Craving for coffee or a coffee shop?

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The Netherlands has gained fame not just for its bikes, tulips, and cheese but also for its legalized drug policy. I was very keen to see how are drugs sold openly in this country. Lucky me, a Dutch friend took me for an insider trip to these discreet streets of Amsterdam. To my surprise, at every other corner, a “coffee shop” seemed to be selling soft drugs.

I witnessed numerous young tourists from different countries enjoying the soft drugs. They seemed like globe-trotters wanting to just indulge themselves in the nightlife of the Netherlands. Another set of tourists were simply attracted to Amsterdam’s relaxed and free atmosphere. I was enjoying the brilliant mix around me, which gave me a comfortable feeling. 

I visited a coffee shop myself out of curiosity and interest. The menu itself big and bold on the chalkboard mentions thai sticks, hash, weed, and so on. There are designated coffee shops that sell hash and marijuana.

If you just intend to drink coffee with no intention for drugs, then better step in a cafe or a coffee bar. Though coffee shops and coffee bars, both sell coffee, yet the crowd will differ in the two. The name coffee shop simply helped in the past to sell drugs discreetly but to date this word still implies the same though now it is legal. Today if you say, “let’s go to a coffee shop” – It would mean you are craving for drugs. You will soon learn about this difference in your first Dutch-language book.

Well, I also visited shops that sell magic mushrooms, herbal drugs, cannabis seeds, and pipes. It was also initially legal for anybody to buy a limited amount of hash or marijuana but due to stricter EU guidelines, things have started to be restricted now in the Netherlands.

Today, you can get hard drugs too, but just be careful and make sure you are 18 and above if you are visiting a coffee shop. Apart from that, do not panic if you are caught by the police while in possession of drugs. You will not be prosecuted. You are legally allowed to carry some drugs but please do check the permissible amount otherwise you will be running the risk of paying a fine. God forbid, drugs soft or hard are not my cup of tea, so I did not bother to check the admissible limits.

Let’s come out of the coffeeshops now. A quick fact here will help me take your mind off of drugs. Expat men, please do not get surprised if you have to stand on your toes to pee in the toilet as the urinals are mounted quite high up, well-adjusted to the Dutch height. Probably the Netherlands did not expect so much of expat rush over the years to use their toilets when they built them.

It just stuck to my mind now to mention it here, as the Netherlands is a big exporter of beer and till late in the nights, you would see people sitting and drinking at pubs, bars and on the streets enjoying drugs an drinks.

One such day, I interviewed a Chinese boy with an average height. He was the first one to share his frustration as an expat, over the urinals. While sharing his experiences in the country, he could not miss complaining about it. I found it good to caution the men. 


  • Dhara

    Good one!! This article is helpful for tourists a lot and the men for sure .
    So “ let’s go for coffee” next time I am in Amsterdam

  • Ed

    As a Dutchman, I didn’t know how difficult it is to explain the difference between coffee shop and coffee bar. Thanks for your help with your article.

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