by Niall Doherty

Hello from Amsterdam!

I arrived here on Friday morning on an overnight bus from London, and it’s been a hectic few days trying to get settled. But here I am typing this up on a Monday morning in my own funky apartment. The place is nothing too fancy, but it’s a 15 minute walk to the city center, works out cheaper than a decent hostel, there’s free wifi, and a hammock in the front room.

All in all, I’m pretty chuffed 🙂

In recent weeks I was told by quite a few people that it would be impossible to find an apartment in Amsterdam, especially since I’m on a tight budget and only plan to stay for about two weeks. Of course, those people turned out to be wrong, and I’m really glad I didn’t believe them.

But I would say that my approach to finding this place was a little unorthodox. I did try the usual things like looking on Craigslist and supermarket notice boards, but what worked for me in the end was just walking around the city and talking to strangers. Whenever I got chatting to someone, I’d let them know that I’d just arrived and was looking for an apartment. Within a few hours I had a solid lead, and that turned out to be golden. The next evening I viewed the apartment and moved right in.

A few things I believe helped:

  1. I used Wandering Earl’s tips for negotiating the rent. So I’m only paying about 60% of the asking price, but it’s a clear win-win for me and the landlord.
  2. I have a good story. Would you rather rent an apartment to just a random boring dude, or the guy who’s traveling around the world without flying?
  3. I connected with like-minded people. The conversation that led to this apartment happened at a vegan smoothie place fronting a gym. I doubt I would have had so much luck chatting to the employees at McDonalds.
  4. I didn’t panic. Even though I arrived in Amsterdam with no accommodation arranged, I trusted that I’d figure something out and everything would be okay.
  5. I’m not too fussy. The apartment is far from a palace, and the mouse I’m sharing with doesn’t even chip in on the rent, but more than enough boxes are checked for me to be happy.

The importance of eye contact

Consider eye contact number six on the above list, but it deserves more than a bullet point. It’s something I’ve been conscious of and working on recently, and I believe it helped immensely when I first met with the landlord and we were sussing each other out. A year ago I don’t think I would have been able to look him (or anyone) in the eye consistently, and I probably would have come across a lot less trustworthy as a result.

In turn, I felt comfortable trusting him because his gaze rarely wavered.

Maintaining eye contact is actually pretty easy when you’re listening to someone. The tricky part is to do it while you’re talking. Even when you’re talking to a camera and not a person, like I am above, it can be difficult to keep looking straight ahead.

Three simple tips for stronger eye contact:

  1. Be honest. It’s hard to lie while looking someone in the eye.
  2. Practice. Just being conscious of your eye contact can make a big difference.
  3. Don’t go overboard. Look away every now and then so you don’t come across creepy. Or psychotic.

And of course, eye contact is pretty important for flirting, too. But more on that another time 🙂

Do you look people in the eye?

Are you pretty good with this, or does it make you uncomfortable? How do you feel about others making eye contact with you?

Fading out with a pic of me in the aforementioned hammock.