I had the pleasure of living in the Netherlands capital for the first six months of this year, but I definitely wish I knew about more about the city before moving to Amsterdam. No, you don’t need Dutch to survive but here’s more things that I discovered…
1. There are mosquitoes there ALL year round
Anyone who has spoken to me since moving to Amsterdam will have heard my mosquito story. And the story is simply this; when I got there in January in the cold of winter I was attacked by the squitos. In my room, on a night out and just out and about – I was in disbelief. The first Dutch word I learnt was ‘muggen’ which means mosquitoes, because I had to find some sort of spray to sort out the situation.
Luckily I got a muggen killer and I haven’t been bitten since – while everyone else who did NOT believe me about the critters being around so early in the year, has been attacked. So, long story short – there are mozzies here at any given moment of the year because of the canals. Simply invest in a fan and don’t keep any windows open.
2. People are not keeping it lit all day, every day
When I got there, I was assuming that every man, woman and child would be blazing it up 24/7. Turns out, people are very low key about the whole smoking thing and while of course you will smell it around passing by coffeeshops or while in the park – the city isn’t on the constant session.
I was surprised to find a tiny percentage of the people I worked with to ever actually dabble in the deed – either they were just not into it or they were all lying to me. If you are moving to Amsterdam and you do happen to love a little jint on the weekend, you’ll be happy to know that there is no shortage of coffeeshops there and you don’t have to act sketchy, it’s genuinely all G.
3. Finding a house is SO much hassle
From the hilarious but kind-of-almost-believable scams online, to finding ads for rooms that mention they only want Dutch roommates – it can be quite stressful securing a house. The scams are so sneaky, and if you have your head in a good place you can spot the dodgy-ness of the situation. However, if you’re desperate or perhaps haven’t read about these scams, they can be very tricky to spot. They send you photos, the address, lots of random info about themselves – it’s all very friendly and good natured. AND THEN… the oul request for a deposit when you haven’t even seen the place! I came across some good ones, but this was my favourite:
All you need to do, is to scan through Airbnb and see if there’s people with a ‘Monthly discount’, simply message them and ask for the price – and at least you’ll have somewhere safe and temporary while you get to know the city. I lived in an ‘Airbnb’ since moving to Amsterdam, but of course we made our own arrangements, not through Airbnb. Turns out, a lot of people do the same – so check it out!
Another good on is Kamernet.nl and I heard that paying the little subscription fee is worth it, but don’t pay until you are already in the city and free to go to viewings.
4. The weather is crazy (in good and bad ways)
It depends on when you’re moving to Amsterdam, but you do need to do a bit of research about the weather before you start packing. Here’s your research: If it’s November-March bring big coats, cosy scarves and good shoes. The rain is pretty crazy… when it rains – it bloody well pours.
There can be snow, winds, thunder, lightning and just grey everything in general. However, the upside to this story is that when April and May start creeping in, it’s time for a lighter coat and you definitely need a range of sunnies. June and July? Just prepare for the heat. When I left Amsterdam in July it was 32 degrees and it was splitting the rocks. Everyone was running around in their shorts and flip flops, beaming like the sun that was upon us. It truly is the place to be when the sun is out.
5. Don’t bother with the tram, it is so expensive
When I first got to Amsterdam, I got the tram everywhere and it cost me a FORTUNE. So, the second you get there, just go into the information point at Centraal Station and ask for an OV-chipkaart. It will cost you €7.50 on the spot and then just top it up by €15, that will keep you going for ages.
The normal prices on the tram are insane, it will eat away your funds so just get yourself a OV card to save funds. When you’re ready to get a bike, go to Waterlooplein Market, which is open around 10am-5pm or something similar. This is where I got my bike, with a little basket and a lock for €80 – which is fab. Cycling is the absolutely only way to do it, so just pack a rain jacket for the elements.
6. Speaking of Waterlooplein, this is where you have to register too
I’ve never gone through so much hassle to live somewhere than in Amsterdam. So, you need to be very prepared and VERY patient because the people here are very unhelpful. Very rarely do people have a good experience with registering or any sort of good customer service experience in that city.
To avoid all of this, make sure you bring these things with you: Your birth cert which must be stamped back home by the Foreign Affairs people (although I never did this and I got away with it), a letter from your tenant stating that you will be living there and IDs. You can find all the real info about registering here.
And on the subject, if you want to sign up for or do ANYTHING, bring your passport! Driver license, student ID, bank cards and Boots cards don’t satisfy their needs. Banks, gyms and even collecting a package at the post office, will all ask you for a passport – so when in doubt just bring it (Check out how to get the handy Irish Passport Card here!).
7. It doesn’t have to be as expensive as you think
During my first month in Amsterdam, I sadly behaved like a tourist and I would like to blame that on the fact that I had lots of friends passing through while I was there. I was going out 2-3 nights a week, hitting up the tourist spots like the Red Light area and Leidseplein, I was condoning shots, taxis home and brunches the next day. Who did I think I was??
Here’s what you need to do: Go out once a week, predrink, start earlier, download the Uber app and just stock your fridge full of nice things so you don’t get the take away cravings. When I stopped acting like I was getting paid any sort of viable pay, and started acting like that broke student that I was – things became a little bit easier financially.
Plan your meals for the week before going shopping, stop getting public transport and take up a hobby so you stop telling yourself you need to wander down to Kalvenstraat and take on the 67 H&Ms that seem to make up the city.
8. Speaking of which, Amsterdam is the perfect shopping hotspot
For some reason, I just loved getting clothes and buying a few things for myself in the city centre. In Dublin, sure we have Grafton Street, Henry Street and Dundrum with some good options, but they are also made up of some fairly craps shops and very annoying people.
In Amsterdam, you just walk from basically the Red Light all the way up through Dam Square and up Kalvenstraat which seems to stretch for eternity. The streets are clean, there a good flow of people, there are hundreds of shops to choose from and they have mega sized stores like Forever 21, H&M and big Mangos, Pull & Bears, etc. etc. It’s very convenient and just feels easier and more pleasant than having women screaming at you asking if you want extensions, youths causing havoc and some awful street performer balancing a football on their head.
9. You will literally be heartbroken by the time you leave
Settling into anywhere new is hard, especially if you are alone. When you get somewhere you may be missing home for a while and I definitely did. But, I can promise you that moving to Amsterdam is one of the coolest things you will ever do. The people, the parties, the weather (most of the time), the events, the atmosphere – it’s just nothing you will find anywhere else.
Not to mention how close it is to other cool cities and countries, the events they host here and the amount of amazing sites and culture. I didn’t think that I would be getting on a €9 bus over to Brussels to explore Europe or be able to hop on a train and reach the beach in less than an hour.
You will meet the coolest people, have the worst hangovers of your life, party on boats along the canals, take some amazing photos of the lovely sites and eat some disgustingly amazing food. Holland’s capital is the coolest, bestest place to live and going home really doesn’t feel right after moving to Amsterdam. Save up a bunch of money and just do it!
If you would like a sample of life in Amsterdam squashed into less than 3 minutes, check this out: