How I ended up in Amsterdam

As you might have heard in one of my previous stories, I lived in Amsterdam before and I didn’t really like the city. To me, it’s an over-expensive cold place where you’re usually flatmates with rats. You might wonder, how did I even end up in this place? Well, I’m gonna tell you? Ok ok ok?

This story starts on a regular Friday in January of 2017. I was crushing it at a food startup in Antwerp living “la vida loca”. Together with some other crazy people, we decided to go for some after-work drinks in one of my favorite places: plein publiek.

I used to be quite into the television show “How I Met Your Mother, especially the over eccentric character ‘Barney Stinson’. He would just hang out in a bar, knot on the back of a pretty lady, and ask “have you met Ted?”. I thought it was a great way to start a conversation or to make an evening more interactive.

So, we’re at this fancy place and girls are looking really gorgeous, and I as I have no manners whatsoever, start harassing some girls asking them if they had met Rutger. “Haaaaaaaaaave you met Rutger? Haaaaaaaaaave you met Rutger?” Surprisingly enough, many of them hadn’t met him. I know, unbelievable right?

As the night continues and Rutger starts to get rifted up by this insanity, we eventually end up with two Dutch ladies. I ask one of them my question “Have you met Rutger?”. They also hadn’t met him, can you imagine that? One of them actually starts to have a conversation with Rutger. My job as a wingman was done.

Although… This other, by coincidence, even more beautiful lady was standing there alone now. I felt like I had to engage with this incredibly attractive young woman, not because I wanted to, but I felt like I had to, you know?

We started talking and talking. I asked her where she lives and works, like the typical questions out of the book. Apparently, she lived in Amsterdam and worked at some travel company with the name “Booking.com”. I told her “that’s amazing” as I kind of started to like this human.

The evening progresses and we keep talking about stuff, I honestly have no idea if Rutger was still somewhere around. We went outside for a smoke, well in my case, watching her smoke. All of a sudden it’s like 3 am in the morning, she meets again with her friend and before I call child focus to find Rutger, I want to give her a proper goodbye.

As I get a bit druu… emotional, while showing my puppy eyes, ask her “are we never gonna see each other again”. I don’t know if she liked me or felt bad for me, but she gave me her Facebook and a little kiss. That was January 2017.

The story actually went a bit silent for a while. We sent a couple of messages back and forward during the next couple of months, but nothing special. One day I asked her if we could maybe meet in Amsterdam for dinner? And she was like “isn’t that like super far for you?”. I responded with a line I stole from the Plain White T’s: “A thousand miles seems pretty far, but they’ve got planes and trains and cars, I’d walk to you if I had no other way”.

We actually didn’t end up going to the restaurant and kept messaging each other once in a while.

Which brings us to June. I was at work when our boss walked around the office acting like he had something important to say. He started off saying “Do you remember this next round of funding we were trying to achieve?”. We were like sure, you were working on that right? “Yeah… we’re not gonna get it.”. It seemed like I had to look for a new job.

I could’ve replied to one or another of the billion recruiter robot people on LinkedIn spamming me with “amazing opportunities”. I could’ve moved to another startup in the same incubator. I could’ve started to sell my blood at one of the consultancy agencies in Antwerp. However, I decided to do neither of those and thought “Why do something regular? Why do something easy?”. My life wasn’t regular, so for once why wouldn’t I do something different?

I started applying for startup jobs in Amsterdam over the interwebs. I always preferred startups as the environment is usually nicer and there are fewer rules or structures. There were many professionals that could help me find a job and me being me, I ignored all of them. Instead, I left a lousy message on an Amsterdam startup Facebook page.

Only two days later, I was in Amsterdam doing my first interviews. They both wanted to offer me a job with a slightly larger salary than the one I had before. All of it sounded great, I almost immediately signed a contract to start a job only a few weeks later. Only one small detail: I still lived in Antwerp.

This was the first time I got introduced to the Amsterdam housing market, something I maybe should’ve checked upfront. Mainly because renting a small apartment would take up my entire salary. That was quite inconvenient, to be honest.
I tried several other things: I joined a billion Facebook groups for room sharing. For each room that was available, at least 50 people were interested. I tried agencies, who in the end totally ripped me off.

I was desperate, and eventually, I surrendered. I begged to terminate my new employment contract before it even started (well I actually got some help with that). That was not even the worst part. I had to message this one special lady “hey, sorry but the job hunt is not working out. I won’t be able to make it to Amsterdam”.

She replied, “oh, that’s too bad”. “But, if it’s something you might be considering, here at Booking.com, we’re looking for people”. “There’s even a graduate program,” she said.
I answered what anyone in my position would have answered: “What? You think I’m a graduate?”

I started the interview process at that specific company, but I was quite draining my savings and the process would take at least several rounds. Only a very limited amount of people were able to make it through. But if I would make it through, they would take care of the entire relocation. It was my only chance I got left if I still wanted to move to Amsterdam and quite risky at this point.

I went ahead, it was the only company I was doing interviewing at from that point forward. At some point, they asked my salary expectations and that got me nervous. This is where it went wrong the previous time. I didn’t want to sound greedy, but I also needed enough to be able to survive over there. The recruiter then told me that they have fixed ranges for everyone in the same role. The salary the company would give me would be almost three times as high as the other job.

If I passed all the interviews of course. A process that took almost a month in total. I did some interviews over video calls and each time after I heard the magical words “we want to move forward”. Each time it got me nervous, but each time I passed it.
Now that I got through all of these steps, there was only one more left: a set of onsite interviews in Amsterdam. All travel and hotel costs covered.

During the interviews, I got super nervous, cause this was my only shot. I got a lot of interviews that day. People asked me simple questions that felt quite hard to solve, to be honest. I was so stressed, sweat was dripping off of me. After lunch, I saw the recruiter that guided me through the entire thing. She explained to me “I already had a quick chance to talk to all the interviewers”. I couldn’t stand the suspense: “And?”. “We were overall positive about the interviews, we would like to make you an offer”.

That moment was literally insane, I just stumbled myself into one of the largest tech companies in the world. This felt like such an achievement, it was incredible.
I couldn’t wait to start packing and moving to the magical city of Amsterdam. I got a job there, and this company would help me take care of the rest.

Oh, and I hear you thinking “what happened with the girl?”
I kind of have to disappoint you here. A couple of weeks after I arrived in Amsterdam she told me “let’s just be friends”.

@dejakob

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