Following on from our previous blog post, here’s part two of our guide to flat and house hunting in German-speaking countries – jargon busting for flathunters and the perils of viewings!
- Jargon and abbreviations
Abbreviations obviously save space in adverts with strict character limits, but they can leave foreigners scratching their heads in puzzlement. Here’s a handy guide to some of the most common to help you avoid any nasty surprises.
1-Zi-Whg. = 1-Zimmerwohnung. Bed-sitting room or bedsit. Flats and houses are not measured by the number of bedrooms (as they are in the UK), but in how many rooms. A 1-room flat will be the space in which a tenant sleeps, eats, and works/sits.
Altb. = Altbau. Old building. This could mean a range of things, though generally will mean a building built before 1940. In cities that suffered severe bombing in the 1940s, it could also mean that the advertised property is in a building that was part of the rush to reconstruct in the 1950s. In addition to some genuinely charming original features, you can expect such things as wood frame double glazing and no lift access, high ceilings, thinner walls or possibly showers located in kitchens. Listings may also give the ‘Bj.’ or ‘Baujahr’ – year of the building’s construction – as an indication.
Bes. = Besichtigung. Viewing.
DG = Dachgeschoss. The room or flat is located under the eaves of the house. Rooms and flats located here are often cheaper because they are smaller and, in old buildings in particular, prone to getting very warm in the summer (and cold in the winter).
EBK = Einbauküche. An installed kitchen is present. If you’re intending to live on your own, be aware that not all flats come with a kitchen and white goods ready to use. Tenants frequently install their own on moving in (and remove them when vacating the flat) or – especially in the case of 1-Zi-Whg. (see above) – will purchase relatively inexpensive hotplates on which to cook. If you do not see this abbreviation in an advert, ask about it.
HK = Heizkosten. Heating costs. Note that many online listings will also give the heat efficiency rating of the property.
Kaut. = Kaution. Deposit. Typically 2 months’ rent.
Kehrwoche = lit. ‘sweep week’. If you live in southern Germany, especially in the Swabian part of Baden-Württemberg, you will find frequent references to this practice of having a communal cleaning rota for the shared areas of the building. Look out for the rota notice in the building entrance hall.
KM = Kaltmiete. Rent ‚cold‘. Rent listed with no Nebenkosten.#
NK = Nebenkosten. These can include some or all of the costs for heating, water, electricity, weekly rubbish removal, Hausmeister services (note not all buildings will have a Hausmeister), TV & radio licence, internet. These are charged on a monthly basis in addition to the basic rent and can range between anything from 40 to 250 Euro. If you don’t see them listed in the ad or they seem rather low, ask about them.
NR = Nichtraucher. Non-smoker.
TG = Tiefgarage. Underground garage. This may indicate that the flat comes with a parking space, which could nevertheless be an extra cost in addition to rent and Nebenkosten. In some cities, parking spaces are like gold dust, so if you don’t have a car, consider subletting your parking space.
WG = Wohngemeinschaft. Shared flat of 2 or more people.
WM = Warmmiete. Rent ‘warm’ or ‘heated’. Rent listed with Nebenkosten, but remember the Nebenkosten may not include heating!
ZKB = Zimmer, Küche, Bad / Zimmer, Küche, Balkon
Zweck-WG = A flatshare that is functional, not about being friends (often young professionals). Ads like this may be less picky about who they accept, but living here could be lonely if you’re completely new to the area.
You should always view a room or flat before you sign the contract and hand over your money. If you cannot do the viewing in person, ask a trusted friend to go on your behalf and take photos or even Skype or live chat with you.
If you are planning to move into a WG, the chances are that all or some of the current group of flatmates will want to meet you. This could range from a very informal chat and tour of the flat to an interview panel situation (be prepared to answer some unusual questions). You will almost certainly not be the only applicant and you could even find yourself being shown round with a (large) group of other hopefuls at the same time. However, remember that viewings are also an opportunity for you to decide whether you would want to live with them and whether the space is as advertised. Just because you have looked at the flat or room doesn’t mean you have to take it. Things you might like to ask are:
- Do the flatmates spend time together – cooking/parties/going out etc? (Or actually a Zweck-WG?)
- Is there a Putzplan for allocating cleaning? Is anyone a Putzteufel??
- How long do the others intend to stay? Are they in fact also about to move out?
- Are pets allowed? (Do you really want to end up living with a large dog called “Kaiser”??)
You’ve found a room or a flat, seen it and met your landlord and housemates, and signed the contract? Congratulations! Now hot foot it to the Bürgeramt to register your new address – don’t forget to take your copy of the contract and your passport with you! To avoid having to wait in a long queue, go very early in the morning – or make an appointment (your local Amt will have on online booking service). Usually your registration will be valid from the start date of your contract, so you’ll be able to do things like open a bank account on and after that date. Make sure that your administrator at the Bürgeramt gives you written confirmation that you are registered at that address and keep that letter safe for future reference.
And relax! You’ve successfully completed your search for a WG!
Madeleine Brook & Nicola Deboys, OGN Coordinators