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Tipping and water
Tip low - generally. Waitresses and Waiters make much more than peeps in the U.S. They do not work based on tips, and usually the service shows for it. The general feeling is that you should feel lucky to be served by them, and that they dont need your business. Be polite, and dont expect much. When I recieve extraordinary service (basically service that can be compared to what I am used to in NYC) I tip appropriately (at least 15%), otherwise, I tip MUCH less.
If you expect too much, and show your distain, they will treat you even worse.
ALSO, most places wont serve you tap water with your meal. If you request it most place will not give it. You have to pay for water. Spa Blue is the water with no bubbles, Spa red has bubbles.
Service is really poor (?)
I often hear from people visiting from the US and UK that service at restaurants in Amsterdam is really poor. Having lived in the US I agree that set against the expectations of an American customer service in the Netherlands simply, well, sucks.
Service in restaurants in the US is judge by how attentive and fast the waiters are. You expect basically minimal wait time, whether it's for your menu, food, refilling of your drinks and your bill.
Put simply, the Netherlands work on a custom that is the complete opposite.
People go to the restaurants, especially the nicer ones, in Amsterdam not to eat. They are there to 'go out'. It is very common to have 2-3 hour dinner, and if you get a table at a cafe in the afternoon it is pretty much yours for the rest of the day.
You need to pretty much call the waiter when you need something, whether it's the menu, another refill of your drink, when you are ready to order, and also when you are ready to pay. Also understand that the ratio of waiters to table is noticeably smaller to that in the US.
Once you understand this difference in custom, and are prepared for it, I'm hoping your dining experience will be much more enjoyable.
Oftentimes I had to be somewhere and thus had little time to spare for dinner. I would tell my waiter this as I was seated, and he will bring me the bill with the meal; so if you're in the same situation just do that, they were always willing to help to speed things up.
Eating is an experience, not a chore
One of the first differences in customs was in eating out. Here eating is treated as an experience not as an another item on the 'to do list'.
It makes no difference if it's a little coffee shop (the kind that serves coffee) or a 4 star restaurant, you will most likely have to ask for the bill. Unlike our servers, who stop by to see if you want anything else, then lay the check on the table. Here, you are left alone to enjoy the experience, and it would appear that leaving the check on the table would be considered as rude.
Also the tipping rate is different, as a rule 10% appears to be the normal, however I haven't received any complaints at tipping American standard for good service (15-20%)
Tipping guidelines are different than the North American standard of 15%:
If you are just having coffee or a beer, round up.
If you are having a meal, around 10-15 percent is nice.
If your service sucks... don't tip.
Waiters don't live by their tips here. :)
The Dutch government requires that all taxes and service charges be included in the published prices of hotels, restaurants, cafes, discos, nightclubs, beauty/barbershops, and sightseeing companies.
Even taxi fare includes taxes and a standard 15% tip. To be absolutely sure in a restaurant, for example, that tax and service are included, look for the words inclusief BTW en service (BTW is the abbreviation for the Dutch words that mean value-added tax)-or ask. The Dutch are so accustomed to having these charges included that many restaurants have stopped spelling it out.
Dutch waitpersons appreciate tips and rely on them to supplement their salary. To tip as the Dutch do, leave any small change up to the next euro in a cafe or snack bar; in a restaurant, leave up to the next 5 euro or more if you think the service was particularly good. .
Eating and drinking in Amsterdam.
From my research so far, it seems like people in Amsterdam will start off the day with breakfast, then coffee or tea at 10.30am, then lunch, tea time at 4pm, drinking at 5pm (borrel), dinner, and after dinner.
Breakfast mainly consists of bread with butter, jam, cheese or ham. The coffee at 10.30am is a real cuppa strong coffee. Lunch is like breakfast with bread and butter and coffee. Tea time at 4pm is snack time and coffee or tea. "Borrel" is with gin, wine or sherry accompanied with cheese or other snacks. Dinner seems to be the main meal of the day. After dinner, will be cuppa coffee or tea again...
Order wine because even water costs money
After ordering water the first few times and being charged 2 euros, I decided I would have wine from then on for only 2.50 euros. A glass of Coke was about 4.50 euros (with no ice), and there are no free refills (or coffee "to-go" cups). We were often unsure if we were supposed to seat ourselves or be seated, and don't be surprised if you are practically seated with someone else if the restaurant is crowded. And for Americans traveling there for the first time - don't expect the same level of service. We were always treated friendly, but there mentality was not "gotta turn the table to get my next tip"! In fact, we were in a restaurant and they were having to turn customers away because it was so full, but we were just sitting there waiting on the check. We finally decided that they probably considered it rude to present it so quickly, (which was the case), but we were just not used to such a nonchalant attitude. But once we were used to this type of service, we actually liked it better. We definitely appreciate the slower pace of life there!
And you must try some of their baked items! (Especially when the coffeeshop "munchies" hit!) The one we frequented was Rene's, and everything we sampled was delicious!
Tip The Living Statues
When in Dam Square, please remember to tip the living statues if your going to take pictures or video tape. I couldn't keep count of all the times people took pictures without tipping them.
