Why the Drugs and Sex in Amsterdam Were a Big Turn-Off

August 25, 2014
My Red Light Experience in Amsterdam

At the beginning of my three-month trip around Europe, I decided that I was going to skip over Amsterdam. A lot of people questioned my choice but it was a city I just wasn’t comfortable being alone in. Once I reached Eastern Europe though, I started meeting a lot of Dutch travelers and changed my mind based on their kindness. And so, a few days later, I caught a 15-hour train from Austria to Rotterdam to stay with family for the weekend.

Shortly after arriving in Amsterdam by ferry, my impression was negative. But as they teach you in school, I didn’t want to judge a book by its cover. I was however, incredibly grateful not to be alone. First, we headed to the Red Light District. I don’t think I mentally prepared myself as I should have for what I was about to see because as we entered the alley and I saw that first half naked girl in the window, I gasped and covered my eyes.

Maybe it’s just me but all these horrible scenarios started running through my head about why these girls would subject themselves to this. Maybe they were single mothers, sending money back to their country to support their families. May they were abused as children, or feeding an addiction. I couldn’t get over how degrading and disturbing it all was to me.

And the men standing on the corner inviting you to watch live sex shows just made things worse. Who on earth could stomach that? My cousin told me when the curtains are closed, it means the girls are “busy.” That’s when I said, “Let’s go” and started looking at the ground. It didn’t help that a group of drunken British men were in front of me telling the girls they’d be back for them later that night, because I’m sure they did go back.

Why the Drugs and Sex in Amsterdam Were a Big Turn-Off.

Even just walking down the street, you could see everyone sitting outside the coffee shops getting an afternoon high, and leering. The men in Amsterdam clearly had the mindset for Amsterdam–and were focused on sex and drugs. Everywhere we walked you could feel it in the way they stared at you, like you were an object, and not another human being. I can only imagine if I’d walked around those streets alone, as I have in so many other cities, what might’ve happened and how uncomfortable I would’ve felt. I would’ve felt even more uncomfortable than I already did–and I already wanted to leave the city five minutes after I arrived.

We walked to the flower market and then to Anne Frank’s old house. Don’t get me wrong, I could see the beauty within the city but it was like that Lily Allen song, “LDN.” Everything’s all beautiful–canals and green trees and unique coffee shops but underneath that is a layer prostitutes, pickpockets and drug addicts.

Why the Drugs and Sex in Amsterdam were a Big Turn-Off

Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with weed. Being from Vancouver, you grow up with that BC bud everywhere. But it’s not legal, so it’s not to such an extent that it was in Amsterdam. Amsterdam made me think badly of it, and showed me that people got messed up on it in a way I’ve never seen at home. I thought badly of the drug, and I judged the people who were using it.

Honestly, the Netherlands is an amazing country. Maybe I would’ve felt differently if I’d come with a group of friends, in a partying mood instead of my sightseeing mood. But when I imagined having traveled to Amsterdam solo and staying in a hostel alone, I was glad I’d listened to my gut two months before and had skipped over the city.

If you want to visit Amsterdam alone, I suggest staying in a neighboring city like Haarlem, Rotterdam or Leuuv Warden and making a day trip into the city. Holland does have a lot to offer outside of Amsterdam and I hope to go back in the future. I just won’t be visiting A’DAM anytime soon.


Photo by Unsplash. 

About Felicia Day

Felicia Day quit her job and left Canada to travel the world.

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