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.