Biking in Amsterdam is Terrifying (and other first adventures)

Andrea Anderson
June 8, 2015

So I’ve officially been here for 4 full days and I already feel like I’ve been here for weeks (besides the whole “still don’t know how to get anywhere” thing). I arrived Thursday morning and got to my apartment around early afternoon. We live in Funenpark, which is basically a large complex of buildings that houses everyone from students like us, to full families. My roommate and I share a one room apartment with two beds, two desks, a bathroom, and a mini kitchen area. All in all, it’s a pretty nice place. Our location is excellent and while the room is small, it has everything we need. I mean, currently our fridge isn’t working so we’re having to keep all of our food in a neighbor’s fridge, and our shower curtain doesn’t reach the floor so everything we shower it floods the bathroom, but still, not too shabby!

When we arrived we got a tour of the area, got some lunch, and went grocery shopping. We also had an orientation session, but for the most part, the day just consisted of settling in and meeting each other. The next day we had another orientation session at the IES center which is basically our base. It houses the classroom where our classes are held and the offices of the people who are here to help us. It’s also super close to our apartment which is nice. After the orientation session, we got lunch at Dappenmarkt, a daily street market (falafel sandwich – delicious!) and then went to go a canal boat tour, something I was super excited about because I love the water. One of the reasons Amsterdam was always so appealing to me is because of the many canals (165 total, I learned that at orientation!). Of course this day would turn out to be one of the hottest days we’ll ever experience in Amsterdam. Everyone kept saying how it was never this hot here! It was 90 degrees and we were all dying in the heat and sun. But the views were beautiful and being on the canals felt right at home.

After the canals, we went to go get our bikes! We were super excited as this would be our main means of both getting around the city and integrating ourselves within the Amsterdam culture. But we were also all terrified because Dutch people are serious about their bikes! Think New Yorkers with bikes instead of cars. And it probably doesn’t help that we can’t read the signs to even figure out if we’re in the bike lane or not. After getting our bikes, I and another girl realized that we didn’t have Dutch phones yet. We needed to have them by the next morning as a means for emergency contact, since our iPhone only worked when we had wifi. We went off on an adventure by ourselves, and looking back, it probably wasn’t a good that neither of have a very great sense of direction. After getting lost about 500 times, pissing off the locals 1000 times, and pulling over to look at our map more times than I can count, we finally made it to the store, only to find out that they were sold out of all of the cheap phones we needed. And there was no way we were going to pay 75 euros for a phone we would never use. Luckily, we made it back to the IES center which much less trouble, and our trip leaders assured us that they did not expect us to pay that much and helped us get some cheaper phones elsewhere. That night we went to the Netherlands vs. USA soccer (well, football) game which was so amazingly fun. We sat in the USA section, so obviously there were numerous boisterous drunks all shouting U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A over and over again, something one the Dutch RAs who was with us was so excited to finally be able to participant in. And, against all odds, the USA actually won! It was a shock to us all, but such an exciting and close game. We went to bed feeling exhausted but content, sure that this win was a sign that our own American stay in the Netherlands would also be a success.

The next day was Saturday, and the last day of scheduled orientation events. We took a field trip to Zaanse Schans, which is an unbelievably gorgeous windmill village. We first arrived and walked over to the Windmill museum, where we got to walk around and explore the different types of the thousands windmills that the village used to hold. While we were there, we met the most delightful and entertaining old man. He told us stories about the windmills and growing up as a miller, my favorite being when he explained that one way the men would decide who was qualified to be a miller would be to give them a bunch of alcohol and whoever was still sober enough, passed. He then unexpectedly lead us in some kind of circle dance that reminded me of the Jewish Hora dance before getting out his accordion to sing us a bunch of Dutch songs. Apparently, a lot of countries/cultures have stolen lots of songs from the Dutch according to him!

After the museum we walked over an area where there were some real working windmills around. As we walked, the smell of chocolate was so permeable in the air I felt like there had to be mounds of it right next to me. Occasionally the wind would blow and the smell would become stronger, tempting us all so much. One of the girls in my group told us that she’d heard there was a giant chocolate factory nearby, and occasionally when the wind was just right, all of Amsterdam could smell chocolate. Not sure if that’s accurate, but it’s a beautiful thought! We got to go inside a working windmill and see it cutting wood, did some cheese tasting (obviously) where my roommate and I bought 30 euros worth of cheese to split, and went to see clogs getting made. Overall, it was a very typical Amsterdam experience! I mean what could get more Netherland-y than cheese, windmills, and clogs? Not much. When we got home, we stopped by the sex museum (because when in Amsterdam…!) and then grabbed dinner, feeling exhausted (do you recognize a theme) and fulfilled.

The next day would be a free day before the start of classes on Monday and we were looking forward to a day off to relax and settle in. All in all, I’d say I’m excited for the following six weeks to get to know this city better (and not get lost so much)!

Oh, and to keep with the list theme, here are Important Biking in Amsterdam Tips:

  • Always stay on the right side of the biking lane (especially if you don’t know where you’re going)
  • Always stay in the biking lane if there is one (it can be hard to tell)
  • Always use your hand to signal which direction you’re turning
  • Never stop suddenly to pull over when you realize how lost you are
  • Follow the same rules as cars
  • Bikers coming from the right have the right of way
  • Turn on your lights after dark
  • Don’t bike parallel to the tram tracks, or risk getting your tire stuck in them
  • Always, always, ALWAYS lock your bike (twice!)

More Blogs From This Author

View All Blogs

Andrea Anderson

<p>A rising senior double major in Politics &amp; International Affairs and Theatre, with a minor in Women&#39;s Gender, &amp; Sexuality Studies, Andrea Anderson is passionate about social justice, exploring the world through different lenses, and tea. Though she may come across as shy and timid at first, this 4&#39;10&quot; girl never backs down from a feminist debate and she is is as willing to try something new as she is inclined to sit back with a glass of wine and an episode of Gilmore Girls. Her favorite things in life include hugs, Harry Potter, and Indian food, and she is so so excited to explore the beautiful culture of Amsterdam this summer.</p>

2015 Summer 1, 2015 Summer 2
Home University:
Wake Forest University
Political Science
Theatre Arts
Explore Blogs