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The words you need to know before renting a flat in Germany

From smaller towns to the bigger metropolises, renting in Germany ain’t easy. While we can’t find you a flat, we hope to take some of the confusion out of doing so.

The words you need to know before renting a flat in Germany
Picture: DPA

Whether you speak German or not, getting your head around the complex words used in renting in Germany. 

(Der) Mieter

Meaning tenant or renter, Mieter comes from the German miete which means to rent. 

Vermieter means landlord – although the latter is frequently used in super-hip Berlin and Hamburg. 

SEE ALSO: What you need to know about renting in Germany

(Der) Mietvertrag 

The German word for lease, Mietvertrag – literally rent contract – is the document between you and your landlord which allows you to live in the flat. 

As we discussed in our report on the Anmeldung (address registration) process, you’ll need to show this at the Bürgeramt to receive your Meldebescheinigung (certificate of registered address).  

(Der) Altbau and Neubau

When moving into an apartment block, you’ll frequently be told whether your potential flat-to-be is an Altbau (old building) or a Neubau (new building).

This can however be confusing, as the highly sought after Altbau can frequently look much newer and nicer than the Neubau, the latter of which can often be found at the outskirts of larger German cities. 

Buildings from before the Second World War are known as Altbau, whereas those made afterwards are known as Neubau

An Altbau apartment building in Hamburg. Picture: DPA

(Die) Kaution

Meaning either bond or deposit, Kaution is the money paid as a security deposit when you move into a flat to provide the landlord with a degree of protection should you fail to pay the rent or if the flat is damaged. 

Foreigners are frequently targeted with Kaution scams, so be sure to discuss the nature of your Kaution and how it will be returned when moving into a flat. 

SEE ALSO: How Berlin’s housing crisis leaves women vulnerable to sexual predators

(Das) Casting

Right out of the same category as ‘Handy’, ‘Public-Viewing’ and ‘Beamer’, Casting is an English word which has taken on a different and somewhat odd use in German. 

While ‘casting’ in English means the process of auditioning for a part in a movie or play, ‘Casting’ in German is the process of interviewing a new flatmate. 

Although it will not always be the case, a Casting can be structured much like a job interview – with each of the existing housemates asking a variety of questions to determine if you’re truly worthy. 

(Die) Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung 

Literally translating as rent-debt-freedom-certificate, the Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung is a document which confirms you are not in rental debt for any of your previous properties. 

While the word is an absolute mouthful – try saying ‘meat-shool-den-fry-height-b-shine-ee-goong’ out loud – this document is an absolute must when renting a flat. 

Remember that the German word for debt (Schuld) also means guilt – so anyone hoping to rent a flat will need to prove that they are debt free. 

(Die) Verdienstbescheinigung

Another Bescheinigung, the Verdienstbescheinigung is a document from your employer which shows your earnings.

Given the highly competitive property market in many German cities, you’ll want to have this document on hand for when you first see – and decide to apply for – the property. 

(Die) Nebenkosten, (Die) Warmmiete and (Die) Kaltmiete

Nebenkosten, which are otherwise known as Betriebskosten, means all the extra costs associated with the apartment other than the rent. These include water, gas, internet, heating, electricity and insurance costs. 

When renting a flat, the advertised price will either be Kaltmiete (cold rent) or Warmmiete (warm rent). A Kaltmiete price will only be the price for the rent itself, while Warmmiete will be the price including the Nebenkosten

Flats will often be advertised as “€600 Warmmiete/WM/Warm” or “€550 Kaltmiete/Kalt/KM”. 

‘KM’ stands for ‘Kaltmiete’. Picture: DPA

(Die) Wohngemeinschaft

More commonly known as a ‘W-G’ (pronounced ‘vey-gay’), Wohngemeinschaft is the German name for a share house. The word literally translates to ‘residential community’. 

WGs are common in Germany for students and adults alike, given that the country’s unique and sometimes complicated Altbau architecture can create share houses with a significant amount of privacy and independence. 

