About eight months ago, my partner Rachelle and I opened a new chapter in our lives by moving from Seattle to Amsterdam. Despite all the marvelous things about the Pacific Northwest and our dear friends there, routine had begun to take root in a way we were finding hard to overcome. It was time for a self-induced shock to energize our sense of adventure, wonder, and creativity. Amsterdam’s blend of similarities and differences has provided just the right voltage to accomplish this.
Being in a cold, rainy, progressive, cosmopolitan, educated, city of around 3/4 million people surrounded by water and tourists feels very familiar and comfortable. However, it’s a feature of Dutch culture that I appreciate most so far. I have a sense that here, people feel success and failure happen as much at a collective, societal level as an individual one. This makes sense given the age and history of the Netherlands, Amsterdam in particular. I find that this difference gives this place a feeling of ease and calm solidarity that many American cities lack, particularly highly competitive boomtowns like Seattle. Of course, competition and creativity are in the DNA of this cradle of capitalism but to this newcomer, all that activity appears to happen on a strong foundation of collective well being.