A student’s new home – finding a WG

roomsforrent

WG in German, or its long name “Wohngemeinschaft” is a common term in a student’s life in Germany when it comes to searching for a student apartment or accommodation.

WG, termed as ‘shared flat’, is actually a very good opportunity for students to live together, interact and share common facilities and interests… and even more so (in my humble opinion), if one has the opportunity to live together with German local housemate(s). Why? More to share in my future posting.. ūüôā

There are zweck-WGs (purposeful WGs) , where housemates share a common idea or intention e.g. to reduce expenses, but may not be interested in getting to know each other more than that. Until today, sometimes it puzzles me when I read most advertisements for¬†keine zweck-WGs (non-purposeful WGs) as it sounds a bit confusing and conflicting with the thought that people staying together in a community want to get to know each other (by sharing common interests and doing common activities together)… hence then, why is it then deem ‘non-purposeful’?

If you’re interested in reading a little bit more about WGs, there is an article on the Internet:

This German Life: The Perfect WG

Back home in Malaysia, renting a place doesn’t sound as tough. As a student, one could always look out for advertisements with phone numbers on bulletin boards, through recommendations of friends, or parents can even help their children to find apartments/rooms through contacts or agents. It’s normally an abundance of choices, and as long as the prices, location and a quick peek around the room seems good enough and agreeable to both parties… it’s possible to move in almost immediately.

Ever expected that even before moving into a student’s apartment in Germany, people need to make an appointment and be “interviewed” first?

What? Really? ¬†Even if a person has the financial capacity to pay for the room on the spot,¬†seems to be good character and easy-going, and agreeing to the terms of the contract… but it may still be a “No”? ¬†In Germany, the houseowners or housemates want to see you in PERSON. Interviews via skype may be possible, but there is still no deal until the face-to-face interview is successful (this seems to be the case from what I hear).

With the advancement of technology and a popular website such as WG-Gesucht, I found a long list of advertised rooms for rent with various availability periods, brief descriptions of the location/property, preferences of housemates (male/female) etc.  Apart from a typical advertisement of the room, location and facilities, people living in a WG want to find a community of people living together, whom they feel could jive well with each other.

Apart from WG-Gesucht, another popular website to  search for places to stay: Immobilienscout24.de

So, apart from the location, price of rent, number of housemates, facilities… it feels like a¬†game where we (being the prospective tenant) has to HOPE that the other housemate(s) or in some cases, even the Landlord likes us ¬†BEFORE we can even think of getting a chance to live in the WG. ¬†From my own personal experience, I have sent so many messages to WG-Gesucht advertisements ending up in wane, or even totally zero replies. This can be quite dishearting it causes anxiety for students, whom may be counting the days down to flying to Germany, but with the possibility of having no permanent roofs over their heads as yet.

Just try to imagine a scenario: A student about to embark on his/her journey to Germany in a few days’ time hopes to have a list of WG options and plans to arrange different appointments (or ein Termin) to visit these WGs one after another, with the hope that at least ONE would be a successful agreement. And to top this, School starts in a week’s time, and the student visa was only granted just in time to allow flying into Germany a mere 1 week earlier – to find an accommodation, settle in and get familiar with the surroundings and prepare for school. ¬†Wow. This was¬†the situation I found myself in.

It is a pretty well-known fact that housing is quite a challenge in Göttingen as it is a University town and every student rushes for opportunities to get into a WG.

Having these in mind, it seems that I would require more effort (to apply as many WGs early) and to some extent, plenty of luck in narrowing options down to finally get one.

I could only keep my fingers crossed.

Knowing that it would b challenging, my own accommodation search started at least 3-4 months prior to going to Germany. Even then, it was tough because replies back were minimal and many times, total silence. Some people say that if one was to write in English, the chances of getting into a WG would be lower (most of the time, there are no replies or feedbacks at all). Requests made in German were noted to have a slightly higher chance of getting a reply – whether it was a “Yes” or “No”.

A close shave…

In my case, after sending out so many¬†application requests, there was only 1 reply from one WG (when time was running out… countdown of days to go before I depart to Germany). Just one and the only one whom agreed to meet me.¬†

The day came; I hope the person I would be meeting is nice… and most imporantly, I hope she likes me! ūüėÄ ¬†

sprechensieenglish

Sprechen Sie Englisch?” seems to be the phrase that gives me a green light to pave way for more open conversations with people (due to limited German back then). During this WG visit, I was greeted with a smile at the door and this lady (whom became my housemate for the next couple of months) said “Yes”.. and everything else worked. We clicked, talked and shared stories for 3 hours that very morning… and I moved in almost immediately over the weekend!

Today I may be able to laugh about it… however, back then – the experience was¬†daunting. Fortunately, all plans should always come with back-up plans for alternative housing arrangements (e.g. hostels on a longer term with options for free cancellations, or some back-up airbnb options). This also proves that one can plan as much possible, but there can be many situations where plans are not within our control too!

*Rule of thumb: Start searching for accommodation really early, especially if you want to get into a WG and experience how it is living in one. If you are a student at the university and you have the support from Studentenwerk (German National Association for Student Affairs), that’s a big blessing! They can probably assist you with some housing arrangements and give you a fairly better start. And if you want to get into a WG, probably try to write in German? Different people may have different opinions about this suggestion, but when one is desperate to get a reply, perhaps give it a go? ¬†Well, my German was really basic when I started… there are always tools to help like Google Translate, that helps a lot (it’s not perfect translation, but it is so useful especially in the beginning of your language journey to get the message across, at least)!*

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