Shopping in Amsterdam: A Love / Hate Relationship

I have a love / hate relationship with shopping in the Netherlands. I definitely love the abundance of flower stands and open air markets, but unfortunately the shopping is not all sunshine and tulips. Growing up in the States, I've been pretty spoiled by the convenience of American shopping. Shopping in Amsterdam, however, is a completely different story, and I attribute this to three main reasons:

1.) The hours and days of operation
2.) The store-specific availability of products
3.) The reality that I have to carry all purchases on my bike

In Amsterdam, most shops are open Monday through Saturday, from 9 or 10 am until about 6 pm. Grocery stores are an exception, opening for limited hours on Sundays, and often staying open until 10 pm every other day of the week. Another exception is Thursday, when stores will stay open until 9 pm to accommodate shoppers who work during normal shopping hours. Shops in Amsterdam's center are also open on Sundays, but believe me that unless you can navigate through crowds of tourists or fully embrace the virtue of patience, you'll want to stay far away.

At first, I perceived these limitations as inconveniences ... and I hated them. But then I changed my mind. I realized that they aren't necessarily inconvenient, they just mean that shopping has to be more of a planned activity. It also means that people are spending their time doing things other than working or shopping on evenings and Sundays. And I think we can all agree to love that, right?

Another thing that took some getting used to was going to many stores to acquire everything on my shopping list. Very often, my shopping list looks something like this:

In the States, this is a one-stop shopping list. In Amsterdam, however, I have to go to at least three stores to make these purchases ... possibly four if the grocery store doesn't have the specific light bulb I'm looking for. It's making these multiple stops to cross everything off my simple list (this is a pretty simple list, right?) that I like least about Amsterdam shopping.

I'm getting used to it though. And I'm actually starting to love the fact that Amsterdam doesn't have the one-stop everything stores so commonly found in the States. Instead, the city has a whole slew of neighborhood shops that specialize in specific items and offer a huge variety. While it takes a bit more effort, I never have to bike more than 1 km (or just over half a mile) to find all the items on my list. Plus, my neighborhood's butcher shop, seafood shop, cheese shop, flower shop, and pet shop (to name just a few) easily allow me to shop local and interact with store owners who are (usually) more than happy to help me make the best selection for my needs.

Lastly, there's the bike situation. This one is mostly love. I love being able to hop on my bike to go shopping. I love relying on my own legs to get me where I need to go, and I love getting exercise and fresh air while doing so. I also love that only being able to carry so much means that the husband and I buy groceries more frequently, and that this results in us buying more fresh foods.

There are times, of course, when I hate it. This mostly happens when it's raining, my bike decides to give me troubles, or I have a long list of items to buy resulting in multiple trips back to the flat. Like that one time I was planning a wedding and had to get ten vases back to our flat without breaking them. In the rain. Uphill both ways. Ok, maybe that last part wasn't true, but at that moment I was in the thick of my hate relationship with Amsterdam shopping. Thankfully, these times are few and far between. Usually, I'm the girl with my tote full of goods, slightly annoyed from going to a variety of stores, but mostly just happy to biking home in my new neighborhood.

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