On Service…

22 May

One of the most common complaints I hear from other Expats about the Netherlands is the lack of service you get here, especially in restaurants. At first, I thought the complaints were limited to Americans and Brits, since waiters/waitresses are pretty much all up in your business during your visit. I’ve now heard the same complaints from other nationalities as well, Irish, German, Italian, Spanish, etc.

While every country has it’s share of good and bad service, I don’t really look at the service here as bad, but more “different” than what I’m used to. At most restaurants in America, turnover is the goal. They want you in, ordering appetizers/entrees/desserts, eating as fast as possible, and out the door so they can seat the next group. That isn’t really the case here. As far as I can tell, once you get a table, its yours for as long as you’d like it. If you want to sit there for 3 hours after finishing your meal, just chatting and sipping on coffee, that’s perfectly fine to them. Dutch service workers let you be while you in in the restaurant. If you want something, simply summon them. To an American like me, this was weird at first, since I was used to the waiter stopping by our table every 5 minutes to check on us.

Last night, we were waiting to get into a club, and the bouncer started talking to me about where he was from, if I liked Amsterdam, how long I had been here, etc. A few weeks ago at a bar, the bartender and I struck up a conversation and he bought me a beer while we talked about America (he had friends there and had visited a few times). Sure, sometimes you do get waitresses who pretend to ignore you even while you flag them down, but then sometimes you also get waitresses who are very friendly, offer suggestions on the menu, and make dining out enjoyable.

Another misconception, that I even suffer from, is that dining out is expensive here. It is possible to find meals at sit-down restaurants for under €10, but generally you’ll be looking at at-least €15 per entree. Throw in a beer at €2.50, and you’re at €17.50 minimum. This sounds high when you think back to some places you can go in the US. Take Applebee’s, a chain present most everywhere in the US. The cheapest entree is probably around $10, plus a soda for $3. Then, add tax of 7%, you’re at $14, plus at least a 15% tip, and you’re right back at $16, minimum. If you do the dollar-to-euro conversion, that makes quite a difference, but still, dining out in Amsterdam is not much more expensive than in the US. Since most things here are independently run, there’s also a good chance the owner will be present and keeping an eye on everything, whereas in the US things are much more likely to be owned by a large corporation.


Posted by on May 22, 2011 in Life in the Dam


7 responses to “On Service…

  1. Erin

    May 22, 2011 at 21:20

    I noticed the service differences immediately when I visited The Netherlands, but I found it to be surprisingly refreshing. I don’t like to be doted on while I’m eating. Get my drinks and my food, and then leave me alone! I hate it when they try to take your plate before you’re even finished. Last night, some friends and I went to the Perisan restaurant Cafe Natasha, here in St. Louis, and we were there for 2.5 hours. All of the girls were getting antsy about the service (or lack thereof) and I had to tell them it was a cultural difference. I’d also like to note the fact that restaurants in The Netherlands don’t hire a bunch of staff. They are able to pay their employees a decent living wage this way. I like it!

    • thedewaddict

      May 23, 2011 at 14:31

      Cafe Natasha! I used to live about 4 blocks from there, off Humphrey St. I miss the old neighborhood. Sometimes I do miss American-style service, especially when I’m in a rush to pay and get somewhere, but usually I don’t mind Dutch service. I do find it to be very relaxing. There are times when it’s annoying, such as last Friday at a cafe in the Jordaan where one of us had to ask for their beer 3 times before it was finally brought. The waitress was more interested in chatting with her friends who were seated at the next table. I also agree with you about the living wage. I enjoy not having to add 15-20% onto my bill, since the service charge is built in. Round up the total just a bit, and you’re good to go here.

  2. Ana

    May 23, 2011 at 02:00

    I’d love to have that kind of service here in Texas. I hate it when the waiter remove empty plates while other people at the same table are still eating, I find it rude. And I agree with the comment above, bring me my food and leave me alone!

    • thedewaddict

      May 23, 2011 at 14:32

      They do send bus-boys to remove dirty dishes, so that part isn’t much different here. I do enjoy the peace and quiet, though sometimes it can be annoying when the waitress disappears right when you want to pay your bill!.

  3. Invader_Stu

    May 23, 2011 at 12:48

    A Dutch friend of mine spent the last year and a half in Canada and when he came back here he was amazed at how bad the customer service was. Until he went away he had just never realized it could be better.

    • thedewaddict

      May 23, 2011 at 14:33

      We found the customer service in Germany to be much worse. While the Dutch are seemingly uncaring, the Germans could be openly hostile at times. That was mostly in Munich though, the service we got in Berlin was better.

  4. Rachel Kae

    June 21, 2011 at 12:40

    “Different” is also how I’d describe the experience of dining out in Amsterdam and it’s a good thing in my opinion. Especially, as you mentioned, being able stay at your table and socialize or relax as long as you want without feeling hustled out of the restaurant. Amsterdam’s cafe culture is one of the things I hadn’t expected but absolutely love!


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