Because there is more to Amsterdam than sex and drugs (but I’ll still tell you about the sex and drugs).
Last week I decided to take my travel adventures to Europe. Amsterdam is known for being an open, judgement-free place where you can experiment with just about anything related to drugs and sex. To be honest, I was more interested in sampling the cheese palette than participating in edibles or prostitutes. What can I say, I’m boring. While on my trip, I realized there is so much more to the sensationalized city.
Want to lose weight? Move to Europe.
Europeans are skinny because they need to fit into their tiny apartments. I’m convinced of this and it is not up for debate. When l arrived to the hotel with my girlfriend, the attendant said, “Oh, you both have such big bags. Let me change your rooms.” Sounded like a win to me! If this was our room, what did the other one look like? We were stuck in an faux-Ikea bedroom set-up for an entire week. We noticed this was the motif around Amsterdam and pretty much most of Europe. In one restaurant, a lady shoved us in a tiny corner of the establishment and said, “Welcome to Holland.” I had never been in a bathroom where I could use the toilet, take a shower and still be in the bedroom, at the same damn time. Insane! Clearly us Americans are a glutton for space which explains why we carry extra weight.
The Red-light District is Times Square but better.
The Red-light district is reminiscent of Times Square circa the 90’s. Yes, there are women in the windows. Yes, there are kids walking around. Yes, you can buy weed just about anywhere. Yes, it was completely normal. Strangely, walking through the red light district reminded me of those special occasions when my mom would dress me up and take me to Times Square. The peep show joints, people stumbling through the streets under the influence and the bright, illuminating lights bouncing off the buildings felt very familiar to me. Here are a few fun facts about the popular tourist attraction.
- The Red-light District has 400 windows.
- Each prostitute must pay a daily fee of 150 Euros (approximately $185) to the owner of the building.
- Services start at 50 Euro and can last from 6-15 minutes.
- The use of condoms are enforced.
- The district is catered to men so it is rare that women can visit a window. This is also why you won’t find male prostitutes in the windows.
- Although prostitution is legal, pimps still exist.
Live sex shows are a thing.
The live sex shows are anything but sexy. If anything, it was an awkward, intimacy repellent. We sat and observed 10 sex acts occur in about 2 hours. As we watched, we’d look at each other and cringe. Some acts had no connection. Some were really strange (one lady smoked a cigar from her vagina and another made 5 audience participants eat a banana from hers). Some looked robotic. As strange as this expensive, lackluster show was, we couldn’t stop watching! For one, I wanted to get my money’s worth. For 55 Euros ($68) per person, I was determined to stay until the bitter end. The guy next to us who kept farting out of excitement or anxiety didn’t help us adjust to the moment either. As we watched the very first act resurface on stage, we realized the 10 performers would be on stage doing the same acts from 7pm-2am. Ouch.
Brown Americans, where are you?
Amsterdam is a melting pot of all cultures. While I was there I met tons of people from different parts of the world. I even met an American man who said despite the amount of people he sees each day, we are part of the very few “brown people from America” that visit Amsterdam. The young man is an Ohio native who relocated to Florida before moving to Amsterdam to be with his girlfriend of 5 years. Because he worked in a bike shop (the primary mode of transportation in the area), he encountered lots of tourists from all over the world. After some small talk, he casually mentioned that he hasn’t seen many brown people from the states visit Amsterdam. We chatted a bit about the need for more people of color to see the world. He is of Puerto Rican descent and mentioned that his cousin has never left Ohio because he refuses to get on a plane.
This conversation resonated with me because as a world traveler, I recognize the importance of seeing how people live in other parts of the world. A big part of Introvert N the City is to encourage traveling and exploration. Our presence is wanted and needed all over the globe. Representation is important.
So much to do!
Beyond sex shows and weed cafes, there was so much to do in Amsterdam. Our first full day was spent in Zaanse Schans, home to the windmills. We saw how the wooden clogs were made and discovered a wide assortment of cheese and chocolate.
We visited the Heineken Experience. First of all, I had no clue Heineken was made in Amsterdam. The museum is more of an experiential fun house than your typical educational set-up. Upon exiting 3-D videos and interactive games, we entered a bar where we received 2 complimentary glasses of beer.
By now, you’ve learned that I’m obsessed with animals and the zoo. I make it a point to pay a visit to the zoo of whatever city I am in at the time. After the Heineken Experience, we rode our bikes over to Natura Artis Magistra, where we spent a few hours hanging out with the wild life. Artis is the oldest zoo in the Netherlands and one of the oldest zoos of mainland Europe. It includes a planetarium and an aquarium.
Overall, my vacation was eventful and relaxing. There was so much to do in such a short amount of time. Although Amsterdam is known for their weed and sex industry, I found it to be a bit overwhelming. There is life outside of the Red-light district! It was refreshing to create a different experience for myself.