#1. The Dutch are the tallest people in the world. If you ever had any doubts about this, if you go to a standing-room-only concert, it will clear those doubts away immediately. I had a really great time seeing Babylon Circus this past Friday night at the Melkweg, but I felt like a midget. I never thought of myself as short (I'm about 168cm, or 5'6), but here in Holland, I'm certainly below average. :)
#2. If you find yourself looking for an apartment, read this short article first. Here's a section:
"... Housing rental agencies love expats so much: they are ignorant to the local laws and some of them think that those laws only apply to locals or to apartments that belong to the city council.
As a tenant in the Netherlands, you are protected by the law in several ways. First of all, once you agree to rent an apartment (either verbally or through a written contract), this agreement can only be terminated by the tenant; not by the landlord, except in extreme circumstances (e.g. failure to pay the rent, in which case, the landlord must start a court case against the tenant). A contract that states ‘temporary’ or ‘one-year lease’ does not automatically end after the expiry date. A temporary contract is only allowed in very rare and specific situations. So if you think you have a temporary contract, you most likely don't!
The second protection a tenant has is that the landlord cannot simply charge what he likes for an apartment. Every apartment has a maximum rent, which is calculated using a points system. Every square metre and all the facilities in the apartment score points, and the total number of points equates to a certain maximum rent. Anyone can ask a Huurteam (via wswonon.nl) to visit their apartment and perform the calculation at no cost."
It's no secret that finding an affordable apartment is incredibly difficult here in Amsterdam, and for expats, even when we know the laws and the rules, we may just end up using housing agencies or paying too much because it seems like there are no other options. I may end up doing the same thing myself this time around. But it's really helpful to have all the knowledge you can ahead of time, and don't forget that we, as tenants, are the people that the law will ultimately protect more than the landlord.
You may even find (as I have), that private landlords will try to charge a month of commission for their apartments, even though there's no agency or broker involved. This is just simply against the law and entirely pointless, it's equivalent to paying someone a bribe to get into the apartment, which is a very New York thing to do. And yes, it's hard for those of us from places like NYC or Paris (expensive cities with insane housing prices) to care about the fact that we're paying someone a bribe, because we're kind of used to doing that type of thing back home. However, unlike NYC, this is something that you can fight even after you're inside the apartment. Landlords here will know perfectly well if they're doing something that goes against the law and they know the risks that come with it - and this is exactly why expats are targeted into taking these apartments, because Dutch people would never fall for this type of thing. This is why you'll see so many ads saying "expats only!" or "expat special!" Ugh.
Again, even though I know all this stuff already, I have no idea if I'll be able to avoid over-paying for an apartment - I probably won't, so I'm trying to at least find a nice place in a good location where I'll over-spend. However, I do know that there are resources available to me (in English, it's not necessary to speak Dutch to fight this type of thing) if I need them, and it helps me stay motivated to dismiss scams and just keep looking.