How to become an Amsterdammer

Amsterdam culture
Updated 2022-08-15 12:21

Wherever you move in the world, it's always a great idea to know what to expect from the culture ahead of time. No matter how much you prepare yourself, there's always going to be an element of culture shock, and you want to be ready for that when moving to Amsterdam. In this article, we'll discuss some basics of the local culture so you won't stick out like a sore thumb.

The bike culture in Amsterdam

One of the first things you have to do when you arrive in Amsterdam is to buy a bike. Unfortunately, bicycle theft is very common; you'll probably get at least one or two bikes stolen from you in the first year of residency. So don't invest too much into your bicycle.

On the other hand, you don't want to buy a cheap €50 or less bike from some random person around the corner. Chances are, those are stolen, so if you buy from these people, you're perpetuating the cycle.

Instead, go to a local bike repair shop. There, they'll have legitimate secondhand bikes for sale that are safe to ride. You can expect to pay around €100 to €200 for a decent one.

Learn a few Dutch phrases

No one expects you to be fluent in Dutch the moment you arrive. But they'll definitely appreciate it if you appear to be making an effort to assimilate.

Learn a few key phrases like “dankuwel” (thank you), “graag gedaan” (you're welcome), and “doei!” (bye!). If you really want to be polite, you can ask “spreekt u Engels?” (do you speak English?) before proceeding in English.

Eating Dutch food

The Dutch love to have food on the go. This is why you'll find many vendors selling fries and other things, such as haring and kibbeling. In Amsterdam, they love to eat chips with mayonnaise, so give it a try.

Haring and kibbeling are both fish; haring is herring eaten raw with pickles, onions, and sometimes bread, and kibbeling is fried white fish served with dipping sauce. The latter is similar to the fish you find in fish and chips.

The dress code in Amsterdam

If you hate dressing up to have a nice dinner, then you'll be pleased to know that the Dutch are more laidback people. Even if they're showing up to a Michelin star restaurant, it's rare to see someone wearing a full-on suit.

At work, many men will wear jeans with dress shirts. For women, skirts or jeans with a nice blouse or a dress are acceptable workwear.

Dutch people are direct

When you first move to Amsterdam, you may have a jarring experience with Dutch directness. They're so to the point that the conversation may seem rude at times.

But the Dutch don't believe in dancing around with niceties. If they consider a decision you're making isn't the wisest one, they won't hesitate to tell you. While it may seem impolite at first, you'll learn to appreciate Dutch bluntness. You might even pick up the habit yourself after some time!

Service may seem bad in Amsterdam

Because the Dutch are so direct, they don't believe in overly pandering to the customer. You might be used to smiling staff members asking you how you're doing every 5 minutes, especially at restaurants. But this isn't the case in the Netherlands.

Staff members will be courteous to you, but they may seem very curt. Also, it's considered rude to bring the check to a table without being asked. So you may be sat for a while after your meal, wondering where the waiter is with your bill.

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