At the end of 2013 I expected to be successful in a solicitation procedure for an information management traineeship in the Hague. I knew it could still turn sour, but I was curious what kind of house or apartment you could get in the Hague. I started looking and quickly came to the conclusion that the Hague was expensive for my taste. In Rotterdam however, you could buy a reasonable apartment for a much lower price. I was enthusiastic about the prospect of living on my own. I was still living with my parents because I hadn’t found work since I graduated. When I was told I wasn’t selected for the traineeship I was quite disappointed, with my expectations dashed.
Fortunately my amazing parents offered to support me. They could offer me a home loan of € 55.000 with 3% interest if I wanted to buy an apartment. I quickly decided to see the cheap apartments in Rotterdam I had been eyeing. In the end my choice fell on an apartment on the ground level with a small garden for which I paid € 60.000. I got bang for the buck when I compare this with other apartments in the same price class: my apartment was renovated in 2013 by the housing corporation which owned it. So it has a modern central heating system instead of a gas furnace and a very nice shower cabin.
The apartment did have one big issue: it had a wall separating the kitchen and the living room, which made both rooms very small. It was also detrimental to cooking as a social activity. The first thing I did was hire some handymen to take out this wall for € 2.900. It turned out the wall didn’t support the weight of the roof, which made the job less complicated. The removal of the wall resulted in a merged living room and kitchen, a big improvement.
While that was done my family and friends helped me with cleaning, painting, laying the laminate flooring and other work. I’m so grateful for their help, for without their skills it would have taken me much more time and money. While I’m good at assembling computers, I have little experience with do-it-yourself tasks around the house and couldn’t have done such a good job as they did.
The original kitchen didn’t include a cabinet with a built-in gas stove, so I got one second hand. My father, the master handyman, managed to elevate it at the same height as the original kitchen cabinets so that it blends in reasonably well. The fridge was a present from family members, the convection microwave is new. The kitchen takes up a prominent place in the living room, so I’d prefer a new kitchen with built-in appliances, but that will have to wait until I have the money.
The garden is important to me because I got used to having a garden at my parent’s house. It wasn’t maintained for quite a while, so I’ll have a lot to do when spring comes. I plan to sow grass and some flowers. With a few dwarf evergreen trees it won’t look like a wasteland in the winter. I don’t like the small balcony which separates my garden from the back entrance of my house, it’s ugly and occupies space which could have been part of the garden. I would have preferred a small set of stairs from the back door. Apparently it’s difficult to demolish the thick layer of concrete which constitutes the balcony, but we’ll see about that later. The garden has a small shed were I can place my bike safely. Right now the rubble from the former wall in my living room is still in my garden because it was cheaper if I got rid of that myself.
I chose to live in Rotterdam primarily because this apartment happened to be here. My opinion of Rotterdam hasn’t changed much so far since I lived here last time, when I studied at Erasmus University from 2006–2007. It’s okay, it’s not a bad city to live in, but it lacks the beauty and atmosphere of Amsterdam’s canal ring and Utrecht’s center for example. Rotterdam is praised for its architecture, which was apparently the reason for Rough Guides to mention it in the top 10 cities to visit for 2014. But you’ll only find that architecture near the city center and the Kop van Zuid, not in the Tarwewijk neighborhood in Southern Rotterdam where I live. There you’ll see the same 1930’s era apartment blocks over and over. I haven’t explored most of the city yet, but I simply haven’t seen a cozy square with cafe’s and restaurants at all. Something similar to the Tolsteegbarrière in Utrecht for example.
On the other hand, some of the finest Dutch beaches in the Zeeland province can be reached within two hours with the public transport. I live at a distance of 1,2 kilometer from the Zuiderpark, the largest city park of the Netherlands with 215 hectare. I feel that distance is just a bit too long to go running there regularly though, in that light it would have been better if my apartment was located a few hundred meters further to the south. Rotterdam also has some nice gardens like the Cultuurhistorische Plantentuin and the Arboretum Trompenburg, which I intend to visit soon.
I haven’t made photos of my bedroom and bathroom because the 35 mm lens on my camera doesn’t offer a sufficiently wide field of view to photograph such a small space. I should get a wide-angle lens for that.