21 mei 2019

Amsterdam & Cultural Consumerism

The strangest thing about Amsterdam is how full it is. Less than a million people live here, and yet the city clearly struggles. At times the trams feel more like sardine cans; people are forced to stand shoulder to shoulder and jostle their way through the carriages, like a kind of rush hour mosh pit. Cycling anywhere in the Binnenstad (inner city district) on a sunny weekend requires an intersection of skill and reaction speed usually found only in fighter pilots, as you weave your way between meandering tour groups and stoned couples trying to find their hotel.

Cycling in the Binnenstad on a sunny weekend requires an intersection of skill and reaction speed usually found only in fighter pilots

The industry of tourism has undergone huge changes in the 21st century, with Amsterdam joining the ranks of European cities that have had enough. A great paradox of tourism is that it brings us closer together, but we struggle to truly engage with different cultures, people, and politics. Stag parties from the UK, Spain, or Ireland frequent Amsterdam regularly; yet you’ll never see them queuing for the Scheepvaartmuseum. More likely, they will drink rather too much Heineken at a Leidseplein sports bar before heading to the Red-Light District to ogle the sex workers and pass round a joint.

So, what can we do about? Tourism as it stands today is a competition; we seek the authentic and the untouched so that we can touch it first and make an exciting Instagram post. It’s cultural consumerism; we encounter other cultures through a series of transactions and commodified experiences, which ultimately leaves us all feeling as if we haven’t quite found the ‘real deal’. Living in Amsterdam gives you front row seats to see the features of modern tourism, for better and for worse. I recommend that you endeavour to find out exactly what the city has to offer—underneath the homogenised façade of the city centre is a wealth of fascinating cultural deposits for those willing to try and find them.

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