Best places in Germany

Unlike many people think, Germany is not a grey, serious and rainy country but an interesting place to discover something new every day.

After a couple of years living here I have had the opportunity to visit not only the well-known German metropolis such as Berlin or Hamburg, but also small ancient cities and the countryside. If you are willing to come to visit Germany in an unconventional way (by visiting some “non-so-touristic” places) keep reading this post because this week it is starting the “Best Places in Germany” post series. Are you ready to discover this remarkable country?

Best places in Germany (of the week):

Monschau

The first time I heard about Monschau was in December 2014, when I friend of mine advised me to visit its Christmas market. Since I could not do that (it is worthier to visit it during the week, instead of during the weekends) I decided to give this old town a chance during the summer time.

Located nearby the Belgium border, Monschau preserves an ancient style, which provides this small city with a special charm. The city center is divided in two by the Rur river, consequently, the two parts of the city are connected by ancient bridges.

What to visit in Monschau

  • Christmas market

Although I could not visit it (not yet 😉 ) I can imagine the importance and the magnitude of this market, since one of the most visited places in the city of Monschau it is its Christmas store (open all year)

  • Castle Monschau

Most part of the castle is in ruins nowadays. Reused as a hostel after the IWW it is the perfect location to host summer concerts.

  • Market square

The heart of the city. Here the visitor can find restaurants, ancient buildings with flowerbox adornments and remarkable spots to be amazed with the mountains surrounding the city.

Heidelberg

Heidelberg is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Germany, as well as one of the most important student cities.

Ancient castles, narrow alleys, hilly streets  and beautiful parks and gardens are part of the landscape. Its university is the oldest in Germany and famous for its medical faculty. In Heidelberg, everything is within easy reach either on foot or by bike.

What to visit in Heidelberg

  • Heidelberg Castle

The castle, one of the most important renaissance structures, was started to be constructed in 1210 A.D. and, although, it has been destroyed several times due to different wars it preserves its ancient splendour.

It is worth to visit the main attraction of Heidelberg and it can be seen from each corner of the city.

  • The Altstadt

Down in the Altstadt (the old town) there are plenty of narrow streets and squares full of restaurants, stores and cafes. The main square, Markplatz, is a cute place where to enjoy a good cup of coffee or a Rothhaus Pils, one of the most famous beers of Heidelberg.

  • River Neckar

Having a walk along the River Neckar is always a good idea to avoid the crowds and to re-discover Heidelberg. The view from this side of the river is really cute and, if the weather is good, this area of the city is the best place for a picnic.

  • Alte Brucke

The Alte Brucke (Old Bridge) can be discover after passing through a remarkable medieval gate. The bridge dates from the 18th century and it is the most visited bridge of the city.

Düsseldorf

And last but not least, the beautiful city of Düsseldorf.

The capital of the NRW (North Rhine-Westphalia) Region reflects the development that this area of Germany suffered some years ago.

The old industrial city of Düsseldorf led to a modern, cosmopolitan city, centre of fashion, glamour and international businesses. Known as the german city of fashion, Düsseldorf has the honor to have been ranked as the 6th world´s best city to live in beyond other important cities such as Frankfurt or Berlin.

What to visit in Düsseldorf?

  • Mediahafen

To understand the transformation suffered by this remarkable city it is important to have a walk around its “Mediahafen”. The old port was rebuilt into a modern area full of international business, restaurants and hotels. Frank Gehry, in charge of this transformation, built the most emblematic buildings of this area.

  • Altstadt

The old town is the core of the city. Full of narrow, car-free streets is the best place to discover the ancient Düsseldorf.

  • Königsalle

Ready to have a walk surrounded by the best fashion firms of the world? Just visit the Königsalle.

