Tolerance Through Taxes

I came to Amsterdam five years ago with my friend Meesh on my first ever Euro-trip. Our mutual friend from SF, Julian, was born in Amsterdam, went to school here, and loves the city, so before we came we asked him for some recommendations. Five years later I got to return to this amazing city for Julian and Smalls wedding – and I even crashed at Meesh’s Airbnb, so we had really come full circle.

Julian’s favorite sandwich spot, Broodje Bert (five years ago, today):

Julian’s favorite brewery, ‘Ij Brouwerij (left side old, right side new):

The Cheese Museum (not a Julian suggestion, but hard to pass up for round two, top left old, other two new):

But I wanted to do at least a couple of new things this time around, so on Friday I went on a very rainy walking tour but learned some really interesting things about the city:

  • Catholicism was banned in the Dutch Republic in the 1580’s, but the city didn’t want all the Catholics to leave Amsterdam because that would hurt the economy, so they tolerated them practicing their religion so long as it wasn’t public and they paid an additional tax. There are still four hidden Catholic Churches in Amsterdam, the most famous in an attic in the middle of the red light district.
  • Selling cannabis in Amsterdam is actually illegal, even for the coffeeshops, but as long as certain conditions are met it is generally tolerated. The city became tolerant of soft drugs, like cannabis, in order to better fight off the use of hard drugs, like heroine, which became a huge problem in Amsterdam in the 1960’s. They realized if they “legalize” soft drugs, they can regulate and tax them, and the tax revenue was used to fix the hard drug problem (and it actually worked!).
  • Prostitution has been legal since 1811. The city realized it was going to happen either way, but again, if they legalize, they can regulate (tax), and also keep the women safer and make it easier to prevent human trafficking. Some additional prostitution facts I picked up…
    • They are all independent contractors and rent the window space – the more discrete hidden alleyways are more expensive to rent.
    • On average a shift is 10-12 hours and they see 10-14 customers per shift.
    • Going rate is typically €50 for 15 minutes.
    • On any given night there are about 1,000 working prostitutes in Amsterdam.
  • IMG_0013The Dutch East India Company was founded in Amsterdam in 1602. It was the first publicly owned company – the city at the time had no royal family to fund them, and the company needed money to build ships to satisfy their craving for pepper and tea (and other things), so they asked the people to invest. It was also the first true transnational corporation and likely had the first globally-recognized corporate logo. (I’m finding the Dutch East India Company to be fascinating and am looking into books – let me know if you have a recommendation!)
Original Dutch East India Company HQ

Oh yeah, I also got locked in a bathroom stall! Punishment for making a side trip to the best apple pie shop in the world, Winkel. I just could not get the lock to turn enough and had to wait for someone else to come down so I could ask for help, and it took three restaurant staff to break through, but I made it out! The whole ordeal was probably 5 ish minutes, but felt like an hour. But look at this apple pie… I’d say it was worth it!

Some other Amsterdam food adventures:

Some other sight-seeing photos:

Anne Frank’s house behind the tree


Pisa, Italy… check!


Pre-wedding henna


Congratulations Jules and Smalls! Thanks so much for a great time in Amsterdam!


5 thoughts on “Tolerance Through Taxes

  1. Kim Sheffield

    Wow, Em,
    The coffees that you’ve posted make me want to start drinking the stuff, and oh the cheese!!!!
    Your trip sounds amazing, and it was great that you were able to squeeze in time for that wedding🎉

  2. auntcorie

    What a wonderful adventure you are having. The pictures are gorgeous. the bride is beautiful.
    Look up Spinoza in Amsterdam. Jews fleeing the Inquisition found refuge In Amsterdam. Separation of church and state. Straight line to Jefferson.
    Love, Corie

  3. jordyn51200

    Funny story about getting stuck in the bathroom. Glad things happen like that to other people too. It was definitely worth it with the apple pie waiting on the other side. Look forward to your Prague blog. XO

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