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‘No internationals’: A tale of exclusion in the Dutch housing market

Like mice and Dutch cafés, housing crises and the Netherlands seem to go hand in hand. However, One hurdle internationals looking for accommodation face is this: “No internationals.” 

More often than not, when internationals are looking for a roof over their heads, they’re met with these words — and left with very few housing options.

In the Netherlands, the lack of student housing, in particular, has been an ongoing issue for many (many, many) years.

However, unlike Dutch students who can weather the storm by living with their parents, international students are left with no life raft in the squall.

What does “no internationals” mean in a Dutch housing advert?

I’m sure you’ve encountered the phrase in your search for any place to live that isn’t a cardboard box.

Spacious, animal-friendly apartment in the heart of Amsterdam — only €5000 a month! Image: Depositphotos

For those who haven’t encountered it, it’s a slogan usually found at the top of a Dutch housing advert that proudly states: No internationals (often accompanied by two more words; not sorry).

A hip alternative to “no internationals” is the equally common “Dutch only.”

The Twitter thread above contains some brilliant examples of this leuk Dutch phenomenon.

According to a survey by the Erasmus Student Network, 57% of international students in the Netherlands have encountered advertisements saying “no internationals.”

And more than 25% of them have been rejected for accommodation on this basis.

READ MORE | 5 things to know about the Dutch student housing crisis

Given that foreign students generate far more income for the Dutch economy than they cost, you’d think they’d try caring for their “cash cows” a little better. 🤔

So if I learn Dutch, I’ll be fine… right?

I mean, you’d think so.

There is an abundance of complaints about internationals not speaking Dutch. In fact, finding one in the wild is like finding a bakfietsmoeder or ten outside your local Albert Heijn.

And look, we get that it’s annoying when people set up shop in your country and don’t even make an attempt to learn your language.

Which, of course, may tempt you to think, “Oh, so if I learn Dutch, I’ll be fine!”

It sounds like an easy fix, doesn’t it? Leer Nederlands (learn Dutch) and a room will magically materialise in some Dutch frat house. Leuk!

READ MORE | How long does it take to learn Dutch?

Except, it’ll take most internationals 6-10 weeks to reach A1/A2 level in Dutch, which will only take you to basic conversations.

That’s nowhere near fluent enough to make witty grapjes (jokes) with your housemates the minute you land in the Netherlands.

Sorry folks, fluency isn’t just handed out when you step off the plane. 🤷🏻‍♀️ Image: Depositphotos

According to a report by ESN, more than half of respondents were denied housing based on being international students — even those learning Dutch!

The reason? Tenants were waiting for Dutchies to apply!

Learning the language wasn’t enough, as only “natives” were accepted. 😑

And it’s not just the tenants

Despite all the noise about Dutch tolerance, some landlords in the Netherlands freely discriminate based on nationality. And a few that rent to internationals have even been reported to be significantly over-charging them.

READ MORE | Housing & rental scams in the Netherlands: ultimate red flag guide

In fact, over 25% of respondents in the 2021 ESN survey faced paying higher prices than their Dutch counterparts for the same rooms.

Paying more for the same cramped room really makes one feel welcome! Image: Depositphotos

As a fun fact to tenants and landlords alike: such discrimination is illegal in the Netherlands.

Yet that doesn’t stop some Dutch landlords from risking (legal) fire and flames to pat themselves on the back for their “no internationals” labels and money-grabbing schemes.

Geen allochtonen, hoor (no immigrants/foreigners)

Landlords aren’t the only ones that are hesitant about interacting with internationals.

Some Dutchies aren’t exactly the most welcoming of people when it comes to sharing accommodation with internationals — despite all the waffle about the Netherlands’ inclusivity and tolerance.

And, of course, the general Dutch response to any hints of racism is: “Dat is niet de bedoeling (that’s not the intention).”

So what is the “bedoeling” (intention)?

The general consensus from the Dutchies we’ve spoken to is that there are several valid reasons why they’d only want to live with their “own people”.

God forbid an orange-hating buitenlander (foreigner) moves in! 😱 Image: Depositphotos

Some would rather only speak their own language at home (rather surprising, given that a quarter of all people in the Netherlands don’t even speak Dutch at home).

Some want the comfort of a familiar culture to come home to.

READ MORE | Does the Netherlands have a blind spot for racism?

Others don’t want to be assaulted by the smell of foreign cooking.

And, of course, there’s the old chestnut: foreigners don’t understand Dutch normen en waarden (norms and values). You might — shock and horror! — actually invite people to stay for dinner if they haven’t left by 6 PM sharp.

