Amsterdam: How to dress and act like a local

locals in Amsterdam
No sweatshirts or sneakers on these locals. Photo: FacemePLS

By Audrey Sykes in Amsterdam—

Maybe it’s because I’m American, but I can spot our style from a mile away. I see it all over Amsterdam: The baseball cap, the oh-so handy cargo pants, and a sporty, all weather and near fluorescent wind breaker. We stick out like sore thumbs in Euroland.

Of course, standing out is not necessarily a bad thing and it’s certainly a practical way of dressing. But it’s also nice to blend in with the locals and not be automatically treated as a tourist.

So, if you’ll excuse some blatant stereotyping, here are seven sensible tips to help Americans blend in a bit better in Northern European countries like the Netherlands:

1. Women: Pack some tights

Black, medium thick tights that end at the ankle are a staple here for ladies’ fashion. And when packing, they’re lighter and take up less space than a pair of dress pants. Women wear them under dresses, skirts and sometimes shorts. Tights dry faster than pants, make your legs look slim and still cover your lower torso when bicycling.

A nice, simple zip-up hoodie sweatshirt. Photo: CharlesFred

2. Men: Your college sweatshirts do not impress anyone

Look, I know college sweatshirts are comfortable, and many of us have lived in them for years. But leave those stinky and stained pieces of thick cotton with bold letter embroidery behind. They take up a lot of room when packing, and men here usually wear sweatshirts only when going to/coming from sports.

Instead, a zip-up hoodie with a solid color or cool pattern works just as well, is easier to roll up and is more practical for traveling.

3. Men: Ditch the white sneakers

European men wear sneakers, but not chunky, white basketball shoes that engulf your feet to the ankles. Colors are good, comfort is important, and try on a pair that’s roomy and low cut. From Converse to Puma, Adidas to Nike, men here love their sporty brands, especially if it resembles a soccer shoe. And go for the ankle socks (what are you afraid of anyway with those high cotton socks, scratching your lower calves?).

4. Women: These boots are made for walking

Chances are you won’t need a pair of hiking boots in Europe unless you plan to spend a good week trekking the Alps. Even a day trip can be easily achieved with a normal pair of sneakers with good soles on a walking trail. Land is flat in much of Europe, and filled with hand-laid cobblestone. So stay away from thin Stilettos, leave the expensive hiking shoes at the shop, and go for a comfortable boot with a thick heel that can handle the streets (and bad weather, like fake leather).

Slap on a pair of those tights and a short skirt with a slinky top and you’re ready for a night out. A good, cheap buy is a thin sole insert that can make any shore supportive.

5. Both: Baseball caps and golf visors are a giveaway

I’m just saying, again. I know they’re practical, but no other culture over-wears them quite like we do. There are many cool and fun hats in Europe that are affordable, just as useful on bad hair days and make for great souvenirs.

6. Both: Don’t flip-flop

While we’re at it, save the flip-flops for beachwear only. If it’s hot, find some sturdy sandals.

7. Both: Shhhh…

Think before you decide to yell across the bar/restaurant/train car/street for your friend’s attention. You could just walk over there. That’s what the locals would do. Or they would wait until their friend approaches them, avoiding any attention-drawing actions altogether. The last thing you want to be is that stereotypical loud-mouth American whose call out leads to a lot of rolling eyeballs.

Your advice?

Have any tips for acting more like a local? Don’t care at all if you don’t look like a local? Share your thoughts in our comments section!

About the author

About the author: Audrey Sykes hopped across the pond from the US eight years ago for a Masters degree in global journalism. Since then, she’s lived all over Europe, reporting and editing for music sites, snowboard mags, and travel media. She’s also the Amsterdam author for Party Earth, a guide to nightlife across Europe.
Posted in: Amsterdam Practical Info
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Cheapo Comments

7 Responses to “Amsterdam: How to dress and act like a local”
  • Breukelen Kari says:

    Chinos are a national epidemic! When will American men stop wearing them?! 1. They make every man look fat. 2. Beige makes white guys look washed out. For darker men, see reason number one. Instead of buying seven pairs of chinos, opt for two pairs of dress pants. Instead of buying 100 pairs of crappy shoes, buy a few pairs of well made kicks.

  • @johnsills says:

    I love to pack SUPER light, then buy clothes when I hit the continent. Find the your host country’s version of Target and you’ll be able to pick up casual clothing at reasonable prices. Shopping where the locals shop, not at Gucci, will give you a more authentic experience. Some of my favorite clothes I own are “souvenirs” from the places I’ve been in Europe. I still have a pair of fleece gloves I bought in London for £1 that I wear every winter, and I’ve never found a pair of gloves in the States that cost less than $2.

  • So True! I have frequently been embarrassed for my country by the loud and boorish Americans one can spot a mile away. When traveling to Europe, which I do frequently, I wear a lot of black clothing, Sandals in summer, good walking shoes year-round. Europe is a bit dressier than the USA and I like to fit in rather than stand out. Good article!

  • Pam rybus says:

    I live in Berlin and have a few items to add..
    * keep sweat pants at home…
    *forget wearing pajama bottoms in public
    * and the biggest sin.. those pants with zipper that convert into shorts..why not just pack shorts and long pants..
    *fanny packs are a dead give away too..

  • Katy says:

    I don’t see why hoodies would be recommended. Doesn’t every american
    Gangsta wear them? Personally, I think they look horrible. Get a jacket
    and hat. Or no hat. If it rains, it rains. Go into a cafe and wait it out.

  • Angelong says:

    Leave the American flag apparell at home. It is offensive to other countries to have the flag waved in the face of your host country. Most everyone is proud of where they live and every country has something to offer. Politeness goes much further than flag waving for generating good will and being an ambassador of the US.

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