Renting Our First Apartment in the Netherlands

Canal in a small Dutch town at sunset, lined with trees and houses | Em Dashed

Considering how adamant I am that I don’t live in Amsterdam, and how unlikely it is that’s going to change anytime soon (spoiler alert!), the place where I do live has received very little recognition on my blog lately. And considering that I may be the only person, currently or ever, producing content on the Internet about that place in English, it’s especially weird that I’ve forsaken it so frequently to write about places for which that is certainly not the case. Well, no more!

If you’ve read that paragraph and have no idea what I’m talking about (fair enough), here’s the gist: I’m still in Dedemsvaart. And contrary to what you, I, or anyone else might think about this small country town, exciting things are happening! Big changes are afoot! Simon and I are mere days away from moving into – drumroll please – our very first completely unfurnished and completely unshared (except with each other) apartment.

Yes; while it is true that Simon and I have been living together in some capacity or another for nearly two years, we have never actually resided in a space that was all, or even primarily, ours.

We’ve been through many a hostel, a few camping grounds, small apartments shared with three other guys (one of whom slept in the living room), and no less than three homes owned or occupied by members of Simon’s family – but never our own place.

And while this may sound all very romantic freewheeling to you, we are over it. After all, one of us is now 30 (hint: it’s not me) and as his friends have made clear, it’s time for a change.

Large sign hung in front of a house and spray-painted with the words: Simon 30 woont nog thuis. Wordt het niet tijd voor een eigen huis | Em Dashed
“Simon is 30 and still lives at home. Isn’t it time for your own house?”

Now, as you might imagine, the idea of putting down roots is giving me all kinds of worries and doubts. Since I graduated university, I’ve never lived in an apartment with a lease, or for a period longer than six months. I’ve never owned a set of plates. I’ve subsisted comfortably on the knowledge that, should I wake tomorrow and feel like heading for the hills, I would leave very little debris in my wake. I’ve lived in the Netherlands for over ten months and I still haven’t fully unpacked my suitcase.

This apartment will change all of that.

Not completely, of course. We’re not buying it, we still don’t know where we’ll be next year, and there are no other surprises waiting to be announced (ahem) – not even a goldfish. Let’s not get carried away.

Living room of an empty apartment with white walls and laminate flooring | Em Dashed

But when the Dutch say “unfurnished,” they really mean it. Tenants have to buy their own appliances, their own light fixtures, their own flooring. I never heard the stereotype that Dutch people are stingy until I arrived in this country, but some days, it seems like they are doing everything they can to convince me it’s true.

Now, when you decide to live in a foreign country of your own accord, there’s an unspoken agreement that you will try and accept its customs (operative word being “try”). And in the grand scheme of things, this isn’t so outrageous, so okay: we’ll pay for the floor, and I’m done talking about it (no, seriously).

But I think telling you this might help you understand why the apartment is, rented or no, kind of a commitment. And that may sound boring to some people; but as someone who has shared a kitchen with thirty strangers for most of my adult life, having my own is right up there with “jumping off a bridge in Queenstown” in terms of excitement. Even if it is in Dedemsvaart, and even if it does come with ugly gray stripes on the wall (which, in case you’re worried, will be the first things to go).

White wall with three thick stripes painted in different shades of gray | Em Dashed

Welcome to the next chapter. It’s gonna be weird for all of us.

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