Home Page


Dutch customs

The Dutch "coffeeshop," anno 2000

Cannabis in The Netherlands is "not legal, but not illegal."...

A coffeeshop in The Netherlands sells cannabis products — weed, hash,* and edibles. You might find a good cup of coffee, but the term is euphemistic. Coffee is generally better at a café (which is really more like a pub.)

The coffeeshop will normally serve a variety of teas and infusions and some cold drinks — juices, fruity soft drinks, and bottled water. Some are licensed to sell alcoholic drinks, though these businesses are relatively scarce. The dual-licenses are being phased out — so I've heard — effective on change of ownership.

The main trade of a coffeeshop is the smoke. This does not mean that one cannot just go in and just have a cup of tea — that's fine. You can also smoke from your own bag if you already have one. You just have to buy something, that's all.

You don't have to keep buying things. That's simply not necessary. If you want to, you can go into a coffeeshop, get a cup of your favorite drink, find the spot you like best, and sit for as long as you wish. If you buy nothing, you won't be so welcome. That's what Consumptie verplicht means — "consumption required" — so buy something.

And don't fall asleep. Follow those two guidelines and you should be fine. It probably goes without saying (but it's important) that "hard drugs" are forbidden in coffeeshops.

A coffeeshop will have a menu. Printed or posted, this list is the point of reference with the vendor. The Dutch are generally very amicable to specific questions, and helpful when you do have a question. But you have to choose your smoke. To ask what's "best" is to risk being annoying. What's best for you depends upon your personal taste — and budget. You might want to buy a small quantity and appreciate it for what it's worth. Then again, what do I know? To see what the house considers best, you only have to compare the prices.

The name of a strain is somewhat arbitrary. Coffeeshops may call a smoke what they want to call it, so the name is often not useful. And, even amongst well-known strains, variability is natural. It's possible to have good, great, or mediocre "white widow," for example. And even at a given coffeeshop, the quality of a bag will vary from day to day. That's natural.

There are folks who know mountains more about weed than I do. I personally stuck with a particular variety from my favorite coffeeshop.* It was good, and it was the best bargain.

As for variety of smoke, Amsterdam has that. There are tourists, naturally, who revel in that variety, and Amsterdam can satisfy their interest. Some coffeeshops offer a truly extensive menu. Every one will offer several kinds of weed, and several kinds of hashish.

All coffeeshops will supply papers for making joints (of the large variety used in rolling the European-style tobacco-mixed number.) Many places will offer a pre-rolled joint, served in a little recyclable plastic tubule. Some offer a pure weed joint, American-style. Most will have a pipe or two for customers' use, and many will keep at least one water-pipe on hand. In Amsterdam these are often those left by foreigners who don't want to bring such a device through customs, after using it. The problem with house-waterpipes is universal — they can be truly stinky after a few smokes. Waterpipes are not a common local method of smoking, so they're not likely to be regularly cleaned.

Some establishments will sell baked goods with hashish in the recipe. Novices ought to be cautious about these. While the high can be warm and pleasant, it is less predictable than a smoke-induced buzz. Ingestion requires a larger dose than that smoked; comes on much more slowly; and can have some of the elements of a psychedelic trip. Again: caution.

For that matter, nobody's going to keep you from smoking too much, either.

That's Dutch. Nobody's going to make you do what's good for you. You need to know the danger and be careful.

__   ___   __

In a coffeeshop, "weed" and "hash" are good words to use, because they are very like "wiet" and "hasj."

But it doesn't really matter, because the Dutch speak English anyway — and you'll have to be more specific, in either case.

Return to "weed and hash." ...

__   ___   __

__   ___   __

*When I say "favorite" coffeeshop, I don't mean that I spent** a lot of time there, but only that that's where I bought my stash. A coffeeshop can be a great place to spend an afternoon, on that rare occasion when it feels right. But coffeeshops can also feel like a waste of time.

Return to "favorite coffeeshop" ...

** And when I say "spent," in the past tense, I refer to the seven months that I lived in Amsterdam, in the last half of 2000.

I lived in The Netherlands again between the summer of 2003 and early 2005, in the city of Nijmegen,where I also had a favorite coffeeshop....