I am moving. For anyone thinking: “But wait, didn’t you move into this place like three years ago?” Yes, I did. And I was planning to stay here forever, as this was my absolute dream house in my dream neighborhood. Sadly, that dream has turned into a bit of a nightmare.

But let’s start at the very beginning. In 1998, I got my own apartment on The Island. 43m2 (about 462 square feet) all to myself. I was so happy! Sure, it was a bit noisy, and sure, we (the 10 of us that lived in the apartment block) were living next door to student housing, so we did hear parties a couple of times a year. But hey, we’re in Amsterdam: you should be thankful to have a roof over your head.

After about 7 years however, things started to change: our apartments were incorporated into student housing. As soon as someone with a “regular” contract moved, the apartment was rented out to a student. This led to a high turnover of neighbors. It was also around this time that people stopped introducing themselves upon moving in. Part of it had to do with the fact that they weren’t going to live there for long: it takes at least two to three years to be able to rent these apartments because of the wait list, and as soon as you’re graduated, you have to move again. Part of it was also a change in the type of people who were still able to afford studying in Amsterdam. Let’s just say that the percentage of assholes increased significantly. There were of course still nice people who introduced themselves, but the number of people who have lived above me, but who I’ve never met, far outweighs them. For a while, I would make the effort to introduce myself to every new neighbor, but at some point I got sick and tired of walking up 4 flights of stairs to be met with complete indifference, so I gave up.

With the increase in the number of students in our apartment building, the noise complaints became more frequent, and more intense. I know there’s people going: “But they’re young! You have to accept that! If it bothers you, you should move to a real home in a normal neighborhood for adults, you ancient loser!” And while I agree with this to a degree, there’s of course a huge difference between an announced party until 01:30 on a Friday or Saturday a couple of times a year, and unannounced “parties” that consist of yelling, squealing and singing until 06:30 on a random weeknight. And I’m not even going to talk about that one time they decided to do a full blown hazing ritual in the apartment above me on a Thursday night.

A bit about me being an ancient loser in/next to student housing: here in Amsterdam, if you are eligible for a rent controlled apartment, you have to register to Woningnet, where listings are posted that you can respond to. Depending on your situation, there’s certain types of homes you’re allowed to rent. A single person for example, is only allowed to rent a one bedroom apartment. Depending on your income, there’s also a maximum price you’re allowed to pay, as there is a maximum to the refund you can get. It’s a whole system designed to try to get everybody into a home most suited for their situation, basically. In the years that I lived in my old apartment, the prices of rent controlled apartments of course also went up. I did check regularly, only to come to the sad conclusion that with my income at the time, I had little to no options. And even if I was able to afford a more expensive apartment: I am definitely not going to pay twice as much for an apartment that is in a worse condition than the one I was living in, in a less enjoyable neighborhood. On top of that: when I moved into my apartment, it was a “real home” with a regular lease, it was only turned into student housing about seven years later: I had the legal right to live there. In hindsight, our rental agency should have offered “the oldies” like me, who still had a regular lease, a different place to live when they converted our apartments into student housing, but they didn’t.

So I had to make the best of it. As years went on, this became harder and harder. At some point, I was done meeting my new neighbors for the first time in front of their door at 02:30 while wearing my hooded tiger robe, while asking them if they could “please, tone it down”. In those moments, the desperation drove me to tears, but what could I do? I needed to be thankful that I had a roof over my head. And I was. Of course it was exhausting to keep trailing after the rental agency to get them to fix things, like the smoke alarm that would ring at all hours for no reason at all, but again: a roof. Over my head. Thankful. And despite how it sounds, I really did love my place. It was a nice apartment, in a neighborhood that was fine, and for large parts of the year, living there was, honestly, fine.

Then, a couple of things happened in short succession: they started works on the outside of our building. To cut time, they worked on both sides of the building simultaneously. Every day from 07:00 to 17:00 they would sand and chisel, and the whole building would shake and tremble non-stop. In those days I was in the middle of trying to finally finish my @!#$ BA degree in English, and being already overworked and exhausted, I could not handle this. I got so stressed out that “not sleeping well” became “sleeping 14 hours a week max”, with most of those 14 hours of sleep happening during the weekend. More often than not, I went to class and did exams and presentations on zero hours of sleep. I would study for 36 hours on end to get things done, only with 20 minute naps in between, and those were usually because I would just fall asleep on my keyboard. It was my “Get a BA or die trying” period, and as we all know, I nearly did “die trying”.

After my stroke, I noticed that I was more sensitive to noise. I also noticed that the little patience I used to have, in general, but specifically for unnecessary loud racket at all hours, was gone. And when in the following years my living room flooded twice, and they LOST my (only!) living room window during repairs, meaning that I had to live in the dark for 9 1/2 weeks, I was done.

Thankfully this time, there was a solution: I was going to get married, and we would both be moving into a new home. I checked Funda (the real estate website for non-rent controlled apartments and places that are for sale) and in the beginning of September, I found my absolute dream apartment. I sent an email to the person I was going to marry, titled “This is where we’re going to live”, despite knowing that it was months before we were going to be able to move, so not gonna happen. This apartment was located in the Watergraafsmeer neighborhood. It is a very green, quiet, residential neighborhood, with mostly families and older people living there.

The first time I ended up there, was in 2005. At that time in my life, everything kinda totally sucked, and I felt like a huge loser. I remember seeing the Voltaplein for the first time and thinking: “I wish I could live here. That would mean I made something of my life. Then I wouldn’t be this huge loser anymore”. Knowing that I would never be able to live there, I cried biking all the way back home to my apartment, and told myself I just needed to be thankful that I had a roof over my head. Can you imagine how ECSTATIC I was when, a mere 14 years later, I did end up being able to move to the Watergraafsmeer? To that dream apartment that was miraculously re-listed at the exact moment we started looking for a home? That was located so close to the Voltaplein, that I can see it from my living room?

Things started off great: the neigbors around us were friendly, and the neigbors next to us turned out to be classical musicians. I had finally finished my BA in English, my old student loans were paid off, I was married, I lived in the Watergraafsmeer in my dream apartment: things were looking up! Of course, there was some remodeling going on on the other side of the street, but oh well, that would be done soon. I had more space, an office with doors to a balcony looking onto a courtyard. We even had pigeons!

Then the pandemic started. We would be in lock down for two weeks.


Part two will be posted tomorrow, 10 february 2023.