A gentleman’s travel guide to Amsterdam

Amsterdam is a small (~850 million people), but vibrant city in the heart of Europe. While perhaps most known for it’s cannabis bars (called coffee shops) and the Red Light District,
Amsterdam is cultural and picturesque, with it’s tall, narrow, crooked houses lining the many canals. It also has a very rich and – sometimes controversial – history.

The people

Amsterdammers are known for being open and direct. Don’t be alarmed if a complete stranger walks up to you and comments on your clothes, no matter if it’s a compliment or telling you that they don’t think that color looks good on you.

They don’t consider this rude, they consider it being frank and honest, no matter if they are asked for their opinion or not.

In general, the Dutch people have a live and let live attitude, which means that they tolerate many things that would be deeply offending elsewhere – such as drug use and sex. Don’t think that this means that they cannot be offended, though. Even though they are tolerant in general, there are taboos and things you shouldn’t do when in Amsterdam.

English is never a problem. Dutch people are the best non-native English speakers in the world.

The city

While the city is home to less than a million people, it is still much more crowded than most western cities.

This is partly due to the city itself being small – the area inside the city ring is much smaller than the neighbouring Schiphol Airport.

But it is also due to the blocks being small, streets and sidewalks narrow and a lot of space is taken up by canals.

Due to it’s diminutive size, small streets and flat topography, bicyxle is the default mode of transport in Amsterdam. Driving is confusing and often slow, and while the public transport network is excellent, biking is often the fastest alternative. In fact, you can get to anywhere in the city within 20-30 minutes, and to most in 10-15.

Areas to visit

Even though Amsterdam is small – or maybe because it is – it contains many different neighbourhoods with very different character. This is something that many tourists who mostly stay in the De Wallen / Redlight District and surrounding areas.

De Wallen, Redlight District and Chinatown

The areas surrounding the central station is by many tourists believed to be the center of Amsterdam. The truth is that most Amsterdammers rarely set foot in this area, and while the buildings and architecture is very much traditional Amsterdam, you won’t get the geniune Amsterdam experience here.

The entire area is overran by bachelor partties and other groups of young, drunk, obnoxious tourists. Amsterdammers are happy that they stay there, but any tourist with basic respect for other people is warmly welcome were we Amsterdammers go and hang out with us.

While it is definitely worth visiting the Red Light District, a couple of hours is enough. Use the rest of your time in Amsterdam to explore the areas of Amsterdam that are better suited for gentlemen.

De Pijp

De Pijp is one of the main bar and restaurant areas for locals to hang out. This fairly recently gentrified area is home to the largest outdoor market in Amsterdam, Albert Cuypmarkt, as well as plenty of hip bars and restaurants.

Jordaan & Negen Straatjes (Nine Streets)

If you prefer to explore local brands and smaller boutiques over the large international chains (and you absolutely should), then head to the Negen Straatjes (Nine Streets) for your shopping.

You find them in the canal district just east of Jordaan, and you’ll find everything from second hand stores to the coolest, hippest Amsterdam brands.

When you need a break, head for one of the traditional Brown Bars in Jordaan to keep your thirst at bay.

Museum District, Leidseplein and Vondelpark

Rijksmuseum and The van Gogh Museum might be the most famous of the Amsterdam museums. That unfortunately also means that they are some of the most crowded, and you need to book way in advance.

The can Gogh Museum is open until 10PM on Fridays once a month. If you’re in town, I recommend it, as it’s calmer. The bars and music they play also helps.

If not, I recommend going to the Stedelijk Museum, filled with modern and contemporary art or the private Mocum Museum, specializing in Banksy instead.

While in Amsterdam, Please

Smoke responsibly

If you want to visit one of the cannabis bars, called coffe shops, keep in mind that the products are much stronger than in many other places, so take it easy.

Technically, smoking weed outside of coffee shops or private homes is not allowed. In practice, however, noone will mind if you rather want to sit on the edge of a canal or in a park as long as you behave and show some common
courtesy. Pick a spot that is a bit to the side, so that you don’t bother anyone with your smoke.

Drink responsibly

Amsterdammers are not strangers to alcohol, and we don’t mind having a few drinks ourselves on occation. As long as you behave, it’s all good.

Keep in mind that it’s not allowed to drink in public in some areas in central Amsterdam. However, if you want to have a picnic with a bottle of wine in a park, it’s not a problem as long as you behave.

Rent a bicycle

The best way to get around Amsterdam is by bike, so if you want to explore the city like a local, do rent a “Granny Bike”, as the dutch people call their traditional bikes.

