Bringing a piece of the Nordics to the Dam

The influences from the North are blowing in many different directions across Amsterdam: fashion, food and home interior.

Published by Linnea on 20/02/2017

I talked to some of the influences from the Nordic countries that are based in Amsterdam, to see how the Dutch blend together with the north.

Being a Swedish expat in Amsterdam myself, my eyes and ears will always remain open for the familiar. We can all confess that there is a certain tinge in our bellies when we see something familiar in a strange environment. That’s why the first thing I did when I came to Amsterdam 2 years ago as an exchange student, was paying a visit to Ikea. But besides the big multinationals (Ikea, Swedish and Danish fashion empires of Acne, Samsøe & Samsøe, H&M and the red and white Kånken logo on bag packs seen all over Amsterdam) there also more genuine Nordic influences than one might think.

I got really excited when I was told about the possibility of getting a proper Swedish fika (a get-together with coffee and pastries) just a few blocks from my house. I found it on Jan van Galenstraat at the counters of the Nordic café ‘Selma’s’. A complete buffet with all the sweets that the Nordic have to offer; Semla (a sweet bun with almond cream and lots of whipped cream on the top), the Danish and Swedish classic cinnamon roll, or the finish delicates of ‘Karelian pasties’ (an old traditional pastry made from rye crust with a filling of rice). In the kitchen preparing all these delicious anomalies is Anna Nording. She is herself from Stockholm but has roots in Finland.

"I grew up with baking. My grandma started her own café, a traditional square café in Finland, baking all the pastries herself. So this was a dream of mine," she says.

A City Made By People Nordics in Amsterdam

With her baking grandma as an inspiration, she opened Selma’s together with her Dutch partner Jorrit Huijsman. She was missing the homemade touch that was so familiar back home in the north when she was going for a coffee in Amsterdam.

"For Amsterdammers, coffee is really important. They make a big deal about the origin of the beans, the different kinds of flavors and how the coffee is made. We get loads of question about where our coffee is from."

And maybe Amsterdam was missing that as well. The homemade sweets sold out almost every single day since the opening in January.

A City Made By People Nordics Amsterdam

"I grew up with baking. My grandma started her own café, a traditional square café in Finland, baking all the pastries herself. So this was a dream of mine," she says.

You said that the pastries from the Nordics differ from the Dutch ones, in what way? What is it that makes it so special?

"Well first of all in the Nordics we use fresh jest to bake our sweets. We also try to use as many local brands and manufacturers as possible. That is more eco-friendly, which has for a long time been a huge thing in the Nordics and is popular here as well. There are also a lot of Dutch people who once visited Sweden or Denmark and then they recognize our pastries. Therefore, I think people from Amsterdam like food from the Nordics."

If you get the taste for Finnish food and want to get to know more about the Finnish culture than stepping into the Iittala store on Museumplein, look for a Finnish flag next time you are biking on the Haarlemmerdijk. ‘A Piece of Finland’ is not a newcomer in Amsterdam. It has already been three years since Ramona Korhonen-Breukel and Anna Kelhu opened the Finnish store.

"This is a busy street, though; a lot of people ask me if we just opened this store. To be honest, I kind of feel like we just started," says Ramona.

A City Made By People Nordics in Amsterdam

She and her business partner, Anna Kelhu, wanted to fulfill their dream of combining their home culture with their new environment. Bringing a little piece of Finland to Amsterdam.

"I was missing the colours and playfulness of Finnish design. A curtain is not just a curtain with a fabric from a Finnish designer; it is a living piece hanging in your window."

A City Made By People Nordics in Amsterdam

The store on Harlermmerdijk is really like a little piece of Finland. Here you can find everything from Finnish brewed coffee, to the iconic designer prints of Marimekko and the smooth and simple leather of the Finnish brand Lumi. All the brands are handpicked and chosen because of their quality and timelessness, something that Ramona thinks is an important essence of the Finnish design.

What I like most is the quality and the fact that the products are timeless. I know they will last a lifetime, both the shape and the colors.

A City Made By People Nordics in Amsterdam

You wanted to bring Finland here with you to Amsterdam, do you ever miss it to the point that you want to go back?

"There are things I miss about Finland, but I’ve always known that if I would go back I would miss Amsterdam even more. Amsterdam is my home at least for now, but in this space, I can keep and share something that is a part of who I am. I will always stay Finnish."


Thanks, Selma’s and A little piece of Finland for letting me keep a part of the best from the north in my favorite of cities.

Words by correspondent Linnea.

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