It’s Good to be Home

It’s great to be back from Amsterdam, even if I came home to this:


It’s cold, but being surrounded by my LCD monitors is keeping me warm. 😉 Amsterdam was an interesting place, but it’s not someplace I’d want to go back to. It’s never fair to judge a whole country by your experience in one city, so if I were to return to the Netherlands (I hear it’s beautiful in the spring), I’d skip Amsterdam. Why? Weather comes and goes, but the people stay the same. In the case of Amsterdam, it was the attitude of the people in the service industry, and the incredible number of people who smoke – and I have a story that combines both! Ashley and I are non-smokers, and coming from a city where smoking is all but outlawed, it was a shock to be surrounded by smoke constantly – it was like time-travelling back to the ’70s.

Back to my story: we had read about a Mexican food restaurant called Los Pilones that was supposedly the best in the city – which might not be saying much for someplace so far from Mexico, but we figured we’d try it. That night at 7 PM there was the first Mobius event, the meet and greet, so were going to be eating early. We arrived at the restaurant earlier than we thought, 4:20 PM, but when I saw that they opened at 4 PM I thought we were set. The door was locked. A guy came to the door and said the kitchen wasn’t open yet, that we should come back in 20 minutes. What kind of a restaurant doesn’t open when their sign says they’re supposed to open? A restaurant in Amsterdam!


We came back at 4:50 PM and were granted admittance, and quite enjoyed the ambiance (pictured above). The menu was simple but everything sounded good, so we ordered and munched on some corn chips and some delicious salsa. When our food arrived a while later, we were still the only customers in the place – so as we started to eat I was surprised to smell smoke. Yes, you guessed it, the bartender (or bus boy, I wasn’t sure which) was smoking. Only two customers in the place, and right as they get their food, this jerk decides to start smoking. Unbelievable. Either the residents of Amsterdam are the rudest people in the world, or they’re so used to the smell of cigarette smoke it doesn’t occur to them that non-smokers might not want their food to taste like smoke. Or maybe it’s both.

And that, in a nutshell, is Amsterdam. We saw some interesting things (I’m still pounding through my pictures from the zoo), but it was really tainted by all the smoke and the rudeness of the people there. I’m all for experiencing the local culture when I visit a new place, and trying to resist the urge to view everything through the eyes of a North American, but some things are universal: non-smokers really don’t like the taste/smell of cigarette smoke. Back to processing my pictures…I’ll post a few when I’m done, perhaps with a few more stories about what I saw and experienced in Amsterdam.

  • Janak Parekh

    The pervasiveness of smoking is certainly a European thing. Didn’t you notice the same thing in Rome? Or was it actually _less_ there? :-O

  • Amsterdam was by far the worst place in Europe I’ve visited in terms of smoking: far worse than Germany or France (which I thought was tough to beat), and Rome. It might have been because I was in Amsterdam for longer, and got more exposure…but I think it was generally much worse than the other places I’ve been.

  • marlof

    As you’ve noticed, I didn’t like the rudeness and the smoking we’ve experienced there also. And I’m Dutch. But I guess the countryside is way cooler than the capital hotness. Sure, there’s not much happening here. But to me, that’s a good thing.

  • gears

    Never, ever, ever think that “Europe” will be the same as one European country. Each country in Europe is so completely different to the next that it’s sometimes hard to adjust.

    To be honest the guy at the bar probably wasn’t smoking nicotene… ahem..

  • Gears,

    The guy at the bar was smoking nicotine – I definitely know the smell of the funny cigarettes and picked up that scent many times in Amsterdam. 😉

  • Janak Parekh

    gears, I apologize if I came across as stereotyping. Let me rephrase: smoking is more pervasive amongst quite a few European countries than it is in North America. Better? 🙂

  • Kassad

    After january smoking is outlawed in the netherlands too, cant smoke in public places no longer (thankfully). Also, Amsterdam is the rudest place in the Netherlands. For your next visit try Utrecht, Maastricht or Groningen, really great places, actually inhabited by normal people (I know, I lived there, living in Groningen currently). Dont put another stay off because of the Amsterdam experience!

  • Kassad,
    Thanks for sharing – it amazes me that they’ll be banning smoking in public places, inside Amsterdam the culture is so smoking-centric!