Munich in English - selected by independent Locals for Cosmopolitans, Newcomers and Residents - since 1989

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November 2002

Staying Power

In Munich there is really no place like home

It is the start of the new winter semester, the city of Munich has practically no rentable accommodation available and almost 50 percent of new students have yet to find a place to live. This dire situation has forced many foreign partner universities to cancel their student exchange programs. To foreign students who are currently living here none of this will come as a surprise. In fact, it is amazing that anybody who comes to the city from abroad can find even a mouse hole in which to take up lodgings. For a start German landlords are reluctant to rent out apartments or rooms for only half a year (the average time an exchange student, for example, will spend here). Also, locals are generally given preference over foreigners in the hunt for accommodation. No city or town anywhere in the world is free of this type of discrimination, nonetheless it is dispiriting when, after having struggled through a few sentences of introduction in a foreign language, it immediately becomes clear that you have disqualified yourself just by opening your mouth.

Efforts have been made to create new lodgings in Munich but many of these are, at best, temporary solutions. In fact perhaps emergency would be a better word for the plastic walled, six square-meter, former party cellar, kitted out with a mattress, that was recently offered to students in Freimann. As a young person, though native to Bavaria, living in Munich on a shoestring, I have had my fair share of lousy cheap lets and weird roommates. My first apartment was located at a main traffic junction, which meant constant noise and dirt. The neighboring house was home to a take-away establishment, ensuring a never-ending aroma of fatty, fried food. To top this one of my roommates discovered that she had an army of bugs in her room. The next flat was fine, but living with an I’m-a-freaky-theater-director-actress-artist-kind of person was very exhausting. Finally, I decided to move out of town and for most of last year I lived on the outskirts of Munich in a little attic apartment—alone. And now finally I have found a room in Schwabing, near the English Garden: reasonable rent, a bright and attractive interior, plus a nice person to share it with. How? Here are a few pointers for anyone unlucky enough to be looking for a place. Perseverance is the name of the game. Make contacts wherever possible and don’t be afraid to network. Networking may not be as popular in Germany as it is, say, in the United States, but consider it your personal contribution to increasing intercultural awareness. Then improve your German to include all the requisite vocabulary. Finally, remember that good manners will take you a long way and can soften up the stoniest of Bavarian hearts.

But why doesn’t the rest of Munich’s population care about the lack of student accommodation or the cancellation of foreign exchange programs? Perhaps because many believe that such visitors make no real contribution to the community. They are coming to take—a course of study, an apartment, a temporary job. In fact, however, foreign residents are a resource, bringing their cultures to our doorstep and a view of the world, which can only enhance our own. They will also, it is hoped, be able to return home with at least a little better understanding of Germany and what it has to offer. Move over everyone, I think I see an exchange student coming.

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