Amsterdam has always been a haven for the weird and wonderful of the world to come, hang out and enjoy the finer points of Dutch culture while adding a little bit of their own. I moved here 20 months ago with my laidback girlfriend and neurotic cat, and haven’t looked back since. I have always lived in big cities and was excited, yet a little nervous, about a move somewhere smaller. What I soon realised is that this place can be the best of both worlds in every way.
Amsterdam is a truly beautiful city of water and parks, with the countryside minutes away. It’s best explored by bike; there are no hills, but demoralising wind aplenty to keep you honest. On the flip side, Amsterdam has the ability to subvert itself swiftly, while never feeling mean or violent. So you can always get a hit of the gaudy side of town if you so desire.
There are many idiosyncrasies that make Amsterdam truly quirky, and it can feel super-parochial and a bit medieval in a way that’s charming with a tinge of Hieronymus Bosch. But its progressive, world-class design and architecture vibes are pervasive. The Dutch are not known as prudes, so you can peer into most homes and see clean, yet vibrant, layouts and furnishings.
Where the dichotomy really hits home is food. The Netherlands is famous for being the only place with worse tucker than the UK, and the pub snacks – molten balls and sticks of deep-fried death – are an acquired taste. But, like London years ago, the food scene has really got its act together. It’s great to live in a city that offers visibly better eats every week. It’s part of a creative and entrepreneurial momentum you feel everywhere, with all kinds of food genres chipping in.
It's Amsterdam's acceptance of the world's cultures cuckooed with its own that makes it truly expansive
The Dutch themselves feel like a very definitive race that has made an art of getting tanned while drinking beer in the world’s worst climate. Their bluntness is famous, but it’s normally well-meant and witty. Yet Amsterdam is an international city, and it’s the acceptance of the world’s cultures cuckooed with its own that makes it truly expansive.
We have exploited our position at the heart of Europe to the fullest at 72andSunny Amsterdam, welcoming 21 nationalities (Maltese is our latest) every day. This makes our product broader and deeper, as we are able to create culture-crossing campaigns, but also go deep into specific markets when necessary. We will originate stuff in seven languages and make work beyond words that will run powerfully in countless places.
It’s working and living in such a global soup with a focused sense of self that makes Amsterdam feel intimate yet massive at the same time. And the fact that you can escape to much of Europe without a passport keeps Amsterdam punching above its weight. I’m glad to call it home.
Nic Owen is the managing director at 72andSunny Amsterdam