AN INTERNATIONAL FAMILY
FUTURE IS BRIGHT
Amsterdam's child-friendly atmosphere, close-knit communities, and vibrant infrastructure make it an ideal city for James and Carola to raise their two boys. James, originally from the UK, shares his insights on the unique experiences and quirks of raising young Amsterdammers in the city of canals.
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JAMES, CAROLA, JACK AND FINN
What is your families uniform?
I think my girlfriend (Carola) has, in every aspect, quite a good taste. So she tries to dress the boys quite trendy and fashionable, I think they look pretty slick to be honest. For me, I am a bit of a thrown together mess. My girlfriend always looks stylish and elegant – she’s cycling to work 45 mins each way every day so it’s got to be a bit more practical. She’s never going to work in heels. She’s working for an American company so she’s gotta look a bit more respectable because she’s in marketing, a bit more practical and corporate. I’m from the countryside, so I wear whatever the hell I want like shorts and more casual stuff all the time, quite often a lot of t-shirts.
How was it for you to see your kids being raised in Amsterdam opposed to how differently you were raised in the UK?
Opposites? Right, I was raised in a proper countryside, no one in my family at all has any education other than just leaving school at 15 and having to work. Everyone on my mom’s side, and dad’s side, was all the same, and they both came from pretty weird broken, messed-up broken families. Literally and figuratively, space makes a big difference. When you think about space, everything in Amsterdam and everyone is on top of each other the whole time you know what I mean? So it’s different to how I grew up. They’re still really happy boys here and I’ve quite become more open-minded since living in the city – my girlfriend’s open-minded as well and because of that I think the city of Amsterdam, for kids, is brilliant for a capital city. I’ve traveled around the world a lot, to other capital cities where it’s not all centered around the pleasure of everyone living here.
As someone who didn’t grow up in The Netherlands, with the Dutch culture, is there anything you’ve learnt or observed from watching your boys growing up here in Amsterdam?
I think in Dutch culture, one thing is to just make the kids happy. Not necessarily well-mannered, well-behaved, or super intelligent but first, let them enjoy their lives, and live stressful enough later. Like some parents from other countries will put their kids on like piano all day just really trying to make them the top of the top you know. I’m not like that and my girlfriend is also not like that, we just want happy, confident, and emotionally stable boys, yeah, and then the rest will come. We don’t push them, they can explore their ways, and do what they want and we are open. Nothing fazes them in that sense, know when I used to go to the city sometimes with my mom and dad I’d be like, you know, I’ve never seen a lot of this stuff before or all these people. It’s all just natural to them.
What does being an Amsterdammer mean to you?
Yeah, it’s quite funny. The identity of Amsterdam is quite different, isn’t it? I think it’s just that people have a bit of an attitude here – like it’s better here therefore I am also a bit better than the rest of us. As you know, not for everybody, because there are a lot of problems and a lot of poverty in some different little pockets of the city that are struggling with this more hidden poverty, but overall genuinely we live in one of the nicest, most affluent, does well for itself and positive part of the planet really, honestly. I feel privileged to live in Amsterdam. It’s like the old mayor said there are two kinds of people in The Netherlands; the people that live in Amsterdam and the people that want to live in Amsterdam. Like the Amsterdam football club Ajax, are successful and they are like we are Ajax and we are genuinely better than you lot. They even have a song that says ‘I’d rather live in Amsterdam with no money than in your province with a million in the bank’.