(Der) Mitbewohner

If you live in a WG, you’re likely to have one or more Mitbewohner. Translating literally as ‘with-occupant’, Mitbewohner means housemate or flatmate.

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LIVING IN GERMANY

REVEALED: The most commonly asked questions about Germans and Germany

Ever wondered what the world is asking about Germany and the Germans? We looked at Google’s most searched results to find out – and help clear some of these queries up.

Oktoberfest
Hasan Salihamidzic, the sports director of FC Bayern, arrives with his wife at Oktoberfest in full traditional dress. Photo: picture alliance/dpa |

According to popular searches, Germany is the go-to place for good coffee and bread (although only if you like the hard kind) and the place to avoid if what you’re looking for is good food, good internet connection and low taxes. Of course, this is subjective; some people will travel long stretches to get a fresh, hot pretzel or a juicy Bratwurst, while others will take a hard pass.

When it comes to the question on the bad Internet – there is some truth to this. Germany is known for being behind other rich nations when it comes to connectivity. And from personal experience, the internet connection can seem a little medieval. The incoming German coalition government has, however, vowed to improve internet connectivity as part of their plans to modernise the country.

There are also frequent questions on learning the German language, and people pointing out that it is hard and complicated. This is probably due to the long compound words and its extensive grammar rules, however, as both English and German are Germanic languages with similar words in common, it’s not impossible to learn as an English-speaker.

Here’s a look at some of those questions…

Why is German called Deutsch? Whereas ‘German’ comes from the Latin, ‘Deutsch’ instead derives itself from the Indo-European root “þeudō”, meaning “people”. This slowly became “Deutsch” as we know it today. It can be a bit confusing to English-speakers, who are right to think it sounds a little more like “Dutch”, however the two languages do have the same roots which may explain it.

And why is Germany so boring? Again, probably a generalisation, especially given that Germany has a landmass of over 350,000 km² with areas ranging from high rise, industrial cities to traditional old town villages and even mountain ranges, so you’re sure to find a place that doesn’t bore you to tears.

Perhaps it is a question that comes from the stereotype that Germans are obsessed with being strict about rules, organised and analytical. Or that they have no sense of humour – all of these things being not the most exciting traits. 

Either way, from my experience I can confirm that, even though there is truth to German society enjoying order and rules, the vast majority of people are not boring, and I’m sure if you come to Germany you’ll meet many interesting, funny and exciting people. 

READ ALSO: 12 mistakes foreigners make when moving to Germany

When it comes to the German weather, most people assume a cold and cloudy climate, however this isn’t entirely true. While the autumn and winter, especially in the north, come with grey skies and sub-zero temperatures, Germany can have some beautiful summers, with temperatures frequently rising above 30C in some places.

Unsurprisingly, the power and wealth of the German nation is mentioned – Germany is the largest economy in Europe after all, with a GDP of 3.8 trillion dollars. This could be due to strong industry sectors in the country, including vehicle constructions (I was a little surprised to find no questions posed on German cars), chemical and electrical industry and engineering. There are also many strong economic cities in Germany, most notably Munich, Frankfurt am Main and Hamburg.

READ ALSO: Eight unique words and phrases that tell us something about Germany

Smart and tall?

Why are Germans so tall? They are indeed taller than many other nations, with the average German measuring a good 172.87cm (or 5 feet 8.06 inches), however this may be a question better posed to the Dutch, who make up the tallest people in the world.

Why are Germans so smart? While this is again a generalisation – as individuals have different levels of intelligence in all countries – this question may stem from Germany’s free higher education system or their seemingly efficient work ethic. Plus there does seem to be some scientific research behind this question, with a study done in 2006 finding that Germans had the highest IQ in Europe.

So, while many of the questions posed about Germany and Germans on Google stem from stereotypes, we can confirm that some aren’t entirely made up. If you’re looking to debunk some frequently asked questions about France and the French, check out this article by our sister site HERE.

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