Lifestyle in Amsterdam
Amsterdam offers a wonderfully diverse selection of leisure and lifestyle activities. With world-class restaurants and fabulous shopping, renowned entertainment options and annual events, expats will have no problem settling into their new lives.
Numerous nationalities make up the city’s cosmopolitan atmosphere, but English is spoken almost everywhere, making communication a lot easier. There is plenty of entertainment in Amsterdam for single expats as well as those who move with their families.
Shopping in Amsterdam
When it comes to shopping in Amsterdam, the city has everything expats could want, including international brand outlets, antique stores, exclusive boutiques, contemporary Dutch design and street markets.
The only impediment to a full shopping bag is the opening times. Although this is slowly changing, due to archaic customs, most shops in Amsterdam only open between 10am and 6pm, except on Thursdays when many stay open until later, around 9pm or 10pm.
Although the concept of shopping malls is not very popular in the Netherlands, there are a few compact shopping areas in Amsterdam. Many roads in the city centre are closed to cars, arguably making the shopping experience even better.
Kalverstraat and Leidsestraat feature familiar high-street brands; the Nine Streets (De Negen Straatjes) are packed with vintage shops and boutiques; trendy Haarlemmerdijkstraat has a mixture of shops and restaurants; Pieter Cornelisz Hooftstraat (PC Hoofstraat), in the museum district, has luxury shopping; and Spiegelkwartier is good for art and antiques.
The most famous department store is De Bijenkorf (The Bee Hive) in Dam Square. Magna Plaza and Kalvertoren, both on Kalverstraat, also house several fashion shops.
For furniture and interior design, the Villa Arena area is within easy reach of the metro. Electronics and home appliances can be found at MediaMarkt and Saturn shops, which have a strong presence throughout Amsterdam.
Those looking for an authentic experience can explore independent designer shops dotted all over the city.
Eating out in Amsterdam
Although Dutch cuisine isn’t as famous as French or Italian food, a mixture of international restaurants in Amsterdam reflects its diverse population. There is a great variety to choose from, with everything from Indonesian, Surinamese, Indian and Japanese to North African, Turkish and Eastern European cuisine.
The prices fit any kind of pocket, from affordable fast-food chains and street-side herring shops to Michelin-starred restaurants. Expats may want to avoid the tourist areas when choosing a restaurant, since many have inflated prices without the quality to match, but there are a few gems among them.
Some of the best areas to search for food include Haarlemmerstraat, Nieuwmarkt, Utrechtsestraat, the Nine Streets area and Reguliersdwarsstraat.
There is also a lot of choice when it comes to sustainable eating. There are several restaurants dedicated to organic food, and vegetarians will be happy to hear that most places cater to them.
The only downside to eating in Amsterdam is the famously poor service, which can be quite jarring for anyone used to more polite treatment. With a few notable exceptions, most establishments provide good food but not much in the way of staff friendliness. As always, a smile and a nice word can go a long way towards warming up the atmosphere, but expats shouldn’t take it personally if it isn’t reciprocated.
Nightlife in Amsterdam
Amsterdam's nightlife is anything but boring, and expats can spend a night as quietly or as wildly as they wish.
Apart from the obvious coffee shops, there are many pubs and “brown cafés”, which usually have a good selection of beers, while numerous clubs await dance lovers wanting to party until morning.
The main spots to spend a night out include Leidseplein, Rembrandtplein, the Jordaan and the Red Light District, although this last one can be overcrowded by tourists. These areas are packed with bars, live music venues and nightclubs.
With a wonderful array of things to see and do, it's easy to have fun and meet new people in Amsterdam.