It’s easy to understand why a sizeable proportion of Amsterdam locals aren’t fond of tourists. Far from the basic coffee shop etiquette expected of guests, visitors to Amsterdam don’t always play by the rules. This is particularly true of for first-time cannabis tourists, for whom coffee shop etiquette often seems like a foreign concept.
On the plus side, keeping yourself in proprietors’ good books isn’t particularly difficult. In fact, it’s more a case of common sense than anything complex. Coffee shop etiquette is all about behaving yourself, moderating your consumption and basic good manners.
So, for anyone heading out to Amsterdam for the first time, here are 12 coffeeshop etiquette tips source straight from the locals:
1. Don’t buy illegal weed
First and foremost, don’t lose sight of the fact that selling and buying cannabis on the streets of Amsterdam is illegal. If you really want to annoy law abiding business owners, take your business to the black market. If you’d prefer to support the legal trade that’s made Amsterdam famous worldwide, buy exclusively from licensed coffeeshops.
2. Expect to be carded
You need to be 18 or over to buy cannabis in Amsterdam. However, it’s not uncommon to be carded if you’re clearly in your 50s. It’s simply a way for coffee shop owners to ensure they play by the rules and avoid heavy penalties. Some ask for ID from every customer as a standard policy, irrespective of how old they clearly are. Coffee shop etiquette means always carrying your ID and presenting it willingly when asked.
3. Read the menu carefully
Most coffeeshops owners and staff members will be more than happy to answer your questions. However, you’ll probably find that most of the information you need is in the menu. Hence, it’s good manners to first consult the menu for the information you need, only then asking if you need further clarification. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, but try to avoid asking questions you really don’t need to ask.
4. Expect tobacco in purchased joints
If you buy any pre-rolled joints, they will always come loaded with tobacco. Unless it specifically states otherwise, tobacco will be used – and plenty of it. Hence, there’s no room for acting surprised or repulsed after taking in a huge hit of tobacco smoke. It’s bad coffee shop etiquette to criticise the use of tobacco, even if you’re against the idea. If you’d prefer your joints to be tobacco-three, you’ll need to roll them yourself.
5. Limit alcohol consumption
Drinking alcohol while smoking cannabis can send inexperienced stoners over the edge. This is particularly true in places like Amsterdam, where cannabis potency tends to be elevated. It’s not to say you can’t enjoy a beer with your joint, but don’t make the same mistake thousands make every year. That being, to get completely fried on weed and alcohol in the space of an hour, only to have to be carried out and asked politely not to return.
6. Always ask permission
Just because a coffeeshop sells cannabis doesn’t mean you can freely smoke the stuff wherever you like. In most cases, coffeeshops have dedicated smoking and non-smoking areas. In others, consumption of cannabis by combustion is prohibited on the premises entirely. Rather than sounding like a noob by asking, they’re more likely to appreciate the fact that you asked. Take cues from your fellow smokers by all means, but it’s still good manners to ask before lighting up.
7. Spend some money
There’s no specific rule governing the weed you can consume in a coffeeshop. Irrespective of where you bought it, you’ll most likely be able to use it on the premises. However, it’s also common courtesy to ensure you actually spend some money. And this doesn’t mean buying a single soda and sipping it for four hours, just to make use of their facilities and smoke weed you bought elsewhere.
8. Don’t forget to tip
Speaking of which, tipping isn’t considered mandatory in Amsterdam, but is nonetheless expected. You don’t have to go crazy, but it’ll stand you in good stead if you add say 10% onto your total bill. Or at least, don’t stand around waiting for your change after each drink you order at the bar.
9. Eat something first
Bingeing on Dutch-strength weed on an empty stomach is a recipe for disaster. Along with getting far higher than you’d probably like, you could also quickly make yourself pretty sick. Again, this is precisely the kind of irresponsible behaviour that rubs coffee shop workers up the wrong way. Most coffeeshops sell various treats and nibbles to keep you going, so again – spend some money and keep them sweet.
10. Always take cash
Don’t wait until you ask for your bill to find out that you can’t pay by credit card. Most coffeeshops in Amsterdam accept credit cards and debit cards, but some are strictly cash only. You can expect to pay approximately €12.00 per gram and around €5.00 for a pre-rolled joint, so carry enough cash to cover the bill. It’ll save you a lot of embarrassment and save the proprietor the headache of sending you to the nearest ATM.
11. Never bring other drugs into a coffeeshop
Don’t let Amsterdam’s relaxed attitude to cannabis lull you into a false sense of security. The city and its businesses take an extremely strong stance against harder drugs. An important part of coffeeshop etiquette is under no circumstances bringing any other drugs into a coffeeshop. The same also applies to alcohol – never bring your own along for the ride.
12. Stay sociable and respectful
Last but not least, coffee shop etiquette means one contributing to the experience for the benefit of everyone. This means staying respectful and mindful of others at all times, while also being outgoing and sociable. Chat with the staff, talk with other patrons out for a good time and be mindful of your manners from start to finish. In addition, coffeeshop etiquette dictates that if you take things too far, you exit the premises and sort yourself out. You don’t just sit there and create an awkward experience for everyone else around you.