I have always dreamed of going abroad since my childhood and I am pretty sure that many people from different countries have the same feeling. I always found that learning about different cultures is always an interesting thing to do and interacting with new people also. That’s why when I got this opportunity ( because of the Learning Exchange Foundation) to come to Amsterdam I was super excited and to top my excitement I was going to work with a very well known architectural firm (RAU Associates), which was like a golden opportunity for me. I was really looking forward to the trip.
A truly unforgettable travel experience – that’s what the short visit to the Dutch capital meant for me. My wait was finally over and I reached Amsterdam on 11th August 2012. I met Rieki and Robert for the first time at the airport and I was very happy to see them. It’s hard to describe how I felt in those first few hours. Obviously the excitement of being in a new place was one of the major factors, but also being away from home for the first time and to top it the long flight from Delhi to Amsterdam could also be the reason.
Many people back home told me that things were different here, but what I found was a truly cosmopolitan city full of people and amazingly varied architecture. The next day I went to the city centre and it was quite an experience. It was a little crowded but that was maybe because it was a weekend but the city core was like a web with tree-lined canals, gabled buildings, curved bridges, cobblestoned streets equipped on every corner to accommodate the passage of strollers, bicycles and even self-propelled wheelchairs. This all sight was a really amazing thing to see for me. There were flower stalls brimming with gorgeous bouquets and the neighborhood bakeries bursting with the fresh breads that is a very important part of the meal for people here. I have never seen so many varieties of bread and cheese in my life. And yes cheese is also the next important part of the meal. After seeing this I was telling my dad back home that this place is heaven for him because he is a big fan of bread and cheese. Apart from that I tried a wide variety of food after I reached here and I love Italian food the most. Rieki is a really good cook so in the food department I think I have tried everything possible and the best part is I like almost everything. And one more to the list is the varieties of the bicycles I saw, those constantly passing by and also the amazing variety parked just outside or locked to a nearby light post. And there are bicycles for mothers, which like transport two, three and sometimes four little ones at a time, using a box in front and a baby seat (or two) behind. This was a sight I would never get to see in Bhutan. Bicycles are a very important mode of transport here, my fist day at office I saw many people in suites riding bicycles to office and I found it really cool.
I even visited the red light district area which is very famous here in the city and it was a really weird and creepy experience. I would never like to go there again. Another really interesting thing was the Marijuana, out here there are so many coffee shops which sells marijuana and they have a menu for the varieties of it. And back home it grows in abundance and it’s totally illegal. That was quite a contrast.
Then my first day at the work started. Of course, the first day at a new place is always kind of weird, because you don’t know anybody, but I got used to the atmosphere meeting new people and making few friends also. I started with my new project and loving the job I am doing and the stuffs I am learning. I am very thankful to Rieki and Thomas for that. Many people at work have no idea about my country and its architecture so I talked to them about my culture and traditions and they seemed interested and I understand how it is amazing to represent your own country and explain many things about it to people who have never heard of it. It made me proud of being a representative of my little country in my own way.
So far all the people I met have been very friendly and communicative. They always ask how you are, what do you do and how do you like Amsterdam. The purpose of your visit is not important, but people will always give you some questions, which are not mere acts of courtesy, but curious and friendly. When did you come to Amsterdam? And how do you like it? If good now, it will be even better. You will love it. The conversation is always the same everywhere. Even in stores and markets what is immediately notable is that everyone is smiling to you, saying “hi,” wishing you to have a good day and asking if you need help.
Amsterdam I think offers everything a tourist could wish for like various forms of accommodation, restaurants and terraces, bars, discos and nightclubs open 24 hours a day, cultural destinations (theaters, museums, monuments and churches), parks, markets, botanical gardens, zoo and many others. I still have a long list of stuffs to be done and a long list of places to visit.
Phuntsho Choden September 24, 2012