening.

5. The toilet and shower/sink are in separate rooms.

We stayed in an apartment that had the toilet in one room, and the shower/sink in another room on the other side of the apartment.

I thought this was genius. My wife and I have a bathroom in our bedroom, complete with a toilet, sink and shower/tub.

When my wife is taking a shower and I have to do my business on the toilet, it can be quite awkward. We have the luxury of multiple bathrooms in our house, so I can always just go and use another bathroom.

However, if you only have one bathroom this would be a big issue. Especially if someone goes to the bathroom as much I do.

Solution – split them up. Genius.

6. Public toilets and urinals are in an enclosed room.

I hate stalls in public restrooms. The last thing I want to do is hear what the other person in the stall next to me is doing.

The toilets and urinals in Amsterdam public restrooms are enclosed. You open a door and have your own space all to yourself. Most of them are quite cozy too. So smart.

7. Public restrooms cost money.

(Picture: This is one of the public bathrooms you had to pay to use. Notice the walls are completely made of glass. You actually walk below ground level to use the toilets. Pretty cool)

Hey, if you have to go…it’s definitely worth it.

But if you really need to go and you have no cash or coins, boy you’re in trouble.

8. People are tall and thin.

It was quite common to see men over 6 foot 2 inches, and people for the most part are thin (maybe because they bike everywhere).

Although I indulged in a more than normal (but moderate) amount of desserts and foods loaded with sugar and carbs, I somehow lost about 5 pounds during my trip.

If you need to lose some weight, go live in Amsterdam for a few weeks.

9. The waffles and pancakes are the best in the world!

(Picture above: Pancakes in Amsterdam. I ate plain one and Adam has one loaded with all kinds of goodness.)

(Picture: Real Belgium waffles.)

Amsterdam has real Belgium waffles, which consist of a unique sugar melted in the dough. They’re crispy on the outside, soft & sugary on the inside. Mmmm…so good!

The pancakes are very thin, like crepes here in the U.S. You have lots of options to put on the top, like: bananas, whipped cream, ice cream, Nutella, etc.

If you visit Amsterdam, go to Sarah’s Pancake House.

They have the best Belgium waffles and pancakes on the planet.

10. There are over 165 canals in Amsterdam.

That’s a lot of canals.

When it gets really cold, the canals freeze, and I think you can ice skate on the canals.

That’s pretty cool.

11. Coffee shops sell pot, not coffee.

Apparently I was the only person who did not know Amsterdam legalized pot. I also didn’t know they legalized prostitution either.

For some reason, they name the places that sell pot “coffee shops.” That’s odd, since pot and coffee don’t really go together. Or maybe they do? Hmmm.

These coffee shops are everywhere.

Although I didn’t smoke any pot, I would have probably tested positive after spending a week there. Only because I inhaled it secondhand, walking the streets of Amsterdam for seven days.

12. The elevators don’t have doors.

The elevator at the apartment we stayed in had no doors. That’s funny.

Now, each floor has a door that is locked and automatically opens when the elevator arrives. This is much more efficient in my mind.

Another interesting fact is that the elevators are really quiet. There is no “ding” when it arrives. On multiple occasions I was chatting with Adam, my travel buddy, and the elevator had arrived without us knowing it.

WHY I WENT TO AMSTERDAM

I went to Amsterdam with my son’s 18 year-old uncle, Adam, who attended a world wide tricking gathering.

Tricking is a mix of martial arts, tumbling, and a bunch of other things involving flips, twists and more. It’s pretty cool.

LIFE-LESSONS LEARNED

LIFE LESSON #1 – MY EYES WERE OPEN TO THE BEAUTY OF PHILOSOPHY, ART, AND HISTORY.

Neither of these three things interested me before the trip. On a scale of 1 to 10 my interest level was -10 in all of them.

But my eyes were opened to their beauty while in Amsterdam, which has a deep relationship with philosophy, art and history.

First, let’s talk philosophy.

One day I walked by the front of a store in the Centre called School of Life. It peaked my interest so I tried to go in, but it was locked. Later that day, I looked up their website and found easy to digest videos on ideas from some of the top philosophical minds who ever lived.

Here’s some thoughts from Plato, a student of Socrates, and one of the fist great philosophers:

  • Think more. Don’t blindly do what everyone else is doing. If a person of influence communicates an idea to you, think and process it on your own before accepting it as truth.
  • Let your lover change you. Your lover should not be like you, but someone who has qualities you lack. The right person helps us grow to our full potential. A couple should love each other exactly as they are right now, but should help each other become a better version of themselves.
  • Decode the message of beauty. Beautiful objects (like art, a really good book, the sunset at the beach, a thought provoking movie, etc.) are whispering truths to us about the things that really matter in life.

