Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Dutch's national sport.


 No it's not ice-skating. Neither is swimming. Nor biking. It's DIY-ing. Destroying your home to make it yours. The Dutch take so much pride in personally fixing their homes that whenever you visit someone's house for the first time, it is generally accepted to ask for a tour of the whole house while the owner proudly explains everything they did with their own hands. They have huge warehouses filled with all kinds of construction material, readily available for the average customer. In Mexico, you would get this kind of material at small, specialized shops, one for paint, one for screws and tools, another one for plumbing material, etc. Here you get everything in one huge American-style shop and they have several chains of those. If you go on a Sunday, you might get extra discount so it's always full of families ready to DIY on the weekends. They even sell stroopwafels in case you need extra energy while working.


My brother-in-law just rented an apartment and the whole summer has been spent fixing it. At first I was in great shock that ALL this work would go into a place that is rented. Shouldn't fixing it be the responsibility of the owner or agency? Who am I kidding, I am still in shock and it is taking what seems like every second of our free time (with the exception of birthdays and meet ups with friends that had been planned beforehand, thank God for those). It is quite the cultural shock... to spend SO much time, effort and money on a place that is not even yours. Anyhow, it seems like the place he rented had only been inhabited by an old lady and it had not been renovated since the 50s. There was old flowery wallpaper, most of which was damaged, stains on the walls... no stove! And to top it off there is no floor. Yeah. When you rent an apartment in The Netherlands people take the floor away and sometimes the curtains and the kitchen too (even if those are often customized to the exact meausurements of the apartment). So there has been scraping down the old wallpaper, painting doors and window frames, putting up new wallpaper.... choosing the floor, changing the toilet seat and the piping under the sink... It seems like the never-ending story, and it's not over yet.

This cute bird appeared while taking the wallpaper away.

But this is only a shock for me. This is perfectly normal in the Low lands. How is it in your country? Are you allowed to make such drastic changes in a rental apartment? Are you supposed to do so? Or do you just choose a place and move in with your stuff (maybe change some minor things... like I was used to?).

27 comments:

  1. That is wierd, if we are renting there is little you can do to change a house/ flat. And why would you want to when you don't own it so when you move out you don't benefit from the changes.

    German friends of ours say similar though that people don't buy homes until they are much older and so the rental laws are different and people stay a long time in rented homes so decorate how they like them.

    xox

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    1. Yup exactly... you invest so much, and then you have to leave. But like other commenters explained below it seems to be the case in Germany and Austria too, with people staying very long in their rental homes.

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  2. Wow thats my house one year ago! I had just as much renovation stiff to do and I hate (excuse my hars words) the person that took out the floor, because it costed a small fortune to put in my own.
    I must say I haven't always put in this much effort for the places I rented. But this is my 'sort of settling down place' I expect to live here for around 5 years so I like to feel comfy.
    Furthermore I think that there are 3 other factors to takes in account. We are busy bees and like to plan everything to the ma. So a lot of people have DIY as a hobby so they cab do some more work in there spare time.
    Number two is nesting. Everyone takes pride in their little nest, you won't see that many impersonal homes here even if people only life somewhere for a year or 2.
    Third is pretty simple and not very romantic, high wages. It is very expensive to hire someone to do the stuff for you, so people try to do most of the stuff themselfs :)
    God luck! I hope the hose doesn't have 'verborgen gebreken'

    Xx

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    1. Excuse me for all the typo's my touch screen phone and I are not the best of friends ;-)

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    2. Yeah, you summarized it pretty well, specially with the high costs of labor. And also about how people take pride on their nest. The floor though, I really do not understand as it would be unlikely that it fits somewhere else.
      (And don't worry about the typos).

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  3. We just got home from two weeks of renovation "holiday" in Denmark - gutting the 1950s kitchen in our wee flat there and installing a new one. On a tight schedule! I'm exhausted! But at least we know it's ours (we rent it to my BIL) and any financial benefit will be ours (although I'm sad we don't get to live in it after all that work!)
    And why oh why would a tradition of taking the FLOOR evolve?! Surely it's rarely going to fit in your new place...?

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    1. Yeah, the floor thing is really weird, but very very common.
      That is so exciting that you finished with the kitchen, now it is fully yours and you can be proud of it !

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  4. Taking the floor is extreme. In Canada apartments come with the flooring and kitchen appliances firmly in place, although it wouldn't be uncommon to paint or wall paper, and blinds are often left to the individual tenants.

    Heck, if someone sold their house they'd still leave the flooring in place. Isn't flooring usually somewhat ... fixed?

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    1. I am not an expert but I think it is kind of easy to take the floor, it is wooden and they just lift it up at parts, or maybe they just glue it on some corners.

      It is nice that you get kitchen appliances :)

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  5. Glad to see you back from your blogging 'holiday', I've missed you!

    This is a conversation my Austrian husband and I have had so many times. Renting in Canada, you'd generally find the place 'as is', and most people wouldn't go to a great deal of effort in renovating a rented flat, simply because they probably won't be there indefinitely (as most Canadians' aspiration is to buy sooner than later). In Austria and Germany it's the same as NL; people may stay for decades in the same rented flat, and kitchens and decor (right down to flooring, paint, window treatments, etc) are often the responsibility of the tennants; but on the up side, you also get to put your own stamp on a place, even if you're renting. Here in the UK, they are often very anal about what a tennant is allowed to do, which sometimes means you can't even hang anything on the wall. It can end up feeling quite impersonal.

