‘Dutch only’: international students have difficulty finding a room

‘Dutch only’: international students have difficulty finding a room

Hundreds of international students in the Netherlands are homeless, according to the Dutch Student Union. They are forced to sleep in hostels, on camp sites or sometimes even in cars. This year a record number of 112.000 international students study in the Netherlands. Even though they are all looking for a place to stay, lots of Dutch students exclude them from a chance of housing by posting ‘Dutch only’ housing advertisements. Why don’t Dutch students want an international roommate?

Earlier this year, international student organization Erasmus Student Network (ESN) and the Dutch Student Union launched a ‘Housing Hotline’: a place where internationals can share their issues and questions on their housing situation. Last week they received a lot of worrying messages through the Housing Hotline. Vytukas Fourth, international student on Tilburg University, is currently trying to find a home. She says ‘Dutch only’ housing ads make finding a house hard. “From my perspective, almost 80 percent of housing ads are ‘Dutch only’. That’s strange, because a lot of international students are studying here.”

According to Elisa de Klerk, Tilburg University’s housing officer, Dutch only ads are not a new phenomenon. “I think the general problem is that there’s a shortage of student houses, which makes housing already hard for Dutch students, but even harder for internationals.”

“We receive a lot of angry messages from internationals who think ‘Dutch only’ ads are discriminating”

Why ‘Dutch Only’?

A Dutch Tilburg University student lives in a ‘Dutch only’ house. “We receive a lot of angry messages from internationals who think ‘Dutch only’ ads are discriminating. But we have several reasons why we do not want international housemates.” Most internationals only stay in the Netherlands for a year, she states. “We have big house with many rooms, so there’s already a lot of coming and going of people. By not letting in any international students we hope to keep a grip on the situation.” De Klerk disagrees: “Lots of international students are here to do a full Bachelor or Master. These students are often willing to learn Dutch. They often want Dutch roommates, so that they can really get to know the Dutch culture. It’s a pity that these students don’t get a chance to make that happen.”

“In the past we have had international housemates. But we have experienced that internationals and Dutch students do not really bond, both because of the differences in culture and language. Some of our Dutch housemates have trouble with the English language, it’s hard for them to communicate with international housemates”, says the TiU-student. The language barrier is also a problem for Tilburg University student Stephan Krijger: “I don’t think my housemates would feel like talking English all the time.”

“I don’t think my housemates would feel like talking English all the time”

Advice for internationals

De Klerk advises international students not to take it too personally: “The market is flooding with new incoming students and because student houses are getting a lot of responses on their Facebook posts, they try to limit them by making a distinction between international and Dutch students. Often they think that you won’t be able to come to ‘kijkavonden’ or they assume that you will leave within six months. If you decide to write to a house which is advertised as Dutch Only, make sure you write a nice message about yourself, what you study, your hobbies, your background and how long you will stay in Tilburg. This might make them more open to invite you!”


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