No they speak English (at least in the touristic centre of the city).
I went in a restaurant, near the Leidse Plein, ordered in Dutch and the waitress asked another one to take my order because that was the only Dutch waitress speaking Dutch (I observed that also persons with Dutch nationality are not able to speak fluently Dutch).
I asked in Dutch for a drink at the bar of my hotel and the waiter excused himself not speaking Dutch but German and English.
After a couple of experiences of that kind I realized that I was the only tourist in Amsterdam speaking Dutch.
On the other hand my Dutch helped me getting one of the best rooms at my hotel!
Next time I'm back in Amsterdam I systematically will ask people "spreekt u Nederlands" in the same way as I ask "do you speak English" in countries whose language is unknown to me.
PS. There is a possibility that Amsterdammers don't understand my " Algemeen Nederlands" what should explain all the above.
Strolling along one of the canals in RLD I came across that sign, which clearly states its purpose in so many languages, including my native Polish. I was more than surprised. At this point I had already got used to the fact that nearly all public signs in Amsterdam are written in Dutch only, incomprehensible to non-native speakers like myself. (I did try to learn some phrases in Dutch but it was futile). Fair enough, in Poland we have a similar strategy, most signs are Polish only. What worried me a little, though, was my grocery shopping in Amsterdam. Whenever I wanted to buy something in a supermarket, especially some kind of fancy foods I didn't know, I couldn't understand what it was or what I was supposed to do with it, as most products had no information in English or any other language except Dutch. In Poland it's quite different. Sometimes it is hard to find information about the product in Polish, but it's always there in English, German, French, Spanish and Russian at least.
So here I was, standing in front of that exuberant, truly cosmopolitan sign, admiring, but also wishing quietly it was not 'nasiona konopii siewnych' that was being advertised with such erudition, but something more deserving perhaps. But this is just a matter of taste.
And one more thing about using English in Amsterdam; I confess that I haven't met a Dutchman who didn't speak English. And I had plenty of opportunities. My favourite example is this: on the second day of our stay we got a little lost in the city. Then homeless guy came up and offered help, initialy in Dutch. We shook our heads so he swaped to German. But since neither of us is very proficient in that language either, we asked him if he could speak English. He only smiled and swapped to English. Here I think of my native Poland again. We do have all products in the shop with information in a few languages. But if you ask an ordinary Pole about anything in English, you may not be as lucky as I was in Amsterdam.
With just about everyone speaking English, you have no worries being understood in Amsterdam. You may find that some people speak German or/and French, but the majority will prefer English to these languages.
A common misconception (and a very insulting misconception indeed) is that Dutch and German are literally mutually intelligible. Be aware that any referrals to the similarity of the two languages and you are bound to upset at least someone, since the Dutch do not want to be characterised as "German". In addition, the two languages are not mutually intelligible, but Dutch speakers actually have to learn German at school.
A few useful words and phrases:
Hi - Hoi/Dag
Good bye - Dag
Yes - Ja
No - Nee
Thanks - Bedankt (B'dunked)
Sorry - Sorry (with rolled r's)
Excuse me - Pardon
Nice (tasty) - Lekker
Good day - Goedemorgen
Good evening - Goedenavond
Good night - Goedenacht
Of course - Natuurlijk / Zeker
Enjoy the meal! - Smakelijk eten! / Eet smakelijk!
Take Care! - Doe voorzichtig!
Have a nice day! - Een goede/fijne dag verder!
The language in the Netherlands is Dutch, which sounds similar to German. But virtually everyone as it seems understands English as well, so if you speak English, you will not encounter any language difficulties in Amsterdam.
One poster discussed how the Dutch might be offended if a tourist speaks Dutch in the Netherlands. Since Dutch is the official language, no Dutch person has any right to expect a tourist who can hold a remotely reasonable conversation in Dutch to speak English or any other language. If someone answers in English, it is best to politely explain that you want him/her to speak Dutch, since you came for that purpose. However, if that fails, don't worry about offending the obstinate English answerer. He/she is in the wrong. It may be best to leave the conversation.
