Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Rental agreement clause

The rental contract we signed last week was very similar to the ones I've signed previously.  It included clauses like: No pets; No painting the walls or altering the apartment without authorization of the landlord; etc.  But there was a new clause that I'm guessing is rather Netherlands specific.

Special Provision 19 states the following:
Het is niet toegestaan om hennep en/of aanverwante gewassen te telen dan wel om andere activiteiten te ontplooien in het gehuurde die in strijd zijn met de Opiumwet.

Which translated, means roughly:
It is not allowed to grow hemp and/or related crops or to undertake other work in the rental unit at variance with the Opium Act.

And it had never even occurred to me.

Then we were wandering through the flower markets today in Amsterdam, and found the following.

I really love how it's tucked in among all the bonsai tree seeds.  Relaxing and meditative in very different ways...


Pindakaas:  known in English speaking countries as peanut butter.
But pindakaas actually translates into 'peanut cheese', so in our
household it has come to be called PandaCheese.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Two steps down, ? to go

So--we have a house!  And we registered* with city hall!  Now we just have to do something that involves IND (which I think has something to do with immigration) and get a stamp in our passports, and then go back to city hall and they'll put through our paperwork to get a BSN (think social security number) and then in two-ish weeks we'll get that in the mail, and then we can finally get a bank account.  Hopefully that will be sometime before Dan's first pay date, as we got the impression they'd just 'hold on' to his money until we did manage to get an account.  And then we can finally get cell phones**.  WHEEE!

*This is going to seem absurd to all you Americans, and probably the Aussies reading too.  In Europe (at least Germany and the Netherlands, and Russia--though that seems like less of a surprise) everyone has to register where they're living with either the police station or city hall (it depends on the city).  To my paranoid self, I can't help feeling this is an invasion of my privacy--which is absurd as I always had an address on my driver's license and probably one attached to my library card, and the government would have no problems finding me if they wanted to, but registering still seems really strange.

**When people have been asking for our phone number, we've either given websites that demand one our defunct Aussie one, or just explain to actual humans that we don't have one yet.  It's worked all right so far...

But back to the house!  It's this amazingly large place where Dan gets to have a work space and I get to turn the dining room into my sewing room (which means we will have plenty of room for guests), and there's a garden in the back which looks like it's doing fine growing on its own so I'll only have to do light gardening, which I think will suit just fine.  Also, I think it was built in the 1930's so all the detailing is fantastic and it has character!  Plus it's fully furnished so we don't have to worry about finding cheap places for furniture and then sell it all again in two years.
Photos will be posted soon and you'll see why (we think) no one rented it yet--our bathroom is a bit ridiculous.  But we don't move in until Friday, so you'll just have to wait as a description just wouldn't do it justice.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Domtoren in Utrecht

Photos of the Domtoren, as promised.  We didn't actually take a photo of the entire tower, but the last photo shows the top third of it.  It's currently the tallest structure in Utrecht, and has been since 1382 when it was finished, though there is currently a proposal for an apartment building that's causing some controversy because it would be taller than the tower.  In the late 1600's a really bad storm took out the back half of the church, so now there's a gap between the tower and the rest of the church.  You don't really see how odd it looks from the ground, but it's clear from when you look down from the tower that part of the church is missing.
The bells ring every 15 minutes, and we got to be in the bell ringing room (I don't know what it's actually called) when the 5pm bells rang.  It actually wasn't as loud as I was expecting, though the floor vibrated nicely.  The large bell near the bottom is for the ringing of the quarter hour and the smaller bells above are for playing tunes on the hour.  On Saturdays at noon there's always a longer song played by a special bell ringer.  Our guide told us her repertoire includes everything from Bach to Michael Jackson, so that would definitely be interesting to hear.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

We've arrived - obviously

So as I'm sure it was made clear by yesterday's post, we're no longer in Western Australia.  We left there only 3.5 weeks ago, but it feels like at least 6 weeks.  From Australia we travelled to San Francisco for a few days to catch up with some friends and eat as much nostalgia food as we could.  Then to Chicago to visit my parents, where I slept for much of a week (chest infection) and we desperately got the last of the visa stuff figured out (more hangups with beauracracy).  Then to Pittsburgh for a few days with Dan's family, where I got to see the Cubs completely trounce the Pittsburgh Pirates, and we arrived Amsterdam last Tuesday.  From there it's been, well, you read about that yesterday.

