Saturday, 21 February 2015

4 housemates and a cat

Finding a place to live in Stockholm was what I worried about the most when the plan to move began to take shape in my head. The Swedish capital is notorious for having a housing problem, rents even for a small room are steep (as is everything in Scandinavia) and not being able to visit before moving in didn’t help matters.

But there is hope! I have now found a little furnished room in a small townhouse in the Bromma neighborhood, just north of the city center. From what I understand, it’s a decent residential area, surrounded by forest and water, only a 15 minute stroll from the royal Drottningham castle. I will be sharing the house with two girls who are studying in Stockholm as well as the elderly landlady, her son and their cat Milla. The house has a big new kitchen that we all share, and I have access to a washing machine, towels, bed linen, and really anything else one might need at home.

Where to look

I did not have the opportunity to fly to Stockholm and look at places or local print listings before the move. But let’s be honest, I would have Googled for places either way. The internet is your friend: since most affordable rooms and apartments in Stockholm are sublets – you’ll have great difficulty finding a place straight away that you can rent first hand – sites like blocket.se (free), bopunkten.se (free) and bostaddirekt.com have tons of listings by private citizens looking to rent out their own rentals.

It is also a good idea to peruse Facebook groups such as THSHousing, which is where I eventually found my room in Bromma. Especially if you are looking for a room or small studio, it is a good idea to check university and student groups, as places offered up here tend to be owned by landlords who have rented to brand new Stockholmers before and enjoyed the experience.

Googling in Swedish may enhance your chances of finding something, so be sure to include the search terms bo (live), hyra (rent), bostad (housing), lägenhet (apartment) or rum (room).

Good rules of thumb

Whether the room I found for myself is actually as good as it sounds, I of course cannot say until I’m actually there. I went into the search with low expectations, realizing that I just needed to find something, anything, and potentially move again shortly after arriving in Stockholm. When you’re moving to a new city, this is just good sense, really.

Also common sense? When responding to ads online, try to find out as much about the person as you can, try to get something in writing from them, do not transfer them any money before you go see the place unless you think you absolutely have to. In other words, do everything you can to be sure they’re legit.

When I messaged the girl who had posted about the room in Bromma, I immediately saw on her Facebook profile that she was German like myself. We chatted back and forth, she added me as a friend on Facebook and I could check out more of her details, we set up a Skype date, we Skyped and she gave me a quick tour of the house during which the landlady also talked to me for a while, and they sent me a rental agreement by regular mail, which also meant I had their names, address and bank info. The combination of all of this did make me feel like they were very much trustworthy and serious about renting the room to me.

My budget is very, very low as I do not have a job as of yet, so it was clear to me from the beginning that I would search for a room, rather than a whole apartment. It’s common, and quite understandable, that landlords and owners would rather rent out apartments to people they can meet beforehand and who possibly even have an income history in Sweden – both of which I could not offer. I’ve shared apartments and I’ve shared a single room with a person I’d never met before so it’s not a problem for me. And if you’re new to a city, it is of course a big advantage to move in and instantly have a new family! Although, to be honest, I am most excited about finally, FINALLY getting to live with a cat.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

“The Miniaturist” by Jessie Burton | #15in2015

The three most important things you need to know about “The Miniaturist” by Jessie Burton are: that it is set in Amsterdam of the 1680s, that it deals with feminism and homosexuality, and that it is nothing like you would expect.

And really, what more do you need to be enticed by a book?

This is not a Review Of A Book, it is only a byproduct of my wanting to read more books this year, #15in2015, because reading is important and I didn’t do enough of it last year since I was “busy” doing God only knows what, so I wanted a change.

In “The Miniaturist” things change, too. Swiftly and mercilessly. 1686 in Amsterdam is a brutal but exciting time. The trade hungry, God doubting Dutch are a force to be reckoned with, as church and tradition struggle to keep a tight lid on their capital city.

It’s a good mix, this debut novel, of historic accuracy, contemporary issues that are still relevant today, strong characters and a bit of magic. And yet it took me a good 120 pages to really get into it, to be invested in the characters and to call this a page turner.

That is what it is, though, once it grabs a hold of you – a page turner.

The historic realities of a largely female household that exists in the middle of Amsterdam’s wealthy trading district reveal themselves to the reader alongside heartbreaking insights into what it means to desire who the church (and thus, society) have deemed to be the wrong person, all the while following an intricate main character who grows and falters, grows and falters throughout the book.

“The Miniaturist” is not what I expected. Don’t be put off by what you hear or read about it, it’s so much more. I highly recommend it.