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Frank vs. Europe: Part 3

If you’ve been following these adventures in schadenfreude Europe, you should be well-aware that Amsterdam is not necessarily the most navigable of places for beginning a journey. But like all things which are European, the intraversable nature of Amsterdam can also be conquered. In today’s episode, we do a general wrap-up of the first Amsterdam experience.

When in doubt, stay in your hotel room

A few months back, my wife was sent to Amsterdam for a month. After she read parts one and two, we had this conversation:

Sara: How did I navigate Amsterdam better than you?

Frank: You lack all sense of direction

Sara:Ahh, yeah, that makes sense

If you lack an innate sense of direction, you’ll probably do just fine. If you have some sort of built in sense of North, you will become a ball of functional hatred.

Tangentially, this explains why the pigeons in Amsterdam have got to be the ballsiest birds I’ve ever seen. They will fly inches from your face without the slightest care as to whether you asked to be the recipient of Bird Flu 2: Dutch Edition.

Euro Money is sooooo European

Moving on from playing where’s waldo with yourself and a map, there’s something else we all noticed by the second or third day: our money was missing.

Not like it had been stolen. More like there was…less of it. We all had our money converted to Euros, so we’d all gotten the first-hand experience of “donuts to dollars”. It wasn’t that things were necessarily more expensive. It was more that… there was money missing.

Euro Bills are Real Money

What we realized is that the Europeans are using psychology against us. You see, the Euro is smaller than the American dollar. In length, but not necessarily width. Not only that, different bills have different widths. And they change colors with the denominations.

 None of these bills will get you a hotel in Park Place
None of these bills will get you a hotel in Park Place

Coming to the Euro from the American dollar, you can’t help but think of Euros as monopoly dollars. You don’t think it consciously, but, dangit, it’s hard to take the Euro bills seriously. They’re just too cute and adorable to be real money, right? RIGHT?

What’s with All the Pocket Change?

So, another way that the Europeans trick is the coins. You see, being all European, their coins are also real money. Over here in ‘Murica, coins are for bubble gum and homeless people. You don’t use them to pay for…you know…things.

Left to right: 2 moneys, 1 money, 1/2 moneys, 1/5 moneys, 1/10th moneys, penny
Left to right: 2 moneys, 1 money, 1/2 moneys, 1/5 moneys, 1/10th moneys, penny

So, it’s not like our money was really…missing. It’s that Euro coins are real money, too. A European with fully loaded cargo pants is probably a millionaire.

Tangentially: while your gut-reaction is to use the heavy coins to throw at those dive-bombing Dutch pigeons, you should not. All you’re doing is teaching them financial responsibility. I’m pretty sure more than one has an ING account.

Other Countries aren’t a Big Deal

In America, we have 50 states. It’s not too often that you meet an American that’s been in half of them. It’s not overly rare that someone has never left their own state; you can drive for 16 hours without ever leaving Texas. Drive for 16 hours in Europe and you wind up in Russia. Nobody wants that.

There’s not really a whole lot of, “you sure do talk funny, dontcha?” In fact, it’s rude to ask.

We Speak English in ‘Murica!

Ignore the fact that the US doesn’t actually have an official language. Most Americans (read: the Midwest) are unaccustomed, or at least uncomfortable, hearing two languages.

In Europe, it’s a totally different deal. In Amsterdam alone I heard ten languages: Dutch, English,German,French, Spanish, Arabic, Farsi, Turkish,Hebrew, and Russian. Those were the languages that I knew — as in, I knew enough words and/or phrases to be able to positively identify the language. I’m a language nerd, and my linguistic nerditude was at 11. But, these are Europeans. This is no big deal. They speak three languages just ordering a cup of coffee.

I heard a lot of Spanish. There probably weren’t really that many Spaniards, but it’s my strongest language, so it was easy to pull out of the background. And man, those folks from Barthelona sure do talk funny.

Ending the First Adventure

We arrived on a Wednesday, and were checking out on a Saturday. We survived the walking, the conference, the walking, the workshops, the walking, the drinking, the walking, the hangovers, the walking, and some super weird parts of the red-light district where dudes are into lady dudes who act like dudes. Then, we checked out at 12:00 Saturday. We didn’t yet have a plan for where we’d sleep that night, but we had a rough idea that it would be “somewhere in Europe.”

So, having no particular plan whatsoever, with no particular schedule, we managed to almost miss our train to Brussels. Did we have a hotel room in Brussels? No. That’s what the WiFi on the train is for.

The Series

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3