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From Europe, With Love: 23 Differences Between Amsterdam and Canada

In the past month I have climbed up a working windmill, fallen off the back of a bike onto a cobblestone street, gotten threatened by a prostitute in the Red Light District, and eaten a whole pack of stroopwafels in one sitting. I guess you could say I’ve started my Amsterdam assimilation. This past month has sincerely been one of the most fulfilling of my entire life, and I can’t wait to see where the next five will lead me. Despite the lack of ketchup chips and lack of sleep I get in this country, I couldn’t be happier with my new home and new family. There are a lot of similarities that I’ve noticed between my new and real homes (for example, the constant stream of Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” on the radio), but there are also a ton of differences that I’ve encountered, as well. From me to you, and from Europe with love, here are 23 weird cultural differences between Amsterdam and Canada.

1. You don’t have to tip your servers.

They actually pay their service workers a decent minimum wage so we don’t have to! What a concept.

2. Bikes have the right of way to pedestrians, and pedestrians have the right of way to cars.

And bikers will run you over if you’re in their way.

3. You have to bag your own groceries and butter your own bagels.

This insanely self-sufficient country is no picnic for me after Canada has babied me for so long.  

4. Every class has a 15-minute break in the middle.

And it makes so much sense because who can sit in the same spot for two hours and focus the entire time!?!!

5. Nobody has an oven.

Toaster ovens are the best you can get, which makes it hard for me and my frozen pizza dependency.

6. The Dutch don’t beat around the bush.

They’re known around Europe for being kind and helpful people, but their bluntness is alarming in contrast to classic Canadian kindness.

7. You can drink and smoke weed in public.

Yes, that means you can pre all the way up to the door of the club. Public drinking and smoking is technically illegal in the Netherlands, but authorities turn a blind eye.

8. Coffee is 1,000,000 times better here.

I didn’t know I even liked coffee until I tried a latte macchiato on this side of the pond.

9. Lunch isn’t really a thing.

The Dutch don’t eat as much as we do back home, but they do like to eat bread for every meal, and lunch is no exception. A slice of bread with lunchmeat, Nutella, or sprinkles is pretty typical around here.

10. It rains a ridiculous amount.

I’ve been here for one month, and I haven’t had a good hair day in one month.

11. Class sizes are a lot smaller.

One of my classes has five people in it. Including the professor and me. Quite the contrast from PSYC 100 in stuffy, kneecap-bruising Leacock 132.

12. There are no bad neighbourhoods.

I can honestly say that I have never felt unsafe in this city, even in the wee hours of morning on city sidewalks. Poverty is null and prosperity spews from the streets.  

13. Catcalling is nearly nonexistent.

I have seen a marked distinction between the way men treat women in this country versus back in North America. Perhaps it has something to do with their liberalism, their culture, or their superior childhood sex-education programs. Whatever it is, I’d like to see it permeate borders.

14. Bike theft is the biggest crime in the city.

Every time I go to retrieve my bike to ride back home, I keep my expectations low and prepare for a walk of shame.

15. Public transport doesn’t suck and doesn’t smell like pee.

I rode a tram and I liked it. *Katy Perry singing*

16. Mayo is not the same mayo that I have always known.

Before I came here, I didn’t believe it when people told me that you haven’t lived until you’ve tried mayo and fries in Europe. Now I eat them religiously, and it’s true that I’ve never felt more alive.   

17. You can get a whole bottle of wine for 2 euros.

I can’t go home. My life is never going to get any better than this.

18. Wifi is abundant and I love it.

Most of them don’t even require a password #weareallbestfriends.

19. You have to pay for the washrooms.

Even at McDonald’s. Going to the washroom is why I go to McDonald’s like ¾ of the time at home!!!

20 .A lot of restaurants will refuse to give you water.

If you ask for “water” they’ll likely give you a fancy bottle you have to pay for. If you want free water you have to ask for “tap water” and sometimes they’ll even refuse to give you that.

21. EDM is everything here.

I miss my country concerts and Drizzy Drake already.

22. Portions are smaller.

Are the plates getting bigger or is it just me (and the Americans)?

23. Pigeons here are afraid of no one.

If you think the birds on St. Cats are bad, these pigeons are afraid of absolutely nothing and think they rule the city. I had one fly from the back of my head, past my ear, and into the side of my cheek at an outdoor market last week. Not like I cried or anything…

These 23 are only a start, and I’m sure there will be many, many more new experiences thrown my way in the next few months. Stay tuned, collegiettes! 


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