Don’t, however, think that you can bike like an Amsterdammer. The bike traffic is crowded and might seem chaotic to an outsider. There is a system, but until you get used to it – be prepared to yield at all times.

Respect the sex workers

Prostitution is allowed in Amsterdam, and is generally seen as any job. The prostitutes even pay taxes and enjoy social security. While not seen as a high status job, prostitutes are generally respected, as most people here acknowledge that they are providing an important service to some people.

Wether you agree with that or not, respect the sex workers. Don’t stop and stare or ask for the price unless you intend to shop, and don’t take photos.

While in Amsterdam, Please Don’t

Urinate in public

No further explanation is needed. There are public urinals everywhere. Use them, or ask to use the restrooms in one of the bars.

Buy hard drugs on the street

Hard drugs (basically all drugs except for cannabis, mushrooms and peyote) are illegal, and street pushers cannot be trusted. If you want to experiment with hard drugs, it’s better to befriend some locals.

Walk on bike paths

Bike riders own Amsterdam. They are everywhere. Always look both ways when crossing a street or bike path unless you want to learn all the Dutch curse words.

Common gotcha’s

  • Cash is often not accepted.
  • Credit cards are often not accepted.
  • PIN Cards, a local version of Maestro Debit cards, are the most common form of payment. Some places with PIN signs will also accept international Maestro cards, but not all.
  • Beware of bikes. Always.
  • Dog owners are not always good at picking up after their dogs.
  • Be prepared for the Dutch Directness
  • Don’t be offended if you try to speak Dutch, and they answer in English. They are not offended by your crooked Dutch, they simply think it’s more efficient with English.

5 traits of a gentleman

Being a modern gentleman comes from inside. Anyone can dress sharp and look like a gentleman, but what really matters are your core values and how you apply them when you interact with people around you.

If you dress well to show off, rather than to make the people around you comfortable and at ease, or if you care more about how you are percieved than doing the right thing, you might find that few people will genuinely refer to you as a gentleman.

It’s very hard to keep up an act and, even if successful, it won’t make you happy. You will constantly feel like a poser.

If you, on the other hand, work on your core values, your behaviour will automatically and effortlessly reflect them.

So, let’s jump right in. What are the top five traits of a gentleman?

1. Integrity

Integrity is a personal quality of fairness that we all should aspire to.

Having integrity means doing the right thing in a reliable way.

It means having a moral compass that doesn’t waver and is based on the well-meaning of yourself and of others.

2. Responsibility

Being responsible first and foremost means that you take responsibility for your actions.

It’s human to make mistakes. We all do them. At work. In our relationships. In traffic.

Some people try to hide their mistakes or even blame them on someone else in order to keep up the appearance of being perfect and without faults.

A gentleman, however, always owns up to his mistakes. He admits when he has done wrong and does what he can to correct the error.

3. Respect

All human being deserves to be treated respectfully. It doesn’t matter if they are your superiors, inferiors or equals. It also goes for people that doesn’t treat you with the respect you deserve.

Lead with example and you will see that the more respect you show others, the more respect they will show you.

4. Competence

We live in a time where we are told that if we are just confident, we can accomplish anything. Unfortunately, this is not true.

If you were to jump out of a plane with a parachute strapped to your back, would you rather be confident than competent?

The truth is that confidence without competence is overconfidence. It will often lead to feelings of entitledment and frustrations. And while it might help you climb the corporate ladder to a certain degree, it’s like climbing a ladder that is not secured on a stable foundation.

Sooner or later the ladder will slip and you will fall.

The gentleman’s approach is therefore to focus on being competent, rather than confident, in whatever endavour he will pursue. If you do your homework, learn what you need to learn and put in the hours of practice needed, confidence will automatically follow.

And because the confidence is based on a solid foundation of competence, the ladder will be much more stable.

5. Emotional maturity

Emotional maturity is a complex issue, but a simplified explanation could be something like the art of acknowledging your emotions, and making them work for you instead of against you.

While this is the hardest trait to master, in some ways it’s also the most important trait of a gentleman.

Emotions are complex things. If you let them control you, you will lose control of your life, and it will be hard to remain reliable and dependable.

On the other hand, it’s not wise to ignore them either, as they are excellent clues to what is going on and how it makes you feel.

The secret to master them is to realize that they contain information that is aimed for you. If, for instance, someone does something that makes you angry, you are not really angry at the person or the thing they did.

The anger is triggered inside you, not as a result of the person or their action, but as your reaction. If you don’t believe me, think of it this way; depending on your mood, the same action by the same person can trigger a wide range of emotions in you.

