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Finding a WG in Germany as an international student - Ellie's experience

A Wohngemeinschaft – otherwise commonly referred to as a WG – relates to a form of housing in which a group of people live together, quite often for the purpose of university accommodation. In Germany, however, it is notoriously difficult to find a space in this type of housing, as demand currently outweighs the supply – a total contrast to the experience most British students like me have when seeking out rented accommodation in their home country.

Finding shared accommodation in Germany can be a tedious process. Photo: Shahid Abdullah via Pixabay

As I will be spending the next academic year in Germany as part of my studies, I have currently had to embark on this difficult quest, and let me tell you, a quest it was…

Obtaining such housing normally requires numerous calls and messages to various groups of friends already living together, in the hopes of making a positive first impression that will secure you a room in their WG. As a non-native, this has proved a challenge in itself.

Firstly, many of those contacted required a more long-term roommate, or simply replied stating that they had already found somebody else. More often than not, however, my messages would simply be ignored, which only added to the frustration of trying to remain optimistic while navigating such a daunting task.

Having a clear idea of what you are looking for is also always a good place to start. Equally, it is good to figure out what you would be willing to compromise on, would you not be able to find that ‘Traum-WG’ ('Dream houseshare') that fills all of your initial requirements – after all, it is likely that your expected flat will not correspond to the reality.

German advertisements and requests for rooms in WGs. Photo: Jaro.p via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

For this reason, I would like to stress the importance of perseverance when searching for a WG in Germany. It is very easy to find yourself getting quickly attached to the idea of a certain flat, only to be disappointed when they do not reply or don’t give you the positive answer you were hoping for. I know a few people who opted to apply to one WG at a time, but you need to consider that if the flat does not respond, and you have sat around anxiously waiting for it for a week, then you have wasted time and mental energy that could have been used towards finding the right WG.

Using renowned websites such as WG-Gesucht or Immobilienscout24, I created a draft message and would aim to message at least ten new flats a day, in order to increase the likelihood of success. In addition, I searched for area-specific housing on Facebook groups and utilized the German contacts I already knew. When messaging WGs is not working out, however, then make them come to you – advertise yourself and what you are looking for instead.

In the end, I did get positive responses, but it took about a month of frustration and daily messaging to reach this point. Inevitably, this will be different depending on where you are looking to rent in Germany though – for example, in WGs located in Münster, I found this to be more problematic than in smaller towns like Soest, or even in alternate larger cities such as Dortmund.

Dortmund by night. Photo: Evgeni Tcherkasski via Pixabay

Using my German language skills to write messages and eventually attend a virtual flat showing was anxiety-inducing to say the least. Nerves meant I often struggled to find the right words, leading to repetition, and therefore disheartenment in my own abilities. The reality, though, is that every flat I called offered me a room in their WG – one even opted to use English to make me feel more at ease.

In short, I would say knowing what you want from a WG before you start looking allows you to value the flats you are looking at in a realistic manner. Writing a draft message saved me both time and stress when contacting various flats, and ensured consistency throughout the process. That being said, please read the advertisements carefully, and adjust your message when necessary. Speaking German was also daunting, but being smiley and friendly is universal regardless of the language you are speaking, so let that shine through. After all, you might even make a friend or two in the process.


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