First of all, congratulations on choosing to spend some of your hard earned vacation in my adopted city Amsterdam, it is a city like no other. It has however come to my attention in the 10 years of living here that there are certain things are continually missed, ignored or misinterpreted by tourist. Not so uncommon really, in any city for that matter but a few of these do’s and don’ts are rather important here in Amsterdam and if one pays a little attention to them your experience here (and the locals impression of you) will be significantly improved. So in the true spirit of AMSTERDO, I’ve made a list that will hopefully help you more fully enjoy the fruits of this amazing city while also avoiding some of the goopy pitfalls.
1. Do rent a bike and experience why it’s possible to have a conversation right in the middle of a European capitol without being drowned out by the noise of traffic.
Don’t buy a used one from a guy for 10 euros, it’s probably stolen and you would only be contributing to an already large problem of bike theft.
Do have fun on the bike paths, sing while you ride or fart or whatever floats your boat but don’t ride stoned with your earphones on or ride side by side and ignore the ringing sounds behind you.
2. Do take the time to explore the usual tourist spots like the the Anne Frank house, the many fine museums, Waterloo square market etc. but don’t miss riding out to the east side of town towards Java island to take in the wonderfully unique and modern architecture in juxtaposition with the old.
3.Do check out the sweet smelling coffeshops (even if you don’t puff, it’s good to see that all tokers are not grungy 20 somethings with “Uhhhh?” on their lips and minds. Don’t forget to order some drinks (coffee, tea, or carbonated beverage) while there. Even if you buy some weed and would like to sit down to skin up, you must buy at least one drink. Do enjoy your fuzzy bubble and gawking at the street scene outside but don’t turn yourself into a piece of furniture or you will be removed and placed not so gently buy the side of the street for trash pick up. Do have a puff in a secluded spot in either Vondel or Flevo park. Don’t puff in a policeman’s face to see how liberal the drug laws are here, he (or she) will not ignore you like an English guard standing in front of Buckingham palace.
4. Do check out red light district, both during the daytime and in the evening. Don’t take pictures of the girls in the windows or your camera may be thrown with good force and reason into the canal. Do take the time to find the secret church while there, don’t go there too stoned and laugh your way into being asked to leave. Do go into the ubiquitous sex shops to look around or buy. Don’t ask what there return policy is on vibrators, butt plugs or lingerie. There isn’t one unless the box it came in is unopened.
5.Do ask questions of the locals, they love their cozy city and enjoy letting you know just how much they know. Don’t try to speak Dutch to them unless you are Dutch yourself, have a PERFECT accent or very thick skin . I’ve lived here a loooong time and have a daughter who is nearly a native speaker, I know the language pretty well but still find it difficult to even order a falafel without the guy working there answering me in English. Don’t let the locals “frank” way of speaking put you off. Yes, it’s true that many of them simply do not understand the difference between being straight forward and being just plain rude. The rest I suppose, just don’t care or they would have mellowed out long ago.
Well gentle readers, that’s it for this installment. Tune in next time for more Amsterdo’s and Don’ts.
Discover Amsterdam with the City Pass. Buy your pass here and save €6,50!