Wow, that Plato guy was one smart dude.

Here’s some wisdom from the Stoics:

  • When you experience anxiety or fear about something, imagine the worse case scenario and realize you’ll be okay. You’ll survive.
  • Anger is what we experience when misplaced hope smashes into unforeseen reality.
  • My translation from the Stoics’ teachings: Expect life to suck. That way you’re not disappointed or angry when it does. Learn to find peace regardless of circumstances. I also believe the flip side of that is to always hope for the best, move towards a better future, but just don’t be shocked when life sucks and doesn’t go your way.

We’ve seemed to lose the importance of philosophy here in the United States. That’s unfortunate.

Some of the greatest thinkers of all time have a lot of important truths that challenge our beliefs and values.

Beliefs and values that need to be challenged for us to become better people and contribute to the lives of others in significant ways.

Ok, that’s enough philosophy.

Next, let’s talk history.

I visited the Amsterdam Museum and discovered the rich history of the city. It’s been around since about 1,000 A.D. That’s a pretty long time ago.

I found the city’s history to be fascinating.

Discovering Amsterdam’s deep history helped me realize the importance of learning from past mistakes.

I visited the Anne Frank house and got chills as I walked through the very room she lived in for 4 years while in hiding from the Nazis. I walked through the house she and her family, along with one other family lived in. I felt the reality of the words she wrote in her diary and the emotions that jumped from the pages.

The story of Hitler and the Nazis teaches us to love and accept people of all races.

Yet, racism still exists both in big and small ways. Why? I don’t know.

We all need to learn from the past. Our world. Our country. Our lives.

After all, how often do you continue to make the same stupid mistakes over and over again?

It’s only when you take time to reflect on your life that you can embrace your failures, learn from them, and move forward.

Lastly, let’s talk art.

My favorite quote from Aristotle: The purpose of art is to make profound truths stick in our minds.

I have a very wide definition of art. Art is anything that moves you in some way. It could be a good book, song, movie, documentary, or photograph. Or it could be something else.

Art has a way of bringing the important stuff of life to the surface.

Maybe we should spend more time fixing our eyes on art and less time numbing our minds with an endless amount of distractions.

We might even find that we have some art of own to create, and in the process make the world think more deeply about the things that really matter.

LIFE LESSON #2 – MAKE CONNECTING WITH OTHERS A PRIORITY.

I spent most of the 7 days in Amsterdam hanging out with Adam.

We had some deep conversations about life. Not the surface kind of stuff most people talk about, but the kind of stuff that really matters.

I learned a lot about him, and he learned a lot about me.

We discovered some things we have in common, and really listened to each other when sharing beliefs or views on life that were different.

I think we both left Amsterdam better people through our time together. I know I did.

That said, one thing that I’ve been really improving on is connecting with people. I’ve been a bit of a hermit over the last four years, keeping my distance from deep relationships with others.

About two months or so before the trip, I made it a goal to connect more with others.

Since then, our family is much more intentional about nurturing our relationships.

I’ve made it a point to invest in some real relationships with some other guys.

And then this trip comes along and I’m reminded how more enjoyable life is when you do it together with other people. People that bring out the best in you. People who encourage and uplift you. People who inspire you to do great things.

We all need people in our lives like this. I’m discovering the key is to make it a priority. The last couple of months I’ve had to make relationships a priority over my work/business on many occasions.

That’s not natural for me, but I am a work in progress.

What about you…do you have people in your life who know you deeply and you know deeply? People who accept you as-is rather than judge you?

If not, find some. Make it a priority.

Well, thanks for reading this entire blog post.

I hope it’s brought value to your life in some way.

– Nick Diliberto

6 Responses to “12 ODD OBSERVATIONS ABOUT AMSTERDAM

  • Linda Fullmer
    2 years ago

    Great stuff, Nick. You make me chuckle and think.

  • LERATO TUNZI
    2 years ago

    WOW! I AM APPALLED BY YOUR EXPERIENCE NICK! THIS IS WHY I LOVE TRAVEL & TOURISM. YOU GET TO EXPLORE!

  • a Dutchy
    2 years ago

    I find it interesting to read your viewpoint on Amsterdam, the capital of my country. Thank you for sharing that! I helps me to have a new, refreshed, and appreciating view on my own country and culture 🙂

    • Nick Diliberto
      2 years ago

      So glad you found this blog post. The Netherlands is an amazing place. Glad you found this helpful!

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