Whether you’re moving to Germany for work, love or simply because you think German is the sexiest language in the world, one thing everyone has to go through is finding a place to live. Depending on where you’re moving to (and often pure dumb luck), this can take anywhere from a few days to several months.
Many people rent a short-term apartment through Airbnb or Wunderflats when they first arrive to buy themselves some time until they can find something more permanent. Another option is to take a room in a WG (Wohngemeinschaft) or shared apartment. This can be a great way to make new friends, or meet complete psychopaths, dependent again on how lucky you are. If you’re fortunate enough to share an apartment with Germans, they can help you with the mountain of bureaucracy you’re about to face and also move your rubbish to the correct bin. The recycling system in Germany can be pretty bewildering for newbies but Germans enjoy teaching people things, so you’ll probably only make each mistake once.
If you’re ready to start looking for your own apartment, the most important thing is to make sure you have all of your documents griffbereit (at the ready). Germans just love paperwork as you’ll quickly realise and having it all to hand can give you an edge over other, less organised souls. Most landlords will ask for the following:
If you’ve got your suitcase of documents ready, it’s time to hit the internet. There are various websites you can search, immobilienscout24.de, immowelt.de and deutsche-wohnen.com being some of the more popular ones. Also keep an eye on social media sites as people often post rooms or apartments to rent there. To find an apartment in Berlin can be particularly tricky, so find some great tips on Settle in Berlin or on Ocyan.
Germans don’t use the “bedroom system” like some countries so a 1-room apartment is a studio, 2 rooms is a bedroom and separate living space, etc. Bathrooms and kitchens are a given, so they’re not included in the room count. However, don’t be fooled by the word “Küche” (kitchen) in an advertisement or you could find yourself standing in your apron looking at a blank space where the kitchen should be. A funny thing about the Germans – and there are many – is that they often take their kitchens with them when they move to a new apartment. (They sometimes also take everything else down to the sockets and flooring, but you’ll figure that out for yourself pretty quickly.) In Berlin at least, kitchens must have an oven and a sink, in other states, only the water, gas and electricity outlets are provided, so your housewarming dinner party might be a bit of a bust if you’re not aware of this. Or you could have a “raw” dinner with warm wine – maybe your new friends will think you’re quirky. However, if you’d prefer a place with a fitted kitchen, make sure that the ad specifically mentions an “EBK” (Einbauküche). Fully furnished apartments here are as rare as Germans who don’t like beer.
As a general rule, you should earn three times the “cold” rent (Kaltmiete) and the deposit is also usually three times the Kaltmiete. After forking out that amount of money, you might be a bit short on cash to furnish your new pad. Ebay classifieds (Kleinanzeigen) can be a goldmine for picking up furnishings and fittings on the cheap or sometimes even free - you often just have to organise collection yourself.
And that’s about it! All that’s left to say is enjoy your new home here in Deutschland – and no, that baking paper doesn’t go in the paper bin. Rookie mistake…
Heard horror stories about people being ripped off by locksmiths? Unfortunately, it does happen as Linda O’Grady, co-author of “From the Bürgeramt to the Bedroom” found out. So that the same thing doesn’t happen to you, read our 4-point guide to finding a reputable locksmith at the end of the article.
The good news is that the number of burglaries in Germany is decreasing - and around half of all burglary attempts fail. Unfortunately, that means around 50% succeed and you could be in the unlucky half. Read on to find out what you can do to protect yourself and your belongings from burglars.
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