UK / Europe

Behind the bar view in Amsterdam

Harlemmerrstraat, Amsterdam

Daniel James

“I miss the trams when I’m not here,” says part-time barperson at Café De Blauwe Druif on Haarlemmerstraat, Kelly Robertson.

Kelly is without doubt the bearer of the least Dutch sounding name I’ve encountered in Amsterdam.

“It’s the trams which make it feel like home.”

What the? Not the identifiably unique bicycle culture or grand canals?

“No, I’ve been here most of my life, they’re just normal.”

The good denizens of Amsterdam are known for being forthright in their opinions and helpful to visitors and those at the frontline of hospitality the most so.

Apart from restaurant recommendations and the preferred local haunts (De Pijp is in, you’ll find it off the Amstelkanaal in Zuid. Haarlemmerstraat is out) I ask what’s being discussed at local tables.

Jackie, Kelly’s companion who has maintained a detached silence up to this point suddenly exclaims, “All the travel websites say you don’t need to tip in Holland, that’s not true. In Holland we do accept tips!”

She hits the scarred oak barrel serving as the end of the bar for emphasis. Take note, The Dutch are fed up. Tip or face their ire.

Bartender gripes with tightfisted visitors aside, what about the patrons?

“Well the refugee thing is big,” says Kelly mirroring the opinion of most of Europe.

“Everyone’s speaking about it and people think there are too many – everyone wants to live here,” Kelly says.

Like much of the world, European governments are having a pretty tough time explaining to an edgy citizenry why an increased refugee intake is such a great idea beyond humanitarian purposes. Unfortunately, right-wing populists are finding this explanatory vacuum increasingly fertile ground to sow the seeds of intolerance.

Yet Kelly is right about everybody wanting to live in Amsterdam, it’s a beautiful city. The air in November is freshening and the smell of the sea follows you on the wind.

Canal in Amsterdam, Netherlands
Amsterdam’s locals call in for a quick beer and to discuss the news of the day.

As for what visitors are missing out on, Kelly interestingly suggests immigration has shaped modern Amsterdam and visitors should appreciate the diversity of Dutch culture more.

“We’ve 180 countries represented here and yes, we make great coffee. We have always had a great café culture.”

At this point Kelly gets a little edgy. Dare I say it but he doesn’t really want me around. I’m an unwanted foreign presence here on a Wednesday night and I’m politely told that it’s quiz night for the locals so “on yah bike”, Dutch forthrightness in practice.

Time to slink off and find one of those great coffees methinks.

Café De Blauwe Druif 
Haarlemmerstraat 91, Amsterdam

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