Approaching strangers on the streets is not always easy, especially for an introvert like me… During our research in Uithoorn and Ouderkerk aan de Amstel, I have learned, however, that most people are very friendly and they are keen to help you. Especially when you start with a simple question: ‘hey, could I ask you something?’. It is definitely something to keep in mind during the next time I need to approach people on the streets!
The day we went to Uithoorn we were very lucky with the sunny weather. We encountered many friendly people who were willing to help us with their information for our research. One encounter was particularly nice. As Culture, Sports and Recreation is one of the sectors we are investigating in terms of economic benefits of tourism, we were looking for facilities entrepreneurs to interview. We asked a local woman if she knew any facilities in this sector in the neighbourhood. She was surprised to hear we were researching tourism, because in her opinion there are almost no tourists in Uithoorn. ‘It’s just a little village, and it’s very peaceful and quiet here.’ Another local woman passed by and heard our questions about tourism and she really had some nice attractions for tourists in mind! ‘Of course there are tourists here, we have a lot of things to do for them!’ She listed them all: old buildings, churches, nature, boat trips and biking tours. ‘I’ve lived here my whole life, and you can hear it: I’m proud of my village’, she laughed. It is encounters like these with people who make you smile, what makes doing research worth it!
In Ouderkerk aan de Amstel we had luck again and spent more time talking to locals, entrepreneurs and tourists in the sun. The Americans we talked to were in the Netherlands to do a complete biking tour: from de Zaanse Schans to Gouda (close to my home!). And some Canadians were visiting their family and even spoke some Dutch with us. We ended up talking about how ‘old’ buildings in Canada often don’t reach 100 years, because they will be ripped down, and ‘old’ means from the 1900s, 1800s tops, which was very interesting to think about.
We felt like tourists ourselves too and happily explored both villages. As we sat by the water, we had lunch and for a moment we forgot we were doing a university project. We enjoyed our conversations and the light breeze while tanning a little (Or actually, getting sun burned in our faces, haha). Next time we’ll bring sunscreen!
Written by: Valeska Oudhof