Amsterdam: It’s Not You, It’s Me

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I think I owe you an apology, Amsterdam. You see, I just don't think things will ever work out between us.

But it's not you — it's me.

Seriously.

I made the mistake of trying to get to know you at the wrong time, Amsterdam. I met you for the first time after visiting an old fling (London), being introduced to a new suitor (Paris), and then being unexpectedly swept off my feet by a charming new acquaintance (Bruges). To be honest, I don't think you ever really stood a chance, Amsterdam.

Amsterdam

Yes, I will concede that with your pretty canals and narrow houses, you really are just as attractive as everyone's always said. But looks aren't always everything.

Amsterdam

Amsterdam

For every beautiful canal I strolled down, there was an angry cyclist whizzing by. For every quiet moment I found in a park or down a quiet side street, there was any annoyingly high or drunk tourist around the next corner. You actually stressed me out a little bit, Amsterdam.

Amsterdam

From that first night when I visited a coffee shop with some friends and took a stroll through the sad and disturbing Red Light District, I knew in my heart that it just wasn't meant to be, Amsterdam. I wasn't looking for weed or peep shows, but that's all you were offering at first.

It was partially my fault for falling into the tourist traps straight away.

Amsterdam

But, even when I ventured beyond them, I just didn't feel anything with you, Amsterdam.

I spent the next few days giving you chance after chance, trying to get away from your touristy areas and trying to participate in anything I could to make me like you a little bit more. I was looking for that connection; that spark that would help me fall for you. I rented a bike, spent a whole day wandering on foot, went looking for some history at the Anne Frank House, and even took a canal boat cruise. While some of these things were lovely and interesting, we just never “clicked.”

Amsterdam

Maybe I was just burnt out. Maybe I was missing other destinations. Maybe I was looking forward to others (like Berlin) a little too much. Maybe it would be best if we just try to give it a go again another time.

For now, though, I'll take all the blame, Amsterdam. It's really not you — it's me.

Perhaps we can still be friends?

Amsterdam

Yours sincerely,
Amanda

Have you ever just not vibed with a city you wanted to like? What do YOU think of Amsterdam?

 

 

*Note: I visited Amsterdam as part of my Busabout trip around Europe. They provided me with transport on all 3 of their Europe loops, but all opinions of the destinations I visit are entirely my own!

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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69 Comments on “Amsterdam: It’s Not You, It’s Me

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  1. I absolutely loved how you framed this! Likening cities to romantic prospects made me giggle.

      Haha thanks! I just wanted to do something a little more creative, and this seemed like it would work well for this post!

    Haha this post gave me a chuckle! Hopefully Amsterdam doesn’t feel too depressed about being bumped for Berlin just because he’s bigger and admittedly, more cultured! I have say, I do always have fun in Amsterdam, but there’s something about the city that doesn’t resonate with me, and it’s the Red Light distinct. I didn’t always feel this way, embarrassingly, I used to share the excitement and novelty of so many other people who’d giggle at seeing the girls lined up in window after window, but in reality many of these girls are the victims of human trafficking, (not female empowerment as many like to believe) and I wish more people knew this. After I realised my error, I couldn’t help but view Amsterdam differently.

      Yup, that part really bothered me, too. What bothered me even more was that a bunch of people I was traveling with wanted to go see a sex show. I was not the least bit interested in that side of Amsterdam, legal or not.

      Glad you enjoyed the post, though!

    Hey Amanda,

    I’ve been to Amsterdam four times (I live quite close by) and I am still not in love with it. A friend of mine is moving there so I have resolved to visit here and stay entirely out of the red light district and other oft visited places altogether, to see if I can form a new opinion. It’s also crowded at almost all times of the year! So I understand your sentiments.

    Ps. You should have visited Brussels instead of Bruges, or Ghent or Antwerp! All 3 are much nicer an Bruges, so I’m sure you’d love them!

      I had a friend who went to Amsterdam and stayed with and hung out with locals, and he loved it. I may have to try that approach if I ever go back to Amsterdam. I only need to make friends with a local now!

    For me, definitely Rome. I slotted off *so* much time for Rome and it disappointed at every point. I didn’t love Amsterdam either, but I wasn’t expecting to.