Special tips:

  1. From the Rheinturm the visitor can enjoy a strinkingly view of the city
  2. Benrath Schloss (the palace of Benrath), located 15 minutes away from the oldtown by subway, has beautiful gardens and tasty home made cakes
  3. Bilk is the best area to enjoy a good meal under the sun
  4. Stadttmite is the place-to-be for sushi and japanese-culture lovers (more than 10.000 Japanese live in Düsseldorf, the largest community in Europe)
  5. An “altbier” tour should be compulsory ;). Do not forget to try the traditional Düsseldorf Beer!

Have you ever been to Germany? Which are your favourite places? Share your thoughts!! 🙂 

The Expat Tag

A couple of days ago I discover the blog “Going American“, written by Sandra, a girl from Zurich who has just moved to Boston.

Among her interesting posts I found out one called “The Expat Tag“, where she threw together a few questions, inspired by an expat tag she saw somewhere around, as a way to keep in touch with other bloggers. I found it a great idea, therefore I thought I might also give it a go.

So, Sandra, following you can find my answers:

1. Where were you born, where did you grow up and where do you currently live?

I was born in Spain and after living in different countries I ended up in Germany

2. What made you leave your home country?

Actually, I left my country due to curiosity. I wanted to see the world, to discover other countries and to meet new people. Some adventure is good from time to time 😉

What type of reactions do you get when you meet new people and tell them where you are from?

Usually people tend to tell me something in spanish; “hola”, “sangría” or “paella” are the most common words people say.

Another usual thing is to ask me about the weather; “do you miss the sun?”. They get really surprised when I explain them that the sun does not always shine in Spain.

3. What was the easiest/hardest part in adjusting to your new country?

Thanks to all the people I have met since I arrived here I got a fast and easy integration. I attended to german parties, I lived and met german people, I worked with germans… All this non-international atmosphere helped me to learn and to get used to its culture and traditions.

However, it took me a while to get used to german food. People here use tons of sauce when cooking, and, at the beginning, I found it really hard  since I am used to the mediterranean diet.

4. Images, words or sounds that sum up the expat experience you’ve had so far.

expat tag
Discover an amazing country

 

Expat Friends´ Trips
Expat Friends´ Trips

 

New flavors
New flavors

5. Your favorite food or drink item in your new country?

I love their cakes. I think germans really know how to prepare good cakes and to serve them good a huge cup of warm tea or coffee.

Regarding the german drinks, I must confess that I really like the Altbier (the traditional Düsseldorf beer). My favourite one is brewed in the Schumacher Brauerei.

What’s the one thing you said “yes” to in your new city that you wouldn’t say “yes” to, back home?

I think this is a tough question. Actually I am not sure about the asnwer. I think I have always tried to be myself regardless of where I live, however, I know I have exeperience an inner change since I live here but, sadly, I can´t give a particular example…

6. Are there any cultural norms/phrases in your new country which you cannot stand?

I know I shouldn´t say this but… Waiting for the traffic light signal to turn green. I have already get used to it, but my first months here were a chaos. I wanted to cross the street and keep walking all the time.

Nowadays the opposite happens to me. Everytime I come back to Spain I am the only person who waits for the signal to turn green… Upsss…

7. What do you enjoy most doing in your new country?

I enjoy discovering it.

Germany is a country full of contrasts. Each region has different food, cakes, beers and even a different way to talk German! I found it really enriching as an expat.


8. Do you think you will ever move home for good?

I don´t know… I do not like to think about it. If one day I feel I have to move again I will do it. If I never get that feeling I will stay here.

The best plan is to have no plan 😉

#expattag

Carnival season

carnival cologne germany

Carnival is one of the most important events in the NRW (North Rhein Westphalia) region. Probably you have already heard about the Cologne Carnival, the fifth season of the year, one of the most celebrated events in Germany. But, why do germans celebrate carnival in such an intense way? Which is the symbolism of this celebration? 

To answer these questions we need to understand that Carnival has been celebrated in cities such as Cologne from time immemorial, in fact, it is difficult to find more information regarding the first time that a Carnival celebration took place.

However, during the french occupation, leaded by Napoleon, these celebrations were suspended.