As a gentleman, you should listen to your emotions, but not act on them. If you gets angry, you don’t take it out on the other person, because that person is not responsible for your anger.

So what should a gentleman do?

Well, while it differs from situation to situation, in general a gentleman would:

  1. Acknowledge the emotion
  2. Figure out what triggered the emotion and what it’s trying to tell you.
  3. Deal with the issue and the person in an adequate, respectful way.
  4. Deal with the emotion and learn from it internally, separated from the issue and the person.
Behaviour Values

How a gentleman treats his inferiors

Unless you are self-sufficient and live by yourself on an island, you need to serve others and you need to be served by others. This is true no matter if you are a waiter, carpenter, blogger or king.

Most people tend to treat their superiors with respect. If not for other reasons, but because they depend on making at least a decent impression on their boss and clients to keep their jobs.

Unfortunately, this is not always true when the roles are reversed. Many people treat their inferiors – people they manage, suppliers, waitresses and store clerks very differently from how they treat their superiors.

This behaviour tells one very important thing about them. They don’t care about other people. At least not enough to treat them with basic human decency. They only care about themselves.

They only treat people well when they have something to gain. Not because it’s the right thing to do.

While it’s impossible to stay away from such people, you need to keep them at a distance and they can’t be trusted. They will only treat you well as long as they think that they have something to gain from it. As soon as they don’t, they will treat you the same way they threat that waitress when the food arrives late.

On the contrary, a gentleman treats everyone with respect because he believes that everyone deserve it.

A gentleman is one who treats his inferiors with the greatest courtesy, justice and consideration, and who exacts the same treatment from his superiors.

New York Daily News, 1902.

Remember that words such as superior, inferior or equal are social constructs, and that they only apply to certain situations or contexts. You might be someone’s boss, but that only means that you are suporior to him in your current proffessional relationship. It doesn’t say anything about who is more superior or inferior in other contexts or what your future relation might be.

With this in mind, it’s easy to realize that you shouldn’t take out your frustrations on a waitress because she mixed up your order any more than you should take out your frustrations on your boss if he tells you last minute that you to do something you don’t want to do.

Put yourself in their shoes

Let’s say you’re in a restaurant and something goes wrong with the order. You don’t know what went wrong. It might not have been the waitresses fault. Or it could have been, but you don’t know why she messed it up.

She could be incompetent. If so, it’s probably because she is new. Shw could also be having a bad day. Maybe she didn’t get enough sleep. She might have worked late last night and worked a second job in the morning.

You have no idea.

Either way, you will neither benefit her nor yourself by throwing a hissy-fit. You will only make a fool out of yourself.

It’s easy

Just calmly and discreetly let her know about the situation and how you want it handled. If it was her fault, she will know and she will feel bad about it enough as it is, and no matter what, you will both keep your dignity intact.

Do the same with the people you manage, your suppliers and everyone else around you.

As a gentleman, you should never – in any circumstance – raise your voice at an inferior. It’s destructive and it just shows that you are not man enough to handle the situation.


Is it OK to use the N-word as a white man?

The N-word is heavily used in some black cultures, and as some aspects, such as rap music become more and more mainstream, it’s a very valid question to ask; Why can’t I, as a white man, use the N-word, when black people use it all the time?

The short answer is, unsurprisingly, ‘No’.

Well, that was easy. Or was it? Is it really that simple? Aren’t there exceptions? And why we’re at it…why not?

Well, of course it’s never as simple as the short answers. There are exceptions. But the default answer stands. In almost all situations, it’s not acceptable to use the N-word at all.

But why?

Well, it’s simple really. It is a word that has a history that carry connotations of slavery, oppression and disrespect.

But if black people use it, isn’t that dual standards?

No. And there are several reasons for this. I will not list them all. Instead, I will focus on the most important one:

Not all black people use the term. While you may or may not offend those who use it themselves, you most definitely will offend those who don’t.

See, black people are not one homogenous group. They are individuals with very different backgrounds. They come from all classes of society and have different levels of education and sophistication. Just like any other group of people, they get offended by different things and for different reasons.

There is not one black culture any more than there is one white culture.

Simply using the argument that “they use it” is derogatory, disrespectful and perhaps even racist, because it implies that they are a homogenous group and not individuals.

So when is it ok?

Well, there are basically only two circumstances. If you are singing along to music by black musicians it would just be silly to insert beeps whenever there is the N-word.

It is also, of course, ok to quote others using the word, if it’s done in a respectful way.

Other than that, don’t use it. Unless you are Quentin fucking Tarantino. Then you are excempt from all rules regarding the N-word.