Honestly, before coming to Amsterdam, I didn’t think the food here would be all that different from at home. To be fair, it often isn’t that different, depending on where you eat and buy groceries. However, now that I’ve been here an entire month, I’ve noticed a few interesting dietary and cultural differences surrounding food.
As a vegetarian, I was slightly worried about there being limited food options when coming to a new country. However, I have been pleasantly surprised to find that vegetarian and vegan food seems much more prominent here than in the US. In the US, there are often restaurants that don’t have even one vegetarian (especially vegan) option. Here, I have been able to find something at every restaurant, and have even found a surplus of fully vegan restaurants. Even at McDonald’s, the french fries and hashbrowns are vegetarian and they have vegetarian meat alternatives, none of which is true at home.
One popular chain in Amsterdam is the Vegan Junk Food Bar, which serves a ton of classic Dutch snacks, such as fries and bitterballen, but completely vegan. There are surprisingly plenty of restaurants like this, serving vegetarian alternatives to Dutch classics. Although cities in the US tend to have a few vegetarian or vegan restaurants, it still is not the same as the vegan food scene here. You’re never too far from a vegan meal in Amsterdam, even if you want a Dutch food that typically uses meat.
I knew coming here that bitterballen, fried meat-filled balls, are a classic Dutch food. I thought I would have to go on a semester-long mission to find vegetarian ones, but I have already found them at multiple locations (and they’re delicious). Some other Dutch snacks are stroopwafels, fries with mayo, and Dutch pancakes which are all already vegetarian anyways.
Also, the food markets here are such a different shopping experience from what I’m used to in the US. The Albert Cuyp market, which is only a 20 minute walk from the Student Hotel, has opened my eyes to a lot of Dutch foods and the general culture surrounding food. People set stands up to sell everything from fresh produce to souvenirs to toiletries to fresh stroopwafels. It’s a great place to try some Dutch snacks as well as pick up a few groceries, and it has been one of my favorite parts of Amsterdam so far. Not only has it allowed me to try new foods, but I’ve also gotten to interact with a lot of locals at the market. It definitely is very different from what I’m used to, since it is such a large and diverse market where you can buy almost anything you can imagine right on the street.
I think the wide variety of vegetarian and vegan options as well as the diverse food choices at the outdoor markets add to the generally very accepting attitude in the Netherlands. They have options for everyone, and it is all much more easily accessible than I am used to.