Guidelines for men visiting prostitutes in the Amsterdam Red Light District
In the Red Light District no-one sees moral restraints in using services of a sex worker. I you see a girl behind a “designated” window, and you might want to be with her, you show your interest. If she invites you to come in, you have to make clear what sexual pleasure you expect, and the both of you have to agree on the price, usually around € 50,- for 15-20 minutes. Once you have agreed, which usually takes a few seconds, you can step inside and she closes the curtain on the window. You have to pay in advance. The women don’t work without a condom, so don’t waist your time negotiating about that.
If you want something extra, like her being completely nude, or you need more time, you have to pay more. Most prostitutes don’t kiss on the lips, and French kissing is a big no no too, so be aware of that. Anything unusual you want should be discussed up front, to avoid disappointment.
It’s a common fact that tourists have a couple of drinks before they visit a prostitute. If you are a bit drunk, she will probably ask you to pay more, which is reasonable, because it’s also a common fact that men need more time when they had something to drink. If you’re pissed off your head, she will probably not invite you in at all. By the way, being pissed off your head is the best guarantee to get mugged.
Last but not least, in Holland prostitution is a legal profession, and prostitutes have the right to be treated respectfully, just like any other person. You want something from her, and if she agrees about the task and the time, and you agree about the price she asks, you have a deal. However, she is always in charge, and she decides what happens and for how long. If she asks you to leave, you leave. You could be in big trouble if you ignore these guidelines.
Cannabis and Stag Weekends
The basis of the Dutch policies regarding recreational drugs is the strict division between hard drugs and soft drugs. In everyday Dutch life never the twain shall meet. Most drug retail takes place in coffee shops, where cannabis and herbal cannabis are sold. From the late 1970s, when as a result of the Amsterdam tolerance cannabis could be sold in the shops, their number has grown explosively. In the city of Amsterdam, their number grew from 10 in 1980 to over 350 in 1990. In 1994 there were all together 452 shops where soft drugs were available. However, the competition is high and the returns are not always very prosperous. The coffee shops are only tolerated if they don’t allow any trade or possession of hard drugs. In the early 1980s this led to harsh measures within the sector itself, to get rid of hard drugs. The police also constantly monitor the separation of the circuits of hard and soft drugs, but nowadays they very rarely find hard drugs in coffee shops. There’s a variety of styles, which usually amaze the tourists: trendy, hippie, hard rock, chic, Turkish, Indian, American, acid house, Surinam, post-modern, Rasta, Afro, et cetera. And there is also the friendly neighbourhood coffee shop, of course. This is Amsterdam, you know?
Nevertheless the coffee shops are constantly under suspicion, especially when there are complaints from residents about nuisance. They will not be prosecuted if they don’t serve alcoholic drinks, if there is no overt advertisement of soft drugs, if no hard drugs are offered, if there is no nuisance, and if access is denied to people less than 16 years of age. Many coffee shops have been closed for breaking these rules. In 2010 there were “only” 223 coffee shops left in the city of Amsterdam, which means that at least 229 of them have been closed since 1994.
The wholesale trade in soft drugs is, almost by definition, entirely in the hands of “criminal organisations”. The use of soft drugs is tolerated to a certain quantum, while the trade in them is tackled hard. This is a rather schizophrenic situation. International political agreements prevent the legal import of soft drugs, so the only difference between a legal business and a “criminal organisation” is a piece of paper. Once the import and wholesale of soft drugs would be allowed, and many people, including high ranking police officers from all over the world, agree that soft drugs should be legalised, the people who are in this business would be respected business people, from one day to another.
On January 10, 2011, the Prosecution Counsel established an agreement with three real estate companies, in which the directors of these companies agreed to pay €2.5 million to avoid prosecution for real estate fraud and money laundering. Harm Trimp, one of the directors, had to pay €350.000,00 and needed to agree to 120 hours of community service to avoid prosecution.
Now have a look at the Dutch situation: a coffee shop is allowed to have a maximum stash of 500 grams of soft drugs, and is allowed to sell each customer 5 grams of soft drugs. All this is completely legal. So the coffee shop makes a profit, and this profit is legal.
