I know that once I'm actually in Amsterdam doing the apartment search, I might look back at what I'm about to say and think that I'm insane. I'm kind of excited about looking for apartments in Amsterdam.
Anyone who does about five minutes of research on living in Amsterdam finds out very quickly that it's "impossible" to find an apartment. There's a huge housing shortage, the Netherlands is a small and overcrowded country, people are on waiting lists for years and years to get a place, etc.
But I'm telling you, spend two years in Paris and then over a year in New York City (in two different apartments), and the thing that will excite you is the fact that renting in Amsterdam isn't that expensive. It's not cheap, don't get me wrong. However, I've been combing through ads on a million different websites and one thing remains clear: for what I pay to live in crappy neighborhood in Brooklyn ($650 USD/453 Euros, plus utilities), I could live in a bigger, nicer apartment in Amsterdam. I'm not planning to find my own apartment; instead I'll try a flatshare situation so that I have roommates. Even that excites me - I have great roommate history and I would like to live with some other international types.
The state of the US dollar is an unfortunate issue. Two years ago $650 was more like 530€. Ouch.
Here in Brooklyn, people think that I'm lucky that I found a place so cheap. Again, I want to emphasize that my neighborhood isn't very nice and my apartment is very small and very run down - I don't even have windows in my bedroom. I know that finding a room for 450€ in Amsterdam won't be simple, but it's possible. It wouldn't be remotely possible in Paris at all. Since Amsterdam is such a small city compared to what I'm used to, I don't feel the need to be right in the center. It's such a short bike ride to get anywhere, and other than the two years I spent living in Philadelphia, I've never felt the need to live right in the middle of everything.
Just today I saw an ad for a room - 16 sq meters, 550€ a month, near station Vlugtlaan, and it included those lovely key words - registration possible. If I want to live legally in Amsterdam, I need a residence permit. And to get that permit, I need a legal residence. Technically I'm supposed to have the address pretty much the day I step in the country and apply for the permit with 8 days, but I don't think that is realistically going to happen. Instead I'll stay with a friend in Amsterdam and give myself three months (for three months I can just be there with a passport) to find a place. When the time comes to apply for the permit, I'll say "of course, I just moved to Amsterdam two days ago. I arrived from Paris and came to Amsterdam in a car." Since I'll be flying into Paris, I'll have the plane tickets as proof (if necessary).
This is going to be an interesting experiment. Will finding an affordable room in Amsterdam REALLY be more difficult than finding an affordable room in NYC or Paris? I'll find out this spring!
Slightly off-topic, but important: Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and the Czech Republic are becoming part of the Schengen area, which means that there is now a 24-nation border-free zone in the European Union. This is good news for anyone traveling in Europe!