But today was/is Dan's birthday, so we had a fun day.  Travelled to Utrecht, one of the cities outside Amsterdam we're looking to settle in, wandered around, ate lunch at a really nice little cafe, climbed 400some-odd steps to the top of the Domtoren (the bell tower of the main cathedral), and saw the new Bourne movie.  A much better day.

Photos may go up tomorrow.  It's too late tonight.  :)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Everyone says it'll be an adventure, but the truth is it's going to suck a lot first

I feel as though I'm living in the book "If You Give a Pig a Pancake", which is extremely similar to the more commonly known "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie", but I've read the pig one recently so I'm going with that.  In it a girl gives a pig a pancake, and he then wants syrup, gets sticky, wants a bath, somehow ends up trying on all her clothes, some other stuff involving a fashion show, and then builds a treehouse, using glue which gets him sticky again, which reminds him of the maple syrup so he wants another pancake.  It's one of those books.

Or maybe it's more like a version of the song "There's a hole in the bucket dear Liza, dear Liza", if anyone actually remembers all the verses.

There are very few things I think I really need right now.
--a place to live
--a bank account
--and a phone would be nice, though Dan needs it more as he's used to having internet on the go and I can just call my parents on Skype if need be.

So here's how my (somewhat reverse) version of the pig book goes:

Ultimately, I need a cell phone.  Before I get a cell phone, I need a bank account.  Before I can get a bank account, I need a rental contract, I think to prove that I actually live here.  I also need something called a BSN which is a personal registration number that all people who live here need to have.  Also before I get the BSN I need a rental contract.  So housing is the number one priority.  But in order to find a house, you basically have to sign up with rental companies in order for them to pay any attention to you, and to do that you usually need to enter your phone number.

And that's the short version of the book.  There are other branches that tie in.
--We tried to get a Skype phone number, which you can do for a bit of money, but you need to be a resident of the Netherlands and have info that proves that.  Does anyone know if Skype was designed by the Dutch?
--Apparently, you're supposed to get your BSN within about a week of being here.  But finding an apartment is supposed to take 'at least a few weeks'.
--You need to have health insurance that kicks in before you start work.  On the application, they need your BSN.  Dan doesn't start work until 1 Oct, which gives us two weeks yet, but we are no where near to finding an apartment, so it seems he may have to start work later, or get paid under the table, I'm not really sure how the Dutch handle that one.
--And here's the one that really has me scared, though it doesn't quite fit the pig/pancake model.  The Dutch housing market is TIGHTLY controlled, it seems to be so no one gets a place they can't afford, or someone who makes a lot can't get a really cheap place, those are saved for people who make less money.  There are also often restrictions on how many people can live in a place.  Places around 750e (e is standing in for the Euro sign, as I'm not sure how to insert it in blogger and I'm on a rant and don't want to take the time to look) or under seem to be only for one person, though this (I think) is often at the discretion of the landlord (apartments around 750e in the places we're looking are often small 1 bedrooms).  So many of those are not for us.  But many places, so that the landlord knows you can afford the rent, often have the caveat that you make 3-4 times the rent amount, but this seems to be an unwritten rule and completely up to the landlord.  If a landlord wants 4 times the rent in monthly salary, we could afford a place for 625e (net) (it seems they want net and not gross).  So there's a clear problem there.  If a landlord wants 3 times the rent in monthly salary, we could afford a place for 830e (net).  So our window is really small for rent cost--750-830, but again this ruling is only explicitly stated in a few places so I have no idea if the places we're looking at online are even available for us to rent, which is really frustrating.  I feel almost as if the Dutch are telling Dan that he doesn't really make enough to keep two people on his salary.  That he doesn't make enough to have a wife who doesn't work--when of course I really want to work, I just probably won't be able to as I will never be fluent in Dutch in the time I'm here, or the fact that all jobs go first to EU citizens (which I do agree with as a sound rule, it just sucks for me), so the only museum job I may be able to find is as a tour guide to Americans here on vacation, and I think I'd rather shoot myself--maybe just a pinkie toe off or something not too vital, but I'm pretty sure I'd still rather shoot myself--and that's taking into account the fact that Dutch hospitals don't believe in pain medication (though that's probably another post).

So congratulations if you made it to the end.  And if any of you have the desire to comment, if it's anything positive or encouraging or how to solve my problem (unless you actually know, like literally), keep it to yourself.  I'm in a bitching mood, so if you have any stories that you want to share about how your life is absurdly complicated at the moment, I'd LOVE to hear about it.