The hunting of houses is a delicate affair. Houses are particularly variable creatures, adapting their characteristics to suit local conditions. Many a seasoned hunter has confidently applied proven hunting techniques, only to discover that his target was a variant invulnerable to his methods.
The Dutch student house, a genus including the species of apartment, room, studio and share house, is notoriously elusive. I was advised that the beast was most commonly taken out through attrition, that is to say persistent, repetitious and consistent applications of force aimed at its weak points, designed to bring the animal to a point of exhaustion where it would no longer be able offer any resistance. As an outsider to the Dutch Student Housing tribe my status as a hunter in this field was precarious from the outset. However, I was determined not to let the odds overwhelm me. With my trusty tools internet, email, and Google Translate, I set about studying my prey.
I soon identified a weak specimen that seemed susceptible to the weapons in my arsenal. It was a fully furnished room in a share house and had a penchant for international students, though it was only a twelve-month solution. I launched my initial attack, and in the beginning it looked like I had taken it down cleanly. However, the animal regained some measure of strength and retaliated with every bureaucratic instrument available to it. I launched a continuous barrage of emails and phone calls, and my application reached the stage of “Room reserved – confirmation pending.” The brute was under siege, and now all that was left was to wait until his strength failed him and I could claim his pelt as my own.
As I was congratulating myself on my tactics, a movement at the edge of my vision caught my attention. Another beast was close by, drawn out by its taste for music students. One glance at this new quarry told me it was a much greater prize. A sound proofed and refurbished self-contained studio in the House of Music, more than twice the size of the other, unfurnished, but mine for the duration of my studies. Mine, as long as I could outmanoeuvre the 8 other hunters with their eyes on it. With my window of opportunity closing swiftly, I fired of a single hasty application, unsure as to whether I had even hit it, let alone if mine would be the arrow that defeated the proud beast.
Weeks passed, and still I knew nothing about the ultimate outcome for my body and belongings once I arrived in The Hague. Then out of the blue, I received notification that my arrow sent at the retreating flank of the House of Music had been blessed indeed. All that was left for me to do was mark it with my signature and make the ritual sacrifice of a few hundred euros, and the kill could be claimed as mine. I made a cursory check on the state of my other prey, and was shocked to discover that in my absence it had relinquished the fight, and my status had gone to “Confirmed and definite”. The plains that support the Dutch student house were plagued by drought and the creatures becoming scarcer by the hour, yet here I was with two! Generous hunter that I am, I walked away from my share house, leaving it free to be taken up by any surrounding international student scavengers. I had an apartment in the House of Music, what need of it had I?
And how has my musical apartment turned out? Find out in the next thrilling instalment, tentatively entitled “Refurbished is a Strong Word”…