In 1814, once the french troops left the city of Cologne, its citizens reestablished the carnival tradition as a part of a German revival. In 1823,  the “Festordnenedes Komitee”, the predecessor of todays Festival Committee, was founded to “organize” the street festival, which was getting out of hands.

The same year, on the 10th of February 1823, took place the first “Rosenmontag” of the city of Cologne. Given its Christian roots the date of “Rosenmontag” is determined by the church calendar. It takes usually place the monday before Ash Wednesday.

Traditionally, the fifth season of the year, is declared open the 11th November at 11 minutes past 11 hour. At that time people stop working and the carnival celebration starts.

Does Carnival take place only in Cologne?

As I previously mentioned, carnival celebrations take place in the whole NRW region, due its catholic roots. Some other cities where to enjoy this festivity are Düsseldorf, Bonn, Aachen and Dortmund.

Although all of the above mentioned cities celebrate the same festivity (carnival)  each of them has its own carnival troupes, parades and celebrations.

How can I celebrate Carnival?

If you want to have some insights about carnival celebrations I recommend you to read the following posts:

5 Tips To Celebrate Carnival

Carnival vocabulary you should learn to do not miss anything

Carnival: The fifth season of the year

9 new German laws

Changes in Germany in 2017

New year, new challenges, new intentions and… new rules?*

Some things changed in Germany since January 1st. If you are living in this lovely country maybe you want to keep reading this post to understand what it is new in Germany.

* Post updated the 29th of May due to the new streaming law which entered into force on April 2017

1. Minimum wage

Although the “minimum wage” concept was implemented in Germany  in 2015, this is the first time that the amount paid to workers have increased. From the 8,50€ per hour previously paid, the minimum wage had increased up to 8,84€ per hour.

The minimum wage is also valid for minijobbers (Important: the income received for a minijob cannot exceed the amount of 450€ per month).

2. Public transport prices

Usually, public transport prices increase across the country at the beginning of the year . In 2017 transport tickets will cost on average between 2 and 2,5% more.

3. WIFI on trains

Germany is working slow but sure on integrating WIFI in transports and public buildings. Therefore the implementation of WIFI on high speed trains (ICE) are great news for locals and tourists.

Although both classes (first and second) will benefit from this decision, second class passengers will have a limited data volume.

4. Electricity bills

German electricity providers started the new year raising their prices around a 3,5% due to the increased subsidies for renewable energy (Germany is investing a huge amount of money to implement renewable energies nationwide), as well as due to the high costs of upkeep of power lines.

5. Bike riders

The year 2017 leads to a couple of changes on the behaviour of bike riders. Why?

Until now bikers could “use” the pedestrians´ traffic light when there were no own lights signs for cyclist at traffic light crossroads. From 2017 onwards, cyclists have to observe the light signals for car traffic.

Another important change is related to families. The new legislation allows parents to accompany children on their bikes on the pavement, up to the age of nine. Are you ready pedestrians? 😉

6. Pensioners

Whoever retires in 2017 will have to pay taxes on 74 per cent of his pension. Until now, the taxable revenue was equivalent to the 72 percent of the pension.

In the end, this means that only 26 percent of remuneration will be tax-free in the new year.

7. Assistance program 

While up to now only people with predominantly physical afflictions were considered to be in need of care, the new guidelines will also cover the needy with mental problems.

This also means that more people than before will receive benefits from the long-term care insurance.

8. Kindergeld 

The German government provides money to parents known as Kindergeld, which is paid monthly per child.

How much do parents received in 2016 per child?

  • 190€ per child for the first two children
  • 196€ for the third child
  • 221€ for every subsequent child

From January 1st the amount received per child has increased 2€. The increase is small but when talking about raising a kid every bit is welcomed.

The Kindergeld is paid until the child reaches age 18.

9. Grundfreibetrag

The “Grundfreibetrag” is the basic personal allowance, is a part of the income not subject to tax (a minimum subsistence rate).

From 2017 on the basic fare for single persons climbs to 8.820€ and for married people up to 17.640€. That means that Treasury deducts taxes on income only if it is above this amount.

