How do you end up living in Zuid as a student? It was an easy choice for Marketing Management student Marieke van Rossem (21) who has been living there for about eighteen months now. Her parents helped out by buying a house where she could live with her friends.
Even though a group of students is living there, the house smells as if it has just been finished. Sitting at the large dining table in the newly-built house, she says: “One of the advantages of living in Zuid is that it is cheaper than a lot of other neighbourhoods, so we have quite a lot of space for the five of us. We’ve got a huge garden, for one thing, which is really nice in the summer.”
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She still had her doubts before she moved to the Tarwewijk, despite the roomy house. “I had a few preconceptions about living in Zuid: too far from the centre, a bit sketchy and not a lot of students live there. But in actual practice, it’s not so bad. I can be on the Witte de Withstraat in fifteen minutes by bike, so that’s hardly any farther than when you’re coming from Kralingen. It is true that there aren’t many students living here, but since we moved in during corona, I haven’t really noticed that yet.”
Because of the pandemic, Marieke and her housemates have done a lot of walking this past year. A wonderful way to get to know the neighbourhood. For instance, Marieke often walks to Katendrecht, which is on the opposite side of the Maashaven. We leave the dining table and go out for a walk together. “Before I came to live in Zuid, I had never been here,” she adds. “Even though it really is a beautiful part of Rotterdam. The Deliplein is packed with outdoor terraces that are on par with those in the city centre. A bit farther on, in front of Hotel New York, there is a grassy spot where you can sit whenever the weather is fine. Thanks to the Maastunnel, the park next to the Euromast is also close by, so it’s great for long summer evenings.”
When asked if they sometimes took walks in the other direction towards Zuidplein, Marieke had to think for a moment. “No, not just to go for a walk”, she admits. “I don’t feel unsafe there, but it is a bit more rundown and there are more tramps, for instance. There are some cool Polish supermarkets and a lot of smaller shops though. I also like the variety of what’s on offer and what’s in the neighbourhood.”
Although only a few students live in Zuid, that doesn’t mean that the community spirit amongst the neighbours is any less. For instance, Marieke noticed that chatting on the street with people happens pretty easily. “When we were working in the garden, it was quite a chore to move the sand from the street to the backyard of the house. Neighbours kept on asking us if we needed any help and people would stop by for a quick chat.”
Sociology student Dies Hagen (21) recognises that sense of social cohesion. He has been living in Zuid with his girlfriend for two years now. If the weather is good, on Sunday afternoon he moves the television and a few chairs out onto the street to watch football with friends, which invariably leads to some very amusing situations. “Not a game goes by without people from the other side of the street loudly asking about the score, or someone walking by and stopping to see how Feyenoord is doing. Often, someone who’s just come from the Polish supermarket offers us a beer, ha ha!”
'Cargo bike moms'
Dies did not hesitate for long before settling in Charlois. The affordability of the area soon made it an attractive option, and the preconceptions disappeared like snow in the sun when he and his girlfriend Sophie came to live there. “Sophie’s mother said beforehand that she really shouldn’t cycle alone, but in reality, the place is teeming with cargo bike moms on a weekday.”
Around the corner from Dies it is an oasis of calm. The courtyard with the old church in the middle feels almost village-like. Sitting on a bench, he continues: “Our shared garden was still a bit of a worry, because what if you don’t get along with your neighbours? But even that fear turned out to be unfounded. A gay couple lived next door to us with their dog and we got on really well with them. Actually, it’s getting better and better here. Since the demand for housing in Rotterdam is skyrocketing, you notice that Charlois is becoming part of the city more and more.”
The improved access to the city that the Maastunnel provides is evident in the neighbourhood. Whereas until recently,shared scooter rental companies did not operate in Zuid, these days you can also find them in Dies’s neighbourhood. “The advent of shared scooters makes it a lot easier to quickly get into town, just as the Maastunnel helps as well. A lot of my friends are studying at Erasmus MC, and you can get there in no time via the tunnel. When it was being renovated, the city felt a lot farther away. So, just like other students who live in Zuid, I make good use of the option to go and have a beer in Het Park whenever the weather is nice.”
He doesn’t miss the student life in Kralingen that much, helped by the fact that he is living with his partner and that some of his friends live in the neighbourhood too. Kralingen is a bit of a bubble, he notes: “I often talk to a friend from Kralingen about the differences between our neighbourhoods. While he finds Kralingen a very pleasant place to live, it still feels like a white bubble to me. Not really a reflection of how incredibly diverse Rotterdam is. You have that here, and I find it much more interesting and nicer as well.”
Besides, it is certainly not a punishment to live so close to the Maas River, where you have a fantastic view of the Rotterdam skyline. Less than five minutes’ walk away, you are standing on the bank of the glittering waters of the river, with the S.S. Rotterdam and the Euromast as the main eyecatchers. “Of course, there are some rough edges here and there, but you will always have those in a city. But if, for example, a refrigerator all of a sudden ends up in the middle of the street, I actually find that kind of charming.”