I’m searching for apartments still. It’s really quite frustrating, since I hate dealing with bureaucratic nonsense.
One thing I learned is that nobody uses cheques here. Everything is done by electronic bank transfers. Overall, the bank system here is much more modern than the Canadian system. Back home, I had to get part of my RRSP transfered from Royalbank to the Vancity branch across the street from it, but even though both banks were informed of the process by me, it still took them over a month to complete all the necessary paperwork by hand. It’s also really difficult to simply transfer money between two peoples’ bank accounts in Canada unless both people belong to the same bank and the bank offers that service (like Vancity, which I use).
Here in Germany, everyone has a “Girokonto”, which I guess would be the equivalent of a chequing account, but for money transfers instead. With such an account, you can transfer money for free to anyone else in Europe pretty much. You use it to pay your bills, or buy something on amazon.de, etc. Credit cards are slightly different too, since the balance gets auto-deducted from your bank account every month (which obviously causes problems if you don’t have enough in your account to pay it), so it doesn’t really have a separate balance like it does in Canada.
Anyway, back to apartments. I wanted to get a phone to help with the apartment thing, but I needed a bank account to get a phone. To get a bank account, I need an official address, and for that I clearly need an apartment. Luckily I was able to short-cut the process by going to the bank with my friend (with whom I’m currently staying) and getting her to tell them that my address should be the same as hers. After we convinced the bank people that it was ok, then I got my account set up.
Hunting for apartments online is a bit confusing, since there’s a lot of terminology to learn. I think I’ve got it mostly straightened out now. One of the essential terms is “Einbauküche” (“built-in kitchen”), which refers to all of the kitchen furnishings like cupboards and countertops. Without an Einbauküche, you basically just get a sink and a stove, nothing else, since you’re expected to get the kitchen furnished yourself.
Another term is “Provision”, which refers to some sort of “finder’s fee” that you pay to a middle-man. Basically, to get the apartment you pay some ridiculous fee (like 2.38 x the month’s rent), and you never get it back. Why would I want to pay a $1200 ransom to some company for the privilege of “finding” me this apartment? Screw you. Luckily there are plenty of other listings that don’t have a Provision, so I can just ignore those bastards.
Also, the room listings are slightly different. In Canada, a “2 bedroom” apartment will always be 2 bedrooms and a living room, but it seems that most of the listings here are just by the total number of rooms. “2 Zimmer” could mean what I would consider a 1BR apartment (1BR + 1 living room), or it could be designed slightly differently as more of a 2BR + no living room type of thing. Kitchen and bathroom never count as part of the room-count.
So, the next part of the process is to call these various people about apartments, and arrange a viewing appointment (“Besichtigungstermin”), but you’ll almost never be able to set it up on the same day you call. It seems that any appointment, whether business or social, always gets set up in advance in Germany, so if you call someone up and say “hey, how about dinner at 6pm?” they’d automatically assume you mean 6pm tomorrow because who in their right mind would book something on the same day? Unthinkable! 😉
The other thing is that it apparently takes a while for them to accept all of your paperwork. The apartment might be sitting there empty, but it could take a week or two for everything to get approved before you can move in.
I should get back to work on this now. I have one appointment for today, but still need to look some more.