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Amsterdam Red Light District: Tacky or Tasteful? 

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

The Netherlands are well known in Europe for their liberal approach to life.

Open mindedness and tolerant attitudes are an integral part of the country’s character and this is nowhere as obvious as in Amsterdam’s red light district. Legalised prostitution and marijuana have given the area a unique personality unlike any other place in the western world and which draws admirers from far and wide. However, this liberalism is not without its downside.

The first problem I found with Amsterdam was that, with its status as a tourist Mecca long since assured and a mythology so deeply ingrained in popular culture, there is no reason for many of the service providers to make any effort. Overpricing is rampant although, I hasten to add, by no means universal. Having to judge whether each establishment is a simple tourist trap or actually wants to serve you before entering becomes frustrating very quickly.

Long before the cheap drinks behind the former iron curtain began pulling in the weekend party trips Amsterdam was their destination of choice. This continues to be the case for some since while the alcohol orientated travellers have moved on, the stoners still come and add to the fragrant green smoke that billows through the narrow streets. Each of the coffee-shops I visited was very clear and firm that admission was granted to those over 18 only. This is clearly not enough, however, since the streets seemed to be swarming with stoned teenagers, their bleary eyes and vacant smiles passing me on almost every street. While I accept that teenagers have a right to enjoy themselves as much as anyone else I have always thought they should do it closer to home where their parents are but a phone call away.

The girls in the windows posed another dilemma to me. I have absolutely nothing against legalised prostitution, if a woman (or a man) wants to use their body to make money then fair enough. Good luck to them. However, consent is a difficult thing to guarantee and with the scourge of human trafficking on the increase across the world there is a danger that consenting prostitutes are going to be priced out of the market by cheap imported slave labour. This article has posted quite a negative picture of Amsterdam’s red light district and this is not a truthful one. As with anything the truth is a mixture of good and bad. The point is that people who look down on the area as a den of iniquity and sin while never going in are missing its good points. However, those who see only open-mindedness and liberalism taken to a joyful conclusion will be missing the, just as real, negative aspects of the area.

Where to stay in Amsterdam Red Light District

Photo of Amsterdam Red Light District by Tele_


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About the author

Venere Travel Blog writer will joce

Will Joce is a recent graduate from the London School of Economics who has a morbid fear of working in an office. As well as travelling and writing he has worked in the UK Parliament and as a press monitor. Refusing to follow advice and get a real job he will soon be beginning a Masters degree at St Petersburg State University

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