Hot! Happiest Place On Earth

Sure Amsterdam is a happy place you say. You’ve heard about the coffeeshops, the bicycles and Heineken. But it is more than that. Everyone here is truly happy to help you. No matter what time of day, they smile as you pass and will volunteer information if you look lost. They gladly explain about their city, speak to you in English or help you read a menu. Two examples stand out.

On an early and rare sunny morning I was crossing the Rembrandtplein bridge with guidebook in hand. A truck with three workers pulled up. One man had a ticket book, the other a chainsaw, and the third was supervising. Two bicycles were picked out, chains cut and they were thrown in the back. The supervisor chatted with me to make sure I wasn’t lost. No, I was fine but what about the bikes? They were old he said. Hmmm.

Another day in the Rembrandtplein and I decide to try broodjes – small sandwiches stuffed with different meats. I walk into a shop that looks like a 50s diner. The men all wear white laboratory jackets and look like butchers. The menu is in total Dutch. Can you explain how this works, I asked the owner. He hands me an English menu, but also shows me the specialties. I order two and a glass of milk. He seems pleased. They are like sliders – quick bites. As I look around, everyone else – even the burly streetworkers are drinking milk.

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