Part 2: the ‘hospiteeravond'
It cannot be difficult for a house with 1,233 Facebook friends to find new roommates. Ten shortlisted women students did their level best to win a coveted room in this spacious student house which comes with housing benefit and a tumble drier.
Things looks tense at first, with three silent ladies sitting in a row in the kitchen. Opposite them, JJ and a housemate, both with their arms firmly folded. JJ casts a glance at a lit-up noticeboard with the names of the applicants for the room. All women because, Herenstraat or not [Heren means gentlemen[, the sex ratio must ‘stay around the 50-50 mark'. Except for the bland music coming from the radio, the silence is nerve-racking. ‘Well', says JJ to candidate Noortje to break the ice, ‘You're in luck.' ‘What do you mean?' ‘I don't know'. Silence again.
Another housemate comes along. There's another round of introductions. ‘I am Vera', says Vera would-be-casually. She is studying Nutrition and Health, is in the first year of her Bachelor's and is staying at the Wielerbaan campsite. She really wants to get away from there, without wanting to make a pathetic impression.
Then there is Merel, a Master's student from Velp. ‘I did my Bachelor's there.' And now she has to commute an hour per day. ‘And Velp is just a dull village', she says, to underline how dreadful her situation is. ‘Even more of a village than Wageningen?' asks one of the established residents. ‘Yes.'
Third in the row is Noortje, a former Groningen student who is now living with her mother again in Heelsum. Only Anne, sitting a bit further along, dares to laugh out loud. But then this is her second ‘hospiteeravond' [an interview evening for candidate housemates] and she knows the Herenstraat from the parties. Why didn't she make it the first time? ‘Don't know, and I don't want to know. As soon as I hear what I do ‘wrong' I try to change and then I'm not myself anymore. And that won't be any use to future housemates.'
During the guided tour the atmosphere gradually changes. JJ cracks a joke - ‘we think of the environment here so we all shower together'- and tells them about the rent, which is reasonable thanks to housing benefit. They go downstairs. ‘The longer you live here, the more rights you build up to switch rooms', explains Mohamed. ‘And then we have a very equal system, you know: anyone can organize a party here.' Vera compliments the house on all its strong and weak points: ‘That disorganization appeals to me actually.'
It is during the meal (for which all the ‘hospiteerders' have brought a dish) that the ice really breaks. Noortje would be quite willing to use her car for a house outing to Berlin. The talk ranges over travels to distant lands, blowing bubbles and kangaroo balls. ‘They should go home now though,' says one of the residents, ‘before we get too fond of them.' It's time for the next group of ‘hospiteerders'. ‘And they were going to bring the dessert.'
The ladies featured in this article did not get the room at Herestraat 14.