Lauren was born and raised in Amsterdam and has roots in many parts of the town. Because permanent lodging is hard to come by (like good beaches) she’s lived all over the city – “[…] from the villagey Prinseneiland to the hustle and bustle of the Red Light District”
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I love cinema and photography and I’ve worked as a festival producer, researcher and translator in the cultural sector, but I’ve been having a public affair with food on the side. Only recently did I realize how much traveling, for me, revolves around food. My itineraries are always inspired by which local dishes I haven’t tasted yet, or learning about local traditions and culinary customs. The way we eat says so much about the way we are.
I tend to escape my hometown periodically, but I keep coming back. I’m drawn to Amsterdam – as much as I hate its crampedness, its climate, its silly bureaucracy and its physical limitations, I adore its bridges, its unexpected tranquility, its versatility, its bicycles and its people more.
How do you like being a Spotter?
I love being a Spotter! Walking around with Spotters’ glasses on feels like when you’ve just returned from a long trip and instantly fall madly in love with your city all over again (which of course is one of the main reasons to leave in the first place!). It’s refreshing to look at the streets that raised you from a different perspective. I feel the same way about carrying a camera – you start paying close attention.
I remember I first thought about writing for the website right after Queen’s day, which had become this dreary, orange-clad nightmare for me after so many years that I had started to prefer closing the draped and ignoring the whole event altogether. That particular year, a friend from New York came to visit me, so I decided to give her the proper Amsterdam Queen’s day experience. As we were walking through the shut down city (which on April 30th turns into one big flea market and dance party), I started seeing the event through her eyes and realized how special it really was. She couldn’t get over the fact that the whole town was in party lock-down, and how that would never be possible in New York. Since then, I’ve been treating every Queen’s day like it’s my last.
Which prejudices about Amsterdam are true and which aren’t?
It’s hard to answer that question without mentioning the obvious. Amsterdam is at once everything everyone expects it to be and anything but. Our liberal drug laws reflect a general tolerance (which unfortunately, today isn’t half of what it used to be) that’s informed by our history and shapes our whole mindset, not just the amount of weed you’re allowed to buy legally. So an exploration of Amsterdam’s free spirit should definitely not be confined to a coffee shop or the rug in your hotel bathroom. Go talk to the people – the shop keepers, the market vendors, the artists, the creatures of the night.
The Dutch do have their contradictions though because despite our tolerance we can also come across as (too) frank and a little cold. I think the stereotype that we’re tight where money’s concerned is also a direct misinterpreted result of this rigidity. We’re not scroogey, we’re just not much of a sharing culture. The Dutch are reserved, they need some time to defrost. We don’t cuddle strangers, let alone invite them over for dinner with our families. I always have that rude awaking when I go away – I like to think I’m open-minded, tolerant and sociable, but when people come up close without warning I always need to get over the fact that I initially feel my personal bubble is being marauded.
Another thing that is true is that we treat tourists on bicycles like shit. I’m sorry, playing scare-the-tourist on the Zeedijk is just too much fun! Compare it to someone being allowed onto the freeway without a license, stalling everyone on their way to work by driving 30 on the fast lane. You’re bound to press a few buttons.
Can you describe a perfect day in Amsterdam?
It’s heresy not to go outside on a sunny day in Amsterdam as they’re so sparse, so the main part of my perfect day would definitely be spent outside. Walking down the Haarlemmerdijk, getting some croissants at Mediterannee and a coffee next door at Two For Joy. Cycling through Westerpark to De Buurtboerderij for lunch and a good read. I love reading but I can’t even seem to finish McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, which is only published every three months, before the next one arrives.
After the park, I’d get some sausage and wine at Worst and pretend I’m in France for a while until the sun sets. In spring, I’d definitely visit De Aprilfeesten for the evening. Nothing beats the atmosphere there. In summer, Pluk de Nacht Open Air Film Festival is held just down the road from Worst. Pluk always has an amazing vibe – even when it’s raining and everyone’s in ponchos. Instant happiness, and instant Amsterdam.
At night I’d go dancing. There would definitely be dancing. Maybe at OT301, or at an outdoor festival. There’s loads of them in summer. Keep an eye out for any underground parties in the East or North of town as well – the regulations are a little more uptight these days, but there’s still enough grime around.