We’re getting settled in Lansing, Michigan, and I’m now just under a week away from submitting the bulk of my PhD thesis. If we’re friends IRL, contact me for my new US phone number and address!
In case you’ve been living under an internet-less rock, the US’s two-party political system is alive and kicking, and the primaries are happening soon. The actual presidential election isn’t for another 14 months (!!) but the primaries will take place in the next few months, and in many states you must be registered with the political party in whose primary you want to vote (and you need to be registered by about next month). Meaning, if you #FeelTheBern but are a registered independent voter like me, you need to change this! In addition, pay attention to local and state elections since those can have a quicker and more direct impact on your beloved last place of residence in the US (which, for me, is my hometown, and I care about how those elections play out).
I have recently discovered that I was wrong about which elections expats are allowed to vote in, and how they go about registering to vote absentee. Look into your last state’s laws on whether or not you can vote in local and state elections. The resources I want to pass along are:
- Federal Voting Assistance Program, the official voting resource for US citizens living overseas.
- Vote From Abroad, the non-partisan place where you officially register to vote and request your absentee ballot. Keep going through until you’ve downloaded the Federal Post Card Application — towards the end, if you don’t want to sign up for any newsletters just leave the boxes unchecked and click ‘Continue’. It takes 4 minutes! Do this now!
- Democrats Abroad, the handiest point of contact for any US expats left-of-center and leftish-center. They make registering and applying absentee from your last US place of residence pretty straightforward via Vote From Abroad (linked above), and send you emails with updates on which elections you can vote in are coming up. You can probably opt out of the less helpful mailings. There’s also a Republican one.
- VoteForBernie.org, the site that kicked my butt into gear. It shows on a map when the primaries/caucuses are and gives voter registration deadlines and links. And, the prospect of a progressive socialist president makes me so, so happy.
Remember: no taxation without representation! They’re taxing you, so be sure to make your voice heard. (As a US citizen, even if you live abroad, you are required to file taxes every year.)
An informed, accessible democracy makes us free. Exercise your basic civil right. And get your paperwork in order beforehand.
Nothing is certain except death and taxes[, and both suck when you’re an expat].
— Benjamin Franklin
This is my go-to list of fun things to do and see when family and friends visited me in Amsterdam, Netherlands! I compiled this from suggestions from friends, colleagues, and travel guides; I haven’t done everything on the list, but I made a valiant effort. It’s Amsterdam-based/focused, since that’s where I lived. Things with an asterisk are must-do’s!
These are accessible within Amsterdam, and typically some can be combined in one day. Look into buying a museumkaart – many of the museums in Holland are free with one.
– * Albert Cuypmarkt or Dappermarkt (open air markets) for fresh stroopwafels
– Amsterdamse Bos (nice for a picnic in the summer! requires cycling to get there)(visit the goat farm, cherry blossom park, and Scottish Highlander cows)
– * Anne Frank house (you absolutely should buy tickets in advance to avoid the long queue; book ASAP!!; the self-guided tour is about 1 hour)
– Bloemenmarkt (the flower market – pretty quick)
– * Canal cruise (this one is pretty good — I recommend going at dusk!)
– Cheese tasting (we did this one at Reypenaer and loved it; book in advance!)
– Dam square (very quick)
– * Eat an Indonesian rijsttafel (places I’ve liked: Desa, Sampurna, and Kantjil & the Tiger)
– Heineken Experience (a tour through the old Heineken brewery with demonstrations on how they make Heineken beer; book tickets in advance, since the line gets long)
– Hermitage Amsterdam (art museum with a rotating exhibit, so check before going)
– Hortis botanical gardens (best in the spring and summer)
– Kalverstraat shopping
– Oude Kerk (oldest building in Amsterdam — founded in 1213!)
– * Parks – Vondelpark, Oosterpark, Amstelpark, Frankendael, etc. (Distilleerderij ‘t Nieuw Diep is a little cafe in Flevopark; there’s also a teahouse in Vondelpark)
– Rembrandtplein (cool statues, and lots of clubs/nightlife)
– * Rijksmuseum: classic huge art museum with lots of stuff to see! The building itself is also gorgeous. I recommend starting at the top floor (in the “hall of greats”) and working your way down.
– Tassenmuseum (Museum of Bags and Purses, dating back to the middle ages!)
– Tropenmuseum (anthropological museum with many traces of Dutch colonialism/imperialism)
– * Walk through the Jordaan canal district and old city center. Rick Steves has a free audioguide for walking around this neighbourhood. (Navigational note: the city is laid out in polar coordinates, not Cartesian; watch your step on the cobblestones and curbs, and always check for bicycles before crossing!!)
Other places in Amsterdam for food: Winkel43 for Dutch apple pie, La Falote for classic Dutch food, Upstairs Pannekoekenhuis for Dutch-style pancakes (like crepes, but with the toppings cooked into the batter; also available at *many* other cafes), La Vallade for fancy upscale European food, Albina restaurant for Surinamese food, Le Petit Latin for French food, Ponte Arcari for Italian food, Taytu Restaurant for Ethiopian food, India Roti Room for Indian food
Other places in Amsterdam for drinks: Gollem Raamsteeg or Gollem Daniel Stalpertstraat for Dutch and Belgian beers, Brouwerij ‘t IJ for local Dutch beers, Wynand Fockink for liqueurs and jenevers (like gin), Whiskycafe L&B for whiskeys, Mulligan’s Irish Pub for Irish beers and live music
Nearby in/near Noord-Holland
Close enough to Amsterdam that they can be a morning or afternoon trip (generally within the province of Noord-Holland). Tip: Use 9292 to plan train and other public transit journeys in the Netherlands, and load up an ‘anonymous’ ov-chipkaart to easily tap in and tap out of public transit!
– Aalsmeer flower auction
– Gouda or Alkmaar cheese markets (go for the full historical thing)
– Haarlem (they have a nice Saturday morning market in the old town square)
– * Keukenhof tulip fields (best in April, when the tulips are in bloom; if you’re feeling cheap or tired and just want a glimpse, take the train between Leiden and Heemstede-Aerdenhout, and you’ll pass by some great fields; cycle through the tulip fields with my route!)
– Zaanse Schans windmills & historic town
– Zandvoort aan Zee (the beach!)
Elsewhere in the Netherlands
These require a full day or more. I really enjoy purchasing a map in the tourism info booth for a self-guided walking tour through the town!
– * Delft (market in the old square, Nieuwe Kerk, Oude Kerk)
– Den Haag (Mauritshuis, Gemeentemuseum, Scheveningen beach (cycle along the dunes!))
– Maastricht, caves in Valkenburg aan de Geul, and the 3-country point (will probably need to rent a car once you reach Maastricht, and likely requires an overnight stay in the area)
– Rotterdam, Maeslantkering storm surge barrier, Kinderdijk windmills, boat trip around the Randstad
What would you add to the list? Are you planning to swing through the Netherlands on your next trip?