July 8, 2009

New apartment, new residence permit, same city

Ah, July in Amsterdam. There was a beautiful period where I was wearing summer dresses, covering my tattoos in sunblock when I left the house, and even dared to complain once or twice about the heat. Now we're getting back to normal, with freak thunderstorms during the day which abruptly change to blue skies with sun and then back again, all in the same hour. It's my 2nd July in Amsterdam, and I am feeling the "must take a summer holiday NOW" feeling bigtime. The cinemas I go to on a regular basis are all getting ready to close for their summer breaks. My office is emptying out with everyone taking vacation. I am eagerly looking forward to the 19th of August, when I get on a plane bound for Dubrovnick, Croatia. I'm meeting a group of friends in the city and then spending the next 6 days sailing around (weather permitting) and eventually crossing the Adriatic sea and ending the trip in Bari, Italy. From there I'll go to New York City for a couple days to see some friends, and then to California for 4 days to attend my brother's wedding.

Since I last updated, I've been on the search for a new apartment. My current apartment is beautiful and in a great location, but I'm in need of a 2-bedroom place. The idea of moving into a one-bedroom apartment was to live on my own, but I've never actually done that - I always end up with long term guests or temporary flatmates. My current temporary flatmate and I decided to make our arrangement official and look for a 2-bedroom place to call home. This prompted the great apartment search. Neither of us were too picky about location so we could keep our options open - we didn't consider Amsterdam Nord or anything too far off, but we did search the whole city using every resource we could think of. Using a broker (makelaar) was not something we considered doing - while paying someone to help you find a place will most likely result in finding a place quickly, we couldn't afford it (they typically charge what you would pay in rent for one month). We told everyone we knew, we searched Woningnet in the Vrije Sector, Marktplaats, craigslist, and a bunch of other places. We sent a million emails, made a million phone calls, and saw some really shitty places and some really beautiful places. In the end, we found a great place on the south end of the Overtoom, in the oud west neighborhood - the location is amazing (right next to Vondelpark!), the landlord is great, and the apartment is in really nice condition. Because everyone wants to know, we're paying 1150 Euros for a 2-bedroom place, which is all-inclusive. There's plenty of storage space, a small balcony that overlooks a courtyard, a great kitchen with a dishwasher (!!!!), and it's right next to a tram stop. It's about 15 minutes by bike for me to get to work and there are tons of stores, bars, cafes, and restaurants nearby. I'll be closer to a lot of my friends and really close to a lot of the places I like to hang out.

There was no big secret I can share about finding the apartment - yes, it's a very hard city to find a place to live, but it's possible. It just takes luck and perseverance and the knowledge that it's not going to be easy or fun. Yes, landlords are willing to compromise on rental prices, and yes, there are still some good landlords out there.

My application for my residence permit renewal is still with the IND - I don't foresee any problems, since my work contract was renewed. It cost 188 Euros to apply for the renewal, but fortunately my company reimburses me for that. Bureaucracy can be expensive. And once I move into this new apartment, I'll have to de-register at my old apartment and re-register at the new place, which I'm hoping I can just do online. All of this stuff starts to become routine after awhile, but again, I wouldn't ever say it's enjoyable. It's just part of living abroad, and part of living in The Netherlands.

Right now I'm anxiously awaiting a giant tax refund from The Netherlands. in 2008, I worked in Amsterdam from June through December, but I was taxed as though I had worked a full 12 months. This amounted to a nice sum of money that my Dutch accountant told me would get refunded. I asked around to my friends and colleagues, and they told me that the refund typically comes in July, as long as the taxes were filed on time (which they were). So, hey, Dutch tax authorities! It's July, go ahead and feel free to put that money in my bank account any day now.

Coming up this month: a long weekend in Berlin, but mostly, packing up and moving out to apartment #3. I'm absolutely sure this will not be my last apartment in Amsterdam, so I won't make any claims that I'll never move again. I'll miss my current place - I'll miss riding over the Amstel every day and drinking beer at the Kriterion - but apartment #3 comes with a lot of promises for happy times ahead.