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Amsterdam Coffeeshop Etiquette


Yes, it’s legal. Yes you can just walk into a store and buy some marijuana. But did you know that there is actually some etiquette involved at the coffee shops in Amsterdam?

Coffeeshop in Amsterdam. Taken by mac_filko via Flickr.
Coffeeshop in Amsterdam. Taken by mac_filko via Flickr.

Going to a coffee shop in Amsterdam, or Holland in general can go a few ways:

  1. You may feel a little intimidated. They are typically pretty dark and while the employees are friendly, it’s not the kind of welcome you would expect at the local Friendly’s (for my American readers, no pun intended).
  2. Or, you may feel like a kid in a candy shop, able to legally buy it for the first time, woohoo!

Either way, after talking to some locals as well as a few employees at said coffee shops, I learned that there is actually some special rules involved with the purchasing of said goods, at least if you don’t want to appear as a total… noob.

Don’t Freeload

It’s perfectly acceptable to bring in weed from another shop and smoke inside, however, it is considered impolite if you don’t purchase a drink or some other snack from the shop you’re in. Actually, the coffee shops typically have really great coffee and sometimes even organic or fresh squeezed juices. If you’re going with someone who wants to smoke, but you don’t want to yourself, also feel free to order a drink and just enjoy the atmosphere. Some shops even have a cool outdoor space to hang out.

No Alcohol

In 2007 the Dutch government made a rule that you can either serve cannabis or alcohol, but not both. For this reason you won’t find any alcoholic beverages on the coffee shop menu and, like most places in general, it is considered super rude to try to sneak in alcohol.

Ask Questions

You may feel intimidated to ask the seller questions and just pick something because of its silly name. Knowing literally next to nothing about this kind of stuff, I would feel really silly too! But actually, the people behind the counter are used to this kind of thing. They are really helpful and generally are very easily able to help you find what you’re looking for. Once in a while you may meet a big ol’ grump, but as long as you’re polite and not too overexcited wanting more information could never hurt!

There’s a Difference Between Coffeshop, Coffehuis and Café

The term “coffeeshop” refers to the location where cannabis is sold. Coffeehuis is where you can buy a delicious cup of coffee and perhaps a baked good. A café could be a restaurant, where maybe you could also buy a baked good, a meal and a drink, but definitely no marijuana. You can distinguish the difference by the green and white sign on the outside.

Coffeeshop sign, Amsterdam. Taken by Doc Searls via Flickr.
Coffeeshop sign, Amsterdam. Taken by Doc Searls via Flickr.

Don’t Buy Everything at One Place

Prices are generally higher at the more famous coffee shops or the ones in the city center. Branch out a bit to the more residential neighborhoods to the places that cater to a returning customer rather than a million tourists. Depending on what you’re looking for, different places have different specialties. Check out this map to determine your options!

Featured image from Radio Saigón via Flickr.