A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
As mentioned in Laurences earlier post, finding accommodation in Leiden as an international can be quite tricky from time to time. I spent the whole of my first semester in one of the international student residences Hugo de Grootstraat. Although this was convenient for my induction into Leiden, removing all the initial stresses, being one of the longer term students here I decided to get my act in gear and find something more homely with a bit more character for my second post christmas stint in Leiden.
It was very quickly drawn to my attention that a lot of dutch students pay practically peanuts for their accommodation (relative to London). It isn’t uncommon at all for students to have a 20 sq+ room, fridge, TV, and common room inclusive, for under 350 euros. Considering I was paying 500 euros my international dormitory room, I wanted a piece of the dutch housing pie!
How do students come across these houses exactly was my first port of call. I used my contacts within the dutch societies I am involved in; MUN, and Njord. I spoke with students and it seems naturally that there is a very large old boys network. By this I mean people who join the core fraternities like Augustinus, Minerva, Quintus and so on are already supplied with a network of older students who give up their rooms upon graduation to incoming freshers.
I wondered then, is it even possible to acquire one of these rooms for myself in the first place? Actually yes, there is! And let me tell you why. For a nation barely approaching 17 million (barely bigger than London I may add), Dutch citizens are amongst the most global citizens of the world (in my experience). This means they place a large emphasis on cultural exchange, traveling, living and working abroad. So it is not uncommon for them to carry out international placements abroad for a semester or two during their studies. Naturally they don’t want to give up their rooms during these periods and need students to keep them warm while they go off on their worldly adventures. Who better then than us fickle and temporary international folk!?
A lot of students advertise their room through word of mouth. For this reason you have to do a bit of work. You have to get off your backside and actually interact with Dutch folk. What a pain you may think. After all, I came to the Netherlands seeking to avoid these fanciful Dutch creatures….:P. Otherwise a rich resource of rooms can be found on kamernet.nl, A website where students advertise their rooms. For a small fee (which I think is well worth it) you can respond to advertisements and arrange viewings. The Dutch method of renting a room out is usually to host a ‘hospiteeravond’ where all the potential tenants come and have dinner or tea with the current residents and they then decide afterwards who to accept. Once you pass this test you can rest assured that you will have acquired the perfect abode for the rest of your time in Leiden.
Dutch student houses usually have the added benefit of being very organised. This includes having a weekly house cleaner. It’s also common practice to have a stocked fridge where you stripe your name every time you take a beer (an honesty system is enforced here), and at least once every week your fellow housemates will congregate together and have group dinner like one big happy family. I have recently been introduced by my housemates to a cunning website called ‘wiebetaaltwat.nl’. Essentially if you pay for anything communal (i.e. groceries, toiletries), you simply add it an online list and the website cleverly organises for everyone to pay you back. This kind of thing is easier shown than explained, but you get the idea.