Sometimes when travelling or when you are new to a place, you will meet people who want to make friends with you. These people are very open to help you and they can even save your life when you are in trouble. On my Netherlands trip last April I have met good people along the way. I do not typically talk to strangers, but one of my realizations is that when travelling, meeting new people is a must. You learn cultures by talking to people with different nationalities. It was an interesting experience and I would like to share how I met some good people in the Netherlands.
I arrived in Netherlands early morning of April 26, Sunday. After checking-in in a hotel in Rotterdam, I decided to go out and explore the city. Rotterdam City Centre was beautiful that I was not able to stop myself from taking pictures using my ever-reliable Canon camera. After walking for what seemed like a couple of hours, I decided to go back to the hotel at around 5:30 in the afternoon. On my way back, I went to explore the famous cube houses and took some photos. Since I was travelling solo, I have my selfie stick on hand, taking as many beautiful pictures of the place and of myself, until someone suddenly approached me. It was Danny. He was friendly when we met; he guessed my nationality (he guessed Spanish; I said I am a Filipino. He’s Vietnamese studying in Erasmus University) and complimented my look (he complimented my hair color, and that he said I looked younger than my actual age). He added that I should not use my selfie stick when in a different country, that I should ask people around to take my picture. According to him, in that way, I will gain friends. I was a bit hesitant that time to talk to him; it was my first day in Rotterdam and I was concerned about my safety as a solo traveller. I was cautious, but at the back of my mind I was thinking I should not be too closed-minded. When Danny told me he will show me a nice place somewhere near by, I decided to go. Before leaving the cube houses, we took a photo using my selfie stick.
Danny and I walked across the street and just behind the building was the place he wanted me to see. He said it has a romantic ambiance and indeed, it was true. He brought me to see the Old Harbour, a beautiful place with a nice view of old ships and boats. There were restaurants and pubs where people relax and talk to their friends. We sat on the edge in front of the view of the boats. Danny got drinks and we chatted like we were old friends. He said that he does some photography, and again suggested that I should either throw my selfie stick or give it to him so that I can gain friends in the Netherlands. After what seemed like an hour, I told Danny I needed leave because I might have dinner with my colleague from our Netherlands office (yes, I was on a business trip). I was in a hurry, so I left immediately. Looking back now, I could have been friendlier and more spontaneous during our conversation. Again, I was cautious. Nonetheless, I thank Danny for introducing the Old Harbour. Who knows, maybe someday when I get the chance to come back to the Netherlands I might bump into him again.
Getting Lost in Dordrecht
Last May 2, Saturday, I went to Amsterdam to explore the city. I left Rotterdam on lunch time and rode a train to Amsterdam Centraal. Upon arrival, I immediately started walking and exploring. Amsterdam was beautiful! It was crowded with lots of tourists, but there was happiness in the air that I liked. I got myself and my family some stuff and souvenirs, and after walking for hours I decided to head back to Amsterdam Centraal station. I travelled back to Rotterdam via Rotterdam Centraal train. From Rotterdam Centraal, I rode another train to go to Rotterdam Blaak where my hotel was located. On the train schedule, I saw a train going to Paris and saw the Dutch phrase “Stopt Niet Rotterdam Blaak.” Thinking the next stop was in Rotterdam Blaak, I rode that train. After a few minutes before leaving, it felt wrong riding the said train that I wanted to get off. Too late though, the train started moving.
To know whether the next stop would be in Rotterdam Blaak station, I asked a guy seated near the entrance of the train. According to him, it won’t stop in Rotterdam Blaak. I was not sure what the nationality of the guy was (maybe Dutch) but he was kind to say that the next station was Dordrecht and that I could go back from there. Thank God, I was a bit panicking inside thinking the train might go straight to Paris. Maybe I really looked uneasy because the guy asked me if I wanted coffee (cool that someone was selling food and coffee in the train). I declined but then he insisted, and I thanked him. He was really nice to help me with directions and even gave me coffee. After a couple of minutes, the train arrived in Dordrecht and before getting off the train, I thanked the guy again. He did not know but he just saved me and made me feel less nervous with the situation I was in that I was really grateful.
After getting off the train, I continued drinking my coffee and started looking at the train schedules. I saw a train going back to Rotterdam Blaak (hoping it was the correct train). Since it was getting really late (around 8 in the evening) and because I wanted to be sure this time, I asked another stranger. She was a middle-aged lady, and she confirmed that the next train would stop in Rotterdam Blaak. The lady was also nice in a way that she kindly checked and pointed the screen in the train where I could see as to which station I was already in. Before getting off the train, the lady smiled and I thanked her. She was really nice. After a few minutes, I arrived in Rotterdam Blaak and headed to my hotel to rest.
People in the Netherlands were really nice. I was really very lucky and blessed to meet good people. Meeting Danny, the guy in the train, and the lady in Dordrecht was memorable. It made me realize that meeting and talking with strangers was not so bad after all. I am hoping to meet more kind people in my next travels. I am excited.
P.S. “Stopt Niet Rotterdam Blaak” means “does not stop in Rotterdam Blaak.” I guess I should learn more Dutch phrases the next time I visit the Netherlands.