Dutch Houses: What To Expect

Dutch Houses: What To Expect

Kimo Paula
CMO & Co-Founder
min read

Did you just relocate to the Netherlands and move into your new home in Amsterdam or any other central Dutch city? Rotterdam, Utrecht, or Den Haag maybe? You ever notice a few peculiar things that got you questioning - "what on earth is that?" Or maybe, you’ve had a few "why is that here?" or faced with a couple of other head-scratching moments. You’re not alone.

The Big Squeeze

Being a small, crowded, beautiful country, we should be reassured that most housing here is relatively compact. As part of our soft-landing services for international talent, we wanted to debunk some of those eyebrow-raising questions about Dutch houses and celebrate their uniqueness.

Why Are The Stairs So Steep in Amsterdam?

Anyone who’s ever been to a typical Dutch house will have noticed the vertigo-inducing, steep, narrow and often windy stairs. Since there is not much room to build horizontally in cities, the Dutch like to develop vertically while using as little space as possible. This leads to very steep stairs, especially in the city’s older areas (like Centrum, Jordaan, and De Pijp in Amsterdam). Unfortunately, there are also not many elevators here unless the building is very new. How do the Dutch carry their shopping - let alone their furniture - up those stairs?! Hint: the answer’s coming right up! There’s a lot of pivot… Pivot… PIVOT involved here.

Why is There a Sink in The Bedroom?

It may seem a bit weird to see a sink in the bedroom, but it is quite common in the older parts of the cities! In the good old days, sinks were often in the bedrooms because showers were not in your typical dutch apartment until about 50 years ago!

Why are Dutch Toilets Weird?

Where do we even begin? The Dutch bathrooms are one of the smallest rooms known to exist for humankind.

Let’s start with the cold water. Maybe don’t expect hot water when you wash your hands in the sink in your separate toilet! Small bathroom sinks usually have cold water only, which can be quite a surprise if you are not expecting it!

Shower stalls instead of bathtubs. Many apartments in Dutch cities are pretty compact, so there is often no room for a bathtub or shower. Shower stalls are the preferred choice; they can be found in most apartments instead of bathtubs.

The inspection shelf. Yep, we’re going to write about it. It could easily be one of the most shocking things if it’s your first time here. Thanks to impeccable Dutch architectural creativity, the commode inspection shelf allows you to inspect what your body has just released before flushing it off to the sewers. It does take time to get used to it. However, this practical solution was created to detect diseases or health issues by examining stool samples. Peek-a-boo at the Kraken!

Why Don’t the Dutch Use Curtains?

"We have nothing to hide". One of the most popular theories stems from the Protestant religious tradition of Calvinism. They insist you have nothing to hide if you’re an honest citizen. However, closing the curtains would naturally signify the opposite. So, when the Dutchies let you peep inside their homes, they say, "look, if you like, I’m a decent person!"

Why is The Freezer So Small?  

You may expect to find a small fridge and a freezer, often a smaller version of what you are used to in your home country. Some fridges have tiny freezers on top of them, or there may be no freezer. Suppose that is the case, and a freezer is essential to you. In that case, we recommend buying an external freezer to plug in somewhere else in the apartment.

Why are There Light Wires on the Ceiling?  

In some unfurnished apartments, no light fixtures are installed before the tenant moves into the apartment. This means electrical wires will hang down from the ceiling or behind a small cap. The tenant (or an electrician!) can then use those wires to connect their light fixtures.

Why are There Mice in Amsterdam?                  

In some countries, mice only appear when the home is filthy or in a bad part of town. However, mice can be found everywhere in Dutch cities - most often in properties near the water and in the older parts of the city. For example, Amsterdam includes popular places such as the Canal Belt, De Pijp, Jordaan, and Centrum. The older the building, the more hiding places and access points for the little rodents. Keeping your food in containers and cleaning up all crumbs still help to deter the mice, though! It may also help to get friendly with a neighbour who owns a cat and can lend it to you from time to time to chase away the mice. If you fancy owning a pet mouse, you know where to leave the kaas.

Is It a Microwave, Oven or Both?                  

Many apartments in the Netherlands come with a microwave oven/combo to save space. This means that you basically have a smaller oven that has both microwave and oven capabilities.

Why is There a Difference in Water Pressure?            

The higher the floor, the more likely the water pressure will weaken in the older and more traditional buildings.              

So, the First Floor is Actually the Second Floor?              

In some countries, the ground floor is the 1st floor, meaning one floor is called the 2nd floor. In the Netherlands, the ground floor is the same as floor 0. Which means that one floor up is the 1st floor and so on.

Why is There a Big Hook in Dutch Houses?

Due to the narrow stairs and hallways, the easiest way to move more oversized items into your new home is often through a window by using the hoist beam (the big hook) found on the outside wall at the very top of the building. Sometimes, house movers will use a crane / moving lift/cherry picker to hoist your belongings into your flat - they are required to get a permit to park on your street. You will need to give the movers a copy of your rental contract for them to obtain the permit.

Why are There So Many Roman Numerals and Letters?                  

Most apartments are listed using a mixture of numbers, numerals and letters. So, for example, it could be as 242 ii or 5b. Roman letters are specifically used to mark which floor the apartment is on.

Do I Need a Special Permit to Share My House?

The government now requires that landlords have a special permit if they allow three or more individuals of more than 1 household (couple, family) to live in one apartment. It doesn’t matter if the apartment has one bedroom or five; there needs to be a permit before 3 or more people from different households can live or register there. This rule does not apply if the people living there are family members, so if it is your partner and child, that is not a problem.

Our housing partners, Expat Housing Network and VK Makelaars prioritise finding you a house that feels just like home. Indeed, that will also come with a few quirky characteristics. We’d love to hear all about it!

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