What is it like to be a Vietnamese gay student in Amsterdam?
A lot of you guys may “oooo” and “aaa” when reading this title, because you question how wise it is to write about such personal things online. But this is who I am. If any, being in Amsterdam has taught me to be true to myself, and that people will only accept and respect me when I accept and respect myself.
Amsterdam is seen as a gay capital of Europe, probably and mainly for being the capital of the first country in the world to legalize gay marriage. That was the reason why four years ago when I packed my stuff and moved to Amsterdam from Vietnam for my bachelor degree, I expected nothing but great stuff for my gay life here. And so far, I have had more up than down.
Coming from a developing country where certain matters like homosexuality are pretty much still in the non-discussable zone at family dinner tables, I struggled to be my true self with my family and friends. Here, simply no one cares about who you cuddle with in bed. The term gender fluidity couldn’t find a better fitting place than Amsterdam, as Amsterdam guys simply fill up the whole spectrum ladder of sexuality. Even some of my self-claimed straight friends have no problem French kissing another dude during “Spin the bottle”. Being surrounded by such positivity toward homosexuality, I have grown to be more comfortable with myself and decided to live my authentic life: I started to come out to people two years ago. And what kind of reaction did I get? My rowing team was like “What? Dude, we’ve been friends for years and you tell us now? What kind of friends are we to you?”
Now all my friends and some of my family members know about that side of me and so far I haven’t had any bad experience with coming out to anyone. Having said all of that, I am aware that in many parts of the world people still experience much hatred for being a member of the LGBT community. If you happen to read this blog, please just know that you are not alone, that you are brave, and there are always people in your environment who can help and support you. All you need is a strong belief that it does get better. And with that belief, you can create your own Amsterdam in your community.
The gay community in Amsterdam is truly amazing for its liveliness. There are plenty of groups, clubs, associations, and organizations for gay people here. Yes everything is “gaysified” nowadays, isn’t it fun? All you need is time to participate.
ASV-Gay is an association for gay students where I have met many incredible people and have made many wonderful memories. I met my “Brazilian brother from another mother” friend there and thanks to him I’ve got “attending my first gay wedding” off my list. Another special friend happens to be a Political science student, a chairman of a student political party and also a male escort. He may not know this, but his stories really inspire me to enjoy my life with an open mind and stop caring about irrelevant opinions of the surrounding crowd. And then come the memories, I took part in organizing 2 oversea trips as a member of the traveling committee, I went on my first skiing trip, I wore a jaguar onesie to a Halloween party, I puked during a beer relay game on a weekend trip, I got to see the beauty of Dutch countryside in a treasure hunt event. I treasure the friendships and the memories I have made so far. It is a pity that this year I could not commit my time to ASV-Gay but I am surely grateful for the experience.
In addition, I have also had some experience with gay sport clubs in Amsterdam. Yes I like sport and I am gay, so it couldn’t get any better. I played badminton at Amsterdam Gay badminton club for one summer and took part in a big Europe gay badminton tournament in Amsterdam. The club has a really warming, friendly and sporty environment. I guess that is why even though the club does not have a lot of players, the people who run it work really hard to maintain it and the people who plays there do not want to leave. Furthermore, I once tried synchronize swimming for fun with some ASV-Gay members at Amsterdam gay swimming club. That was a very interesting learning experience, after which I had so much respect for synchronize swimmers.
Besides all the fun stuff, I volunteered for Aids Healthcare Foundation in Amsterdam for 3 years (not saying that this is not fun, but it is more of a work). I got to learn how to deliver HIV tests, to educate people about AIDS, to go to different gay prides in Europe to hand out condoms, to be strangely surrounded by heavy-metal gay fans in a club, and to take a photo of Conchita Wurst. And above all, I learn about giving back to my own community.
So my message is that there are tons of activities for gay people here. If you are looking for a place where you can truly be yourself while doing your favourite activities, then Amsterdam provides just that and more.
Of course when we talk about Amsterdam, we have to talk about the gay scene here, which is pretty awesome I would say. There is a long list of gay bars and clubs that cater to all the different needs of the nighters. It is very easy to spot a rainbow flag hanging in front of a premise to signify “gay-friendly” while walking on the streets of Amsterdam. Another wonderful thing is that there are also a lot of straight people in gay bars and clubs in Amsterdam. The word GAY does not stop any Amsterdamers to enjoy a good night out at a good bar. Needless to say, Amsterdam is where the little Vietnamese nerdy me had his first clubbing experience.
Certainly I will talk about my dating experience in Amsterdam. The dating scene is great with a diversity of colours and sizes, however the dating culture is unfortunately not so pretty sometimes. Being a typical Asian-looking guy, sadly I do get a lot of “no Asian please”, consequently a lot of rejections. Some people call it preference, others call it racism. I don't know and i don't wanna judge. But yes, even though I do see myself as a tough dog, it does damage my confidence over time. But as hard as it is to accept, it is the reality everywhere, not only Amsterdam. As proven by studies, for whatever reasons, Asian guys are least wanted while Asian women are most wanted. Having said all that, Amsterdam has given me my first true love and my first true heartbreak. Hence, I believe life, no matter where, is basically a bunch of doors and we just have to keep on opening doors whenever one shuts.
So yes, perhaps Amsterdam is not so perfect after all, gay or not; however, if u come here with an open mind, I am sure you will enjoy it no matter what. I hope you enjoy this personal story of mine. Do you have any questions or something to share? Feel free to leave them in the comment section below.
Ps: if my gay life experience in Amsterdam has made you interested in studying abroad in the Netherlands, don’t forget to check out the 2 blogs in my series How to get yourself to Holland: Exploring the options and Packing the packages. If you are not convinced yet about how great Amsterdam or Holland can be, then check out my rowing story, my marathon story, and my Monday routine.