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    1. Oh thanks :)

      Wow you really understand how it goes on diferent countries... Canada sounds similar to Mexico. I am not sure how I would deal with not being able to hang stuff on the walls. I remember while living at a students residence they changed the rules after me (it was a small residence) because I filled the place with posters, apparently no one had ever done it before and it was forbbiden ever since... all you got was a small cork bulletin board.

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    2. Yeah, that's even before you count the differences I've encountered in countries like Portugal, Iraq or China! (ALL of which are more generous than here...) ;)

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  6. Welcome back! Here in the states you generally don't stay in one apartment for very long: 2-3 years probably max. It is definitely an as-is deal. You can usually get permission to paint the walls but that is about it. Even then sometimes the landlord makes you paint it back before you leave.

    We're now landlords and if our tenants wanted to renovate at their own cost, I'd be happy with it. Heck, I might even pay for the materials if they were willing to do the work :)

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    1. Yeah, I think if the landlords were paying for the materials, that would make more sense. As it is, for instance, BIL will have to get a stove + oven and obviously he will take it away when he leaves. It would make more sense to me to have it there permanently.

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  7. Welcome back!

    Here in Canada, we would never do all these renovations to a rental! Sadie is right, we only plan to stay for a short while and wouldn't want to spend so much money on fixing up someone ELSE's place.

    We bought a small house and a few people have asked us how we plan to raise a few kids in here, they think there isn't enough room. My husband grew up with a large extended family all crammed into a house smaller than ours growing up in Santiago. It's all a matter of what you are used to I guess.

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    1. Exactly my point... you are fixing someone else's place and it's not exactly easy.

      As for the space, I think it is relative, I mean, children can share a room up to a certain point and I think it teaches you things in life :)

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    2. Canadians are accustomed to having SO much space, that I think it's often hard for them to imagine the conditions that people in other countries find really very acceptable and comfy. Even here in Europe, apartment living is very typical and the rooms can be TINY! People in other cultures spend less time in their homes, more time in public space (especially in warm countries) and in those circumstances, you just don't need so much space...I agree with Amanda that it teaches you another perspective and how to 'manage', both social relationships and material conditions!

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  8. yo soy partidaria de tener casa propia, pero por ejemplo aca en Italia es carisima.....en colombia la mentalidad es comprar .y la verdad hasta ahora que vivo en alquiler no me parece necesario invertir en algo que no es tuyo, menos por que ya das mucho dinero cada mes en el alquiler que se pierde mmmmm, se puede personalizar la casa usando muebles y cosas asi una mano de blanco basta...es mejor gastarte el dinero viajando....

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    1. Exacto, invertir en algo que no es tuyo es lo que me impresiona más... pero creo que tiene que ver con que la gente se queda mucho tiempo en los apartamentos de alquiler. En este caso no se podía pintar blanco y listo, porque había que quitar el papel tapiz que estaba dañado y manchado...
      Pero definitivamente estoy contigo, prefiero mil veces viajar!

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  9. Welcome back! I definitely missed reading your blog. With that said, I have to say I'm in shock too! I'm all for making where you live your "own", but that's why there are decorations and furniture! I'm already paying rent, I'm not going to go and pay so much more money fixing it and renovating it, that's the owner's responsibility, not mine. Not to mention that here most rental places won't even let you paint the walls unless it's a neutral color or you're just retouching the exciting color. THEY TAKE THE FLOOR??? Whaaaat?

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    1. Yup, exactly, as I understand it it should be the owners responsibility, but this is apparently not the case here. And the floor thing is just... amazing.

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  10. Well, most private market Dutch rentals come with floors and blinds / curtains. In policy they're a lot like US style rentals.

    It's only 'social housing' (that a large group of Dutchies lives in) that comes 'bare'. Because of the subsidized rent rates and the often very long period of tenancy (leases are practically indefinite, with very limited rent increases per year), it works better to have people choose their own floors and window dressing. It's not uncommon for people to wear out the carpet more than once during their time in the same house.

    I've not heard of not having a functional kitchen or a bathroom in a social rental house before, though, although you are allowed to 'upgrade' the ones the house comes with.

    I am surprised your brother in law is leaning so heavily on you, though. Hope he pays you back generously with tasty dinners and an offer to help you renovate in turn!

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    1. Those are some interesting clarifications, that I did not know about. And it is true that people stay at rental apartments for very long periods of time.

      There is a bathroom, but the boys decided to change the pipes under the sink, I think they were not in optimal shape. I was also surprised there was no stove either.

      I do hope we will get some tasty dinners :)

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  11. Esto es lo que más me chocó de Holanda (yo también vivo en las Nederlands, concretamente en Rotterdam). Yo tampoco entiendo por qué invertir tanto esfuerzo en un piso que no es tuyo. Pero bueno, es la forma que tienen ellos de hacerlo ;)
    Un saludo!

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    1. Wow, en Rotterdam, entonces estamos relativamente cerca! Y sí, al final son costumbres, pero vaya que nos parecen raras.
      Saludos!

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