18 things you have to explain to out-of-towners about Amsterdam

If you live in Amsterdam, you’re going to get visitors, probably from other countries (though hopefully not these guys), and those visitors are going to have some unrealistic expectations about what they’ll find/legally be able to do. Here are 18 things they’ll need to know:

1. You probably know more stoners than the locals do
According to the UN, half as many Dutch peeps per capita toke the reefer as their American counterparts. Most locals you’ll meet don’t, or gave it up in college.

2. You could get a €50 fine for drinking or toking on the street
It's liberal, but it's not that liberal. Stick to the designated terraces.

3. The city is way bigger than the tourist maps show
Check out the maps at the tram stops... that’s Amsterdam.

4. Ask before taking someone’s picture, even if their cool tattoos or acrobatic biking seem to be asking for it
And NEVER take pictures of the women who work in the Red Light District.

Hook on a house
Flickr user Michael Costa

5. Yes, the houses are leaning forward
It’s intentional. See the pole at the top with the hook? That’s how people move: they sling a rope through the hook and haul their stuff up the front of the house, since the staircases inside are too steep and narrow. The houses lean forward so the windows don’t get smashed in.

6. Magic mushrooms have been illegal since 2007
Magic truffles, however, are still sold openly.

Flickr user Marijke Blazer

7. Bitterballen are not bitter or gross
They’re delicious deep-fried balls of meat gravy that you’ll find in any self-respecting bar. (They’re similar to FEBO food.) OK, some people might find them a little gross. 

8. You're going to feel short
The Dutch are literally the tallest people in the world; the dudes reach an AVERAGE of 6’1".

Red Light District
Wikimedia Commons

9. Yes, people actually live in the Red Light District
Above the windows and everything. Yes, it’s amazing. You know what else is amazing? Sleep. Try to keep it down on school nights, folks. Speaking of which...

10. The Red Light District is not scary at night
It’s actually pretty nice, and there are constantly police patrols and crowds of tourists and locals (including women). Just watch out for pickpockets and don’t fall for the “Charlie Boy” schemes... that white powder is not what they say it is.

Amsterdam tram
Wikimedia Commons

11. Public transportation shuts down by 1am
But many bars stay open until 3 or even 5am. That’s why we use bikes.

XXX Flag
Flickr user Razvan Orendovici

12. The XXXs you see everywhere have nothing to do with sex or the Red Light District
They’re the symbol of the city going back to medieval trading times, when people couldn’t read or write, but could draw three Xs on a crate.

13. Holland is not a country
It's a pair of provinces. The Netherlands is a country. 

14. Most public bathrooms will charge you €0.50 to get in
Sorry, that’s just the way it is.

Flickr user George Rex

15. The "Iamsterdam" sign is in Museumplein
A couple smaller versions pop up in random other places on different days.

16. If you want your food spicy, make a big deal about it
Despite the abundance of Indonesian eateries, most Dutch seem to prefer bland to blazing. Traditionally spicy food is usually toned down with the more timid in mind.

17. If you go to a spa, there will be naked people everywhere
If you try to cover up in the sauna, people will wonder what’s wrong with you.

18. Those pieces of metal in the corners of alleyways are pee deflectors
Pee on them, and the pee will splash back up in your face. Seriously, it's what they're designed for.