Sprinkle in the 30% ruling for some extra bitterness

This raises more hackles than showing a full moon to a werewolf.

Unleash the horde…of 30% ruling haters! Image: Depositphotos

This ruling allows highly skilled internationals who move to the Netherlands for work to keep 30% of their income from being taxed for up to five years.

It smells like discriminatie (discrimination) against the Dutch, doesn’t it? 🤔 Except…it isn’t.

The 30% ruling isn’t a miraculous tax break with internationals buying up properties, then cackling and rubbing their hands like a swarm of evil flies. 

Getting a mortgage isn’t as easy as scoffing down bitterballen — and that’s the same for those eligible for the ruling.

What does this mean for internationals?

“No internationals” and co. paints a picture of the discrimination internationals will face in the Netherlands.

And what can’t be attributed to discrimination can (generally) be attributed to ignorance.

“I can’t hear you” is a common chorus when some Dutchies don’t want to hear about the issues of people they make money off of. Image: Depositphotos

Prepare to hear generalisations like: “Your university has rooms saved for you, unlike Dutch students”, or “Your employer will provide you accommodation, unlike Dutch employees that have to find it themselves!”.

Or the lovely “All foreigners that come to the Netherlands are rich, so you can afford to pay thrice as much as Dutch people.” 💸

Even some politicians use their public platforms (such as Twitter) to display “tolerance” to those that aren’t Dutcher than pannenkoeken.

See above: a brilliant example of the kind of Dutch tolerance often supported by those that insist there’s geen racisme (no racism) in the Netherlands! Expect to have such people writing housing advertisements.

What can we do about it?

The most beneficial path forward involves holding the right people responsible.

Ok, we’ve got sky-high prices that no one besides Elon Musk could afford and a dire housing shortage.

Who do we blame: the greedy landlords, the Dutch house hunters, or those blasted internationals? Hmmm…that’s a hard one. 🤔

Looking for some pesky internationals to blame, hoor! Image: Depositphotos

Jokes aside, we’re pleased to say that the government has (finally) taken matters into their own hands.

They have started cracking down on naughty landlords that let their empty, inordinately expensive properties sit around like a sack of potatoes (during a housing crisis, mind you!)

Landlords in Amsterdam that don’t report their properties unoccupied for over six months will be forced to reduce their rental prices.

READ MORE | 9 kooky things about renting in the Netherlands

They will also be slapped with hefty fines ranging from €2,500 to €5,000 if they try any funny business.

I mean…can someone say, “Let justice be served?” 🙌

Universities have warned international students against visiting the Netherlands without securing accommodation first.

Yes, it’s the weakest step in the right direction, especially after repeated calls for universities to be more involved with disseminating housing information — but better (many, many, many years) late than never, right?

Of course, things aren’t all bleak.

For every Dutchie that sees internationals as pests, there are equally as many that won’t treat you as a buitenbeentje (outcast).

Several internationals have Dutch friends or significant others (the writer of this piece is thrilled to have both). And, of course, many Dutch landlords treat internationals with basic respect.

Have you been hit with a “no internationals” label or a Dutchie that feels your views haven’t been properly represented? Tell us about it in the comments!

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in October 2022 and was fully updated in August 2023 for your reading pleasure.

Feature Image:Depositphotos
Liana Pereira
Liana Pereira
Primarily fuelled by cheese and lots (LOTS!) of coffee, Liana is a Burgher from sunny Sri Lanka that’s in the midst of wrapping up her linguistics degree. While writing will *always* have her heart, she also likes travelling, dogs, and heavy metal. As an observer of all things weirdly and wonderfully Dutch since 2018, she’s thrilled to have the ‘write’ opportunity to help others feel more at home here.

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  1. Finally somebody talking about the elephant in the room. This year 2023 I found a lot of discrimination also in the job market. Seems younger generations of Dutch people are the ones that have closed their minds. Also denying holocaust etc. Very sad and worrying. But thanks for talking about it it’s the first step to make a change.

  2. Wow, I’m completely stunned by these comments. I almost feel embarrased to be Dutch.
    I do apologize for the rude behavior of some people in my country, they should know better but unfortunately they don’t. Discrimination exists on many levels, even in the animal kingdom. When you are even slightly different from others, you are in trouble. I celebrate being different even though on the outside you would probably think I fit in with the narrow-minded fellow citizens but you couldn’t be more wrong.
    It may have to do with life experience, empathic ability and let’s not forget (the lack of) education.
    There is never a valid argument for discrimination, so I’m simply saying ‘sorry’ on behalf of the rest of the civilized population.


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