10. Illegal streaming

 

Since the past month of April german authorities have determined that not only downloading is illegal in this country but also streaming.

The previously known as a “grey area” has turned into a completely prohibited activity, which is driving crazy to many residents in this country.

What can you do now?

If you did not have a Netflix or Amazon Prime account, it is maybe the right time to open one. Choose your favourite platform and start enjoying their series and films, because if you try to watch any serie or film in a free of charge platform you may have to pay a huge fee.

How much is the fine for streaming?

Although the existing information is not clear enough, according to Focus journal, the fine a user will have to pay vary between 5 to 10€ per streaming.

Has this law a retroactive character?

No, it has not.

However, if you were not aware of this new law I would recommend you to stop using streaming pages as soon as possible.

Christmas in Germany – The importance of the Glühwein

Mulled wine Glühwein

Christmas time is not complete in Germany without drinking a glass of Glühwein, the traditional warm spiced mulled wine every merrymaker enjoy as they walk along the charming Christmas markets. But, what does exactly “Glühwein” means? And, more important, which are the ingredients?

Glühwein

“Glühwein” means “glowing wine” and, apparently, its name comes from the hot irons that were formerly used for mulling (these hot irons are not longer used).

Although the most common glühwein is made with red wine, some marketers also serve “Weißer Glühwein”, which is made with white wine.

The recipe

Glühwein is usually made with wine, which is heated up and spiced with Glühweingewürze (cinnamon, cloves, star anise, sugar and orange juice or lemon). Sometimes people add a shot of liquor. That kind of drink is known as Glühwein mit Schuss.

Another variant of Glühwein is the “Feuerzangenbowle” (Fire Tongue Bowl). The recipe is the same as for the “regular” Glühwein, but for this drink a rum-soaked sugarloaf is set on fire and drip into the Glühwein.

A bit of history

The historic origins of Glühwein date back to when wine started going bad, but germans did not want to throw it, so they added some spices to drink it again.

The oldest documented Glühwein dates from 1420 and it is attributed to a German nobleman (Count John IV of Katzelnbogen), the first grower of Riesling grapes of the world.

Where you can find it?

Mulled wine GlühweinAs I previously mentioned, christmas time in Germany is not complete without drinking a glass of Glühwein at the christmas markets.

Glühwein is usually served in a limited edition ceramic mug. Inscribed on it you can find the name of the German city where you are, the current year and a christmas draw.

A glass of Glühwein costs around 3€ + Pfand (a small additional fee). If you want to keep the cute little mug as a souvenir of your visit to a particular Christmas market, you will lose the fee, if not they will give it back to you as soon as you return the mug.

How should you drink the Glühwein?

To be honest the purpose of drinking Glühwein is to warm people from the inside out, so I highly recommend you to drink it really warm. Once the Glühwein is cold it lose some of its charm and it can´t accomplish its main purpose. 😉

Furthermore, it is really common to drink a Glühwein while enjoying some traditional german specialities such as “Lebkuchen” (gingerbread), “Reibekuchen” (potato pancakes) or “Bratwurst” (sausage).

You still have time enough to enjoy this magic drink because the christmas markets are opened until the 23th of December, and they never run out of Glühwein ;).

If you are willing to visit any christmas in the NRW (Northe Rhine Westphalia) region in Germany click here to find more information about them.

Now it is your turn. Have you ever tried Glühwein? Which one do you preffer, red or white? Could you recommend a nice christmas market in Germany?

 

Job seeking in Germany

Look for a job in Germany

There are many different reasons why people decide to leave their home nations to start anew somewhere else in the world, however, regardless of the reason that motivated you to take such a huge decision, starting a new life means facing new challenges such as language learning, the integration into a new culture or finding a job.

Certain situations such as finding new friends or learning a foreign language depend on your social and learning skills and, of course, on your own interest.

Other situations, such as the financial one, depend not only on our inner ability to deal with economics but also on external factors that we can´t always have under control. One of those external factors is the job market, which is connected to the market´s demand and which varies depending on the sector.

