Getting off the train from Schiphol Airport at Centraal Station in Amsterdam, I’m immediately reminded of Amsterdam’s reputation as one of the most permissive cities around the globe, many a backpacker’s paradise. At every other corner, a “coffeeshop” seems to be selling marijuana and magic mushrooms. But fortunately, the numerous young tourists from Spain, Italy, Germany, and the US whom I met on the train are not all clichéd globe-trotters wanting to “let their hair down” and “party it up” in the Netherlands. Many were simply attracted by Amsterdam’s beauty, relaxed atmosphere and countless cultural highlights.
I can only agree with them: Amsterdam is definitely one of the most beautiful cities in the world. With its 1.3 million inhabitants, Amsterdam is not too big for such a global place, which makes it easy to discover the whole city either by bike or by boat. Riding along the many bicycle lanes in the city centre, crossing the little bridges over the picturesque Grachten or exploring these canals on a barge is the way to get around in Amsterdam. Now, in autumn, the city looks especially charming as the trees along the canals are slowing changing their colours from green to red, yellow, and brown. The old town houses, often tall, narrow, and quaint, and the many houseboats give you the perfect impression of Dutch coziness and its importance to the local lifestyle. And you will find everything that you associate with the Netherlands here in Amsterdam: flower markets, diamond traders, cheese shops, very friendly people, and, of course, the museums showcasing the art of Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Van Gogh. It feels great to be here!
When I meet up with the local InterNations Ambassadors Kwela (from Germany) and Carl (from the States) at Suzy Wong’s, a stylish cocktail bar in the centre of Amsterdam, we have the chance to discuss the great development of the Amsterdam InterNations Community: During the last 18 months, it has grown from 600 to over 3,000 members. Carl and Kwela have been organizing the monthly events in some of the nicest venues in town, and they also have selected a very special location for the October Get-Together tonight. Jimmy Woo is the most prestigious night club in Amsterdam: You get access only if you are on the guest list. More than 240 members from InterNations now have the opportunity to exclusively enjoy themselves at Jimmy Woo’s from 10pm to 12pm, mingle and network before the club turns into the dancing venue it is so famous for. People from almost 60 different nations took advantage of this occasion. After two hours of talking and connecting with global minds, our members seem happy enough to dance the night away with Amsterdam’s posh, hip, and beautiful.
From Amsterdam, the train ride to The Hague, the capital of the Netherlands, takes only an hour. With about 500,000 inhabitants, The Hague is much smaller than Amsterdam, which does not make it less of an international city, though. In addition to the Dutch government and the royal family, headed by Queen Beatrix and her son Willem-Alexander, the Prince of Orange, The Hague is also home to all foreign embassies and the country’s supreme court. It’s also the judicial capital of the United Nations, where the International Criminal Court convenes.
After just two stops, the tram brings me from Centraal Station to the Grote Markt, the historical city centre of The Hague. Roderick, the Dutch Ambassador of the local InterNations Community, has also picked a perfect spot for Friday’s October Get-Together, the restaurant and bar Boterwaag, a former a 17th-century dairy market, right in the middle of the alternative and laidback neighbourhoods in The Hague. 116 InterNations members from 40 different countries have signed up for this event, and they slowly start arriving at 8pm. Two hours later the place is packed, many regulars but also plenty of newcomers. Roderick and I welcome everyone in person and introduce members to each other. The InterNations name tags, with the first name, the country of origin and the respective flag, serve as a good “ice-breaker” to start up a first conversation. The get-together is a success, and Roderick has already plans to expand the community and the InterNations events even further.
The trip to the Netherlands was really a great opportunity: I had the chance to visit two lovely cities where I hadn’t been for years. I received a lot of valuable feedback from our members, which will help us to improve our online community and offline events. I’m already looking forward to my next trip – it will lead me to Prague, and I will, of course, share my impressions here with you.