READ Rules and Etiquette You Need to Know in Amsterdam's Red Light District  

Jacob Shelton
373.5k views 15 items

The Amsterdam red light district is a place that’s been fetishized and built up by Americans who wonder about how something as kooky as legal sex work could exist in a neighborhood that caters directly to tourists. But red light businesses in Amsterdam aren’t there specifically to serve the whims of every person who has a few extra Euros in their pockets; there’s an etiquette that comes with taking part in the world’s oldest profession, and if you don’t follow the rules, you’re likely to find yourself bounced from the real happiest place on earth.

When you think about it, sex workers are just like any other independent contractor, except they’re trusting you with their bodies - which is no doubt frightening for 100% of the people who work in the industry - so if you’ve got to play by the rules.

Even if you don’t want to purchase any services, it’s still cool to take a tour through Amsterdam’s red light district. Not only is the area full of culture, but it looks really cool! And there’s something oddly gratifying about walking through an area where people can openly engage in this activity. That being said, you still have to follow the unspoken rules of the red-light district or run the risk of getting hosed by the people who make a living there. That’s right, hosed. Keep reading to find out how to make it through the red-light district without being any bad encounters with the professionals here.   

The Golden Rule Applies In The Red Light District, Too

The Golden Rule Applies In The... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Rules and Etiquette You Need to Know in Amsterdam's Red Light District
Photo: Free On Line Photos/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 0

When you go to a red light district, as a tourist or on business, the most important thing to remember is to act like a human being. Don't gawk at the people working in the windows, or those who are purchasing their services. You're all there, so why be weird about it?

Mariska Majoor, founder of The Prostitution Information Center, says of those that choose to work in the windows: "...you’re sitting there in your own space, in clothes that make you feel sexy and you flirt with whom you want to flirt. That is a wonderful game. You can see very quickly whether someone finds you exciting and you focus on that." Given this positive vibe, don't be overbearing or rude - be respectful of others. 

Don't Get Grabby

Don't Get Grabby is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Rules and Etiquette You Need to Know in Amsterdam's Red Light District
Photo: Rungbachduong/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 3.0

It's unfortunate that this needs to be said, but if you're going down to the red light district to hire a sex worker (or just doing anything in life), you're not allowed to grab people. As much as you may view the people in the windows as merchandise, make no mistake, they're constantly sizing you up.

Thousands of people flock to the red light district every night, and those earning a living this way have no problems making money, so if they even catch one whiff of you being a rude or grabby, you'll be back out on the street. 

No Pictures, Please

No Pictures, Please is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Rules and Etiquette You Need to Know in Amsterdam's Red Light District
Photo: WIkimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0

Regardless of whether you're on a sightseeing trip through a red light district or if you're trying to part ways with 50 Euros in the most exciting way possible, one of the unspoken rules of the area is that you don't take photos. Yes, the architecture is amazing, and yes, the lights look cool, but when a group of people makes a living off of selling their bodies, you're essentially stealing from them when you take photos. Tourists who are caught taking photos may end up on the wrong side of a water hose. 

One red light district visitor claims: "While at the entrance of the district, I thought it would be okay to snap a quick photo of the symmetric lines of windows and red lights glimmering down onto the brick pathways. I lifted up my phone, prepared to take the photo. Immediately, my friend and I were severely doused by a hose."

Treat Sex Workers Like They're Your Significant Others

Treat Sex Workers Like They're... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Rules and Etiquette You Need to Know in Amsterdam's Red Light District
Photo: Jos van Zetten/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0

Hopefully, you're aware that those in the world's oldest profession tare just trying to make some money like everyone else, and they don't deserve to put up with your creepy BS. When you get in a room with the person of your choice, chat them up and ask how their day is going.

You both know that you're going to get down to business, but there's no reason to treat them like an automaton. If you wanted to do that, you could just buy a robot.