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

Jacob Shelton
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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 prostitution could exist in a neighborhood that caters directly to tourists. But brothels in Amsterdam aren’t there specifically to serve the whims of every frat bro and guy who has a few extra Euros in his pocket; 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 sex industry - so if you’re going to purchase some prostitution in Amsterdam, you’ve got to play by the rules.

Even if you don’t want to have sex with a prostitute, 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 are paying to have sex without getting arrested. 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 sprayed by a prostitute (unless that’s what you’re into).  

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: Wikimedia

When you go to a red light district, whether you're there as a tourist of if you're trying to do business, the most important thing to remember is to act like a human being. Don't gawk at the women working in the windows, or the johns who are purchasing their services. You're all there, so why be weird about it? Mariska Majoor, founder of The Prostitution Information Center, sums it up nicely when she tells Antonia DePace, “You should behave the way you want people to behave in your own neighborhood.”

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

It's unfortunate that this needs to be said, but if you're going down to the red light district to hire a prostitute (or just doing anything in life), you're not allowed to grab people. As much as you may view the women 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 the women have no problems making money, so if they even catch one whiff of you being a douchebag, 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

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 Prostitutes Like They're Your Girlfriends

Treat Prostitutes 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

Hopefully, you're aware that prostitutes the world over are 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 sex worker of your choice, chat them up and ask how their day is going. You both know that you're going to have sex, but there's no reason to treat them like an automaton. If you wanted to do that, you could just buy a sex robot.