Newness is incredibly intoxicating, isn’t it? Like marrying someone for example. But what about a bride who plans her wedding from scratch and then moves half way around the world six days after her nuptials? Too much new? I’d say a resounding yes and please don’t misinterpret my use of the term ‘too much.’ Every single bit of my transition from New York City to Amsterdam with my husband is characteristic of my life so of course I’m the one who skips town after her wedding, still it was something to which I had to adjust.
My first few weeks in Amsterdam felt like a well deserved break from my life in New York. I didn’t have any real responsibilities and I was getting used to being a wife. I didn’t miss home because I had Skype and I’ve lived away before so at first Holland felt like a short trip.
As my first year living abroad wore on my hardest ordeal was transitioning from independent fiancée to dependent wife. It took a long time to learn to live securely in that space. While I was emotionally ready for marriage, I never thought about the rough period of waiting for my visa papers to clear and being totally dependent on my husband. I went from being someone with her own money and freedom to needing assistance on everything. Since I couldn’t work thanks to my visa process, I couldn’t contribute financially to my household, a major blow to my ego. I’m used to pulling my own weight and being taken care of was a humbling experience but it drew my husband and I closer though I had other hurdles.
Amsterdam is a maze and my husband helped me learn everything, from my surroundings to the Dutch language. I’m a free spirit who likes to go at my leisure, so having him accompany me everywhere and not understanding the language was frustrating. Every other block looks almost the same and memorizing street names was daunting. I resisted learning Dutch which made life more difficult and when I ventured away from my neighborhood, I was lost. It took awhile to recognize landmarks and then there’s the added layer of learning Amsterdam’s public transport system and the city’s bicycle paths. I’m still learning the bike system — I never rode a bike prior to living here, don’t judge me — but I’m getting better.
Many cultural differences stopped me in my ex-pat tracks but the biggest was the lack of personal space. There’s no three-feet-of-space rule in Holland like in America. It’s one thing when someone you know is close but quite another when a stranger stands on your heels while you’re line. I was losing my mind, but now either I don’t notice it or I’m sending off a radar saying ‘Get away from me.’
One thing that makes Amsterdam special is the city’s laid back vibe. I’ve never lived in a place where no one is rushing. It’s refreshing to step into a higher quality of life and not have to sacrifice anything for it. The constant easy feeling is addictive and it’s not because we’re all high. This is a society that fosters life away from work. The air is better and I live two blocks away from Amstel River. This may be a strange observation but I love that most of the city is the same height. If you visit the terrace at the city’s public library, you get a beautiful unobstructed view of most of Amsterdam.
In hindsight, I am happy my husband and I’s first year of marriage unfolded as it has. This was the first time we lived in the same city, let alone the same space and we’ve learned to maneuver around each other. I’ve made my own set of friends, I know how to get everywhere without my beau’s help and while I can’t speak the language fluently, I understand enough to have general conversation. Good and bad, Amsterdam is full of history and it’s all there for me to discover.
– Sherisa D is a jewelry designer, freelance writer and amateur vegetarian chef originally from Brooklyn, NY now calling canal-lined Amsterdam home with her husband and crazy cat, Pixel.
Last 5 posts by Sherisa de Groot
- Happy Birthday Amsterdam!: An Expat's Surreal Un-Party Experience - April 13th, 2012
- Dutch Healthcare, It's For Everyone! - March 12th, 2012
- Dining Vegetarian In Amsterdam, The Land Of Sugar - March 5th, 2012