The Netherlands smelled like home. I’m sure any Dutchman visiting Minnesota would say the same. My grandmother immigrated to Minnesota from Finland when she was just a girl. She is one of the many Swedes, Germans, Fins, Dutch and other European’s who have made the state their home over the past 200 years. They came for the land because it was familiar. Amsterdam was the first and only stop on our trip that I chose and planned myself. I’ve been wanting to visit Northern Europe all my life. Don’t we all want to know where our families come from? I know my bloodline lies mostly to the east in Finland, yet flying into Dutch country still felt like returning home. I picked Amsterdam for the obvious reasons. With the Red Light District, the canals, the coffee shops, and the millions of bikes that far outnumber people it’s a city that seems to intrigue the whole world, myself included. It’s also an excellent and undeniably exciting intro to the part of Europe that most resembles where I grew up. Minneapolis is number five on National Geographic’s list of America’s most forested cities. Containing one park every six blocks, it’s a city that values all species, even the leafy ones. As does the Netherlands. Amsterdam is one of the greenest cities in Europe. With trees like elms, oaks, poplars and maples dotting the sides of the road, the same types that populate Minnesota, the regions two are nearly twins. Or more correctly brother and sister. It’s true that both share many species of flora and fauna, and the topography is similar. Lakes and rivers play an essential role. Both populations are also majority white, with similar features (pale, round faces, lighter hair and eyes, tall, solid builds). However the architecture of the Netherlands is distinctly Dutch, as is the fashion and general style of the region. I have seen buildings, parks, homes and even small towns that evoke the samewhimsical feel. Yet nothing comes close to an entire city designed in that distinctly Dutch style. Journalist Traci Metz described Dutch design like this, “The Dutch have the ability to make fun of themselves. Also it’s a matter of combining things that usually don’t combine at all. Dutch designers are good in using materials that look worthless. The designers give them a new value.” From infrastructure, to architecture, to fashion, food, and common household products and their packaging, a common aesthetic is at the heart of it all. The look is minimalist, experimental, innovative, quirky, and humorous. I’d describe Dutch design as finding a unique solution to problems the rest of the world has yet to notice. 


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