My Trip to the Netherlands

I’ve wanted to visit the Netherlands since high school when a friend told me ‘there’s a rapper I think you might like…he speaks Dutch though.’ Even with the language difference she was right! I got into Darryl (full birth name Darryl van Gonter) straight away. His song at the time, ‘Eeyeeyo’ was super catchy.

That became my small portal into Dutch culture. I started listening to more of his songs and other Dutch artists I came across on Youtube, such as Keizer and his song ‘Mama Sorry.’

I didn’t speak Dutch, but I began picking up slang and other vocabulary words here and there from these songs. I even started trying to teach myself Dutch. To this day I am proud to say I still remember how to say ‘I am a woman’ – ‘Ik ben een vrouw’  (which is only ever useful as a demonstration that I did indeed take an introductory lesson on livemocha.com). Now, after 6 years and various fascinations with foreign cultures and languages I finally made it to Amsterdam!

Photo of the iconic 'Iamsterdam' sign
Photo of the iconic ‘Iamsterdam’ sign

Amsterdam brings to mind cheese, clogs, never-ending rows of bikes, lenient marijuana and prostitution laws and a number of world-famous museums. Most of which I learned about via Google back in my Darryl van Gonter fangirl days. I wasn’t going to experience all that Amsterdam offers on a short stop along a Western Europe backpacking trip, but I made it a point to do two things. The first was that I biked with a tour group from Amsterdam’s city center to a farm where cheese and clogs are made. It was a four hour trip in total and it left me not wanting to sit on a bike for the rest of my trip! The second, more personal spin on my trip, was going to see an Improv show.

In addition to my love of parks, I’m a massive fan of comedy. That’s why after learning about Boom Chicago, an American Improv troupe based out of Amsterdam for over two decades, there was no doubt I would be attending. I purchased a ticket in advance for Saturday night’s ‘21 Years of Mockery’ show, where the all-America cast pokes fun of both Dutch and American behaviors in (mostly) English. It was hysterical! The group’s opening activity was to create a song entirely improvised based off of audience suggestion. For me it showed just how much practice the five members present put into their craft. They did an excellent job with rhythm and clever wording and I was immediately impressed.

Later on there was also a scripted skit making fun of the super tiny cars that are allowed to drive in bicycle lanes in Amsterdam. The skit made perfect use of physical humor and it brought uncontrollable laughter out of me. At times I tried to stifle my belly laughs because I was shocked at just how visceral they were. As a foreigner, I’d already spotted these tiny cars and I found them quite funny. The day after the Boom Chicago show I even saw that the same cars are allowed to drive straight onto the water ferries out of Amsterdam Centraal!

These are the tiny 'Canta' cars manufactured in the Netherlands and driven in bicycle lanes. I have since learned from its Wikipedia page that it was originally manufactured specifically as a mobility aid, for instance drivers with wheelchairs, to aid in commuting - - that's pretty awesome. Image source: http://onlytruecars.com/gallery/canta-lx.html
These are the tiny ‘Canta’ cars manufactured in the Netherlands and driven in bicycle lanes. I have since learned from the Canta Wikipedia page that they were originally manufactured as a mobility aid, such as for drivers who use wheelchairs, and that’s pretty awesome. Image source: http://onlytruecars.com/gallery/canta-lx.html

Attending the ‘21 Years of Mockery’ show also allows audience members free entrance to the next show of the night, ‘Shot of Improv,’ at 10:30pm on Saturday nights. There audience members received shots of Jagermeister for best shout-out suggestions. I’m glad I was able to see a portion of that show before bidding farewell to the Dutch, German and Singaporean friends I made that night.

If you’ve always wanted to visit Amsterdam please do make it happen. In my experience people were very friendly. If you don’t speak Dutch, don’t worry, a fellow American cyclist referred to the English skills of Amsterdam locals as ‘embarrassingly fluent!’

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