Let’s say it out loud: finding a room in Berlin is a bitch, especially if you’re a foreigner and your german is Scheisse. If you obsessively refresh WG-gesucht‘s home page every fifteen seconds and you’re haunted by words like Genossenschaftsanteil o Parkmöglichkeiten, then you know what I’m talking about.
I wrote three case studies to report my nightmarish experience, in the hope i can be useful or at least take some drama off the whole looking-for-a-room-process.
1) Horror Vacui
Vera and Katia welcome me in their huge, cool, ultra-furnished flat in Adalbertstrasse with a (stereo)typical cold german kindness. After some small talk in the kitchen along with the most typical interview-food (peanuts and gummy bears, never a surprise) we move to the room that could become mine. Once they open the door a mix of fear and disgust shows up in my face. Not only the room is smaller than Guantanamo cells and completely unfurnished, but the white walls are decorated with random schizophrenic stripes of color. It looks like one of the paintings from Ruby the elephant, from her post-modern period. The two hostesses turn to me asking for a first impression, and my mind goes completely blank. I stay silent like i did when the Analysis professor asked me to multiply matrixes (who am i? Jesus?). I stay silent, and I blow the interview.
The first golden rule when you’re looking for a room, therefore, is always being prepared to give a positive feedback about said room, no matter how terrible the first impression is. Of course this requires time, but with some practice you’ll learn how to hold on to the most insignificant details and still look convincing. And if you’re really, really out of ideas, you can always rely on one of the most classic but useless comments: “I like high ceilings!”. Even if you’re one-meter-and-a-smurf tall, therefore genetically suitable to live even in the seven dwarfs’ house, go with the high-ceilings-feedback and you won’t regret it.
2) The Bitch
When I reach Wedding, Monty and Alex are about to eat dinner, so they ask me to join them. We talk about music, books and of course Italy. Like many germans, their image of Italy is slightly distorted, but I don’t mind speaking about the most horrifying things: whenever I’m away for too long, I start missing even horrible stuff like the mafia, corruption or Laura Pausini. Chatting with them is nice, and eating real homemade food which is not shaped like a bear is even nicer. Everything seems to be going fine until, ten minutes later, the doorbell rings. “Another person asked to come earlier, so we thought the two of you could share this interview. Is it a problem?”. Of course not. I’m an adult and I’m fully capable of managing a situation like this with the right detachment and without feeling smashed by the competition.
Or maybe not.
The bitch enters the room with her boobs in the air and three beers in her hands, saying something extremely young and annoying that in my mind became “I’m coming up so you better get this party started”. And all of a sudden the magic is broken. The new southamerican guest monopolizes the conversation hijacking every single one of my interventions. And then, at some point, her lips pronounce the sentence “I get drunk very easily”. I’m shocked. The only cheaper thing she could have done is slipping 50 Euros in the underwear of one of the guys and whisper “It’ll be our little secret”.
So the lesson here is not to overdo it. Be yourself, maybe a better version of yourself, but not MORE than yourself. Trying too much or being too pushy is something that, especially with germans, doesn’t pay out.
3) Overly tired girl
Kat welcomes me in her flat at the one millionth floor of one of those huge buildings in Mitte. “Would you like to drink something? Water or beer?”. I take the beer. I want to be “semiotically” young even though deep down I’d rather be in bed with a cup of chamomile tea reading some classic masterpiece from Russian literature. We sit on the balcony to slowly sip our young and frozen Beck’s, and Kat informs me that she’s tired. Of what? Maybe her job? Life? Dirty Dancing reruns? No, Kat is tired of interviewing people for the room. “You don’t know how stressful it is”, she adds.
Now. I’m at the fourth interview of the day (and, like, the fifteenth of the month) and I’m not sure whether I’ll have a roof over my head in one week. I have a headache and three layers of gummy bears spreaded on my molars (at this point removable only with surgery). I’m supposed to look all nice and happy when inside I have the same joie de vivre displayed by Gossip singer in the new posters (I would spray cocaine up her nostrils if i could, just to avoid staring at that sad face). And you, little wursthead, you tell me that you’re tired?
Third golden rule of the room-searcher: self-control, self-control, self-control. Resisting from strangling your counterpart is not always easy, but it’s necessary. And then, if the other person chooses you and it’s the beginning of a great friendship, some months later you’ll giggle together about that time you would have happily slapped her with an anvil. On the other hand, if this is not the case, you have her name and address, and you can always hand it to the first volunteer of Amnesty International / WWF / persons-dressed-as-clowns-who-terrify-children-in-hospitals who stops you in Alexanderplatz.
That is one hell of a great post. I just wish someone took a picture of you when you discovered the Guantanamo cell :-D
If somebody did take that picture I would have had to kill him :D
So true when you say finding a WG is a nightmare. I’m here for a few weeks, and hopefully have find a nice room in a nice apartment. But reading your post revives such painful memories! I had the “harshness of interviewing applicants” speech… And I had the “wunderbar” reaction for the teeny tiny room top floor under the roof (no high ceiling there…) with a post almost in the middle of the 10 square meters at 380 euros a month. Desperation almost made me sign a contract for this fraud!
First post I read on your blog, recommended by Pauline @ deparisaberlin.fr, and I’m looking forward to read more of your funny words!
Thank you Nico, I hope I find the time to write more funny words very soon! In the meantime: good luck with your staying in Berlin and it’s nice to hear you found a nice place to live in ;)
Haha, Fede you made my day :D
Looking forward to read more from you
Thank you Victor! :) I’m looking forward to write more ^^
I’d venture that this atrilce has saved me more time than any other.
I told you!! :))
I understand you so much. I’ve been here for one week and a half and I’ve been through answers of lesbians, the psychos, the poshes and the normal ones. Ended up with an older lady that came here in a feminist movement to destroy the berlin wall in 86 and keeps socialist kitchen supplies separated from the capitalist ones.
Btw, the “high ceilings” technique worked with me also. I also said at one point “a whole indian family could live in this bedroom”. Not so effective, though. Stick to the ceilings.
Oh, my :D I so wanna hear more about this feminist person you live with. Please open a blog or at least keep me updated somehow!
You are lucky ;)
omg, thank u so much for this article!
find a flat ALONE!
You’re welcome, I like imposing my frustrations on my readers ^^
Wow.. I googled to find someone sharing horrible experience searching rooms in Berlin. This post is 2 years old but I think, the situation is the same. I’ve been looking for a room in Berlin for like ages and first problem is they never reply to any emails.. 2ndly when they do reply, it is because they want to rent out the room for 1 week, 5 days and so on.. :( Then when you finally find something that fits all criteria, it is either sooooo dirty that it might take your whole life to clean it or the person is some crazy fela. One similar experience with an old man. so when I called him to meet him, he told me he is at the hospital. I finally went to meet him and he had stitches across his face.. like no idea how it got there.. i ran like crazy after the meeting.. but it didn’t stop there. He emailed me everyday that was written in german that no one understood.. It was crazy..
oh, wow! Sounds even worse than what I experienced! Good luck! Hope you’ll find something soon!
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