However, the coffee shops sell much more than 500 grams per day, and they need to buy their soft drugs wholesale, while the wholesalers need to import the soft drugs, and all this is illegal. It’s a crazy situation. So the buyers don’t commit a crime, the sellers don’t commit a crime, but the wholesaler does commit a crime, and only his profits are illegal, so he needs to launder this money to make it legal, like the money that’s made by the rest of the soft drugs business in the Netherlands.
The Dutch courts and prosecutors are fully aware of this inadequacy of the law, so they tend to maintain the difference between hard drugs and soft drugs, and if someone is caught for wholesaling drugs, or laundering money that comes out of this business, it would make a huge difference if this money was coming from the wholesale of hard drugs or soft drugs. If it was coming from hard drugs, all the money and the goods bought with this money would be confiscated. If it was coming from soft drugs exclusively, the Prosecution Counsel would probably settle for 10% of the turnabouts, plus a minor community service if you would have acted really daft, that is, for the public to see, to make the Prosecution Counsel look stupid.
For the ones who think soft drugs are a nice business, have a look at the penalties:
– Sale, possession, growth, up to 30 grams: 1 month imprisonment and/or € 2.250, 00 fine. (Usually the police will let you go free, with your soft drugs, if you have less than 30 grams on you, because such an offence belongs to the “lowest priority” category.)
– Amateur growth, sale, export, and possession of more than 30 grams: 2 years imprisonment and/or €11.250, 00 fine.
– Professional growth, sale, transport, possession, import, export: 4 years imprisonment and/or €45.000, 00 fine.
Please note: these penalties only apply within the Netherlands. If you are smuggling drugs to your own country, and the Dutch police don’t catch you, you still have to deal with customs and police in your own country, and they will probably not be as lenient.
Binging in Amsterdam
Dutch people usually don’t binge, not when it comes to drinking, and certainly not when it comes to using recreational drugs. We’re quite moderate in this respect, actually, and we like to take our time, unlike many foreign tourists who seem to be in a lot of hurry to get pissed or stoned. I guess this has to do with the Dutch tolerance.
Being a sea port, we’ve always seen foreigners who thought they had arrived in paradise after they entered the city of Amsterdam. The Scandinavians couldn’t wait to get pissed, because in their countries alcohol was only available in state controlled shops, at ridiculous prices, while the Brits were used to their pubs, which would close at 10.30pm, so they needed to binge to get some alcohol inside of them within a very short time.
Nowadays, with low cost airlines like EasyJet flying on Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, we notice the same greed. Tourists are coming here for a nice weekend, and there’s so much to explore, in such a short time.
The businesses in the city centre are used to these tourists, and they are important, so they welcome their clients. The more, the merrier. In many websites you will find organised stag or hen weekends in the Amsterdam Red Light District. At the end of the day, these people will be completely out of their heads, and will have problems finding their hotels, being sick all the way. The next day they wake up at four or five in the afternoon, only to hurry back to the Red Light District and start all over again, because the day after that they need to fly back to their countries. Most people who were part of such stag or hen parties don’t even remember half of what happened.
Please notice that public drunkenness and misconduct is an offence in the Netherlands, which could cost you a €380 fine and/or a night in a police cell. Offending a police officer, or any other functionary, could cost you €400 to €600. Public urinating will cost you €90 (farting included), unless you dress up like a dog and manage to get away with it.
Usually the management of the pubs you visit are quite happy when you spend a lot of money there, but don’t expect other pub owners to be as happy when you come into their places at the end of the night, completely sloshed, just to have one drink and foul their toilets. And don’t forget that the Red Light District is a neighbourhood where families have been actually living since centuries, way before EasyJet existed, and that they actually have children who actually go to school in the morning. It’s not nice for them when they need to find themselves a way through your sick.
I wish all the people who want to visit the Amsterdam Red Light District a wonderful time, but please remember that you are guests, and very welcome guests indeed, as long as you behave.