    One that surprised me a lot was Paris. I didn’t think I’d like it, but regret that I didn’t spend more time there (thanks, Rome!).

      I could see how Rome could be that way for some people. I’m actually in Rome right now. This is my second visit here, and I do actually like it. But mostly just because of the history. Otherwise, it’s really just another big city.

    Thank you!!! Not so much that I have ill feelings towards Amsterdam, more the fact that you’ve opened up about not falling in love with every destination. Sometimes people rave about places that others just don’t get and that’s ok.

      It’s true that I am usually able to see the good in most destinations I visit. But yeah, sometimes I just have to admit when I don’t like a place! I know lots of people who love Amsterdam, but I don’t think it’s the place for me.

    I think you should anthropomorphize every city you visit and right a love letter to Paris and a “thanks for the quickie” to Berlin or whatever. That would be a great series.

      Hahahaha. That’s actually an awesome idea.

      I wrote a very similar “break-up letter” to Athens last year (titled “Athens, I’m Just Not That Into You”) and people really liked that, too.

    while I’m not huge fan of Amsterdam myself (I prefer other Dutch cities, still adorable with all the canals and cute houses yet with not these crazy crowds) I think the timing of your visit wasn’t the right one. I’ve been there couple of times but only once in summer (where, in June so still not the busiest time) and I couldn’t see the charm of the city at all then! all the tourists (and as you know there are too many of them) who came only for coffee shops and red lights district spoil everything. It’s so much better in late spring or early autumn. But even if I enjoyed my visist there it still isn’t my fave city!

      Yes, if I went back it definitely wouldn’t be in the summer. I would definitely give it another chance, but I’m still not sure I’ll ever fall in love with Amsterdam like I have other cities in Europe.

    I’ve visited Amsterdam about 4 to 5 times and can tell you one thing – it’s not easy to get away from the tourist traps. You see, the canal boat ride you mention? that was probably totally touristy. The museums? Ehem, yes, those too.

    The time I most enjoyed Amsterdam was when I stayed a little more in the outskirts of the city. I rented a bike, visited cute shops with delicious bakery and coffees, strolled along quiet and peaceful canals and soaked up the sun in beautiful parks. Everyone visiting wants to be in the centre of the city – but the truth is, the centre isn’t as nice as the rest.

      Yes that’s very true! Unfortunately, like you said, it’s quite difficult to avoid the touristy parts of the city.

    I do think that the timing of your visit had a lot to do with it, like you said. But sometimes we just don’t click with cities and that’s okay! These pictures are GORGEOUS though.

    Happy travels 🙂 I look forward to reading about your trip to Berlin.

      Yup, there’s no way a person can love every place he/she visits. And that is totally fine!

      Amsterdam IS really pretty, though, as the photos prove!

    I still can’t wait to visit Amsterdam someday, but I definitely can understand where you’re coming from. Perhaps you and Amsterdam just aren’t meant to be, but I am a FIRM believer that if you’re in a certain state of mind it can totally affect your feelings for a place! I think that’s what’s happening with me still being at home in Philadelphia. 😉 Your pictures are lovely at the very least! Can’t wait to read about what’s coming up!

      Oh I definitely agree that your mindset can affect any destination you visit! I think the timing was definitely off for Amsterdam, but I also think maybe it’s just one of those places that I’ll always feel kind of “meh” about. And you know what? That’s okay.

    That’s sad and sweet at the same time. Shame you didn’t like Amsterdam; for me it’s been so long since i was there (and I was forced to visit art gallery after art gallery for a school trip), I don’t remember how I felt about it. Whether or not the reality of the Red Light district is sad and/or disturbing, I still think it’s always better for prostitution to be legalised as that inevitably means more rights and protections for sex workers, which compared to the alternative, can only be a good thing.

      I won’t get into my full feelings on the Red Light District (mostly because I don’t think they are even fully formed yet), but I just know it made me feel a bit sad and uncomfortable.

    Haha, you made me laugh and wonder when you mentioned the coffee shop. When talking about Amsterdam & coffee shops you’re defeniteley not talking about drinking a cup of coffee!

    I can totally understand your feel about Amsterdam. As a Dutchie I am not a big fan of it either. Last time I was there was in 2012 with my boyfriend who had to see it, because it was his first time visiting the Netherlands.
    I’ve been there multiple times, but I never get the feel. I prefer other cities.
    Next time when you’re in the Netherlands, try Utrecht, Nijmegen, Den Haag or Groningen.

      Haha, nope, coffee shops in Amsterdam definitely aren’t for coffee! I wonder why they are named that way?

      Thanks for the suggestions for next time!

    Haha, this is great! I’ve been to Amsterdam twice and actually really love it. But if everyone swooned over all the same places, the world would be pretty boring. The two cities that have most disappointed me are Rome and Macau, probably because my expectations were too high. Hopefully I’ll be able to give them a second chance!

      Very true – different people like/dislike different places for good reasons! You’re the second one to mention being disappointed by Rome. I actually quite like it!

    I’ve got to say, you’re right on about Brugges….that was an unexpected gem for me when I first visited in 2001. However I must say that I did enjoy Amsterdam. Perhaps it was because I was only there for two days, perhaps the cold winter weather then kept more cyclists off their bikes, or maybe the novelty of seeing all the crazy illegal stuff in the States being shown off in plain view was it.

    The Van Gogh museum was great, and I found the Red Light district….interesting, though I don’t think I processed the social implications of the workers in that trade. I haven’t been back since my first trip but I also think that there is a certain time where one place is meant for you to be there walking its streets.

      Bruges is so great. And Amsterdam isn’t BAD by any means. I just didn’t go crazy over it.

    Love this post, I haven’t ever really read anything about a place in this way before! Refreshing and hilarious. Made me chuckle =)

    Well, you can’t like every single place you visit! Andy and I really enjoyed Amsterdam, but we didn’t do too much of the touristy stuff. We completely stayed away from the red light district and any coffee shop that was a weed coffee shop. I did go to the Anne Frank House, but not to any other museums. Andy went to the zoo. We spent the rest of the time wandering, hanging out at cafes like Bagels & Beans, went to a local brewery in a windmill with another expat blogger who lives there, and in general just tried to BE there. And it was nice. But there are definitely places I’ve been to and didn’t like that most people rave about, so I can understand where you’re coming from.

      That sounds like a much nicer trip. I did really enjoy the Anne Frank House, and the canal cruise was nice. Sounds like I need to find a local/semi-local next time to hang out with, though!

    I personally loved Amsterdam, and it has a special place in my heart as one of my favourite cities. I did visit a little out of peak season though, which I think really helped (especially as someone who doesn’t want to be anywhere near weed and stag parties.) It was also home to the best pancakes I’ve ever tasted, which might have skewed it in my favour a little.

    As for me, I didn’t think much of Phnomh Penh – it was just too crazy and full of harassment for me. Tallinn was also a little hit and miss, I loved the place, but the locals were so unfriendly that it kind of put me off ever returning.

      Hahaha it was totally the pancakes, wasn’t it? 😉

      And too bad about the locals in Tallinn! That really can ruin a place.

    yeh I think I have to agree with this post. Me and Amsterdam just did not click either. I think our relationship was interrupted by friends around me but Amsterdam did street me out a little bit as well constantly feeling like I had to keep track of my bag and watch myself down alley ways. I did however do the free walking tour which gave me more of an insight into things I loved about Holland and Amsterdam in general so I think there is hope for the beautiful city after all

      Quite a few people I’ve traveled with felt similarly about Amsterdam, so I guess I don’t feel as bad.

    I haven’t been to Amsterdam yet, but I expect my feelings to be similar. I’ll go and give it a chance for sure, but it just doesn’t seem like it’ll be for me!

    I felt even more strongly about Amsterdam after I visited in May, but everyone just told me I must have only seen the bad areas. I saw some beautiful places there but I completely agree: it just doesn’t compare to some wonderful cities nearby. I thought Amsterdam was dirty and choc-bloc full of tourists!

      Definitely full of tourists. I’m not saying I would never go again, but I also don’t think I’ll return anytime soon. And, next time, I want to hang out with locals!

    I really like the way you wrote your post. Hilarious!
    I haven’t been to Amsterdam in years although I’m going in January. I think winter is much better and less crowded. I’ll also be making a side trip to Utrecht which should make for interesting comparisons.

      Thanks, Victoria! I had fun with this one. I hope you enjoy your return trip to Amsterdam! I’ll have to give it a second chance during the off-season sometime.

