A life long nomad, Marly Pierre-Louis is a writer and community cultivator who wonders out loud about parenting, race, gender, sexuality and the messy places where they intersect. She currently lives in Amsterdam.
I’m sure you’ve never heard this before: where are you from?
I’m from all over Northeast, USA More specifically, I was born and raised in Brooklyn but spent much of my life living outside of Boston, MA. I moved back to Brooklyn in 2008 and consider it my home.
And what did you do there, then?
Lots of things! I was a social justice activist. I worked as a communications organizer for the Brooklyn Movement Center. I was a mom and a wife (still am those things). And I ran the streets with my sistafriends.
How did you end up in Amsterdam?
My partner got a job. We were originally planning to move to the West Coast. But he expanded his search abroad and before we knew it, we were being relocated to Amsterdam.
Have you lived abroad before?
Only for short periods. In 2004, I lived in Accra, Ghana for 4 months. It was a study abroad program. And in 2006, I moved to Costa Rica for 3 months to learn Spanish.
So what’s so good about Amsterdam?
These are my top 3 favorite things about Amsterdam.
1. Bikes. I love cycling everywhere. Being on a bike is so freeing. Not to mention it’s fun, it’s a great way to stay in shape and it’s FREE. It’s also just a practical and convenient way to get around.
2. Canals. Being around so much natural beauty is really calming and peaceful.
3. Scale. Coming from a massive city like NYC, it’s nice to live in a small city like Amsterdam. “Local” actually means something here. It’s really walkable and everything is accessible.
And what don’t you like?
Zwarte Piet and the rain.
Do you feel like an insider or outsider?
An outsider. And I’m okay with that.
How do you support yourself?
Right now, I’m a freelance copywriter for a media agency.
Any advice for wannabe Amsterdammers?
Bureaucracy here is a serious pain in the ass. If you plan to live here, get your papers in order ASAP. Cross your t’s and dot your i’s. The Dutch are very process oriented so don’t try to get away with anything.
Get a bike!
And always, ALWAYS have your rain gear with you. It can literally rain at any moment. The forecast is NOT to be trusted.
Is the move permanent?
No plans on leaving any time soon. If we left, we’d move to the Bay Area or Seattle. But for the foreseeable future, we’re going Dutch.
Finally, tell us about something typically Amsterdam
I’m just now getting used to Dutch lunches. They don’t do hot lunches like we do in the States. A typical Dutch lunch includes a lot of bread, a spread of some sort (like hummus or peanut butter), some sort of meat like salami, cheese, and maybe some cut carrots or tomatoes.
I feel like I get looks whenever I heat up my leftover pasta from last night’s dinner at work.