Amsterdam is a busy, bustling city that is thriving at all times of the day and night. Living here, you tend to get used to the sounds of the city pretty quickly. In some cases, your brain trains itself to react to certain sounds in different ways without even looking around you. You almost become a sound ninja! Here are my top 5 common sounds of Amsterdam, in no particular order, which I personally relate to, but I’m sure it could differ from person to person.
1. Tram Bells – The bells that ring from the tram when it is close to you or about to flatten you, is a sound that embeds itself into your head very quickly. So much in fact, after while there is no need to even look over your shoulder to see which direction it’s coming from. It’s almost like a 6th sense. You hear it, you move out of the way, and everything continues smoothly.
Photo Source: Michael Skomsky/myrandomamsterdam
2. Bike Bells – This is an absolute “Sound of Amsterdam”. Bike bells play a huge role in our auditory intake. They can, however, be a little tricky. Of course, when riding along in the bike lane, other riders will ring their bell to warn you of their passing on the left. Others will ring it when coming down the street and a crowd of people are standing there like they’ve never heard of a sidewalk. Now the tricky part: unlike the tram, there are a million more bikes to look out for. So whether you are on foot and crossing the street or riding in a bike lane, there are so many bells going at once from all directions. It can be a little chaotic at times to say the least. But take a deep breath and instead of freaking out, just start ringing your bell even if for no reason at all. Pretend it’s a celebration! I’d rather blend in than get run over and stand out.
3. House Music – Ahh, yes, the ever so in your face all the time, house music. The Dutch are big fans of house music, as well as most of the young European population. I on the other hand, am not. Sorry people! That doesn’t mean I won’t go out and tear up the dance floor with friends that do enjoy it. Been there, done that! However, when the local cheese shop is pumpin’ some DJ (insert name here) while I’m trying to get my fill of free samples for lunch, it’s kind of a free sample mood killer. Also, I was confused for the longest time as to why it’s called house music. I thought, “Why the hell would anyone want to play this in their house?” House music? Like dinner music? “Hey sweetie, can you pass the potatoes?” PUMP, PUMP, PUMP, PUMP, PUMP! I can just imagine people gliding around their kitchens doing fist pumps while lathering up some nice soiled dishes after a fine meal with some even finer “house music”. But hey, whatever floats your boat, I guess.
4. People Singing Aloud (Wilhelmus) – When I say “people singing aloud”, I don’t just mean people singing their favorite songs or the most popular, just reached #1 on the charts type of songs. I’m talking about the groups of Dutchies, usually on boats cruising down the canals, that will belt out the Dutch National Anthem known as Wilhelmus van Nassouwe or just the Wilhelmus. I’ve witnessed this on numerous occasions walking along the canals, or past cafes/bars. Of course there is usually beer involved, and lots of it, as if the consumption of beer automatically constitutes the public recital of the Wilhelmus. And don’t get me started on the melodic aftermath of a soccer (voetbal) game. I guess I should actually learn the lyrics (in Dutch of course) and chime in sometime!
Photo Source: Michael Skomsky/myrandomamsterdam
5. “Volgende Stoppen” – Back to the tram! When riding the tram the automated voice will announce the stops along the route, whichever it may be. “Volgende Stoppen”, meaning “Next Stop”, will burrow itself into your brain like meerkats. So much that even when I’m not on the tram and just riding my bike, I find myself reciting “Volgende Stoppen” at stop lights, crosswalks, etc. It’s like a sickness. Ugh, I just did it again!
– Scooters – Scooters are a more common sound than the Wilhelmus, and just as common as the others I’ve listed, however, after while you really just don’t hear them anymore. As you get thoroughly used to it (you will very quickly), it kind of just sounds like a faint pack of flies buzzing around at all times. It’s one of those constant sounds, like the humming of a ceiling fan, or the running of a broken toilet, that you learn to ignore, which ultimately spares your auditory senses from the annoyance that it is. However, the same can not be said for house music. You WILL hear that!
When and if you ever visit or live in Amsterdam you will see exactly what I am talking about. Just stay alert so you don’t get plowed over by a bike, scooter, tram, or maybe even a boat full of singing Dutchies (I would stay on dry land in that case). However, have fun!!