1- The Dutch – They Make You Appreciate Lying A Bit More
They ride their bicycles because of utility not to look hip. They use the canals for real reasons and not to fit in. They read books in every spare moment without crying for an appreciation of their intellect. They wear what keeps them warm not only what makes them trendy. Their men look like artists and their women look like Olympian swimmers. They have a clear secular stance on Islam, politics, and culture – no sugarcoating here maybe because they consumed all the sugar in their delicious apple pies and cheesecakes. Their honesty makes you appreciate lying a bit more – the flight attendant on the KLM flight announced “I was told that the delay in taking off might take up to 35 minutes but I cannot promise you anything!”
2- Sharp, Serious and Sarcastic!
Attending a coaching course with 15 highly experience European consultants – mostly Dutch – was a humbling experience. They were simply Sharp, Serious, and Sarcastic! In similar courses that I attended in Dubai, one usually meets a group of Brit-wannabes faking an English accent, desperate house wives wanting to kill their time with false entrepreneurship, and over-privileged youngsters paid by their company to utilize their training allocation.
3- Intellectually Posing
The city is so intellectual with all its bookshops and museums that I felt itching to write a poem or play some music. I then immediately remembered my futility, so I smiled and posed for another selfie!
4- Dead Tourists In The Canal
The legend goes “the canals are 3 meters deep. One meter filled with water, one with mud and one with stolen bicycles”. Every year, 20 to 25 young male tourists are found dead in these canals – never a woman! What is captivating is the common plausible reason for this dramatic ending. The men are they always drown with their zippers open leading to the belief that they were too drunk while peeing in the canal.
5- Make or Break
No matter how good the content is, it is always the delivery that creates value for the learner. Attending a course with world class trainers and highly sophisticated participants exploring profound coaching techniques restored my faith in training programs. The absence of technology was a pleasant surprise and the circular seating with no tables made it even better. I am grateful to meet the trainers and learners in this class. It did not only inspire me to coach differently but also to reconsider how I deliver my programs.
6- Halal But Disgusting
The dirtiest restaurants in the city are always empty with a grumpy servant inside looking with disgust at the happy tourists flocking the streets. They usually carry a sign the says “Halal”.
7- The Paradox of Drugs and Integrity
I have been told that marijuana smokers are bad people. After experiencing the community of devout users of the magic seed, I feel troubled. Everyone I met seemed nice, I have not seen any fights, tourists seemed relaxed carrying their valuable belongings, ladies were comfortable walking alone after midnight, races did not seem at odds like they usually do, and foreigners were treated with equal respect. I find the paradox of what I experienced and what I was told quite intriguing. I was told that people who worship God and pray frequently have integrity, my experience tell me that they would be better off smoking weed.
8- A Big Difference
Coffeeshop is not a synonym for Café. The difference could be as wide as a cappuccino is different from a joint. A bartender asked me about my plans for the following day, I innocently answered “I have some work to do. I will probably be in a coffeeshop most of the day tomorrow!” I bet he was curious about the type of courses one could design in a “Coffeeshop”
9- Brazilians Like Mushrooms!
This European capital is filled with “brasileiros” and they are everywhere and in every corner – just like mushroom. The first thing they tell you, is “Amsterdã éé muito seguro cara!” showing their appreciation of safety in comparison to Brazil.
10- Three Egyptian Girls
On a tram near the trendy neighborhood called Leidsplein, three college age girls from Egypt were chatting. As I sit near them, one says he looks like him and pulls her phone to google someone. They jump off the tram before I figure out who it was. I noticed they carelessly used the wrong door interrupting the flow of the incoming passengers.
11- Slavery or Freedom of Choice?
Walking the Red Light District and seeing those women calling the tourists to come in for an intimate service was both disturbing and confusing. At first, I was shocked of how they popped up in my face from within normal streets visited by families. I was curious to judge the girls behind the glass doors. Is that part of exercising their freedom of choice or are they under the mercy of the human trafficking cartels operating from Eastern Europe?
12- The Irish Lads
Loud, happy and tipsy but like always the friendliest tourists one could meet. They are all over the town from one Irish pub to another. They pick on each other’s county and they all worship Connor.
13- Yes, We Know Dubai
Not everyone knows Abu Dhabi but they all know of Dubai. Interestingly, many even understand the social structure and the Kafala system in the gulf and express their honest – brutally honest – opinion about it. A Belgian consultant told me “Yes, I would love to live without paying taxes, but I can’t imagine living with that injustice.” Another said, “if I want to experience the Arab culture, I would go to Morocco or Egypt.” That makes is easier for me to explain why I would like to leave here one day.
14- The Syrian Refugee with A Master’s Degree
In the hotel of the training course, a very friendly waiter was shining with his multi-lingual skills. He spoke Dutch, French, English and to my surprise Arabic. He explained how he fled Syria 3 years ago to Istanbul then Greece… all the way to Amsterdam. He finished his language courses, did his remedial classes to start his MBA next semester. Ziyad laughed when he knew that the gulf countries will accept 25,000 Syrian refugees in 2017! When he told me about how ashamed he is due to the attitude of many Arab migrants in Europe, I felt that I found a brother!
15- Romantic Sensuality
The Red Light District, The Sex Museum, and the many Erotic Shows make Amsterdam a Sin City at first sight. However, there was a secret vibe in the streets that did not make that sensuality feel vulgar – it rather felt strangely romantic. It could be the curious lovers holding hands hoping from one the sex shops to another. It could also be couple kissing on The Skinny Bridge over the river Amstel. It might be the wine and candles on the tiny tables of Steakhouse restaurant in the Nieumarkt. As a final touch of eroticism, KLM offered Fifty Shades of Grey on my return flight!
16- Trump Is The New Weather
That awkward moment when you want to start a conversation with a stranger but you do not want to use the Cliché weather comment. Well, thanks to the American newly elected president, there is a more interesting way to have the little talk.
17- A Polo-shirt, A Converse and A Jeans – That Is The Goal!
While wandering the narrow streets and walking over the bridges of Amsterdam, I had a moment of insight. I now know that if I truly develop my skills and be exceptionally good at what I do, I could train while wearing casual outfit. After all, I people are still contracting me with the way my hair is – this is a good progress for now!
18- A Responsive Municipality
Few years ago, the municipality built a three story building near the Central Station dedicated to park bicycles. It can house up to 2,500 bicycles which sounds great until one knows that 9,000 bicycles are parked around that same neighborhood. Someone told me that there are more bicycles than there are residents in Amsterdam.
19- Legit 3rd World Citizen
It is the ordinary respect of a driver letting a pedestrian cross the street. It is the appreciation of queueing up for everything. It is that commitment of partying teenagers to scan their tram cards while no one is looking, it is the fact that people doing small jobs are truly respected for their contribution, it is the long hours of volunteering to support the refugees, it is the deeply-rooted effort towards gender equality, and it is simplicity of describing tolerance of individuality… all these make the Dutch earn their membership to The 1st World club.
20- What Could Go Wrong
I am off-boarding the plane with a yellow Brazil jersey on, chaotic hair that did not meet a brush or gel for a week, and eyes red like blood because of the cold wind and I even smell like hash due to walking the streets of the lazy coffeeshops.