Walking around Amsterdam to buy a printer today I realised how little I understand of Dutch culture and people. Coming from an under-developed (according to Western criteria) European country more than an year ago, the first thing that strucked me was the 'apparent' efficiency of the city. Trams are on time, car drivers are disciplined, people are not too loud, banks and public services are not too crowded. Excitement! Moreover, the city is truly beautiful. Its little houses, stuck one to the other to the level of exploding, appear as chocolate cakes decorated with cream on top (my sister described them like this). Parks, green spaces, bikes and ducks.
The centre of Amsterdam is really gorgeous and I have been lucky enough to live always there.
Yet, things start appearing less clear when one goes to the supermarket (Albert Heijn - the only brand in town, a sort of huge omnivorous octopus that has bought really every corner) or to the local 'soaps shop' (Kruidvaat).
Everything appears immediately less 'rational' than one could expect. The criterion that organises the allocation of commodities on the shelves of these places is still unclear to me, so you find biscuits and toilet paper in the same sector; though some biscuits have certainly a laxative effect to justify this choice. The pharmacy (apotheek) is also a mystery to me. Whenever you go there you have the strange experience of waiting at least 45 minutes while watching 20 people working on the back room and only one in the cash desk. I used to think that people get days off when they need an aspirin, but then I realised that most common medicins here can be found in a normal shop, near the vegetables and the kitchen cleaning sponges.
After these startling experiences I have decided to track records of them and to investigate further into the main bizarre aspects of Legoland (having lived for years in the monumental Rome, Amsterdam's buildings and monuments appear to me like cute constructions made of Lego).
So, here are the aspects:
1) Water (quite a dominant element in the landscape);
2) Food (interesting subject: like the English one, Dutch food is not famous for being great but it also seems to play a less important role in life);
3) Spinoza (this is the city of Spinoza!!! Yet, I cannot see signs of him left...)
4) Calvinism (I started to understand truly Max Weber when I came here)
5) Money (more important than food)
6) Politics (this is the city where Anton Pannekoek taught!!!! No traces left of him, whatsoever!!)
7) Tolerance (have a trip with the metro and you start doubting of it...)
And let's see what else develops out of it.