When we visited Amsterdam last year, we were so impressed by its beauty, chilled out vibe and interesting history, that we’ve been keen to learn more about the city now we’re back home. This is why I’m super happy to introduce this week’s locals interview, which is (obviously) all about Amsterdam!
1. Could you tell us a little about yourself and where you come from?
My name is Bruna and I am an Amsterdam transplant. I was born and raised in Sao Paulo, Brazil, then moved out here to Amsterdam in 2014. I came to the Netherlands to be an au pair, so I could travel more and cheaper around Europe. For those who don’t know what au pair is, this is an intercultural exchange program where you live with a Dutch family and take care of their kids.
After traveling so much around Europe I decided to share my travel tips and adventures with other travelers, so I created a travel blog, Maps ‘N Bags.
2. What do you love most about Amsterdam?
Amsterdam is a hipster and open-minded city full of excellent attractions. There is so much entertainment here! Amsterdam has countless museums for all tastes, such as the Van Gogh Museum and the Sex Museum. It also has several cozy cafes where people can have a delicious cup of coffee and maybe hide from the rain. And yes, I say cafe because if you ask directions to a coffee shop in the Netherlands, they will send you to a place where you can smoke weed. Café is for coffee; coffee shop is for soft drugs.
I love so many things about Amsterdam! Like when it’s sunny and people rent a boat to navigate through the canals or sit along these canals to drink some beers. Or the narrow and crooked houses by the waterfronts. Or the LGBT flags hanging throughout the city. Amsterdam has such an easygoing feeling. It’s a great vibe.
3. Is there anything that frustrates or annoys you when tourists visit the Netherlands?
What annoys me the most is that many people mistake the freedom the Netherlands has. For example, it’s not because weed and hash are tolerated in the country that you can smoke it everywhere. Many tourists don’t ask or even don’t care about the rules. Thankfully, most travelers don’t act this way.
4. In your opinion, which places should be at the top of any visitor’s wishlist in Amsterdam?
That’s a difficult question! I’ll try to keep it short, though.
In Amsterdam, you should definitely visit the Anne Frank House, because this girl gave a face to millions of Jews who lost their lives in WW2. Anne and her family’s hiding place is a very moving museum that everyone should visit at least once.
I’d also recommend a few drinks at Amsterdam North, a ferry behind the Central Station takes you to the other side of the water where you can find Europe’s largest flea market and some hipsters restaurants by the water’s edge.
The Red-Light District is obviously on this list not only because of the famous red windows, but because this is the oldest part of Amsterdam and it has its charm as well. Totally worth the visit. Don’t be afraid, by the way. This area is not dangerous. Just watch out for pickpockets as usual.
I’m a big fan of Van Gogh and his museum is just amazing. It’s truly overwhelming to see his paintings there. And the last, but not least the Begijnhof, this place was originally a beguinage, but today it houses historic constructions and two churches right in the heart of Amsterdam.
And regarding the Netherlands, I always recommend my friends to make some easy day trips from Amsterdam: Giethoorn – A car-free village straight out of a fairytale. Zaanse Schans – There are still operating (and very cute) windmills in this small town and you can see everything in half a day. Volendam and Marken – Fisherman’s villages just outside Amsterdam. Both are very traditional and are also a good place to experience the Dutch culture. Keukenhof Gardens – The largest garden in the world is open for 2 months every year and it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited! Tip: The last week of April is usually the best time to visit it.
5. What foods must visitors eat when in the Netherlands?
Well, the Netherlands doesn’t really have an outstanding main dish. Their most traditional dish is the Stamppot, mash pot, with vegetables and sausage. On the other hand, I love their snacks and sweets. For example, bitterballen, meat-based snacks, which are deep-fried creamy balls. They are delicious with mustard and some beer. Stroopwafel is also very tasteful. This is basically a waffle made of two thin layers of dough with a caramel-syrup filling in the middle. Hmmm…I’m seriously hungry now!
6. What’s your favourite Dutch word? Why? What does it mean?
Paraplu! It means “umbrella” in Dutch. I know, there is nothing special about it, but it sounds so funny. Dutch is a guttural language, so it sounds throaty and heavy, but paraplu sounds cute, actually.
7. What advice would you give to somebody moving to the Netherlands from another country?
My biggest advice would be to do your homework and learn the local language. You already know how to say umbrella in Dutch, which is a very useful object when in the Netherlands, but learning the language is the most important thing you should do while moving here. Most Dutch people speak English very well, but that’s not the country’s language.
Also, buy a bike and forget cars. The Netherlands has excellent bike paths and you can do everything by bike. Literally.
8. If you could describe your hometown in just one sentence, what would you say?
Open your mind, this is Amsterdam.
9. If tourists were to know one thing about the Dutch culture, what should that be?
Dutch people are always in a hurry and are very direct, so don’t think they’re being rude to you. It’s just their culture. By the way, I’ve been living here for quite a while, so I can say our culture by now.
10. Do you have any interesting traditions that you’d like to tell us about?
If you want to celebrate a Dutch national holiday, come to the Netherlands on April 27. Don’t forget to wear the color orange! The whole country goes to the streets no matter how the weather is, wear orange clothes and celebrate the King’s Day. It’s very funny and definitely a day to avoid if you want to do touristy things.
Thanks Bruna – we’ve loved getting to know you and Amsterdam better!
If you want to hear more from this Amsterdam local, check out her travel blog: Maps ‘N Bags, or follow her along on social:
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