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.
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.
- Around September/October the demand for WGs really surges so the trick is to look early. During peak times WG’s can get hundreds of phone calls and messages, especially in larger cities.
- Which brings me to my second point, be sure to call the household. Or drop them a message on WhatsApp – this makes your application stand out and therefore more likely to get the room.
- Note also that many WG rooms are sub-letted, which comes as a shock to many foreigners as subletting is illegal for most rental contracts in the UK. The whole thing does tend to feel a bit sketchy, but that usually means you’re doing it right and you come to realise that this strange performative system is actually completely normal. WG contracts are usually signed under one Hauptmieter and the rest of the tenants sub-let.
- Don’t just rely on www.wg-gesucht.de. Households often put advertisements on Facebook too, especially fellow internationals. So, try searching ‘*your city* rooms to rent’. You’ll be surprised what you come up with.
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