Amsterdam – The Truth (from our perspective)

18 Sep

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Amsterdam is the strangest mix of old and new, conservative and overtly open minded, clean and dirty. There is no doubt that there are dark sides to the city, and they are more open about these sides than any other city we’ve been to, but it doesn’t seem to affect everyones approach to life here. People just kind of accept it, and get on with life and being in love with their city.

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We rode our bikes through the red light district, and yes there are women in windows being all suggestive, yes you’ll see plenty of dodgy people roaming this area, yes there are live sex shows, but there are beautiful (albeit wonky) buildings, people heading to work and families walking down these same streets – children in tow. Despite what some people might think (hi mum), Amsterdam is more than just sex and drugs. Honestly, we were a little overwhelmed by the sex shops, and often saw things in windows we won’t soon forget (and I’m not talking about the girls), but maybe our view on such things has more to do with the conservative nature of Australia.

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One thing that did surprise us was the drug scene – I’m not sure what I expected, but it wasn’t the subtlety that we got. Maybe it’s because it’s so widely accepted and part of the Amsterdam culture, that it doesn’t need to be in your face – it’s not illegal and therefore not part of an underground scene, but it’s not as though people abuse it’s legal status and just get high wherever they want. To sell marijuana, you need a license – not unlike a liquor license in Australia – and as an avenue for selling it, people set up coffeeshops (one word), and even this is interesting. You see, it’s not like, as an unsuspecting tourist, that you would mistake places like these for actual coffee shops (although you can still buy coffee in these shops) – they don’t look like nice places to get coffee, but are often right next door to a nicer place. There are bars, restaurants and side street cafes that look far more enticing, and to that same tourist, they would probably suspect something. Having said that though, these coffeeshops aren’t the types of places you would actively avoid as a traveller – they often have street side seating and give off more of a bar vibe than anything else. We had also heard that it is common practise for these coffeeshops to call the police and report anyone who asks for any harder drugs than marijuana, mostly because they want to protect their license… and strangely, I find that nice.

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At the end of the day it really depends on your motivation for going to Amsterdam, and you can find or avoid any part of it you wish. Amsterdam has so much more to offer than it’s more taboo subjects, such as the food, music festivals, it’s plethora of museums (there is even a cat museum I am told) and it’s vintage shopping scene is insane (my friend wrote a whole shopping guide here). In my opinion the beauty of Amsterdam, the charm, buildings and canals with swans, geese and ducks and the quaint and often outrageous houseboats that line most of the canals, seriously outweighs all the dodgy parts – whatever your take on “dodgy” might be…

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We feel it’s really important to note that this is our opinion, experience and view of Amsterdam, and that we believe it’s important to go there and make up your mind for yourself. If you’ve been there, please tell us your view. It’s stunning and we never felt unsafe (even wondering some questionable streets at night) and we would even recommend it as a family holiday destination. In fact we loved it so much, we’re considering moving there!!!

  • Kim Eckard

    Ahhhh! Please don’t move there! I don’t think I am THAT conservative and I could happily visit Amsterdam after your blog, BUT I really think there are nicer places to move to (if you HAVE to live on the other side of the world to us!)

    Luv u guys – thanks for enlightening me!! Maybe I should give one of those coffeshops a go sometime – something to add to my bucket list!

  • Rex and Jenny Grimshaw

    Thanks guys how cool was the wonky buildings , looks like a very pretty place and so colourful

  • Rex Grimshaw

    nooooooooo

  • rjeckard

    Yup your mum liked Jeff Kennet (conservative) and then Johnny Howard (for the first few years). It took the second half of Johhny Howard for her to start shifting to left of centre.

  • http://www.somuchtosee.com.au/ Josh + Kirsty

    bahahaha… mum I already know you’ve ticked off some questionable things from that bucket list. Lets put Mexico on that list rather – can’t wait for you guys to get here!