It is a very bad idea to keep speaking English merely to satisfy Dutch people who want to practice it. The tourist was the one who made the effort to travel to the Netherlands. Dutch is the official language. Therefore, if one can hold any kind of reasonable conversation, one have the right to speak Dutch in the Netherlands. One might explain this politely to Dutch people who answer in English. If one of those people is still offended, that is his/her problem. One should not worry overly much about this when it comes to issues with right or wrong answers.
People from the English speaking countries--and elsewhere--whose Dutch is serviceable enough to use will frequently find that people in Amsterdam and elsewhere will begin speaking English to you as soon as they detect that you know English. If this happens, it is a good idea to continue the conversation in English. If you switch back to Dutch, many people will take it that you do not believe their English is up to snuff, and they may get a little huffy. Dutch people love to practice their English on English speakers! If you insist on using your Dutch, your best bet is to go into one of the many establishments run by immigrants. Many immigrants to the Netherlands are more comfortable in Dutch than in English--and some of them know only their mother tongue and Dutch--, so they will appreciate your addressing them in a language they can get through.
I strongly recommend that one should not, ever, under any circumstances, address any Dutch person in German. Es ist empfohlen, unter keinen Umstaenden einen Niederlaender auf Deutsch anzusprechen. Niemals.
Well sometimes I get the feeling nobody does in Amsterdam. Often you are being addressed to in English. Especially coffeeshops (another example of how much they are only there for the tourists), tourist stores, restaurants etc. people tend to just talk English to you, and there's a good bet even the normal Dutch people just talk back in English.. easy does it.
Nontheless a bit of Dutch is always appreciated, no matter how well everybody speaks english, it's easier to fool a foreigner who cannot speak English than one who actually speaks a bit of Dutch, if only it is for the sympathy you get for trying!
I managed to pick up a good bit of vocabulary when I was in Amsterdam, but then again, I speak pretty good German so I was able to work my way through a menu and simple newspaper articles.
You're certainly not expected to be fluent in Dutch as a tourist, but just know a couple of phrases like "Dank U wel" for "thank you" is always appreciated.
Dutch as a language is quite similar to Afrikaans, and us, being South African (although English-speaking, not Afrikaans), can understand Dutch, but not speak it. This really helps when reading local info in Amsterdam, although most communication is in English.
It is always nice to 'listen' to the locals though and even nicer when one can understand what they are saying! Haha Our Afrikaans speaking skills certainly helped us around Amsterdam, but, as they cater for tourists very well, it is not that necessary to learn phrases in Dutch as one does when visiting other countries.
When you arrive in a bar in Amsterdam your time there will be much better if you get into the conversation where you are from .The barman,and regulars will open up to you when they realise you are not one of hollands immediate neighbours as they flood across every weekend.
Although I tried to learn the basics before visiting....Dutch isn't the easiest to speak! I tried, but was interrupted with "Please! Stop butchering my language!!!" I have never been anywhere more friendly! People are willing to speak to Americans!! How novel!! Seriously, I was very impressed how polite everyone I came in contact was!! I wasn't expecting worse...just relieved I wasn't ever treated poorly because of my language skills!!!
I’m not quite sure of the meaning of this but I noticed that the Dutch say Alstublieft (please) all the time. At first I thought it was short for please excuse my hands or please excuse (something) when in restaurants. But then even when you buy something the sales person does not say Dank u (thank you) but rather Alstublieft. Actually in Belgium they also say s.v.p. (s’il vous plait) which is French for please.
Locals speak Dutch and although i don't know a single word and had no problem getting around. Touristy places, such as Museums or train station, have English-speaking people and even if you feel the need of asking some information to some local, Dutch usually are fluent in English.
No, gezellig is not a city anywhere. It is a state of mind and a way of describing an atmosphere that the Dutch create without thinking about it. If I were to translate gezellig into English, it would come out like or maybe, "Hey why are you in such a hurry to go somewhere all the time? Why don't you relax, take your coat off, and stay awhile. What's your rush?"
In a restaurant, gezellig would sound like this: "Come in, order dinner, but you won't ever get your check until you ask for it. We do not expect that you're in a hurry, and we'll think you're a little wierd if you are. Don't worry about constantly ordering something new -- we expect that you will sit there and talk amongst yourselves as long as you like, and we do not count drinks/hour. Just let us know if you need anything, and don't freak out if the waiter sits down at your table and joins the conversation. Just relax and enjoy yourself."