Tuesday, October 23, 2012

I find myself in Amsterdam

Can't recall where I was when I got lost. Never mind, here I am.

Actually, I'm at a conference at a hotel near Schiphol Airport (the Steigenberger, nee Dorint) -- a pleasant, well-run meeting-cum-sleeping factory. After tomorrow I'll be done with work (for the time being) and will move to the old city and really be in Amsterdam.

Airport hotels are said to be the same everywhere, and in my limited experience, that's true. Everything I've seen so far on this visit could be on Long Island. There are no windmills out front (which I am grateful for -- if there were, it would be the most cynical tourist play imaginable).

Yet subtle things already tell me I'm not in the U.S. or U.K. Even in a very 21st century setting, lacking the overtly traditional, there is a feeling of neatness and orderliness. The chaps who drive the hotel vans from the airport either like their work or give a flipping good imitation of it. Same with the people at hotel reception; there's that indefinable air of professionalism that seems hardly to exist anymore in the U.S., where you are greeted with a mechanical smile and a bored intonation, or in the U.K. where you will probably find a student or immigrant desk clerk -- yeah, clerk -- proficient in several languages, none of them English.

I can't discuss the conference, not because it is secret but because I don't mix work and blogging. As usual, most of the interesting stuff comes in one-on-one conversations during the breaks and after the day's presentations are done, down is let hair and loosened are collars.

When I'm in Europe I can at least understand why people have somewhat different attitudes about globalism, the EU, and such than Americans (other than pseudo-Europeans) do. Here everybody lives not far from another nationality; they usually have some language in common (the Dutch almost all speak English, of course -- even other Europeans, except maybe Germans, can make no sense of Dutch). It is tempting to believe they're all one big happy family. But they confuse courtesy with shared values.

That's the story so far, from your blogger whose head is still in mid-Atlantic.



Five Daarstens said...


I lived in NL for three years.

Mulligans Pub in Amsterdam is very good, excellent music and crowd.

If you get a chance, visit The Hague or Delft, very underrated places. The Hague is really the capitol and Delft is a beautiful old city.

Rick Darby said...

Five Daarstens,

Thank you for the heads-up. I went to The Hague last time I was in the Netherlands and agree it is worth visiting. However, the Mauritshuis art museum is closed for renovations (some of the collection has been moved to another museum but it's across town).

My wife and I are planning a day in Haarlem this week.