Almost 600.000 job vacancies in Germany are to be filled as soon as possible

But, how is the German job market? Is it true that there are million of job opportunities in Germany? To answer those questions let´s have a look to the german labor market situation:

Some facts

  • According to Eures, Germany has the fourth largest national economy in the world
  • Over 90% of the companies are small and medium sized enterprises (which means that two-thirds of all the job opportunities in the country come from them)
  • In 2015 Germany came first in terms on foreign trade, just before USA and China

In which sector you can find a job?

Less than 600.000 vacancies were registered in Germany during 2016 and more than 90% of those are to be filled as soon as possible. At the beginning of 2016 the biggest amount of job offers were advertised in:

  1. Health
  2. Social work & Education
  3. Manufacturing industry
  4. Wholesale & Retail Trade
  5. Maintenance of vehicles

However the advertised job opportunities vary depending on the region. For example, 25 of the 50 largest german companies have their headquarters in NRW. Enterprises such as Deutsche Telekom, Aldi, Bayern or Metro Group are responsible of transformation of this region, which is one of the most important business area of the country. However, the development of the Baden-Württemberg region depends on the performance of small and medium.sized companies, since two thirds of the employees work for a SME. The key sectors here are automotive engineering and metal industry (Daimler AG is located in this region).

Although all the previous differences, there is still something that all these regions have in common: the job application process.

As you can imagine, since Germans are in love with guidelines, the job application process have some specific “rules” you should follow.

Let´s see how you can apply for a job in Germany:

Cover Letter

The cover letter is a key document because it is your presentation letter, which means, it is you opportunity to set yourself apart from the other applicants.

In your covering letter, you have to explain the company why you are interested in working with them and why your skills and competences match the job description specification.

Curriculum Vitae

As a rule in Germany the most recent professional experiences are usually placed at the beginning, following a photo and your personal information.

The most important categories into which your CV should be divided are:

  • Photo and personal details

It is recommended to take a professional photo.

  • Professional experience

Including the name of the companies where you have previously worked and a short description of your tasks.

  • Education

In Germany it is really important to mention which level of education do you have (master, bachelor, elementary school, PhD…). List to which schools and universities did you attend and, also, do not forget to mention if you have done any continuing education course.

  • Language skills

If you speak many different language you should explain how well do you speak them. Let´s see how you can do that:

          “Muttersprache” – Native Level (C2)

          “Verhandlungssicher” – Business Level (C1)

          “Fließend” – Fluent (B1/B2)

          “Grundkenntnisse” – Basic Knowledge (A1/A2)

Technical Skills

Under the title EDV list all your technical skills such as computer skills (Office, Gmail, Outlook) or more specific skills which that are important for your work.

Certificates

As I previously mentioned, in Germany it is really important to explain which level of education do you have, but it is even more important to prove it.

Therefore you have to attach all your important educational records to prove your education level, as well as all the language certificates that can prove which language level you reached (B1, A2..)

Another important certificate, if not the most, when applying for a job in Germany is the Zeugnis, which is a reference letter written by a previous employer. The Zeugnis is a description of the tasks you accomplished and your performance during the time you worked the company.

Once you have collected all the required documents I highly recommend you to keep two copies. One scanned copy, so you can have it in your computer to make some online applications, and a printed version that you can bring to your next interview.

apply for a job in germany

And you, are you willing to work in Germany? Have you ever apply to a job possition in Germany? Did you miss any information? Share your thoughts!

Top reasons people move abroad

reasons to relocate

People tend to travel to foreign countries. In many cases, the main reason is not tourism but the opportunity to find a good job and to start a new life. What can possibly motivate people to leave their home countries and relocate?

The reasons are different depending on the circumstances of each person. However, here you can find some of the most popular reasons to move abroad:

Better job opportunity

If you are struggling to find a good job waiting around is not the right answer. Relocating to other part of the world allow you to access to a new job market and to choose a place you know has the opportunities you are looking for.

