I have never been one for goodbye parties, mostly because I feel like a nomad but also due to my Facebook feed turning into an announcements board with daily emotional farewell messages. So if you are reading this and you didn’t already know, I have officially moved to Amsterdam, The Netherlands and after being here one month, I absolutely LOVE it.
Amsterdam is currently experiencing an explosion in terms of demand for accommodation and general space. According to my research and personal experience, many people are either leaving the city or paying absolutely extortionate rents that surpass New York City and London rates, to live in an attic closet that just about fits a single bed and is riddled with mice. Let me tell you about my experience…
I’m not sure if it is the ‘luck of the Irish’ or else being in the right place at the right time, but I managed to find a job and an apartment in my first week; unheard of but doable! My first week here felt like one month because it was so jam-packed. Facebook pages are your best bet for finding a room to share and estate agents if you want your own place but there will be extra fees involved. Your next issue will be finding an apartment that offers registration (a permanent contract given by the landlord that attaches you to the address), which is mandatory to secure a BSN number (personal citizen service number), essential if you want to work in The Netherlands, open a bank account, access health insurance, cough, breathe, kiss, etc., I opted for an easier route that gives me more time to live in any available accommodation without registration, while simultaneously working legally – registering as a temporary resident. Many landlords or sublets will only offer accommodation without registration because it means they are avoiding tax via the revenue. It’s not an ideal situation but you have four months grace before you either need to leave the country or become a permanent resident (Applicable to EU/Non-EU citizens).
Last night I had my first house viewing experience and WOW was that one to remember. Whenever an advert is posted on one of the many Facebook groups advertising available rooms, there are usually hoards of people ready at the click of a button with some pre-drafted self-description propaganda message “I’m clean, vegan, empathetic, practice yoga, never party. I’m essentially the best housemate ever. Pick me!” I couldn’t believe when I received a response from a group of girls offering a double bedroom in the ultra hipster neighbourhood of De Pijp. “We have a slot available for you at 8:00PM.”
To make a good impression and demonstrate my respect towards Dutch punctuality, I arrived ten minutes early. The Street reminded me of Carrie Bradshaw’s from Sex and the City and from there I was having fictitious visions of some tall, Dutch man on a Gazelle bike replying “Absofuckinglutely” as I questioned whether he had been in love in this weird world of Tinder/Bumble and online dating. I was buzzed in and after a Kilimanjaro climb of many stairs (most apartment buildings in Amsterdam don’t have elevators) that took me to the attic, I was greeted by a lovely French girl. I could hear others inside and she directed me to the small kitchen where her other housemate, a Dutch girl was sitting with what sounded like an American girl. I cannot articulate how uncomfortable this situation was but I can only compare it to interrupting another prospective candidates’s job interview, however with wine…and nibbles… The American downed the last drop of her wine and like a conveyor belt, it was my turn to take to the couch to prove myself as the best housemate for the position, but not for long.
Suddenly two other young women sauntered into the room; a Kiwi in her late-twenties and a Belgian in her early twenties, both well-travelled, the standard for this cosmopolitan city. We viewed the soon-to-be available room with glasses of wine in hand and after small chat with the Italian girl who was moving out. We then retreated back to the tiny but cosy kitchen to have a chat. On one side of the kitchen were the French and Dutch housemates and on the other side, myself, the Kiwi and Belgian girl. The situation reminded me of this job interview I had in Dubai that turned into a group interview comparable to a social experiment with many psychological twists and turns. I honestly shutter when I think back to it. I really don’t want to overdramatise the context of this evening but it felt like we were all contestants on a game show. I will be the first to admit that interviews are by no means my strong point; formal or informal, therefore I sat on the sofa a little perplexed by what was happening before my eyes and also how much I wished my glass of red was full again because Dutch courage was required for this setting.
“What do you do?”, “What are your hobbies?”, “Do you have a boyfriend?”, “Why did you move to Amsterdam?”, “Do you think you will settle here?” Were the two top questions asked that then developed into other topics for conversation. My level of ‘cool’ factor by no means equated to the other girls, but I couldn’t perform the same animated act of which I was witnessing and I kept asking myself “Are the other girls actually buying this shit?!” As I took a quick glance at my watch, I realised I had been sitting there ONE HOUR as the Belgian girl word-vomited random monotonous events from her life that quite frankly I didn’t care too much about. I kept looking around to gage the reaction others had towards her tales. I think it is an Irish trait to be very modest of your achievements and everything requires a hint of cynicism/sarcasm.
The door buzzer rang. SAVED BY THE BELL! “Okay, so if you girls don’t have anymore questions, we are going to invite the next group of girls in.” I was never more excited in my life to leave a social situation. I grabbed my jacket and zoomed down the winding staircase to be greeted by some wobbly stairs outside. I realised the Kiwi girl had muttered something, which I thought was her concurring with the dangerous stair situation comment I had made. “No, those situations are always a little annoying and awkward.” She replied. I realised that her tone had changed, less sweet but still sweet, if you know what I mean. This wasn’t the first apartment viewing and to be one of the many contestants on that night she had travelled 45 minutes by public transport, a real journey by Dutch standards. Of course she was exhausted and deflated by the situation! Many people end up staying months in a hostel because of the accommodation shortage, so although my situation isn’t ideal, i’m so lucky to have a roof over my head with a room to call my own for now.
I hope this was helpful if you have a prospective apartment viewing approaching. Maybe the next step in the evolution of this apartment hunting game is creating a CV specifically adapted CV to exhibit your personality and housemateworthiness? Oh so many business ideas are springing to mind!
Below are a few snippets of my first month in Amsterdam. At the end of the night I received the expected Facebook message ” Thank you again for your time today and it was really great to get to know you. Choice was SUPER HARD since we all had a really great time tonight with you guys but unfortunately we had selected other people…Anyway, it was really great to meet you and I wish you best of luck for your search.”
No hard feelings! I need to stress that this shouldn’t be misconstrued as a negative article about the characters of any of the girls mentioned above, but more a sad reality of what has become of the housing market for twenty-somethings like myself in popular cities around the world. It’s not so easy to just have a job and a steady income to find a roof over your head. The requirements are more complex, competitive and challenging, so stay strong in your hunt for the perfect apartment.
Below are a few snippets of my first month in Amsterdam.