Just Be Normal

Within two weeks of being here, it feels like home. I find that I am able to quickly adjust to my new surroundings, getting a good feel for the people and customs. While a lot is new it is all easy to learn. I have found being mindful of my surroundings has taught me how to be ‘normal’ to the Dutch. There is a common Dutch saying “doe maar gewoon dan doe je al gek genoeg”; just act normal, that’s crazy enough.

A fascinating part about Amsterdam is the bike culture. Friends and I here made a bet, who will get “dinged” the least. Getting “dinged” is when a biker rings their bell at you. There is no greater shame. Blocking or slowing down bike traffic will earn you a ding. The worst are with you’re back to the biker they ding you off the path, forcing you to jump off the path out of their way. So far I have only been “dinged” twice and plan to keep it that way.

Riding my own bike through the city has been a fantastic new challenge. Growing up terrorizing pedestrians and cars alike I fit right in. The paths are large and generally set aside off the main road. Navigating traffic and intersections were intimidating at first but only took a day of riding to understand. Getting the chance to use the power of my own bike bell on pedestrians clogging up my bike lanes has made me feel more Dutch than anything else.

Cooking and shopping for my own food is the biggest challenge I face. A constant struggle between my massive appetite and my wallet. It was clear that eating out was not going to be a sustainable option for me. Having to buy and cook my own groceries has given me a greater appreciation for my parents, for all the time they sacrificed so that we could eat. That said I have taken to cooking. I have been consistently pushing myself to keep making creative and tasty meals, not getting stuck in a bland routine.

Learning to fit in and become more local in a foreign country has seemed to be a relatively easy process. I have greatly benefited from the Dutch people being open and accepting to newcomers. Making it easy for them to follow the Dutch ways. The greatest compliment I receive from a local is having them start in Dutch then switch to English, letting me know while I may not feel it at times I fit in well enough to be “normal”.

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