If only moving home were this straightforward

Moving sucks. And not just the packing and physical moving of you, your loved ones, and all of your belongings from place to place part. That part sucks, but we’ve done it already, at least. So it’s already faded as a concern.

However, there’s another part of moving that I had forgot to put into my reckoning; I’d neglected to get a big picture understanding of the full suckiness of the process.

It comes even before the months long reset of life rhythms and routines on the other side, the unloading and the turning of your new space into a new home. The finding out where your plants are happy, and the nearest spot to buy cheap vegetables.

It’s the hunt. The househunt.

Humankind survived on hunting (and moving from place to place) for thousands and thousands of years. It was a hardscrabble existence to be sure, but we honed our hunting skills – of both food and shelter. We, as a species, got good at it.

Now that humankind has generally settled into a less-than-nomadic existence, our hunting of homes has become something that happens much less frequently. Our instincts are dulled. And most of us don’t hunt for food either. As a species, we’re plain out of practice, hunting-wise.

This lack of practice is not helping me in my current situation. For I find myself not just up against my loss of hunting instinct, but also a confusing and frustrating Amsterdam rental market. The situation here is not ideal for those with high expectations and low amounts of money. Because the flats are generally not great – and expensive. Yes, it’s got me down – even the word in Dutch for rent – te huur – sounds like you’ve been kicked in the stomach.

And yet necessity dictates that we must hunt. Survival demands it. So each day, instincts dulled, we look at the same ads for the same overpriced flats.

Humans used to carry clubs and househunt on instinct

And the Dutch housing system is weird too – agents ‘camouflage’ problematic flats by relisting them (thus having them appear as ‘new’ when they’re not) Plus other flats are rigid on price, despite having gone unrented for months. Even aged as they are, these flats are too mighty to be taken down by our meagre financial tools.

Some photos will show up in ads for places at different locations ( a process known as ‘mimicry’), which makes me suspicious. This at least allows my instincts to kick in.

I suppose I’m getting better, my long-dormant instincts kicking into action, my experiences helping me make snap judgements and avoid costly or dangerous traps and predators. But still I wish there was a way round this.

And there is. It’s renting in the social housing sector, where flats are super cheap, with great rights for tenants. The only catch is the ten year waiting list. That’s right: ten years.

I don’t have ten years, I have about ten days, until the guy we’re subletting from returns and wants his room back. And then we’ll really know hardscrabble living.

And so the hunt continues and intensifies.