The seven things I have learned since moving to Amsterdam

Beyond the cliches about bikes, I knew little about Amsterdam, but I am enthusiastically embracing life in this amazing city

Ross O’Carroll-Kelly once described Bray as a “sunless purgatory for people who can’t afford to live in Greystones”.

I am proud to have been born and raised in the town and on this one occasion I found myself to be in complete disagreement with the great man. Bray has so much to offer, and I must admit that I never really had much of a desire to leave.

However, a few months ago, an opportunity to relocate to Amsterdam as part of a two-year work assignment arose. I work in human resources for CRH, which is a provider of building materials solutions globally, and is based in Dublin. Employing more than 75,000 people, it has operations in 29 countries, and with that came the possibility to relocate and work abroad.

I had worked for CRH in the Dublin head office for three years and felt the experience of another country with a different business environment and culture would be a good opportunity for me.


I moved to Amsterdam sight unseen. I had never been before and didn’t really know what to expect beyond the cliches I had heard about bikes, frugality and frankness. As cliches go, they are not very harsh, but I was keen to get beyond them. I wanted to get to know the city and its inhabitants.

I live in the Museum Quarter and I feel like I am five minutes away from everything. The Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh and Moco museums are all close by and I have spent hours contemplating their amazing art collections. I am also fortunate to be right beside De Pijp, which is a really vibrant and social neighbourhood. The great thing about Amsterdam is that there is so much to do, which means I am still exploring everything it has to offer.

I love the fact that so many Dutch towns and cities are reachable in less than an hour. So far I have visited Utrecht, The Hague, Zandvoort, Dordrecht, Leiden, Delft and Rotterdam. But best of all was Texel, an island famed for its dunes and beaches. Friend in tow, I explored the island on bike under a fiery sun. Needless to say, we had to stop in quite a few villages along the way for some light refreshments.

Here are seven things I have learned since moving to Amsterdam:

  1. The public transport system is safe, reliable and extensive. I can easily go anywhere by train, metro, tram or ferry.
  2. Bikes have truly conquered Amsterdam. Running over tourists is a local pastime, however, so beware.
  3. Guinness still does not travel well, but I was very determined to find the best in the city (Mulligan’s, an Irish music bar that looks out on the river Amstel, from which Amsterdam took its name eight centuries ago, is as good as you’ll get over here).
  4. In business, Dutch people can come across as a little conservative at first, but are more than willing to get on board with the craic, especially in the evenings and weekends. I’ve had some great fun with my new colleagues since arriving.
  5. Being a self-styled connoisseur of pints of stout and toasted specials, I had always just assumed that there was no finer marriage of beer and food. However, bitterballen, which are Dutch meatballs, with a couple of pale Dutch lagers comes fairly close.
  6. The city’s architecture is spectacular.
  7. Everyone is fluent in English.

My weekends are important to me and living in a two-bedroom apartment in a great location is definitely a big attraction for friends coming to visit. Some have come to sample the party life here, while others have come for a more cultural experience.

I always wait for their reaction when they see how steep and narrow the steps are to my apartment. This is completely normal in Amsterdam but a real shock to the system for anyone from a country with as many bungalows as Ireland has.

I will always carry Bray in my heart no matter where I go in this world and I must say that I do miss friends, family and the breakfast rolls back home. Having said that, I am enthusiastically embracing life here. I still have over a year left in Amsterdam, and I am looking forward to continuing to discover this amazing city and its people.