Love & Family

You may want to move abroad to stay closed to the people you love the most.

Maybe your partner need to relocate due to job reasons leaving you no choice but to follow him/her in order to preserve your future together.

It may also be possible that you met the person you believe to be the right partner to grow old together so you may decide to move with him to start a common life in a new country (probably his/her home country).

A new language or a higher job position are important steps in the process of personal growth

Broaden horizons

For many the desire to explore, to discover, is the main reason to relocate to a new country. Moving abroad allows you to immerse yourself in a new culture, see incredible new things, learn a different language and, at the same time, experience a change in every single aspect of your life.

Weather

Good weather is one of the main reasons to move abroad. Did you know that the 62,2% of young people in Britain are willing to relocate somewhere warmer?

Personal development

Although personal development is a broad concept, many consider a new lifestyle, a new language, a higher job position or the opportunity to meet new people as important steps in the process of personal growth.

Life quality

Another broad concept used to elaborate the Mercer Annual Quality of Living Survey. A survey created to help multinational companies compensate their employees fairly when relocating and placing them on international assignments.

In your case, what is the main reason for you to leave your country? Would you add any other reason to relocate? 

How does your brain change when you learn a language?

how-does-your-brain-change-when-you-learn-a-language

 

Last friday night, while waiting for the subway, we started a nice conversation regarding the human ability to learn different languages and how does the brain can change when learning new languages. A couple of friends of mine mentioned some new studies which display that although our brain is ready to learn up to 25 languages once we reach a certain level of knowledge we tend to mix all of them. But what exactly happens when we learn a new language? How does our brain change when we learn a language?

 

Understanding language is one of the hardest things your brain does

 

Due to the fact that while we are learning a new language we are creating new neural pathways in our brain, the benefits of learning a new language are proportional to the effort expended by the brain.  The older we are the more difficult is to learn new languages.

Many scientific studies had shown that children use the deep motor of the brain to learn new languages while adults need to learn them consciously.  Despite the effort that our brain has to do, to learn a new language provide us with some benefits:

  • Increase concentration, intelligence and memory skills
  • Lower risks of Alzheimer
  • People who speak two or more languages have better cognitive abilities than people who only speak one
  • Learning a new language help to increase the hippocampus (the area of the brain that forms and stores our memories)
  • According to the Linguistic Relativity theory (also known as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis), learning new languages change the way we see the world

 

Regarding all the proven benefits of language learning we should better start studying as much new languages as possible (until 25 our brain has space enough) or maybe not? But before forcing our brain to struggle among different languages we should ask ourselves the following question: Which is my goal?

If you really want to be fluent in a language, why don´t you better start learning that language until you reach a certain level of fluency. Then you can just maintain that language and start studying another one, otherwise you risk to don´t be fluent in any of them.

Language mix-up happens 

 

Once we reach a certain level of fluency our brain has to work harder to separate the information and choose the right words at the right time. The Language Transfer theory shows that language mix-up really exists, also by native speakers.

Transfer may occur conscious or unconscious. In the first case, it refers to unskilled language users which are influenced by their mother tongue while writing or speaking. However, the unconscious transfer refers to non-native speakers which may not realize the difference between structures and internal rules of the language, this transfer is usually overlooked by native speakers.

I am sure you are all familiar with all this transfers. Do you remember when you started learning a new language? At that certain point we all suffered the conscious transfer, most of the times when writing an essay. However, other studies show that at a certain fluency level our brain tend to mix the words of the different languages that we speak, regardless of whether any of them is your mother tongue or not. Does is happen to you? 

As an expat I am used to speak a different language depending on who is my listener and on the situation. Learning new languages is always an easy challenge which I love to accomplish. Recently I found out twoel acento funny things. On the one hand, I realized I mix French and German when I am tired. Sometimes I start a
sentence in German and I end it up in French (this used to happen to a friend of mine who studied in an American School when we were young, I always find it so cute…) On the other hand, a couple of days ago I found myself wondering why it is so hard for me to talk to one of my colleagues in English every time he tries to improve his English skills by talking to me.

