It's a strange feeling to be congratulated on getting an apartment rental. However, it is customary to do that when someone buys a house. The situation in the Netherlands is different, though. There has been a massive influx of knowledge workers into Brainport, a technology region of Eindhoven.
If you’re not familiar with Brainport, there's a saying that goes: “Amsterdam has the airport, Rotterdam has the seaport and Eindhoven has the Brainport.”
It all started with global company Philips in 1891, and since then, Eindhoven has become a magnet for high-tech companies in Europe. But the housing has not kept pace with the population, resulting in a severe shortage, and prices have gone through the roof.
When I moved from San Diego to Eindhoven, I expected to save money, starting with the rent. That was looking further from the truth. One look at the website of Holland2Stay, a popular property management site, exposed the problem. There were over 50 applicants for every listing, and a lottery drawn on Sunday would choose the lucky winner. I kept applying each week, only to be met with recurring disappointments.
When I moved from San Diego to Eindhoven, I expected to save money, starting with the rent. That was looking further from the truth.
I had already looked at other apartments. The typical procedure was to send in an introduction, followed by a scheduled viewing of the apartment (if you heard back), and then a selection based on the applicants. I was told that working at ASML, Europe’s largest technology company, would help. (The landlords were biased, but they never disclosed it.) But I was a fresh Californian import, without any reliable Dutch history, so favouritism didn’t work in my favour. One Turkish girl—who had also recently moved to Eindhoven to work for ASML—told me she had even complained to her manager that the house hunt was taking a toll on her work. I was in the same boat.
My morning ritual was to surf all the popular websites and give the agents a call right away. If you waited till the end of the day, there would already be many applicants. I looked outside from my office desk at the perpetual construction on the ASML campus to accommodate the new hires. I wondered why they couldn’t build some residential apartments in the same complex.
Then, one morning, I woke up and had to rub my eyes because I could not believe what I was reading: I was selected in the Holland2Stay lottery for one of their loft apartments. It was ironic that I did not get selected in the lottery that mattered a few months back for the H1B work visa (which would have kept me in the United States). But here was a consolation prize—beating a Spanish girl who created three accounts to increase the winning probability. The price was perfect and the location was right in the city centre. I was overjoyed, but I still had to do my homework. So I joined their Facebook group and spoke to a few people who stayed there. In the end, I signed the contract.
On a free walking tour of Eindhoven, the guide lamented that housing prices were increasing because companies like ASML kept hiring foreigners who arrived in the Netherlands with their families in tow. I was not in the mood to start a discussion about colonialism, so I let that pass. There were housing quirks that were unheard of elsewhere. A colleague told me she had to buy the floor from the previous tenant. “What does that even mean?” I asked her. She explained that the custom was to strip the floor of material: wood, concrete, laminate. “Why would anyone go to the trouble of doing that?” I wondered.
Around Eindhoven, the construction of skyscrapers around the old European-style houses was in full swing. It was an eyesore, but Eindhoven, with its industrial history and damage done by the Second World War, could be no different.Add this article to your reading list