Week 2: Burgerservicenummers and Tony's Chocolonely

1) There are a total of 165 canals in all of Amsterdam. And about 25,000 bikes end up in them annually. Around a third of those bikes are removed, which means the canals are basically still filled with rusty old bikes.

2) The BSN or “burgerservicenummer” is the equivalent of the US social security number and you need it to do virtually anything important in The Netherlands (open a bank account, etc). Unfortunately, it has nothing to do with delicious cheeseburgers.

3) The Netherlands is extremely welcoming to entrepreneurs and has even created the ability for entrepreneurs to come to Holland for up to a year via an entrepreneur visa program (*US friends interested in doing a stint in Europe should definitely look into this!)

4) Euthanasia is legal, but only with doctor assistance in cases of "hopeless and unbearable” illness. The Netherlands was the first to ever legalize it. In 2010, a group of citizens attempted to (and gained quite a bit of traction with their efforts) change the legislation under an initiative called “Out of Free Will” which demanded that all Dutch people over 70 who feel “tired of life” (womp womp) should have the right to professional help in ending it. As you can imagine, the law did not pass.

5) More than a quarter of the Netherlands is below sea level. Our apartment is at exactly 0m.

6) Amsterdam is extremely safe and I have yet to see a homeless person. In fact, it is so safe that Dutch prisons have been closing because they are so empty. In recent years they’ve actually had to import prisoners from other countries just to keep them open!

7) The Dutch were the first in the world to legalize gay marriage - in 2001! Crazy to think how long it has taken other countries to follow suit - almost two decades!

8 ) Tony’s Chocoloney (yes actually a real thing, and not from Willy Wonka) is the best chocolate in the world (no, really) and is manufactured in a warehouse down the street in Amsterdam. It’s sold everywhere in the Netherlands and has now begun to expand worldwide. The company follows fair trade practices, opposing slavery and child labour by partnering with trading companies in Ghana and Ivory Coast to buy cocoa beans directly from the farmers, providing them with a fair price for their product and combating exploitation. We eat a couple bars a week some weeks. A must purchase when you come to Amsterdam. The orange wrapper is the best flavor.

9) The land is extremely flat with the highest point being 323m above sea level. Quite the pill to swallow for a mountain lover like myself. Fortunately, Schiphol Airport has more direct flights than any other airport in the entire world which makes it easy to get to more mountainous regions!

10) Dogs are as welcomed here as they were in London! River comes with us to many of the bars and restaurants. Woof!