Firstly everyone in Amsterdam speaks English, and many people will speak it better than you do. A large portion of the population of Amsterdam is English speaking, English is better accepted in Amsterdam than the rest of the country, but everywhere it is well known.
In the entire country you can expect that anyone who is intelligent and between the ages of 16 and 50 will speak English well. Before WW2 the Dutch were very pro-Germany. Obviously since the war they don't like the Germans as much and the culture is very much in favour of England and America.
I have been told that to pass high school in The Netherlands you must pass English (a very stringent oral test - one of my friends is having difficulty passing this but I have no problems speaking to him), or two other languages (suggested French and German). If you are skilled enough at languages that you can learn both French and German as well as your native language then learning English should not be that difficult. Students who are not skilled at languages are simply forced to learn English.
Any English language movie or TV show that is aimed at audiences older than 12 will not be dubbed and will have sub-titles. This is a good way for us to learn Dutch words, and presumably it helps children here learn English if only by providing extra incentive. When a movie is likely to appeal to both young and old audiences then the cinema operators will either use two halls or they will have different times for the dubbed version and the subtitled version. If watching such a movie then make sure you see the right version!
As a general rule, if you look lost or confused then people will start speaking English to you, if you look like you know what you are doing then they will speak Dutch.

Saving Money on Travel

When in a foreign country it's always a good idea to try and fit in with what the locals do, especially good when it comes to money in The Netherlands. ;)
The first way of saving money is on travel. There are three forms of public transport, trains, tram/bus/metro, and taxis. Trains are operated by a company called NS, see below for a map of their lines. Trains are the cheapest way of travelling long distances, but for shorter distances metro, trams, or buses are cheaper. There are several train stops around Amsterdam, but you can use metro, tram, or buses instead. However trains offer return tickets compared to the hourly tickets from bus/tram/metro and in some situations where you strictly want a straight return journey they may be cheaper (TODO - fill in prices of sample journeys).
Now for catching a tram or bus you can buy a ticket when you get on (NB not all trams allow this and no metros allow this), when you do so you'll pay about twice as much money as everyone else pays for their tickets. The Dutch system for paying for tram/bus/metro (they all use the same tickets) is called a strippenkaart, the literal translation is "strips card", it is a cardboard ticket divided into 15 or 45 strips. A 1 hour journey takes a minimum of 2 strips, more strips for greater distances (ask the driver or conductor for details). The strippenkaarts are much cheaper than buying a ticket for each journey, it can be less than half the price! Also when you come to the end of a kaart you can use one strip on the old kaart with one strip on the new kaart for the same journey. Another possibility is having two people share a kaart, if you are travelling with a friend (and you are both travelling the same distance) then you can stamp it twice and share the kaart. If you have two or three people sharing the kaart then a 45 strip could be used in as little as two days, so it's worth-while buying the big kaart and getting the biggest discount.
For trams there are two types of tram, the conducteur tram and the ones without conductors. If the tram has no conductor then there are machines provided to stamp your kaart (as there are for metros). If the tram is waiting at the end of the line when you get on, don't stamp your ticket until it is about to move. The machines measure time in 15 minute intervals, if you stamp it just after an interval starts (you can hear a klunk sound from the machine) then you get an extra 15 minutes of travel - this is important if you want to go to a restaurant for dinner and then go somewhere else afterwards.

The next issue is taxis, at some of the bigger stations (notably not Amsterdam Centraal station) you can get trein taxis. These are taxis run through the train system that cost E3.50 per journey, which is considerably cheaper than regular taxis (~E3 before the taxi starts moving). Trein taxis are paid for by ticket (the driver will not accept cash), and the tickets are available through the station, often at the same place as where you buy train tickets, but somethimes through a separate booth. The down-side to trein-taxis is that they want to get 4 passengers in their car to make it profitable and will often wait 15 minutes for enough passengers. If you want to catch a trein-taxi to the station then you must purchase a ticket in advance, tickets are valid for the year (I am not sure whether they are valid until Dec 31 or until one year from the purchase date). Utrecht Centraal and Eindhoven stations are good for trein taxis and the wait there will probably be small, elsewhere expect a long wait (but you have the choice to pay more for a regular taxi).

Saving Money While Shopping

The Dutch are really into recycling. In most English-speaking countries you expect shops to freely and liberally give away plastic bags without regard to environmental issues. But here the supermarkets will charge you for bags. So the thing to do is take your own bags when visiting a supermarket, and to make sure that you get a bag from any shop that offers free bags! A good shop to get bags from is the American Book Center, that is the best place to buy English-language books and magazines in The Netherlands, and if you buy enough of their products (E50 or more) then they'll offer you a free linen carry bag which is excellent for carrying your shopping.
Copyright © 2002, 2006 Russell Coker and Faye Coker, may be distributed freely.