You've heard of Las Vegas's nickname and reputation as Sin City, right? That's nothing. Amsterdam is the modern Sodom and Gomorrah. You can do everything in Amsterdam. You can do drugs till you drop (or are struck by a cyclist), explore the wildest boundaries of sexual debauchery, and have mayonnaise on your French fries instead of ketchup.
The rest of The Netherlands is 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. In fact, the Netherlands has a much lower rate of cannabis use than the United States. Mentioning weed to most people over 50 and/or Christian gets 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, and in some rural garden sheds (as they are easy to clean, they at least make good shoes for working in mud).
Any natives of the country you meet anywhere are 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.)
- 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.
- When The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers are stranded in Europe, Fat Freddy ends up in Amsterdam. He rejoices at the legal dope and swear he'll stay there forever...but gets kicked out when they find out he has no money. They're a very tolerant people, but they draw the line at broke tourists.
- 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.
- In Euro Trip, the characters get incredibly high after eating brownies they thought contained marijuana, hooting and hollering about getting high, much to the Rastafarian baker's annoyance. They're regular brownies. Another character's first positive sexual encounter occurs there, while yet another is viciously sodomized in an S&M brothel, by Lucy Lawless. Subverted throughout, as it's clearly the tourists' stupidity on show here rather than the Free State.
- Subverted in Ocean's Twelve where the robber gang meets a local contact in an Amsterdam cafe and has a conversation so bizarre they seem to be on drugs. Turns out they're just messing with one character's head.
- Vincent Vega, of course, tells us all about this in Pulp Fiction.
- Found in Passing Strange - The Youth gets into implied threesomes at a marijuana cafe in beautiful AMMMSTEEERDAAAAM!
- The Sequel Hook of Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle has the two stoners planning to go Amsterdam to find Harold's love interest. That and...
Kumar: You know what's legal in Amsterdam, right?
- After the characters win the eponymous Beerfest, they stumble across Willie Nelson in an Amsterdam back-alley, who invites them to join Weedfest.
- Hostel starts out here, but then the characters get bored with all the sex and drugs in Amsterdam and head east for even more exotic delights in Slovakia. This turns out to be a Very Bad Idea ...
- The Pizza round-the-world delivery arc involves a trip to a more realistic version of Amsterdam... where the delivery is put in jeopardy (again) when the cast get high.
- Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo, even though the promotional poster shows him in Italy. He even wears a T-shirt with the page image above. Interestingly, the villain of the movie is a manwhore killer out to remove this image of his city.
- Surprisingly, considering the James Bond series' tendency to have 007 visit The Theme Park Version of any given country (see Octopussy), when he visits in Diamonds Are Forever all he really indulges in is a rather vicious fight in a lift.
- Cheech and Chong's Still Smokin'.
- Root Into Europe: Mr. Root meets with a Dutch police chief in Amsterdam to discuss the dangers of drug abuse, only to discover that he'd inadvertently eaten a number of magic brownies from a dessert cart moments before.
- Sex, Drugs & Democracy is a documentary film that explores Hollands liberal attitude towards drugs, prostitution, porn, sex education, and homosexuality making the argument that it has not increased crime rates and otherwise negatively affected Dutch society.
- Interestingly the 2007 film Nightwatching plays this trope completely straight despite being set over 300 years ago during the Dutch Golden Age. Amsterdam is depicted as a Wretched Hive infested with murder, corruption and child prostitution, sadly this was Truth in Television during the time period.
- Played with in The Way (2010). Joost The Stoner is Dutch and he claims that pot is "nothing by Dutch standards". He then offers Tom two "alternatives" to help him sleep at night... Ambien and ear plugs.
- Both played straight and averted in The Windmill Massacre. Jack's story starts in Amsterdam's notorious Red Light District where he kills a prostitute. However, Jennifer starts the film working as a nanny for a perfectly ordinary family in the suburbs of Amsterdam.
- 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.
Dutch Cabdriver: Some tourists think Amsterdam is a city of sin, but in truth it is a city of freedom. And in freedom, most people find sin.
- 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.
Drew: (mock drunken singing) Ohhh the whores of Amsterdaaaaam...
- 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.
- On NCIS, Director Vance has a flashback to his first mission to Amsterdam, where he met Eli David enjoying some hashish. He also visited the red light district, though he was less interested in the hookers than he was in the Russian hitman who wanted him dead.
- 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".
- Markus Schulz's song "Dancing in the Red Light" is a trance-y leitmotif for the city of Amsterdam, which is justified by Amsterdam's thriving Electronic Music fandom/scene.
- "American in Amsterdam" by Wheatus, which may or may not be Based on a True Story, is pretty much Exactly What It Says on the Tin. It doesn't go very well for the participants.
- Juggalo Championshxt Wrestling Volume 1: Izzy High is billed from there. However, he doesn't seem to be aware of this, since he gets on the mic and calls Detroit "the dope-burningest town in America. USA! USA! USA!", leading to his opponent The Iron Sheik hitting Izzy with his flag, which is pretty much justified in this case.
- 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?
- Mentioned but not seen in Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3. The final Empire mission takes place in Amsterdam (which for some unexplained reason is the seat of FutureTech headquarters) and features everything you'd expect: tulips, canals, fancy brick buildings, Imperial soldiers mocking the red light district, etc.
- The level "Flight of Fancy" in Sly Cooper 3 is set (on the ground) in the rural version as well, complete with rural farmhouses and windmills...but justifies it by being set around an actual such location, at Kinderdijk.
- This Bash quote.
- This one as well.
- 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 legal in Bangladesh, Portugal, Peru, and Uruguay but not in the Netherlands (where it's merely decriminalized).
- 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.