Finding a room in Amsterdam or the Netherlands is daunting enough, let alone someone you don’t mind sharing with. Living with a friend is the gift that keeps on giving. You split the utilities fairly, grocery shopping is more fun and you plan your weekends in accordance with who’s going where and how obliterated by alcohol consumption you will be upon your return.
But, considering that you may have seen posts with the foreboding “Dutch Only”, “Girls Only” or “No Couples” branded in all-caps it’s easier to be disheartened than encouraged.
Stay positive and keep looking ? (it’s out there, your dream place and dream roomie)
Here are some clues on how to find the perfect roommate in the Netherlands.
Searching for rooms
When searching for a new place to hang your hat it’s all too easy to settle for the room without sizing up your flatmate too much. This can be a huge step people avoid just to secure the room. Maybe you’re thinking you won’t see them that much, they won’t ask you to return their rental bike or pick up twenty euros of extra groceries “on your way back”. Even if the person you’re living with is by all appearances exceptionally ordinary it’s in your best interest to find a truly like-minded roomie.
Room hunting tools that can guide you towards the sacred meet and greet are available to you online and are the first step whether you’re moving for economic reasons, for a change of scenery or to start a new chapter in a new city in the Netherlands. It’s critical when searching in groups or forums to avoid scams in your quest to land the all-important introduction with your roommate.
Breaking down a standard rental contract
You’ve had the handshake, passed the personality check and they pull a pen on you.
In the Netherlands, there are two types of rental agreement. Either a fixed rental period or an indefinite rental period.
A fixed contract is when you are living in your housing for a defined period, from a start date to an end date. You cannot move out before the end date unless you and your landlord agree on it.
An indefinite contract is when there is no specific end date to your stay. You can move out whenever you want, but your landlord can also end your contract if there are legal reasons to do so.
In a rental contract, you should expect to see things like
- The agreed monthly rent and method of payment
- The address and possibly a description of the space
- Start and end dates
- Information about how you can prolong the rental agreement
- House rules (smoking, pets, etc.)
- Utilities (inclusive or exclusive and what is included in them, i.e. electrical, water, internet etc.)
- Landlord’s obligations i.e. repairs and maintenance
- The notice period you can give your landlord if you choose to move out.
- Whether you can move out before the rental period ends.
- (Furnished Apartments) An inventory or list of items and decor.
What to ask your potential roommate
When you finally get to meet them your head will be overflowing with questions. The look on your face of calm bemusement won’t fool anybody. So long as you’re comfortable and you’ve told them a bit about yourself the questions can surface and won’t break your cool too much.
Important questions you can ask your prospective flatmate include:
- “Do you have many friends or family in the area?”
- “What are the nearest supermarkets?”
- “What are your work hours? Are you outgoing?”
- “Can I register at this address?”
The latter is a question they will expect you to ask. To make sure your roommate displays integrity and respect it is vital that you know your rights as a tenant. They will roll off the tongue as smooth as a penguin down a dutch staircase, don’t panic. Even if you don’t ask these questions right away, it shows that you respect yourself enough to ask. Your new roommate will have their own seemingly bottomless mine of questions for you.
Finding your perfect roommate in student housing
Studying and living in the Netherlands are two sides of the same coin. Renting is growing more difficult due to the rise in international students and the corresponding housing shortage. The widely disputed tent camp that was schemed up as a means of temporary accommodation for students in Groningen was charging 12.50 a night which was very poorly received news for students.
Students are no less entitled to housing than others and subsidized housing is in fact real. Unfortunately looking for housing as a student can make you more vulnerable or even targeted by scammers. If a sweet deal comes along and it looks too good to be true, always stay on the safe side.
Student life can be harsh, direct and selective when hunting down rooms. The kijkavonden (viewing night) can be a maze of character flaws and forced laughter (because your judges are always hilarious…always). Being a student you may want time to study or nights of partying, your roommate might be overbearing, setting fire to your textbooks and throwing your laptop in the dishwasher so you can go to De School with them on Sunday night.
The Dutch government will provide a monthly allowance to assist low-income students, be sure to check your eligibility and possibly collect on that assistance.
Your new roommate
The old adage is truer today than ever before; first impressions are forever. The social media foreplay is through and your future roommate can’t wait to meet you! You have set a date and time for viewing the flat and your room – what could go wrong?
Anxiety or word-vomit, a range of social faux pas that will damage your composure – it’s a minefield. The positive side of these things happening early on is that you don’t get trapped in an awkward living situation down the road, early warning signs are a good thing. If something stands out as strange, opposed to your reasoning or just plain bizarre then question it directly before moving forward with the rental agreement. Being on the same page as your roommate on a personal and financial level is key.
There are sites to hunt down your new roommate. These sites are Tinder’s not so distant, more responsible, tidy, well-to-do cousin. After creating a profile of your own so that others can notify you of a room opening, you can specify the desired age and gender of your potential roommate in the hopes of finding the right one.
Even with all the looking around your perfect roommate will most often be the one that decides you’re just right as well (aw).
What does perfect mean to you?
When you’ve had a long day and you come back to the crib: what do you want to find?
Would you rather have the place upside down but also have a raging party going strong into its third night? Or would you rather something more quiet, relaxed? You can look all over for the right candidate but age and gender are only surface descriptors.
In your search commenting in facebook’s room searching groups and comments that you have just “pm’d” them can feel like firing blanks. One Dutch room-hunting site has categorically defined qualities people might look for. These include a person’s relationship status, whether they smoke, their education, occupation, whether they snore and their “party habits”. These are visible so that before even viewing a room you have some idea of the person showing it to you.
Phone a friend for a hand
Having an extra set of eyes and ears on your side can be a great asset. If you’re fortunate enough to know people when you arrive in the Netherlands ask they have any friends also looking. They might even have a friend that’s renting out a room, you will never know unless you ask.
So trust your instincts, keep your ear to the ground. A friend of mine once told me “I just want someone that’s not here very often, doesn’t trash the place… and is generally not crazy”. If you manage to focus these attributes and you bring it up to the right person, they might turn out to be the person you end up living with.
Have you had luck finding the perfect roommate in the Netherlands? Got any tips for the hunt? Drop your stories in the comments below!
Feature Image: Daria Shevtsova/Pexels