Rated XXX. No, seriously — that's the official city flag.
"So tell me again about the hash bars."
— Jules Winfield
from Pulp Fiction
... and everybody else who's ever met somebody who's been to Amsterdam.
Amsterdam is the modern Sodom and Gomorrah. You can do everything in Amsterdam. You can do drugs till you drop, explore the wildest boundaries of sexual debauchery, and have your fries with mayonnaise
The rest of The Netherlands
is pretty much just one field of tulips after another with the odd windmill
here and there; from the way people talk about it, you'd figure the Netherlands and Amsterdam were different countries.
As Freestate Amsterdam is wall-to-wall nightlife, it's never day there.
There is at least a grain of truth in this, since the Netherlands does have fairly lenient soft-drug laws and a thriving sex industry... and the Dutch do eat far more mayonnaise than most countries. However, Amsterdam is hardly more liberal than other major cities in Europe,note
and in many aspects more restricted. Holding an open can of beer on the street is officially illegal (although it will rarely if ever get you a fine), smoking a joint outside is frowned on by the locals. The red light district doesn't differ all that much from the ones in, say, Brussels or Hamburg, except the prostitutes in Amsterdam at least look happier. Magic mushrooms have been banned (though the mayor flat-out refuses to order police raids to check and truffles are not banned
), and marijuana is actually only decriminalized rather than flat-out legal, meaning you simply won't be fined. And the sex museums, dildo shops and weed shrines? That stuff's just for tourists. The city has no stoner subculture to speak of—you either smoke or you don't, but it doesn't make you part of a social group—and most of the true hippies are stranded Americans looking for some change. Mentioning weed to most people over 50 and/or Christian gets pretty much the same reaction as it would in the States. As for the wooden shoes: nobody really wears them anymore. There are some small rural villages (e.g. Spakenburg) where people still occasionally dress in traditional clothing, of which wooden shoes can be a part, but the only other places you'll see the things are kitschy souvenir shops.
Any natives of the country you meet anywhere are pretty much guaranteed to have a last name that starts with Van, De, Van de, Van den, or Van der
. In reality, a sizable minority of the Dutch have such last names, but don't expect to meet any of the others in any work of fiction.
Note about the flag: Rated XXX, that sounds pretty cool, but actually it's much older: each of those Xs are St. Andrew's crosses, in honor of the city's patron saint (same as Scotland
and the Russian Navy
, which also have X-designs on their flags). The official explanation of the three crosses is that they represent the biggest threats in Amsterdam's history: fire, because medieval houses were made of timber and stand next to each other, increasing risks of huge fires; flood, because the River Amstel often flooded; and plague, because the canals were filthy and one could contract all kinds of diseases from the water therein. Another theory goes that the crosses were part of the coat-of-arms of an old noble family, who were patrons of the town of some sort, and so the town adopted their design in its own coat of arms, but it is not known which family that was. (Probably not that one
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Anime and Manga
- Parodied and lampshaded in Axis Powers Hetalia by the character representing the Netherlands who's described as a depraved chain-smoker, apparently is somewhat of a lolicon and uses some kinds of 'shady drugs', whatever they are. Hilariously, a recently translated strip featuring him showed a profile shot of him with his nostrils missing, leading to comments that he may have done some damage to them with his habits...
- The Belgian comic Urbanus has an issue called "De laatste Hollander" (the last Dutchman) which features this version of Amsterdam.
- The Discworld version of Holland is explored in The Black Sheep. In true Pratchett tradition, Sto Kerrig is Holland with all the knobs turned Up to Eleven. Windmills, clogs, Edam cheese, canals and tulips are all involved. The state capital, DamHamster, boasts kaffeehuisen where strange mind-altering and appetite-enhancing tobaccos are smoked in abundance. There is also a SexMusee celebrating all aspects and variations of the human sexual experience. A Quirmian visitor is suitably moved by both.
- Mostly averted by The Fault in Our Stars (John Green really likes Amsterdam and goes whenever chance he gets), although the 16-year-old protagonists are served champagne in a restaurant quite openly.
- In an episode of The Office Jim asks his co-workers about possible vacation destinations. Toby recommends Amsterdam, stating that after his divorce, he went there for about a week... or maybe a month... he seemed a bit hazy on the details for obvious reasons.
- One game of Greatest Hits in Whose Line Is It Anyway? started with Drew Carey taking suggestions for "a city where you would go to have a great time". Amsterdam is one of the suggestions called out, and judging from the players' and even the audience's eventual reactions, they all know what kind of time one would have there. Sadly they went with Paris. 2:30 here.
- In an episode of My Name Is Earl, Earl is in a coma, and his friends are waiting anxiously for him to come out of it. Darnell suggests that they try to stimulate his mind with both old memories and new experiences. He holds up a postcard from Amsterdam, saying (with a smirk) "I call it Amster-jam. You'll know why when you get there." The postcard does not rouse Earl from his coma, but does appear in his coma dream as a decoration that his wife is putting up.
- In The Wire season 3, the police designate vacant neighborhoods as "free zones" where drugs are tolerated. When explaining this to a drug crew, Herc refers to one of the free zones as "Amsterdam in Baltimore". The free zones then become known collectively as Hamsterdam.
- The Dutch brothers Eddie and Alex Van Halen were less than happy when Sammy Hagar composed "Amsterdam", with lyrics such as "oh Amsterdam, stone you like nothin' else can".
- Twisted Metal 2: The "Holland: Field of Screams" stage is an example of the rural part of this trope. It consists of several tulip fields surrounded with... well, more tulip fields, and a pair of windmills.
- Final Fight 2 had some form of a post apocalyptic Holland with invented letters on signs, fighting trough windmills, bombs hidden in the ground, carrion birds, and ending up in some kind of a massive... sewer? Dock?
- This Bash quote.
- This in Urban Dictionary. Apparently Amsterdam is the only country (yes, country) where marijuana is legal.
- Amusingly the statement isn't even correct if applied to Netherlands as a whole, marijuana is also legal in Bangladesh, Portugal and Peru.
- Star Trek Month by The Nostalgia Critic features a cameo by Sci-Fi-Guy who says he owns a copy of the Star Trek Holiday Special (a parody of The Star Wars Holiday Special) and it's so bad, it is only legal in Amsterdam.
- In Family Guy Brian and Stewie went to a coffee shop in Amsterdam... and got really high from just sitting in it because it was full of young people smoking marijuana.