Accommodation Options in Germany

We brought your apartment-hunting expectations to ground level back in our May blog, Finding a Place to Live, by preparing you for busy house inspections, confusing abbreviations and a lengthy list of requirements. Now having prepared you for the hard work of becoming a Mieter (renter), we thought it was time to showcase the different types of accommodation options in Germany. And, like the list of weird abbreviations used for apartment listings, there is also a specific set of lingo around the different types of accommodation.

 

 

House with blue shutters

Image by psaudio via Pixabay

 

 

Although Germans can be seen to take pride in their homes and gardens, often using the weekends to visit the local Baumarkt to spruce them up, owning a house in Germany is not as widespread as you may think. Particularly in the bigger cities like Munich or Hamburg, the average cost of land and construction can even be double or triple that in the United States. With only around 40% of Germans owning their own home, it is extremely normal to rent rather than to buy.1 But, as a student living on student wages, the thought of buying is no doubt far from your mind. The most popular options for student accommodation vary from renting a small apartment, sharing one apartment with a couple of other students, living with a host family, or staying in a student dorm of a university.

 

Private Apartment

A private apartment sounds like a dream – no battles over who has to take the trash out, clean the toilet, or vacuum the floors, and as much uninterrupted couch time as you like! But, because renting can be expensive in Germany, this is not always achievable. Your own apartment will probably cost you on average about €350 per month in a smaller city, but up to €600 in the expensive city of Munich.2

The types of apartments you can find will vary from fully-furnished, to completely void of any sign of life (not even a light bulb!). It is also more difficult to sign a rental contract for a whole apartment – you will most likely need to already be in Germany to meet the landlord, after you have a bank account and all your registrations already set up.3

 

Pros

Cons

Private

Quiet

Lots of space

Own kitchen and bathroom

No difficulties of having to share with others

Most expensive option

No social activity at home

Self-responsible for setting up and paying for everything (internet, electricity, phone, etc.)

Cannot move out so easily – usually need to stay for at least a year

 

 

Student looking for apartment

Image by sasint via Pixabay

 

 

Wohngemeinschaft (WG)

Shared accommodation is a popular option; over 30% of students in Germany live in one!2 Typically, you would be sharing one apartment or house between a few other renters (perhaps even only one!). Everyone has their own bedroom, but the kitchen, bathroom and living room are shared. Rent and utility costs (internet, electricity, etc.) are also shared. What’s great about this option, is that you have your own bedroom to study, chill out and sleep in, but then you also have other people to talk to when you are craving some social interaction. With this option, you will probably pay an average of around €280 per month.3, 4

 

Pros

Cons

Own bedroom

Affordable

Easier to find than other accommodation options

Social interaction / opportunities to meet people

Sometimes already furnished

Kitchen and bathroom are shared

Potential conflict amongst the housemates

Can be loud

Not very private

Rules amongst the housemates for cleaning, taking trash out, etc.

 

 

Studentenwohnheim

Student residences are the cheapest form of accommodation for students, being subsidised for both national and international students.4 Every university has some student accommodation to offer, however their capacity and level of comfort will vary from place to place. While rent varies depending on the included furnishings, how old the building is, the location and the size of the room, the average rent is around €240 per month2. Over 40% of international students in Germany live in student residences, as it is hard to beat the combination of low costs, good location, and good opportunities to meet like-minded people. Because they are so popular, there can also be long waiting lists to get a room.2 If you think a student residence is the best option for you, theb you should apply for a student dorm as soon as you receive your notification of admission from your German university. The Studentenwerk (Student Services Organisation) is usually the body that will then process your application.3

 

Pros

Cons

Very affordable – the rent usually includes all utilities

Close to university

Own bedroom

Social interaction / opportunities to meet people

 Furnished

Very competitive to get one – waiting lists can be up to 2 years!

No private kitchen (a communal kitchen exists)

Sometimes no private bathroom

Can sometimes be loud

 

 

Students on couch

Image by StartupStockPhotos via Pixabay

 

 

Host Family

Staying with a host family is another option, albeit less common, that should not be immediately discarded. While it can be a little trickier to find a suitable host family, it offers a completely unique experience in that you will be living directly with a German family. This means that you will probably learn German faster, live the German lifestyle and be shown the best parts of a city that only a local would know. Some universities and even language schools offer help in students finding a host family to stay with.

 

Pros

Cons

Learn German faster

Become immersed in German culture

Help with finding your way around the city

Home-cooked meals and a family atmosphere

Affordable

Potential life-long connections and friendships

Potential difficulties in getting along with the host family

Can be personally challenging when the culture is entirely new for you

Not very private

Expectations around cleanliness and house rules

 

 

So do you want a private apartment where you can focus in peace on your studies, take a long bath whenever you want and watch whatever TV shows you want; or do you want to be a part of an everyday German lifestyle, meet new people and be open to whatever new opportunities come at you? Sometimes the money you save by living in shared accommodation may not be worth it if you have to travel large distances to reach your university. Alternatively, the extra money you pay for renting your own apartment may not be worth it if you find you are having a hard time meeting new people.

 

The differences in rent price are only one small dimension of the different accommodation types in Germany. There’s no harm in trying a couple of different options if your first home doesn’t work out perfectly, but just remember that the type of accommodation never guarantees what kind of life you will have living there – the people, the neighbourhood and your everyday behaviours will all influence what kind of experience you have.

 

 

References:

  1. The German Way 2017, ‘House and Home’, The German Way & More, https://www.german-way.com/for-expats/living-in-germany/house-and-home/ (last accessed 10 June 2017).
  2. Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (DAAD) 2017, ‘Finding Accommodation’, Information for Foreigners, https://www.daad.de/deutschland/nach-deutschland/bewerbung/en/6222-finding-accommodation/ (last accessed 10 June 2017).
  3. Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (DAAD) 2017, ‘How To Find Accommodation in Germany’, Study in Germany: Land of Ideas, https://www.study-in.de/en/plan-your-stay/accommodation/finding-accommodation_26611.php (last accessed 10 June 2017).
  4. Just Landed 2017, ‘Student Housing’, Germany, https://www.justlanded.de/english/Germany/Germany-Guide/Housing-Rentals/Student-housing (last accessed 10 June 2017).