You’ve sorted out your Year Abroad pathway, you’ve booked your flights, the next thing on your mind is almost definitely accommodation, and for students heading to Germany that means the beginning of a long and arduous process with www.wg-gesucht.de.
Wohngemeinschafts (or WGs for short) are considered by many Germans to be an indispensable stepping stone on their way to becoming a fully-grown adult. On the surface, it may just seem like WGs are identical to every other form of student living across the continent. However, Wohngemeinschaft translates to ‘living community’ and they are seemingly more complex than a simple student house or flat share.
The basic concept is that a group of students or trainees live in an apartment together and share the costs of rent and bills. However, it is not uncommon for WGs to have a specific motive or common ground. Throughout the 1980s many WGs were politically motivated and led to student protests, including the Monday Demonstrations across East Germany between 1989-91. This means that WGs are a factor that is unique to German student culture. As a result, it is most likely that you will be living with other Germans, which is a great way to get some everyday linguistic immersion.
WG culture began in the post-WW2 era when many displaced persons and refugees had to be accommodated and many residential buildings had been destroyed during the war. It was considered to be an unusual and even revolutionary form of living until it became more accepted in the 1970s. As a result of these strong cultural roots, some WG’s are established institutions with a proud heritage of former residents and can be very picky about who they let into their ‘living community’. Because of this you often have to go through a ‘WG-casting’ which is basically an audition to become a housemate, which gives the www.wg-gesucht.de process it’s infamously tiresome reputation.
I’ve gathered a few tips from my own experience and that of fellow German Year-Abroaders to hopefully ease the accommodation angst of prospective YA students.
Finally, I’ve collated a list of vocabulary to help when looking for apartments in Germany, and also a couple of good international films to enjoy whilst in lockdown which are themed around WG-living.
Essential vocab when looking for a WG:
Die Kaution – Deposit
Die Miete – Rent payment
Der/die Vermieter(-in) – Landlord
(im)möbliert – (un)furnished
Warm/Kaltmiete – ‘with’ or ‘without’ bills
Das Apartment (web series)
L’auberge espagnole (film)
By Madelin Childs