Are you also in a love-hate relationship with the city you are living in?
It might all appear as seen through a pink filter at the beginning, when you are still fresh in town, but as the staying continues, you may as well discover some aspects that you are not particularly fond of.
Thinking back, to the way I was perceiving Amsterdam in my first year of living here, I can tell you it felt overwhelming – in a positive way – with a lot of new things to learn, places to discover, in other words, with a lot of experiences waiting in the line. I was impressed by the relaxed attitude of the Dutch, their smiling nature, and the city itself presented to me in a very good light: beautiful and cosy houses, clean, safe, peaceful… you name it! There was absolutely nothing I was missing here.
In my second year, although I had completed my learning period (Dutch language, mentality, lifestyle etc.) and I had seen most of the city during my street photo sessions, I still felt it was a lot left to discover. It was the year of new friendships and of discovering my favourite spots in the city, the ones I was always going to return to. It`s also when I moved from my former apartment to a more central part of the city. I was finally living in a house facing a canal – another dream come true.
However, on my third year, I`ve started to feel a bit different about the beautiful city of Amsterdam. Whereas before, whenever returning from a trip abroad, I used to feel privileged I was living here, lately I found myself several times thinking, during my trips: “I could live here for a year or so…” (Paris) and “I could definitely live here! (London, Berlin).
Has the expat drama finally reached me? The one that says that, once you lived somewhere abroad – anywhere – you can never settle for just one place again, as you now feel that home can be anywhere? Could be.
But what I think it`s happening is the pressure to make a decision. Just like in a relationship between two people, in the relationship between a person and the city he/she lives in, there comes a time when one simply needs to ask him/herself these questions: Should I stay or should I go? What do I get reported to what I am missing? This is the stage that only comes after you had plenty of time to taste both the highs and the lows, when the picture is very clear, in black and white rather than in distracting colours. And this is where I find myself right now.
Applying a black and white filter to Amsterdam, I can immediately see a very long list of whites and a very short one of blacks. But it normally happens that a single annoying thing weighs more than three good ones.
On my white list: gorgeous architecture, cozy apartments, city made of bricks (from the bricks on the facades of the houses to those covering the ground on streets and sidewalks), compact (easy to go from one place to the other, even on foot), governed by logic and functionality, good transportation network (within the city, but also between Amsterdam and elsewhere), clean, safe, the waterfront and the canals etc.
On my black list: the uniformity / lack of diversity (a street, a canal, a bar may look very similar to lots of other streets, canals and bars), the small size of the city which – despite its real advantages – makes it impossible for Amsterdam to have the grandeur of a metropolis (think of the big boulevards of Paris, for example) and lastly but definitely not least – the practicality and pragmatism which sometimes kill the fun, the creativity and the sense of elegance (this applies to everything, from attitude to fashion).
It`s crystal clear that Amsterdam, just like any other city in the Netherlands, says a big NO to nonsense. Everything has to be simple, clear, concise and, most important of all, it must function. To enchant, to trigger admiration? Not necessarily. To raise questions? God forbid!
This is the way I am seeing Amsterdam lately (I think it is a pretty realistic image) and this is the love-hate relationship we`re in! Am I the only one in this situation?