Amsterdam through British eyes

Finding a room in Amsterdam: The dreaded ‘Kijkavond’

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If you are trying to find a room in Amsterdam I feel your pain. I am in the process now, and it is probably one of the most difficult things to do. Finding a room is like poking yourself in the eye with a sharp object. Ugh. Anyway – you’ve probably noticed that the Dutch like to do things a bit differently by now, and house hunting is no different. The Dutch regularly hold ‘kijkavonds’ for rooms.

If you’ve ever been unfortunate enough to need to find a room in Amsterdam, then you’ll know what I’m talking about when I say the word ‘kijkavond’

For all of you out there who have been lucky enough to escape this, congratulations. Stop what you’re doing right now and crack open a beer, because I came out of my first kijkavond feeling like I had just been entered into a very weird competition.

Why a kijkavond is a bit like an X-Factor audition:

Let me explain. A kijkavond is designed so that Dutch people can be as efficient as possible. They invite several of the people who are interested in renting the room (who I will now refer to as ‘candidates’) on the same evening, at the same time, so they can choose who they want to live with. Because there is such a huge demand for housing, the Dutch can actually do this, and it does make sense. If you have 30 people who want your room, ain’t nobody got time to see them all individually.

That’s right – the Dutch make it into a sort of competition. It’s a bit like X-Factor, but with less talent – there are a similar amount of ‘judges’ (the housemates that live there already), and you have to impress them. They introduce themselves and then you get to see the room and the rest of the apartment. If you don’t like it, then you can leave straight away. Some of the candidates will which means less competition to battle it out with.

Next, you have to tell them about yourself. You have between 30 seconds and two minutes in which to do this. Timings may vary from kijkavond to kijkavond. One of the judges may take notes, which is incredibly offputting especially if you’re trying to speak in a language that isn’t your mother tounge.

The judges then decide whether they want to ask more questions – this varies between kijkavonds, but sometimes they only ask you to tell them about yourself. They will also ask if you have any questions about the room, and a few of the candidates ask questions about bills, or whether they can register.

The judges thank everyone for coming, and tell us that the successful candidate will receive a whatsapp message. There may be another round of trying to impress them again, but they will get in touch if you’ve been successful.

They say they will be in touch and then they will ignore you unless you are their favourite candidate. They will probably take a vote on it before they reply, and one of the housemates will root for the underdog, but in the end the one taking all of the notes will make the final decision, because they are the Simon Cowell of kijkavonds.

Someone once told me that they took a bottle of wine with them to the Kijkavond and asked a lot of questions about the people living there. I think wine probably does help. This is going to be my tactic on my first kijkavond tonight since I moved out in October,

Kijkavonds (and the fact that good apartments are hard to find) are the main reason I don’t like looking for a room. If you are in the process of finding a room, maybe we can go for a beer and comiserate each other on these terrible kijkavonds. Tell me about your worst experiences. Please.

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7 Comments

  1. battermanz@gmail.com'

    I am so glad to have avoided that!

    I was invited to one but I found an apartment in the meantime. I found my apartment in less than 48hrs thanks to a facebook group, and fortunately the guy had a nice policy, first come first served…

    I am so eager to start enjoying the Amsterdam life!

    • You’re very lucky to have found somewhere so quickly. It also depends on the time of year (now is the worst as you’re basically competing with students who are all looking for a room from September). Onwards and upwards

  2. neva.howell@gmail.com'

    I’m curious about language. Did you find that most rental situations were with folks who did not speak English? How much Dutch do you you think a person has to know to visit Amsterdam without being hopelessly lost the entire time they are there? I actually like the way they rent spaces although I can certainly understand it being challenging if you have no where to stay in meantime! I like the idea that I’d be with people who are on the same page with me in important lifestyle areas. For example, I would not do well in a party house atmosphere but would enjoy being in quiet, peaceful surroundings. Better to know what the tone of the other guests would be, before moving in and spending sleepless nights listening to loud music (I’ve been in that situation).

    • Hi Neva,

      You don’t need to know any dutch to visit Amsterdam. I used to rent an amazing apartment from a German lady, so we spoke in English and it wasn’t a problem. Most of the Dutch people I have met have spoken English, but they usually want to live with someone who can speak to them in their native tounge.

      Ashley

  3. spry@notme.fea.st'

    Ooer, a competition, and for a room! Hard to imagine anything worse. OK, that’s an exaggeration – of course – and yet…

    30 and still no place to call home. Do you have to live in the city centre? No studios available, anywhere?

    • I have been living in Sydney for the past 18 months. I am coming back to Amsterdam and will have to go through this all over again. I was looking all over the city for somewhere, but Amsterdam is so hard to find a place.

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