Thaddeus is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2017, sharing his story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A BFA major at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities, he is studying abroad in London this semester.
In this week's post, Thaddeus heads to Amsterdam and experiences another city and culture outside London over his fall break.
I was in much need of a break from school. While being in London has been extraordinary so far, it still is very much a busy city that drains you mentally quite a bit.
Peaceful fields with windmills in Zaanse Schans.
Lucky for me I started my 10-Day Fall Break this week! And I was off to Amsterdam! This is the second country in the EU that I have visited, and it was an entirely different world than what I had experienced in Italy. That might sound like an obvious statement, but in the U.S., we have many different people from different cultures, all living within the bounds of U.S. history and historical infrastructure.
This is where I feel Europe has differed the most from the U.S.
The Netherlands itself seemed to be a much more progressive culture and be proud of the new waves the countries ideology believes in. While Amsterdam itself still has very touristy attractions and activities (i.e. the Red Light District and "coffee shops"), the baseline ideas and ways of viewing these attractions developed from the thought of helping the people of the country be safe, healthy, and happy. It was a breath of fresh air from constantly seeing phone screens with news articles about social politics in the U.S. and even the U.K.
I think the Netherlands is a place where the people are more concerned with being open and honest with everyone - and treating everyone with respect. With this as a base of understanding between the people of the country, the people have been more empowered to instill good practices in the social politics of the culture!
I also took time to notice how people moved throughout the city. Everyone seemed to let themselves live and be comfortable in their own bodies. Everyone had a very outward facing way of communicating with everyone rather than turned inwards, and secluded from allowing a conversation to take place.
I think we all carry ourselves that way in the U.S. Specifically in the Midwest, where I am from. Where I grew up in Illinois, there is no reason to talk or communicate with anybody, unless you are trying to get something from them, work with them, or buy from them. It is very much about your own individuality in the U.S., and I think that can make people rather selfish.
From what I experienced in coffee shops, restaurants, and even small consignment stores in Amsterdam, it seems like conversation and communication between people is part of the culture—which is something that enriches one's individuality, rather than secludes individuality.
Experiencing this culture has allowed me to change my perspectives on meeting people and allowing people into my life. I think I am definitely a more introverted person and don't meet new people easily, and I think it has to do with the American habit of keeping your guard up, that the world is out to get you.
Amsterdam was a beautiful city culturally, aesthetically, and morally. I think we can all learn from the Netherlands way of life, and bring those ideas to work we do as a new generation.
Thaddeus's journey continues every Wednesday so stay tuned.