Housing Quiz, 2015
(as printed in XPat Journal, Nov 2015)
Welcome to the Netherlands. You’re going to need a place to live. What should you expect? Here are some helpful quiz questions, based on my own personal research and submissions from readers of my book ‘How to Be Orange.’
When you get the keys to your new Dutch housing, what can you expect?
A – Set of keys, with extremely detailed explanation how to use them.
B – Set of keys, with no explanation.
C – Set of keys, with an extra ‘China’ key, just in case.
Answer: A & C.
When receiving keys to Dutch housing, you will likely be given an extremely detailed lecture on what NOT to do – so complex you’ll be sure you’ve missed a detail or two. This will leave you confident only in the fact that you will end up locking yourself out of your own house somehow. And then there’s the mysterious ‘China’ key, which gets its name from the Dutch tradition of using ethnic terms to identify an object’s origin (see Jodenkoek) – or just to randomly insult an entire race (see Negerzoen). The 4-sided China key exists to be so enormous that you take it off your keyring, which will inevitably trigger the one time out of 1000 that your neighbor will use the China key and lock you out of your house.
You want to apply for the Dutch Stadsregister. What should you bring?
A – Your passport.
B – Your passport and work permit.
C – Every form of documentation you’ve ever had and another 3 you never knew existed.
The civil servants at the Dutch Stadsregister approach their jobs with a unique scrutiny. There is a chronic shortage of Dutch housing, because Dutch people treat housing like they treat their bikes: they get new ones without getting rid of the old ones first (see question 4, Boyfriend). As a result, you will need to provide many forms of documentation. The sheer amount of documentation is designed to convince you to move somewhere else. You will need passport, birth certificate, signatures from witnesses, and perhaps even an apostille.
The term apostille comes from the riddle ‘Which follower of Jesus was actually French?’ Only if you answer correctly, may you reside in the Netherlands.
Note: being registered at the Stadsregister is not the same as a verbilijfsvergunning. In other words, you may have permission to live here, but you do not have permission to stay.
Which are acceptable structures for Dutch housing?
A – Squatted flat.
B – Abandoned shipping containers.
C – Abandoned office building.
D – Abandoned boat.
Answer: Everything except A.
Dutch housing organizations are rewarded for their creativity with repurposed structures, such as boats, offices and, yes, even stacks of shipping containers. But if you try to exercise this same creativity by living in unclaimed property, you will be treated like a terrorist.
The woman from whom you’re subletting announces she’s broken up with her boyfriend. What should you do?
A: Offer to let her sleep on the sofa.
B: Offer her your bed and you offer to sleep on the sofa.
C: Find another place to stay.
Since your subletting arrangement was probably as solid as her relationship, the announcement ‘We broke up’ basically means ‘You’re moving out.’ With luck, you can find temporary housing from someone who chose not to sublet, but instead do Airbnb.
What is the Dutch version of ‘Full Bath?’
A – Bathtub that is full.
B – An empty room with a shower head.
C – A full bathroom, with bathtub / shower, toilet and sink.
Answer: A & B.
In Dutch housing, there is rarely a bathtub. More likely there is a shower head in one corner, with not even the pretense of a shower curtain. Rather, there may be a squeegee. The toilet will be located in a separate room, where the aromas of defecation can be more acutely concentrated.
Where can you expect to find your first housing in the Netherlands?
A – Outside city center, with extra living space.
B – In city center, with limited living space.
C – In city center, with extra living space.
As an expat, you are well-known for your completely unrealistic set of expectations regarding housing. Though most expats come from more expansive cities and longer commuting times, they get to the Netherlands and suddenly want to spend a maximum of 20 minutes getting to work.
We hope these questions help you find housing in the Netherlands. And when asking for your spacious apartment in city center, don’t forget to ask for impossibly low rent.