I had always thought of Amsterdam more as a location for hen dos or perhaps a quick weekend getaway rather than as a business centre or a choice for secondment.
How wrong I was because having been here only six weeks, I already know I am going to find it very hard to leave.
Amsterdam has the obvious advantage of not requiring any level of language proficiency before being able to live and work here. English is widely spoken although it is always appreciated if you try to learn a few Dutch words. I have just about mastered the basics now (even if my accent needs some work) and I love to practise with my Dutch colleagues, much to their amusement. Another advantage is that you are only a short flight away from the UK - the air stewards barely have time to rush along with the drinks trolley before it is time to fasten your seat belt for landing. Still, apart from the logistics and language advantage, Amsterdam really has a lot to offer and I can’t rave about it enough to my friends who are frequently popping over for visits.
Amsterdam has a great selection of museums, lovely parks and markets and a fabulous café culture with many “gezellig” Dutch bars which are perfect for an afternoon bockbier or a plate of bitterballen (a sweet ale and deep fried meat balls). Walking around my local area, the Jordaan, in the early evening with all the canals lit up and lined with the beautiful tall townhouses, it really strikes you how pretty a city it is. There is also something interesting going on almost every weekend be it Museum Night, a beer festival or the Electric Dance Festival. The Amsterdam Marathon took place here a few weeks ago and while we didn’t do the whole 26 miles, a team from Linklaters did enter the 8km business run and we were lucky enough to have near perfect weather with the sun streaming into the Olympic Stadium as we completed the lap of the city centre.
Although a cliché, the Dutch really seem to have a relaxed and no-nonsense attitude to life. Very quickly I realised that a bike was essential to my life in Amsterdam and whilst it remains a love-hate relationship (I have become renowned in the office for my stories of near misses), I know I am going to miss this lifestyle when I go back to the overcrowded tubes of London. I am hoping it soon gets cold enough for the canals to freeze over so I can try out some Dutch-style ice-skating, although probably even riskier than the bike!
On the work front, it takes a little time to get used to the fact that Linklaters isn’t quite the household name it is in London and indeed many people here call it “Link-latters”. Although the Amsterdam office is smaller than the entire corporate department in London, it is growing quickly and retains a friendly atmosphere where it is easy to get to know the entire office!
I am trying my best to explore the Netherlands while I am here and so far I have visited the Efteling (a Dutch institution probably best compared to Disneyland Paris) for the Jonge Balie young lawyers conference and cycled out of the city to Bloemendaal aan Zee to enjoy the last of the summer sun on the beach. In my opinion, Amsterdam really does offer the best of both worlds; it is a large vibrant city which is culturally very rich and yet somehow avoids the overcrowding and stress of other European capital cities.