Tales From the Red Light District – Mistaken For A Pimp

“Excuse me. Do you know where the red light district is?”

It was the kind of question I had gotten used to being asked in Amsterdam a lot. Usually it was asked by tourists with a look of cheeky excitement in their eyes who didn’t care if people will judge them. However, it had taken this gentlemen five minutes of silently standing at the same tram stop and several glances in my direction before he had cautiously made one last final check that the coast was clear, shuffled over the few steps towards me and quietly asked his question. It was as if he was worried that the police or his mother might be listening in.

We were quite far from the red light district, almost on the other side of town to be exact (Leidseplein). For a moment I wondered if he had been walking around Amsterdam for several hours, trying to build up the confidence to ask someone for directions. I informed him of the best way to get to the red light district and he thanked me. Our brief conversation had seemed to reach it’s natural conclusion so I continued to wait for my tram.

There was a short pause. “Do you know how much it costs?”

This was a new one. No one had ever asked me for a price comparison before. I don’t know why I let myself be dawn in to the conversation but rather than simply saying ‘no’ I started to make guesses and hypothesise that it probably varied depending on what services were being requested and how much the girl looked like Scarlett Johansson.

He nodded as if he was about to start taking notes. There was another short pause as he looked from side to side again. Then he asked a question I was really not expecting. “Do you know how it all works?”

Did I know how it all worked? I thought the question about the price had been strange but this was a whole new level. I didn’t know how to respond at first. Either this fellow thought I seemed like the kind of chap who paid regular visits to the red light district and was deeply familiar with the correct etiquette and protocol of such matters. Or he thought I was a pimp. It was probably my own fault for trying to guess prices and making myself seem like an expert in his eyes.

I also wondered just how much detail he wanted this information in. Was he simply asking about how the business transaction and exchanging of money worked or was he actually asking how ‘it’ worked? Did I have to explain about the birds and the bees? The physical mechanics? The ins and outs (as it were)? This was suddenly turning into the kind of conversation I was not expecting to have until I had children of my own. Should I try to explain to this gentlemen that sometimes when a man and woman exchange a lot of money they have a special kind of hug?

I decided that the best course of action was to not make any more guesses and told him that I had never been to the red light district myself. This had the effect of making it sound like we were discussing summer vacation destinations.

He seemed very disappointed by this, looked at his feet and then suddenly seemed to realize just how strange the conversation had been. He looked at me again and nervously shuffled away as if he was afraid that I would re-tell the conversation to his mother. I wonder if he ever found the red light district.

Read about another time I was asked for directions to the famous sex industry area in:
Tales From the Red Light District – Rebound

17 responses to “Tales From the Red Light District – Mistaken For A Pimp”

  1. Brilliant!

    Perhaps next time you could share a few secrets and explain how he is supposed to first buy a set of clogs from tourist gift shops and parade in them to attract the girls’ attention before approaching them.


  2. julia says:

    Or maybe next time you could say that they are not in “that” Amsterdam. The Amsterdam they’re looking for is one town over.

  3. Anneke says:

    XD Well, clearly you look like someone who has inside knowledge about the red light district. Maybe you should get a tatoo on your forhead saying “I am not a pimp nor customer”?

  4. French Bean says:

    Well, if you were dressed as Cartoon Stu is, then I can hardly blame him for asking you such questions.

    Next time a tourist engages you in this sort of conversation, be sure to drive him to the Red Light District in your tricked-out pimpmobile that has the obligatory fluffy dice hanging off the rearview mirror!

  5. Alison says:

    I’m think this is a time when Google is your friend. I’d rather look that kind of info up online ahead of time, rather than ask a complete stranger.

  6. Invader_Stu says:

    Unexpected Traveller – I was thinking of telling him he had to buy them flowers and chocolates but your idea is so much better.

    Julia – I think he would have thought I was telling the truth.

    Anneke – … along with ‘nor do I know every coffee shop in amsterdam.”

    French Bean – Sometimes a man likes to wear an all purple suit with a feathered had and a cane. It does not mean he is going to slap a ho…. and how did you know what my car looks like?

    Alison – I just tried typing it into google and now I can’t un-see what I just saw.

  7. Presepio says:


  8. Keith says:

    And did you? Tell his mother I mean?

    I was in Germany once when an English tourist stopped me and asked in very bad German “Wo ist der sheissenhausen bitte?” To which I replied “Ich weiß nicht, old chap. Ich bin ein englischer Tourist auch!” He muttered something under his breath that sounded like “F***ing Germans, why cant they speak english”. and walked away.

    There’s no pleasing some people. (Life of Brian)

  9. Bart says:

    We should start a club, I had a ‘Antwerp Red Light District Tour Guide’ arrow floating above my head and pointing towards me for many years.

    As for the procedure: I guess it involves undressing, at least partially. Oh, and you have to pay before you bare your buttocks. And no refunds! If ‘he’ has a bad day or is a bit shy… well too bad. And the condoms are on the house, so you don’t have to bring your own.

    …at least that’s what I’ve heard.

  10. Aledys Ver says:

    Well, what kind of Amsterdammer are you that you don’t have that information with you at all times? :D Shame on you! :D

  11. French Bean says:

    How do I know what your car looks like? Stu, ALL pimps have fluffy dice on their cars. No exceptions.

    (It was an educated guess.)

  12. linda@adventuresinexpatland.com says:

    Great post, great post! I can definitely ‘see’ this exchange. Nice (for him) that he felt comfortable continuing on his quest for info (not so comfortable for you!).

  13. Invader Stu says:

    Keith – Hehe. Brilliant.

    Bart – And how did you hear? :p

    Aledys Ver – I know. I have failed in my duty.

    French Bean – Well I do have fluffy dice.

    Linda – He seemed more uncomfortable then me but he just really wanted to know I guess.

  14. VallyP says:

    LOL (as they say) Stu! If you were wearing the get up at a tram stop that your cartoon suggests, he might have been forgiven for thinking you were somehow ‘involved’ as it were :) Great story…I can just imagine you not being quite sure whether to be embarrassed or fascinated by the turn of the conversation!

  15. Heather says:

    I’m thinking you could make quite a nice little cartoon, explaining the process (including the strutting around in wooden shoes), get them printed and then hand them out whenever you get asked. A nice little map on the reverse side could solve all problems.

  16. Metalheadzzz says:

    this is funny, to be honest, I thought this was a pimp catalog

  17. Metalheadzzz says:

    or at least a how to be

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