Expat Essentials

Damien Saleh: How to find a living community (or WG) in Frankfurt – a beginner’s guide

(Editor’s note: The good news – Frankfurt has gotten a lot of firms leaving London due to Brexit, creating thousands of jobs. The bad news – Frankfurt has gotten a lot firms leaving London, making it harder to find roommates and shared apartments.

So you have set your mind on Frankfurt, “the new London.” Or so they say.

I wouldn’t know; I have never been to London. But I have been living in Frankfurt for 18 months and I can tell you what the housing market is like: Hell.

The faster you wrap your head around this, the better.

Now you may see some people bragging on Facebook how easy it was for them to find something. It might be they were very lucky, but this is very unlikely.

Which leads us to my first tip:

YOU ARE ONE IN A MILLION

And by that I mean there are a million other people looking for a place to live, just like you. Demand exceeds offer by far in Frankfurt (and most big cities, I would guess). I know we like to think we are something special and deserve the best, but that’s the thing: We all think that.

This includes your future roommates. And they have the high ground here, not you. If you push it too much, they will just find someone else.

STATISTICS

The best place to find something is on WG-gesucht. Just to give an idea of how crazy things are here, when a new ad is posted on WG-gesucht, it will get something like 40 responses in the first hours.

Basically, anything older than 24 hours, you can forget about. Too many people will have tried their luck and there’s a big chance your message won’t even be read.

My advice is to send about 40 emails for offers not older than a few hours. Of these 40 emails you can expect – at best – 10 answers, of which one or two might lead to an appointment or a visit.

DO NOT TAKE IT PERSONALLY

Try to see it from the offer point of view: their inbox will be overwhelmed by mails including scams, and it’s not easy to sort it out. Then they have to make appointments, which will last about 30 minutes each. No one would be willing to do that with more than seven or eight people, because, of course, you have to do that in the evenings or weekends.

It’s a bit sad but it’s mathematics: You need to send enough messages to get the holy “kennenlernen termin” (get to know appointment).

ADAPT YOUR MESSAGE – YOU ONLY GET ONE

Most offers come with a lengthy description of the living community and the roommates living there. WG-gesucht allows you to save a message as a template before you send it. So I took some time and wrote a message describing myself as well as how and why I came to Frankfurt.

Then, when an ad was a bit more specific, I would add more information. But the core stayed the same. Since you’re going to send a lot of messages, I strongly suggest having such a template. On the ad for my current living community, my roommate had emphasized how he liked beer, football and going out.

So I modified my presentation to put an accent on that. And on the day we met, I brought a beer for each of us. You’re going to live with these people if it works out, so you might as well act natural from the start.

If you’re not confident in your German skills, go for the offers with an English flag, and do write in English. Being understood and understanding what people say is very important.

LIFESTYLE: TIDINESS

The number one issue that can make or break a WG is tidiness. If you’re a bit messy and your potential roommates like order, it will be an issue. You don’t need to be on the exact same page, but if the standard differs too much it will not work. This is the kind of thing that people don’t adapt to easily.

WAITING FOR AN ANSWER

So the kennenlernen termin went well. Now you are waiting for an answer. You are in rush of course, but so is everyone else. No point in calling or texting until you hear from your potential roommates.

If they choose you they will let you know. If not, sometimes they will notify you, sometimes not. So if you have no news after four or five days you can forget about it. In the meantime you should keep responding to other offers. Sometimes the meeting goes well and you feel you are the chosen one, but maybe someone else was just a bit more interesting than you.

Do not despair; it will work out eventually.

To conclude, it is not easy to find a WG in Frankfurt. You will need to dedicate time to it, which can be stressful if you’re also starting a new job at the same time. But on the bright side, there are new offers all the time.

If you keep going you will find something.

About the author:

Damien Saleh is a tour guide, specialized in military history, content designer and freelance writer.

Originally from France’s Brittany, Damien currently lives in Frankfurt.

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