My First Visit to a Country Where English Is Not the Official Language

Today the traveling trio (my wife, youngest son, and myself) took a short flight from London to Amsterdam, where the official language is Dutch.

This is my first time to be in a country where English is not the default language, and the Netherlands seems to be a nice country in which to experience such a difference.

The first thing I noticed when we landed at the Amsterdam airport was that all of the overhead signs were in English, and while that certainly made things easy, I was also disappointed that the signs were not in Dutch. I was looking forward to the challenge of trying to navigate through an airport, where English is not the primary language.

Once we were out of the airport, things changed to more of what I expected. We passed a few restaurants while out walking, and their menus were in Dutch (even the Chinese restaurant). The place we had pizza had both Dutch and English menus.

But perhaps the most striking thing I’ve noticed in my few hours in Amsterdam is how much bikes are used. They seem to be everywhere, and the roads are quite accommodating for the riders, with ample room on each side of a street, and in some places the bike lanes are protected from the traffic. There was also a spot where it was hard to cross the street, not because of cars, but because of the number of bikers!

We saw people of all ages out on their bikes, and this was after 7:30 at night. We saw some bikers taking a leisurely approach, such as the elderly couple I saw riding next to each other. the young family out with their kids – the mom was using a tandem bike, and young guys acting as if they were in the Tour de France.

If you want to encourage more people to ride bikes around town, it seems a lot can be learned from Amsterdam. And even though it was not part of our original plan, we hope to try out some bikes while we are here so that we can get the full Dutch experience.

That and the Heineken tour…


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