,, It is a little known fact that Amsterdam is one of the places that Father Christmas prefers to spend part of his summers. His favourite bar is on Dam Square and he tends to sit in the back. He is usually happy to talk but it helps if you take him a glass of Geneva Gin
Some positives about Amsterdam:
Amsterdam is a city that is extraordinarily liveable, easy to get around in, as long as you have quick reactions, and open and tolerant with an atmosphere of freedom. You have perhaps to ignore those tourists who might come primarily to get stoned or make a spectacle of themselves in the red light district but this is not such a big deal.
In general the Dutch have things well organised and Amsterdam is a city of creative people.
In Amsterdam, crime rates are low, murders are rare, few inhabitants are in deep poverty, and life expectancy is high so you’d think they must be doing something right. Environment protection is good with a surprisingly large number of green areas (though the city is densely built-up). In general the mix of people seem to rub along pretty happily together.
Amsterdammers live healthily, walk and bike a lot and do not seem to have the obsession with cars that you find in many places. This of course is aided and abetted by the relatively difficult business of driving there and the flooding of many roads, (I subsequently found out that these are canals, attempting to drive along them is a bad idea).
Too many bikes. While cycling is strongly promoted in many cities worldwide, the problem in Amsterdam is that per capita bicycle ownership is 1.5. That means many unused, even abandoned bicycles. Another thing to note is that as a pedestrian you take your life in your own hands. Dutch bicyclists do not take prisoners, so if you don’t want to find yourself with a bicycle wedged in your anatomy beware. If you do that’s what the red light district is for.
forbidden to park bicycles
In a series of campaigns, the city administration is trying to persuade locals to place their unused bikes in places that do not obstruct traffic. Allegedly, about 15,000 unused cycles are abandoned every year. Quite a lot end up in the canals so don’t feel tempted even if your bicycle has really upset you to throw it in the canal. There are even special boats to fish out bicycles. You should be careful your bicycle isn’t stolen, (probably by a stoned English tourist), and sent to its watery grave. Even the odd car ends up in the canals, but don’t worry the boats still run.
Immigrants and international students complain that Amsterdam's local Dutch inhabitants treat them with ostentatious politeness as a way of differentiating from local Dutch people. Personally I would prefer that to people being rude. There are of course some tensions between different social groups but this is the 21st century and surely racism is a thing of the past, at least among those of us who consider ourselves as sentient.
The city is divided into several parts; there's a Turkish part, Moroccan, Black people and ex-pats, though don't feel that you will be excluded. I always find it interesting that as an Englishman if I go somewhere to live I’m an expat, everybody else is an immigrant. As you can imagine the poorer the group the further out in the suburbs they tend to live and the more sketchy the neighbourhood.
If you visit the red light district, tourists should keep in mind that even though prostitution is legal, many women are not there because they want to be. In fact who would be, really? Apart from this general observation it is true to say that human trafficking is a severe problem, and most tourists aren’t aware of this.
In Amsterdam, residents and tourists complain that many street buskers are quite aggressive toward viewers who are unwilling to give them money. Many living statue performers are harassing passers by. Lets face it there is nothing worse than an angry man with a trombone. There is however the fun of making the living statues chase after you and ruining their act. You can give to the nice ones if you want, especially if they're not very good. (You’ll find me playing blues wearing a dark blue fedora).
Amsterdam has a winsome, (possibly winsome loose some), look in the canal area. but there isn’t much variety in the architecture beyond that. I do like the colourful houses with their traditional gable ends and little cranes. Worth going on one of the sightseeing boats for the best of it.
I can hear many of you thinking, “what about what Amsterdam is really known for.” Well yes, coffee shops where the coffee is also excellent as well as alternative herbal products and I don’t mean Oregano. The Dutch seem to have achieved a happy and sensible level of drug use, however some foreigners can overdo it. Coffee shops are generally pleasant and well run but be careful of the innocuous looking hash cake which can carry a bigger than expected kick. Don’t forget, try not to fall into a canal and stay away from the skunk." (Alan Durant, September, 2020)