Student housing in Rotterdam: A tale of laughter and endurance

This is the story of my (hopefully) last student house and first expat house. It contains bitter-sweet imagery, an unwanted pet and a couple of "what-not's" for those moving out and on from a Dutch location.

My arrival in Rotterdam could be described by the Romanian expression "as if fallen from the moon." Without much time, money, and any idea, my best friend and I landed in an at-first-sight ugly city and on, of course, a rainy day. We had less than a week until the beginning of the student year at the Erasmus University, and we wanted to live somewhere together, a fact which excluded the otherwise promising one-room-renting websites.

We could not afford the rooms offered by the university, and I still think their price is not really set for the average student. Also, it did not take long for agencies whose numbers we found around the center to tell us that they do not rent houses to students.

After a brief panic attack, we decided to resort to Plan B. Someone who knew someone who knew one of us back home had given us a phone number of a "sort of agent," mister V. We called and, despite the noisy background and language mistakes, we made an appointment for the same day.

At the decided time and place, this slender, grey-haired and hollow-eyed man asked us to get on his van. The back floor of the car was full of keys. And he was driving, talking on his ever present hands free, and rolling a shag at the same time. Despite various thoughts and suspicions, one of those keys opened the house we chose. Because it was cheap.

We lived in an old house in the historic and mostly Arab neighbourhood Delfshaven. The place had two floors. The first floor included the living room, kitchen, bathroom, and, after a witnessed adding of a wall to the big living, another room where yet another student would soon join.

Our bedrooms were upstairs, in the attic. Spacious, indeed. The furniture consisted of leftovers from previous students, and there was not one unscratched or unstained wall. Even after an intense cleaning, the place still maintained its specific cabbage-y smell.

Well, we were on a budget, we had seen worse before in Bucharest and, all in all, the house was... bohemian.

Mister V. proved to be handy in maintaining his promise of fixing things around the house. Even if, at one point, I think he had got tired of the sound of my voice describing yet another in-house calamity and insisting upon his immediate visit.

Anyway, he fixed the ceiling in my room, though which rain came in noisy drops, the heater in the kitchen, which functioned with a little flame that was, miraculously, responsible for the sometimes warm water in the shower. And in winter he fixed the main heating system. Three times.

The system looked like an electric fireplace. In its good days it would unequally distribute warmth, and on its bad ones, threat to explode and start pouring hot water in the living room, once even flooding the Polish family who lived below our place.

Springtime came with an unexpected guest. He announced his presence by drilling a tunnel in our bread. Then spent his time appearing out of nowhere and scaring the hell out of me.

We named the (first) mouse Gustav, and we did not want to kill him. We just chased him every time he would show up until we succeeded to trap him in a casserole and send him out on the streets of Delfshaven.

A second mouse found the end of his days in our dish drier, probably due to old age. Around the same time, we also started to host a pigeon family who had built a nest on the balcony. So it was always quite "lively" in our house.

Above everything, out student status combined with the thin walls seemed to regularly disturb the neighbours. We had an old vinyl in the living room, far from noisy in my opinion, and occasionally classmates over, and that would sometimes also invite a couple of policemen ringing the broken doorbell.

Not to say I don’t have pleasant memories from the house. And of what was not pleasant, I sometimes managed to just laugh. Mr. V., I later found out, has dozens of properties in Rotterdam, many of them old and just as …bohemian. On facebook there is a group called "we live(d) in a V. house" which consists of more than hundred members. One of them refers to him as "The King of Rotterdam."

As for the what not’s... During our stay, we signed up for internet and electricity and gas. Where I come from, the last two at least are simply there and do not require the inhabitant’s name on a contract.

Anyway, do not forget to end your rental contract when you decide to move out. Otherwise it will come back to haunt you...

Any housing-related experiences in the Netherlands you would like to share?

Catalina Barzescu


Catalina Barzescu

Catalina is a media and journalism graduate from the Erasmus University Rotterdam, and an avid writer and reader. Instead of returning to her Transylvanian roots when the studying was done...

Read more



Leave a comment