Well, your apartment is most likely empty. And we mean empty – as in you're lucky if you actually have light bulbs dangling from the ceiling and not just wires hanging out.
Furnished rentals are in short supply in Germany, so being an expat here involves buying furniture and, would you believe it, even a kitchen. That's right – your flat likely has no kitchen: no oven, stove, refrigerator or cabinets. Just fixtures and bare walls.
Sure, expats in Germany are starting to look at other options like furniture rental or leasing – because buying furniture in Germany can be a nightmare.
So to help save you from unexpected grief, we've put together a list things to expect when buying furniture in Germany – or, as we like to call it: The “Notorious 7”.
Don't say we didn't warn you!
1. The wait
Think you'll have your furniture immediately? Think again. It's pretty much impossible to buy furniture to take home then and there. Usually, the furniture is made after you've placed your order – that's right: supply on demand. And depending on the individual pieces, this might take a while. So expect up to four months even for a simple couch.
2. Hell's kitchen
The worst part about German rentals, hands down, is the kitchen. It's even hard to distinguish from the other rooms since it'll have almost nothing in it (aside from a double row of tiles – the ‘backsplash')! So you have to buy an expensive kitchen. Again, standard delivery time is around 8 to 10 weeks, and that doesn't include the two weeks you have to wait for your kitchen to be measured. And the hassle doesn't end there...
3. Points of no return
Beware of the fine print, folks! As soon as you sign off on the measurements, you signed the binding purchase contract, so if the kitchen doesn't fit – too bad, you're paying for it.
Also, should you need to, you probably won't be able to cancel your order; cancelling is occasionally possible but expect a hefty fee.
4. Nightmare delivery dates
Germans are notorious for being punctual, right? Well when it comes to delivery, wrong! Be prepared to be frustrated because deliveries generally come at the tail end of long time windows (‘Zeitfenster') – if they are on time at all. Nobody can afford to sit around all day (and there are no doormen in Germany), but if you're not home, your furniture will be left in front of the building. If you are at home, your furniture won't even be delivered to your desired room. Even worse, after that horrendous wait, you've still got the laborious task of setting up the furniture.
5. Sprechen Sie Deutsch?
You'd better! You are in Germany after all and you can't expect everybody to speak English. Just ask the guy we know who tried to buy a black leather sofa when he moved to Germany (from the US). Ten weeks later (!) a red sofa showed up on his doorstep. Yep, no kidding! After confirming the purchase order, he realised he'd ordered the wrong colour… and he's still not sure how it all got lost in translation (note to self: schwarz = black, rot = red).
6. German beds not made for Kings
Good luck finding the right bed size. For instance, a “king size” in Germany is only a queen in most other countries. So brush up on your metrics and beware that cabinets, tables, and even the refrigerator and cars are, generally speaking, smaller in Germany compared to how things are in, say, North America.
7. Forget Low Budget
Saving the worst for last: Buying furniture in Germany is expensive; if you scrimp in cost you scrimp in quality. Plus you've got all those issues with delivery.
So why not rent furniture instead? And have it delivered within 48 hours...
Rental vs. the “Notorious 7”?
The fact of the matter is that expat lifestyle is often unpredictable - you may not plan on staying in Germany forever so you need a flexible and hassle-free arrangement.
Considering the “Notorious 7”, you can see why furniture rental has become increasingly popular among expats in Germany.
Furniture Leasing Corporation (FLC) allow you to choose rental packages for as short as four weeks or as long as five years. They also offer an extensive online catalogue with options to fit every taste and room. You can even rent electronics and appliances like televisions, washing machines and refrigerators, and yes, kitchens, too.
Best of all, FLC can deliver everything, for free, within 48 hours – no matter where you live in Germany. All you have to do is surf, shop, and relax on your new couch!
There are of course challenges to expat life, don't make furniture one of them!