    I like your romantic contextualisation. Context is always important when describing likes and dislikes in a city. Where you were before also impacts your percerption. I found in Amsterdam travellers who had just been to Berlin found the beer expensive but the city pretty. People travelling from Paris found the city affordable and the people friendly. People from London found the city relaxed and quaint. Reading your list of things you did a second trip is worthwhile. I went with on a tour with a local company that specialised in small groups (6 people). It was great and opened my eyes that Amsterdam is now one of my favourite cities. No need for amsterdam coffee or red light district.

      Context definitely IS important. Next time I will be more careful about where I visit before and after Amsterdam, because I WOULD like to give the city a second shot.

    Hahaha amazing! I get where you are coming from, but I still think Amsterdam has something special about it. I wandered around on my own, away from the main canals and it was great!

      Good to hear you enjoyed it! I just didn’t click with Amsterdam. But that’s totally fine, because there are so many other places out there that I have loved!

    Beautifully worded and unique! That’s what I call thinking outside the box! Love your pics too, what kind of camera do you use f I my ask..the images are fine and crisp..:-)

      Haha thanks! As for the pictures, I shoot with an Olympus E-P2 right now. Love it!

    Oddly, rome and Amsterdam were our only two disappointments, as well. Amsterdam reminds me of a once grand hotel that has become tatty.
    The people were great and the Concertgebouw tremendous. But the Rijksmuseum is a regional repository of Netherland’s Greatest Hits, not a big city museum like the Boston or Cleveland as a repository of great world art. Biggest hits for us in our five days in a two day town (yes, we had come from our favorite Paris, so the conrast may have been fatal) were the aforementioned Concertgebouw, the Jewish Museum, and Rembrand’s house. And a wonderful cafe (cannabis free) called sugar and spice where the people and coffee were outstanding.

      So funny how everyone has a different experience! I know lots of people who love Amsterdam, and then plenty who feel kind of “meh” about it like us.

    Hi Amanda – I think you found your “kinda local” person if you ever what to give Amsterdam a second shot! I’m half English, half Irish, grew up in the Caribbean & moved to Holland almost 30 years ago with my then husband. When we went our separate ways I moved from a small town to Amsterdam – the capital village!

    I totally get the things that disappointed you with Amsterdam and they are why I don’t go into the center much in high summer even the council is taking steps to limit the bachelor parties & drug tourism – but believe me there are lovely things and many great places! I would love to show you a few of them if you are passing this way on your travels.

    I’m a new reader of your blog & have just spent ages jumping from one post to another – love your work!

      Thanks so much for the offer, Liz! I’ll definitely keep it in mind if I find myself back in Amsterdam anytime soon!

    I’m so sad to hear you didn’t like it. I’m from the Netherland, though living in Singapore, and I do agree on some points with you. But, I think Amsterdam is not the Netherlands, the Netherlands is so much more! So don’t get scared by Amsterdam, because we have so many more little cities and villages where you don’t have the problems you mention. The think is, you do have to go beyond Amsterdam to see it.

    Anyway, I have this idea. Maybe you should go to Utrecht next time. Utrecht is 30 minutes by train from Amsterdam. It has everything Amsterdam has, but is not touristy, no sex industry (which they are btw closing down in Amsterdam: good news!!) and super nice, friendly, green city. I’m hesitating to say it because I don’t want my beloved Utrecht to become touristy Amsterdam…but since I am using you website for my New Zealand adventure 😉

    Nice website!

    Annelien

      Thanks for the suggestion, Annelien! I’ll definitely see more of the Netherlands eventually – Amsterdam certainly didn’t scare me off! 🙂

    I totally understand your feelings towards Amsterdam. I’m a Dutchie and I’ve studied in Amsterdam for five years, but during my studies I never moved there, because I never actually had a connection with the city. I was born and raised in Rotterdam (and I’m still living there) and I have a deep love for my city. Many say the rivalry between Rotterdam and Amsterdam has clouded my judgement about Amsterdam, so I’m actually glad to see someone who is unprejudiced and shares my feelings about Amsterdam. I totally agree with Annelien that there are other cities in The Netherlands you should consider visiting if you will be back someday. I can totally advise you to visit Rotterdam, because it’s so different from the rest of The Netherlands. It has been bombed during World War II so there aren’t much historic sights left. The bombing forced Rotterdam to be a modern city and I think it has done a wonderfull job. If you ever plan on visiting, I would be glad to recommend you al of it’s hidden gems 😉 Other than Rotterdam I think The Hague has some real pretty places as well and Utrecht is a nice city too. If you like your visits to be a bit touristy you should consider Volendam or Giethoorn as well.

