July 15, 2008

Close to home

Yesterday was a long day at work, and during one of the many moments in the day where I was waiting for something to happen, I got into a conversation with a colleague about Milan, Italy, and how different it is to live and work there than it is to live and work in Amsterdam. I asked him to explain what it was about Milan that is so incredibly different, and as he talked it sounded like he was describing New York City. It's one thing to spend a day at work being crazy and busy and dramatic and high-strung, but it can be horrible to leave the office and be greeted with crazy, busy, dramatic, high-strung people all around you. "It was just too much," he said, "Too expensive, too crowded, just every aspect of life was totally rushed and stressful, never relaxed, ever." I remember that feeling, of leaving work at the end of really busy day - say at 9 or 10 at night, and still having to deal with crowds of people pushing me through the subway, the sounds of car alarms and horns honking and smells and sirens. Sometimes that atmosphere can be fun, intoxicating, the kind of thing that made me feel alive every minute of the day.

But sometimes it was just too much. And I think one thing that everyone who lives in Amsterdam can agree on is that this city - as far as cities go - is the opposite of high-stress and dramatic. I love that. It's totally different than where I came from, and that's what appeals to me.

However, I also love the fact that I stopped for a sesame bagel with chive cream cheese on my way to work. Sometimes a little taste of home is nice.

So I ended up missing the film I wanted to see last night, but I still went to De Nieuwe Anita to meet up with my friends for a few beers. It was a nice evening, made even nicer by the fact that the smoking ban is in full affect and I went home without my clothes and hair smelling like smoke! The Dutch establishments I've been to since the first of July seem ready for the ban (they did have 2 years warning, after all). Smokers are being told that even when they're outside, they can't just drop their cigarettes on the ground, they have to use ashtrays. Coffeeshops have their own bizarre set of rules where it's still legal to smoke pure marijuana, but if you mix it with tobacco, that's not allowed, unless there's a special smoking room. If there IS one of these special smoking rooms, the employees aren't allowed to go in and clean up after people (because the ban exists to protect the workers from second hand smoke). Again, it's weird, but people will get used to it. I'm just trying to piece information together based on what I've read and heard - but overall, the folks who live here seem pretty okay with the ban. It certainly has made my life easier.


Drew McKinney said...

Interesting that the comparison between Amsterdam and Milan is a lot unlike that of, say, Portland or San Francisco to NYC.

As someone whose worked in NYC (as well as several other cities nationally and internationally), I hear yah. Manhattan is great when you're out and about and high on the energy of the city and its people, but when you're exhausted after a long day it can shorten your lifespan significantly.

Full disclosure: I now live in Chicago. Love this town!

Another American Expat said...

I never spent anytime in Chicago - always meant to!

I have a lot of criticism about NYC, but I also know that it would be really hard for me to live in the US and not live there.