- Officialization 1: WTF comes next?
- Officialization 2: Accommodations <– You are here
- Officialization 3: Health Insurance
- Officialization 4: Matriculation
- Officialization 5: Registration
- Officialization 6: Bank Account
- Officialization 7: Student Visa
The first step in my quest to be allowed to stay in Germany, is to find accommodations. With accommodations comes die Wohnungsgeberbestätigung (proof of address from the landlord) document that I can take to das Bürgeramt (citizen’s office) to register myself as a resident. After that, I can get a visa.
At the start September, I was placed in temporary housing in the das Wohnheim (student dorms) through my intensive German language program. These dorms aren’t like US dorms where you share a single bedroom with another person. Here, you get a small room to yourself with your own bathroom and a tiny kitchenette. (Honestly, it’s more of a kitchenbox… a tiny 2 burner stove with a minifridge under it and a sink next to it.) I also have a door that goes out onto a small patio. In my case, the room is also furnished, so it comes with a bed, desk, armoire, shelves, some end-tables and chairs. There’s coin-op washing machines in the basement too. It’s loud on party nights, but otherwise ok.
Unfortunately, it is competitive to get. I applied late, so it doesn’t look like I will get a dorm placement for the school year. Therefore, I’ve had to start the search for an apartment. My primary search method has been emailing people on WG-Gesucht, which is the easiest site to use with the biggest selection of WGs (shared flats).
Many problems are the usual. Firstly, I’m trying to balance cost, cleanliness, and, of course, location. Google maps doesn’t show it, but there are actually bus lines everywhere that come every 20 mins to an hour depending on the bus. But despite this, and despite the fact that the whole area really isn’t that large, it seems like it still takes 30 minutes to an hour to get most places outside of the direct city center, whereas by car it would take like 15 minutes. (I hope later I can get a bike.)
At first, I also had some difficulty finding a proper map of the bus lines in the area. I took a phone pic of a slightly outdated map and was using that for a while. However, I eventually found a huge, detailed pdf when I googled for Liniennetz-Plan von Saarbrücken. Additionally, there’s an app from SaarVV called Saarfahrplan that you can use if you already know the names of your stops.
Apart from the language barrier, which I’m managing to muddle through, the biggest hurdle I’ve had is that all the students like me are looking for rooms right now, making this process very competitive. At some of my appointments I got interviewed to see if I was a good fit (like in the movie l’Auberge Espagnol, haha). One place sent me an email later saying they found someone else.
I guess I should have started booking appointments to see rooms before I even got here. This town is small. So small, in fact, that a classmate and I who were looking at the same time, happened to have independently made appointments in the same night for the same place within 30 mins of each other, which we only realized afterwards. What would have happened if we both wanted it?
Yea, it’s definitely a seller’s market in terms of rooms. In total, after sending over 70 inquiries, I managed to get in to just 7 or 8 viewing appointments. Many had major flaws. One I saw sucked because it had 6 people sharing one itty-bitty dirty kitchenette and bathroom, and there were no landromats nearby. Another wanted me to pay a deposit before signing a contract– haha, I’m not stupid (plus, I heard later from a local acquaintance that he is known as a bad landlord). Another wanted a copy of my official documents (passport, matriculation certificate)– why do you need this at this point? A third was super cute and had everything you could need (including a Turkish grocery next door) but it was 30-45 minutes away via two buses. A fourth was nice (with two other comp sci people) and in a perfect location, but it’s not available till November.
It might be a long ways away, but this process right now makes me super concerned about next year when I am supposed to go to Italy and do it all there, because I don’t speak a single word of Italian– at least I’ve got a bit of crappy German (and many Germans speak English incredibly well, too).
In the end, it turns out my department at the school knew someone who had rented to students before, and I lucked out because I was the first to hear about this, so I should be signing the documents for this later this week. This place is tiny (14m sq), and there’s only a kitchenbox like in the Wohnheim, but it’s cheap (€225/ month), and absolutely perfectly located (right between the school and the town, so it’s 10 mins by bus from either). Plus, I really don’t have any better options right now. I guess I should feel lucky… a friend alerted me to the fact that it seems many students across Germany can’t find housing right now.
In any case, I’ve learned a bunch of new German vocabulary about renting.
- das Wohnheim – student apartments
- die Wohnung – the apartment
- WG (die Wohngemeinschaft) – shared apartment
- 2WGer, 3WGer, etc. – a 2-person WG, a 3-person WG, etc.
- die Lage – the location
- in der Nähe – nearby
- weit – far
- mieten – to rent
- der Vermieter – the landlord
- der Mieter – the renter (me)
- die Miete – the rental fee
- der Mietevertrag – the rental contract
- die Kaltmiete – the rental fee not including utilities
- die Warmmiete – the rental fee including utilities
- die Nebenkosten – the utility fees (heat, water, but possibly not internet)
- der Strom – electricity
- die Heizung – heating
- das Wasser – water
- die Kaution – the security deposit
- die Besichtigung – the viewing
- der Termin – the appointment
- der Besichtigungstermin – the viewing appointment
- die Verfügbarkeit – the availability
- sofort frei – free right now (ready for move in)
- frei ab … bis … – free after … until ..
- der Kühlschrank – fridge
- der Herd – stove
- der Ofen – oven
- der Elektroherd mit 2 Platten – electric stove with 2 burners
- die Waschbecken – sink
- die Spülmaschine – dishwasher
- die Waschmaschine – washer (clothes)
- der Trockner – dryer (clothes)