      I know others who absolutely adore Amsterdam. But yeah, I just never connected with it! I definitely want to visit Rotterdam someday, though!

    I just stumbled upon this post and have to say I have a love hate relationship with Amsterdam myself. I never understood all the excitement about the city and plainly disliked it, maybe because of that. As I’m starting out to ‘appreciate’ my own country more, I am determined to find and get to know the good parts. I’m actually going to Amsterdam next Saturday to see the light festival there. In my own opinion The Hague is a much more pleasant city to be in and together with Maastricht my favorite big city of the Netherlands. I also need to give Rotterdam a second go. My first experience was a school trip to the docks, which wasn’t very succesful. I’m trying to keep an open mind and give these places another go.

      It’s always a good idea to give places a second chance! I was in Amsterdam again earlier this month. And while I had a good time (the light festival is cool!), I still didn’t fall in love with the city. I guess it’s just not meant to be! And that’s totally okay. 🙂

    I’m about to fly into Amsterdam from Australia next month and I must admit, I’m still very excited. I get it though, sometimes places and people don’t always click – It can be anything from a mood, viewpoint or just a general ‘feel’ of a place that can lack a little zest, but at least you gave it a good shot!

      You may end up loving Amsterdam! (Plenty of people do!) I just personally haven’t found a way to love it – but I still think it’s a very cool city.

    Ha, ha, I’ve just red your blog about Amsterdam and I completely understand you. I live in the Netherlands and Amsterdam is unfortanetely to small for all those tourists (I don’t go there often because of all of the tourists…). Some of the tourist go to Utrecht now which has canals too. But overall the Netherlands are so full of people also without tourists that it is almost no fun to visit the big city’s.

      Yes, there were definitely a lot of tourists. And I just didn’t connect with the city at all. I went back a second time (in the winter) to see if I could find things to love about it, but Amsterdam just isn’t really “my city.” It’s beautiful and I don’t dislike it – I just didn’t fall in love with it!

    I felt that way a bit when I went to Amsterdam so many years ago. We did love Delft, and all the tulip gardens we visited, but the city didn’t click with me either. But I attributed it to the gloomy weather, the dreary hotel, and the space cake, which was a big mistake. I’m going back in 3 weeks with my two thirteen-year old daughters. We’re staying in an amazing apartment with incredible views. It is already looking up from my last trip. I am optimistic that I’ll feel differently this time.

      I hope you’re able to fall in love this time! I went back a second time and did like Amsterdam a little more, but I don’t think it’ll ever rank as one of my favorite cities – and that’s fine!

    I cannot find the words to define it properly – there is something in Amsterdam that is just… no. It’s not an ugly or a bad place (well, except from tons of edgie-touristic coffee shops, red windows district and cheap munch food places).
    Something in the atmosphere and in the mentality just feels wrong. I really cannot find the words. But if comparing it to London or Berlin for an instance, maybe it is more clear to get that feeling of what feels different.

    I’ve been living in the Netherlands for the last two years. Something in the Dutch mentality is somewhat arrogant, close-minded, think they are the best, competitive, judgmental (maybe Dutch feel threatened? It is a small nation among great and successful ones that “needs to “prove’ itself constantly), heavily protocol-followers, do-normaal volk, afraid to be individual, too mainstreamic society, don’t have any sense to food (well, maybe only processed food).

      Hi Bozoo,

      I thought this was a post about the city of Amsterdam? but you are talking about Dutch people. I think you have been living the past 2 years in “the Randstad” (the busiest part of the country, a city on itself) I can tell you that we are not all the same… Unfortanetely our gouvernment made us protocol-followers, especially in healthcare and education. If you are still in Holland I’ll advise you: go live outside the Randstad. Our public transport is indeed that good that you’ll be in the Randstad in less then an hour 😉

      By the way, I am not a fan of Amsterdam either 😉

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