The Leidener

A Blog by International Students at Leiden University

Let’s talk about housing (again)

As my fellow Leideners have pointed out several times before, finding decent housing can be quite difficult in Leiden. However, it doesn’t always have to be. I was incredibly lucky, and I am very much aware of that, to find an almost perfect room on just my first try with kamernet.nl. Now that I’ve lived here for almost 3,5 years, I’ve seen my fair share of housemates come and go, and been through the process of voting in new people several times. Many international students struggle with the Dutch student housing system, which is actually incredibly difficult for foreigners, especially if you want to get a room the same way a Dutch student would do it.

If you’re staying for more than a year, for example your entire BA, then a great alternative to the international  student housing offered by the university is to go online, and look for a room in one of the Dutch studenthouses. It could not only provide you with a more permanent place to stay, but living in a real “Studentenhuis”, might also add to the experience of studying in Holland. The problem with this is, that the chances for international students actually getting one of those rooms, are incredibly slim. So here are a few tips, and a quick guide to the system.

I love these people 🙂 My 7 huisgenootjes!

Searching Online

The most popular website for student housing is without a doubt www.kamernet.nl (also available in English). Most websites are free, but do charge a fee once you’re actually replying to rooms, Kamernet charges from 20 up to 36 euros, for three months of sending an unlimited number of replies.

If you reply to a room, there are a few things to put in your message that can help you get an invitation to the hospiteeravond (more about that below).

  • If you’re just staying for a few months, or need a place to stay possibly without the hassle of a hospiteeravond, try the temporary/sublet rooms. The person usually living there is often studying abroad as well, and most of the time, these rooms are furnished.
  • Do stress it if you’re staying in the country for more than a year, for example for an entire degree. Often international students are turned away because they’d just be moving in for a short while, and people just don’t like their housemates to change every few months.
  • If you’re learning Dutch, or speak it a bit, definitely mention it, maybe even try putting in a few sentences in Dutch! While most students can speak English, they often don’t want to have to switch to English while talking to other housemates in order not to exclude you
  • Don’t ask when you can come by and check out the room, to decide whether you like it. Most international students who reply to ads assume that this is the way it works, but in most cases, there is a set date. And while of course you do need to decide whether you like the room, above all, they need to decide whether they want you to move in. It can come across as rude if you reply assuming that you’re the one who has the power here.
  • If you know that you can’t come by before you actually move to Leiden, ask whether it is possible to plan a Skype date on the day of the hospiteeravond. While some may say no to this, we’ve happily planned one in the past, because considering international students, this is the most unfair part of this system. Asking whether you can come by another time will often do no good, because it is difficult to plan a time where every single housemate can be present. Trying can’t hurt though!

In response to Emily: definitely my favourite spot!

Hospiteren

Hospiteeravonden are not ideal for international students, because they require you to be in the country. I am aware of that. But if you can, for example if you’re studying somewhere in Europe, try to book a trip to Leiden for a few days, and cram as many hospiteeravonden or other appointments for checking out a room in that week as possible. What exactly is this “hospiteeravond” I am talking about?

Fairly unique to Holland, this is how a new housemate is usually picked. It may not be the most ideal, but it’s efficient, especially considering busy schedules and impatient landlords. When you reply to a room, you can get invited to a “Hospiteeravond”, which is probably best described as a form of speed dating. Sometimes they consist of multiple rounds, depending on the number of people invited (we’ve had anywhere from two to twenty people). We usually have everyone introduce themselves, and then make sure to speak to everyone one on one, or at least in small groups, then after about two hours, we say goodbye to the potential new housemates and try to decide who we want to live with. The biggest criticism about this system, apart from the fact that you need to be in the country for this, is often that it’s hard to make a good and realistic first impression. Candidates are nervous, tend to be a bit shy when meeting new people and find it hard to get themselves heard in a group. From my own experiences though, we often prefer to pick the person who may be a bit quiet at first, and might open up more once they get to know us, than the one who is already very loud and extrovert. Here are a few tips to get you through the confusing concept of a hospiteeravond.

  • Make sure you speak to all of the people voting. Nothing can crush your chances more than half of the residents not knowing who you are.
  • Don’t try to sell yourself too much. Of course it’s important to tell some things about yourself, but if you can find any common ground to have a fun conversation with someone, that will make a far better impression than a sales pitch.
  • You’ll (hopefully) be living with these people, so don’t try to be someone you’re not, just to fit into the image of what you think is their ideal housemate. Even though you probably figured this one out already, remind yourself that you really don’t have to put that pressure on yourself.
  • Don’t be afraid to walk away if you feel that you wouldn’t feel comfortable living there.
  • Don’t tell them you’ve already been to twenty different hospiteeravonden – it doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you, in fact, this is  the case for many people, but you wouldn’t tell your date how often you’ve been dumped, would you? Don’t be afraid to tell them it’s your first hospiteeravond and aren’t quite sure how this works however.

One of our 2 kitchens

Our garden, viewed from my room

My old balcony (I got a new one), with my own little frosty

 

If this, nor the University housing is working for you, but you really need a roof above your head and a place to sleep, try one of the agencies like Buro Hogeland and Vijf Sterren Leiden. They can be a bit expensive, and you run the risk of not having any idea who you’re going to live with, but once you have a room, you can start looking for a better one without all of the stress.

For some of you, a few of these tips may be redundant. If you have any other questions about housing in Leiden however, don’t be afraid to comment here, on Facebook or on Twitter! Good luck 🙂

One comment on “Let’s talk about housing (again)

  1. Andra Ciuperca
    March 21, 2016

    Hello! I am moving to Den Haag in August as an International Studies student. I registered on kamernet and I am already looking for a room. My question is: how does it work for students who want to “book” the room when they are still in their home countries?

    Thanks!

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This entry was posted on November 20, 2012 by in Franziska and tagged , , , , , .
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