Recently, I have read an article that explained how bilingual babies associate each language to concrete situations and people so that they can recognize which language is the most accurate for each moment. Might it also happen to multilingual adults? Maybe our brain also needs to associate people and context to a concrete language so that our neuronal paths can work rapidly and be more efficient, who knows…

And what about you, did the language transfer also happen to you? Have you ever tried to learn multiple languages at the same time? Do you know any other interesting theory? Share your experiences in the comments below! 

5 Bavarian words you should better memorize

I am sure you have already heard something about the Oktoberfest, the beer festival par excellence.

 Oktoberfest
Well, apart from drinking beer and eating sausages the Oktoberfest is a good opportunity to discover Bayern and Munich (new post coming soon.. 🙂 ) as well as to improve your German skills (or you can start learning the language, after drinking a couple of liters of beer everything is possible).

The way you talk to them will make a huge difference

Bayern is a region full of cute cities, astonishing landscapes and… a different language: Bairisch (Bavarian). If you want to integrate in the local culture and to make the most of your Bavarian experience you should better learn a couple of Bavarian words.
 Oktoberfest
Grüß Gott
While in other areas of Germany you just need to say “Guten Tag” to greet people, in Bayern (as well as in Austria) they have their own salutation form: “Grüß Gott” (which literally means “Greet God”)
I mog di
If you meet someone in Bayern and you really like him/her you just need to say: “I mog di” and then.. .let´s see what else happens!
A Maß
There is no other way to order a liter of beer, you have to ask for a Maß
OktoberfestSemme or Semml
While in the west area of Germany people use the word “Brötchen” (hardly pronounceable for a spaniard) the Bavarians use a cuter word: Semme or Semml to order a bread roll
Brezl
A pretzel is a typical German food staple, you can find different kind of them although original one is the salty one.
Prost 
Even if you visit other areas of Germany “Prost” (cheers)  is a word that you will listen all around the country. Germans are a beer proud nationality which always find a good reason to toast and what could be a better place to toast than the Oktoberfest?
So let´s toast to your German experience and let me know if you learn other Bairisch words  🙂 It is always nice to discover new things about the amazing Bayern region

How to find a flat and not die trying

No matter whether you are looking for a flat or for a shared-flat (WG), in Germany you will have to work hard to get one.

Depending in which city you are looking, it can be really complicated to find something suitable: Either the properties are really expensive, or the demand is too high. This does not happen all around the country, but mostly in big cities such as Münich, Düsseldor or Cologne.

In this post I would like to provide you with some useful advice, so that you find the flat of your dreams when living in Germany.

Looking for a flat

Before start looking for the perfect flat, you have to decide whether you want to live alone or whether you want to share a flat with other people. Both options have advantages and disadvantages in terms of costs, cohabitation and daily life.

Once you have decided what is more suitable for you, you can start dealing with the whole looking-for-a-flat process.

First of all, you should know that flat interviews are really important here in Germany. If you succeed to get one, it does not mean that the landlord or your future roommates are willig to have you in their flat. It just means that they are willing to know you better and, therefore, you are going to pass a “test”, where they will ask you many personal questions. So, when looking for a flat apply to offers only if you can fulfill all the requirements. For example: If the offer says that the owner of the flat looks for someone without pets and you have a dog, do not apply.

Secondly, you should be aware that germans love to rent unfurnished apartments. Yes, this includes apartments without kitchen furniture. However, not all the flats are empty.

Here you can find all the possibilities of the market:

1. Unmöbilierte Wohnung: Unfurnished apartment (the most common thing). In this case you will have to buy and bring your own furniture and once you move out, you will need to leave the flat totally empty.

