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Comparative culture

Ignored in Amsterdam

If I knew before I came to Amsterdam what I found out when I got here, I would have thought twice.

What I've since found is that Amsterdam has been good for me.* But my feeling in the initial phase — for weeks, even months — was an occasionaly extreme sense of discomfort.

Amsterdam is not like America, and I did not expect it to be. Well, I didn't know what to expect....

The most disturbing feature of Amsterdam, for me, is being ignored. I am learning to accept it. Sometimes, people "won't see you" in Amsterdam. Many times I have spoken directly to a person and, having not gotten their real attention, been ignored.

Oh, you don't think so? Try it; you'll see.

I've come to accept it, more or less. More sometimes, less others. Overall, it's tolerable — and tolerance is the way around here. There are a lot of folks living here — there always have been.

What bothers me sometimes is when I've met somebody.... For me, when I've met someone before, and spoken with them, and thought they were alright, I'll speak to them again.

Or, at least, I'll see them....

But I grew up in the countryside of Central Oregon. It's just the friendly thing to do there, and considerate — you generally greet a neighbor or a stranger. And Americans are a friendly people, too, by reputation here. It baffles the Dutch, sometimes, I think.

And — indeed — Amsterdamers can be friendly too. Of course; but up front, there's maybe a little bit of bristle.

— Autumn, 2000

I lived in Amsterdam from May to December of 2000.


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* I was only trying to tell myself that Amsterdam had been good for me. I didn't feel good when I lived there.

I've lived in The Netherlands since that time, and keep a great love for the country. Indeed, in the times that I've been to Amsterdam as a visitor, I've loved the city. It's one of the most beautiful, and it's fascinating.

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