This is what they do for a living, so it has to be worth while for them. I've heard locals say anywhere from .5 Euros to 2 Euros. Whatever you feel like giving, as long as you give something.
Unlike in some other countries in the world (let's take the US as an example), the price you see is the price you pay. All prices include tax and tips and this is required by the law.
The Dutch are not exactly known as big spenders in the world, so you certainly do not have to leave 10-20% tips. Often the normal practice in restaurants, bars and cafes is to round up the final bill to some whole number of euros, so that the tip is about 5%. However, you do not have to feel obliged to leave a tip at all, if you don't think the service is worth it or the food was not very nice.
In case the staff or the bill states that service not included, the restaurant is trying to rip you off and you should refuse to pay the additional service charge.
You don't need to tip the taxi drivers either, unless you of course wish to.
To tip or not to tip? That's the question.
During our attempts at learning as much as we could about Amsterdam and its citizens in a short time prior to our trip, we came across a lot of other people's experiences with whether or not it's customary to tip at restaurants (and in general for service). The consensus from what I read on the Internet was that tipping is usually not done, but rather the amount paid at a restaurant would often be rounded up to the nearest whole Euro amount as a tip. Our answer is...we're still not sure! We tipped pretty much as we would back home, and at the same rates, including for restaurant service, our hotel porter, and baggage assistance for hotel shuttle drivers.
As far as restaurants go, I thought I'd be crafty and watch to see if others seemed to leave a tip on their table when leaving, and usually they seemed to not do so. At one small establishment, I heard one of the male staff tell our female waitress that "he left you a tip!" as we were leaving. Interesting.
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Restaurant service and food
Please keep in mind that this and any of our other tips reflect our particular experiences with only the one visit that was for a 7-day period. Others may, of course, have a different perspective.
My wife and I both felt the same way about service in most of the restaurants we ate at, whether a small, simple place or larger, fancier one. We definitely felt a noticeable difference in how attentive a waiter or waitress was, being used to how quickly someone will usually appear at your table in U.S. eateries and also how often he or she might return to ask if you need anything else. I'm not saying it as a bad difference, just different.
We only went to one restaurant, that I won't name here, that we ended up not liking due to the overall feel or vibe. Although this particular one was nice enough as far as appearance, and the food was good, I left with the feeling that no one cared whether we were a customer or not. No tip for them!
Interesting that for some reason I really hesitated before going in, although I can't say what caused that feeling, and I probably should have trusted that instinct.
We found, in general, that you might experience a slightly longer wait before someone comes to your table to take your order than what we were used to back home, but maybe that's the U.S. rush-rush mentality at work. We adjusted. Also found that while service was usually fine, it was more often not a case of a waiter or waitress re-appearing at our table a time or two during a meal to ask if we needed anything more. We learned to figure out what we wanted to eat, and everything we wanted to eat, before ordering, assuming we might not see our server again until paying the bill (unless calling someone over, of course).
Restaurants, and where's the check???
Another thing we were accustomed to back home that seemed a little different here was that typically we did not have a waiter or waitress ask if we wanted a refill on a cup of coffee or glass of tea, whereas you often will in the U.S. Also, at more than one nicer restaurant we discovered that if you order something as your main dish, take lasagna for example at an Italian restaurant, that's what you got and all you got. No salad, bread, or side dish included. When asked a time or two if we wanted bread while a person was taking our order, we got it when replying yes but there was an extra charge for it as a separate menu item. Got to be a running joke for my bread-deprived wife, LOL.
I'm not saying that any of this is bad, mind you, just different for us and a bit of an adjustment. Overall, we loved every place we went except the one and had great meals every day. I'm only listing a few of the ones we visited on my Restaurant Tips page, since I feel that this is probably the most subjective of experiences you can have, and what one person finds wonderful another will not like at all. It's also one of the easier topics to find info on from a guidebook, etc.
As to getting your bill after a meal, we at first would sit a little longer than we normally would back home waiting for our check to be brought to the table after eating, but learned to just ask for it when ready. This also seemed to apply to different types and price levels of restaurants. My wife mentioned that she had read somewhere that it was deemed rude by Dutch standards to rush a check to a person's table just as soon as you finish eating, which is fairly common in U.S. establishments, perhaps being viewed as wanting to get that customer out to make room for another. Don't know if this is actually the case, but it seemed to make sense.
Tipping is sexy
Most people say that it is not necessary to tip in Amsterdam. I have noticed that it is appreciated by all bartenders and all waitstaff. I have gotten into the habit of tipping just a bit...if your looza is 1.80, leave the 2euro.
Why wouldn't you tip for a meal like this?
Keep an eye on your waitor.
You will want to track the movements of your waiter when the time comes when you want to go.
I'm not sure what the local custom is, but I found the best way to get our bill was to run the waiter down , tackle him about the knees and sit on his head until a bill is brought.
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A service charge is generally included in restaurant prices and taxi fares, but it is usual to round the total up to the nearest Euro plus 10% for good service. Porters, doormen and room service in Amsterdam hotels will expect a small tip for their services.
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