2. Unmöbilierte Wohnung + Küche: In this case, the former tenant is taking all his/her forniture but the kitchen. In most of the cases, they will sell the kitchen, which lead to:

  • The price of the kitchen is not included in the rent: You will have to buy the kitchen to the former tenant before renting the flat.
  • The price of the kitchen is included in the rent: You buy the kitchen buy increasing the basic monthly rent, until you pay the whole amount.

3. Möblierte Wohnung: If you are interested in a furnished flat be careful. Here there are also different options:

  • You have to buy the furniture to the former tenant
  • You have to rent the furniture to the flat’s owner (this does not happen so often)
  • You do not need to pay for the furniture at all

WG: Shared-flat

If you are new in the city and you would like to meet new people I highly recommend you to take a look at WG-Gesucht . It is the best website to find a WG o shared flat.

Here I also recommend you to apply to the right offers. Therefore, check if your hobbies, way of life, age, gender… match the requirements written in the room offer. And do not forget that the more E-mails you send, the higher the chance to get invited to a flat interview.

If you german is still not good enough, do not panic! You can always contact your future roommates in English, usually young people are quite flexible when it comes to speak in other languages but german.

Finally, remember that if you are not living in Germany and you cannot attend an in-person interview, you can ask for a skype/zoom call.

Rent a flat

Here it comes the difficult part.

There are a lot of websites to look for a flat. However, the most commonly used is ImmobilienScout24.

Finding a flat in Düsseldorf and Köln is a tough task since the demans is really high. Prices are also increasing rapidly. Therefore, if you find any interesting flat, I recommend you to contact the real state agency by telephone (if possible), because once they have a considerable amount of candidates requests they do not answer more emails.

If you succeed to have a personal interview with the landlord or real state in the flat, take into account that it might not be a one-to-one interview, but a group one. This means that you won’t be alone while visiting the property, but with 20-30 more people. If this happens, remember that the more you show interest for the flat, the higher chance you have to get a contract. Try to ask many questions and to spend some minutes alone with the owner or the real state employee.

The landlord

In Germany you can find different kinds of landlords:

  • Private landlords
  • Real states

Depending on the landlord, the former tenant can carry out a pre-selection of candidates and send their information to the landlord. This information is very useful if you already know someone who is planning to move out. This person could talk his landlord about you and invite you both to have a personal interview in the flat.

Most of the times, however, the owners of the flat like to make this pre-selection themselves. How do they do it? Easily, they base this pre-selection on the E-mails and calls that they receive when posting the renting offer online. Therefore, when you contact the landlord or real state, you have to sell youself, you have to show them that you are the right person for the flat. In Germany, the impression matters the most.

Once the pre-selection process is done, you will be invited to a personal interview. As I previously mentioned, this can be privat or in group. Do not forget to be prepared to answer and ask many questions. If you really like the flat, do not hesitate to show your interest.

Finally, if the personal interview went well, you will have to give the landlord thousand of documents such as information about your income.

The documents

As I previosly said, landlords want to know more about you before allowing you to rent their place (this applies also to WGs or shared-flats). Therefore, they will ask you for the following documents:

  • Net income of the last year or the last three months (depending on the landlord)
  • SCHUFA*
  • Auskunt: Here they include all the documents related to your personal information such as: Family status, bank account, anmeldung and former address.

*SCHUFA

I know this concept does not exist in other european countries, so let’s see what is this weird thing.

The SCHUFA is an official document that shows how realiably you have met your financial obligations and landlords (and other entities) use it to decide how worthy you are of being granted further obligations, in this case, how worthy you are of paying the rent every month. In this page you can find more information about it.

Social Networks

And last but not least, Social Networks!

These are helpful tools to find a flat in Germany. Here you can find various expat groups where people post information when they move out and leave their flats. Contacting them can be a good way to be pre-selected for a flat visit.

Be patient and keep looking!  In the meanwhile I wish you good luck!

 

In case you want to share your experience, feel free to leave a comment below or to contact me via social networks. I am always thrilled to read more about you!

 

*Please, note that I am not an English native speaker. Therefore, you may find some spelling mistakes in this post. Feel free to let me know it and help me improve my English skills.