Here's a novel proposal.

Tourists across Amsterdam are being invited to marry a local for the day as part of an initiative to improve understanding between natives and the 42 million visitors that swamp the Dutch capital every year.

With an impromptu service in the city's central market district of De Pijp – couples will be paired off in second-hand glad rags ahead of a full day of exploring their city.

The plastic flowers and hurried formalities can be overlooked. The really important part of the nuptials is what happens after the ceremony: a city tour.

Advertisement

It's hoped that a day-long honeymoon getting to know the city and culture through the eyes of a local might bloom into a deeper love and understanding for the city.

Relations between Amsterdammers and their guests have not always been this good.

'Just Married': Untourist hopes to rekindle Amstersdam's love for tourists. Photo / Dave Walsh, Getty Images
'Just Married': Untourist hopes to rekindle Amstersdam's love for tourists. Photo / Dave Walsh, Getty Images

Over the past ten years there has been an explosion of international visitors to the city.

With nearly double digit growth, year on year, the canalled city has seen the annual visitor numbers increase by 13.2 million guests per year.

In the past residents have been feeling outnumbered and overlooked. There are now 22 guests for residents and businesses for local Amsterdammers have been priced out of the high street by souvenir trinket shops – selling wooden tulips and soft clog slippers.

Meanwhile - on the other foot - tourists are sensing some resentment to their presence.
After Femke Halsema's election to Mayor of the Dutch capital last year there have been a number of measures brought in to curb tourism growth. There has been a halt further development of hotels or businesses serving tourists, and new laws introduced to tackle 'problem tourists' that are drawn to the city's famous Wallen red light district.


Perhaps the most symbolic gesture was the removal of the popular 'Iamsterdam' selfie spot from in front of the Rijksmuseum. When the city's tourism board explained the sculpture had been "at the request of Amsterdam council", Holidaymakers could only see it as a cooling of the city's affections.

The course of true love never did run smooth.

Like a RomCom on a civic scale, the Untourist movement has been coming up with a series of quirky initiatives to reunite the two scorned halves of the city. They want tourists and Amsterdammers to fall in love again.

"It's a bit of a pity if everybody just remains in their own world and does the standard tourist thing when we could be meeting each other, connecting with people from other cultures and meeting the challenges of mankind together," the social entrepreneur Elena Simons told The Telegraph.
The group are publishing a book next week 'The Untourist Guide to Amsterdam', which is full of activities to social bonding between natives and out-of-towners.

Red light district: De Wallen is better known as a 'stag' destination, than a honeymoon location. Photo / Getty Images
Red light district: De Wallen is better known as a 'stag' destination, than a honeymoon location. Photo / Getty Images

Among them are a day's 'Plastic fishing' for waste in the canals or – for those who aren't quite ready to take the plunge and 'Marry an Amsterdammer' – they run informal meet ups called 'Weed dating', as a riff on the city's legal cannabis cafes.

"There's a whole menu of options but the essence of them all is that tourists can make a positive contribution while they are here and in doing so make their visit all the more gratifying," says Simons.

Untourist Movement was founded at a time when the 800,000 city inhabitants were swamped by 8 million annual visitors. But since then the problem ( and Untourist's prescribed antidote) has only grown.

They have been championed by hotels and the tourism industry, who feel embattled by recent taxes and laws put in place by the city.

The first 'mass wedding' will be taking place next week.
"There's a lot of negativity about tourists at the moment," said Simons. "We are working on this positive option."

Untourist activities to get to know the real city

So you've married an Amsterdammer: here's a taster of five activities prescribed by the Untourist movement to foster social harmony.

1. Plastic fishing
The Dutch as a nation are in touch with ecological issues. Tourists can curry favour by joining locals to net plastic pollution from the scenic canals. The group make furniture from recycled plastic.
2. 'Weed dating'
Yes, the legal cannabis scene is a big draw to many visitors. But this activity doesn't involve toking from the peace pipe. Instead, the group invite tourists to get their hands dirty with some gardening in the city's urban orchard 'Fruittiuin van West.'
3. Laugh with a local
How many Dutch people does it take to run a comedy workshop? You'll find out the answer at the class run by Nathalie Nabarro and hopefully be given plenty of fuel for laughter.
4 'Feeding the Dutch'
"Gratis broodjes" means "free sandwiches" in Dutch which is exactly what you'll get if you turn up to this event in the city's Westerpark.
Free food is the great incentiviser – and it could be the start of a beautiful friendship.
5. What the Pluck?
Not every visitor is as welcome in Amsterdam. Feral pigeons and even geese have been causing chaos in the city and on the runway of Schiphol airport. Dutch artists have come up with a means to kill two birds with one stone, by plucking, cooking and eating these bothersome animals.
The concept of "Keuken van het Ongewenst Dier" or cooking with unwanted animals is an extreme solution, and definitely not a vegan-friendly option. However, Amsterdammers and visitors can bond while preparing a meal of local urban produce.