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

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May 2001

Address Unknown

Dwelling on the fact that I have no home

“Schon weg.” (“Already gone.”) Oh, how I’ve come to expect hearing those words. If I’d only had a hint of the housing horror that was to come, my Wohngemeinschaft (WG), or, shared living situation, would have ended in a timelier fashion. I’d always heard how expensive it is to live in the city—costly, not impossible.

The lack of privacy and indecent living conditions of WG life sent me in search of a place to call my own. The mysteriously vanishing dishes and groceries, a ridiculously tiny fridge space the height of a liter box of milk—not to mention the unidentified gooey drippings from shelves above—were too much to bear.

Oblivious to the current crisis, I searched for a home in my favorite neighborhoods: Schwabing, Neuhausen, Haidhausen, Lehel, Maxvorstadt and Ludwigsvorstadt—and so did thousands of others. I began to ask myself: how can an apartment, advertised today for the first time, be “schon weg”? Slowly I caught on to the fact that an onslaught of yuppie newcomers and droves of new students have overloaded Munich’s housing market.

On a Friday afternoon in Schwabing, I waited, with four dozen others, for an inconsiderately tardy real estate agent. To curious passersby, the scene must have appeared to be some sort of casting call for the role of the “tenant”! “Those who were still interested, should call Monday morning after eight,” we were instructed. At precisely 7:59 I left my name and number with the agent and was told I would be notified of an interview right away. Late that afternoon I called again—“schon weg.” A dial tone was the response when I asked why I was never called back.

I must admit every time I was selected to meet an apartment owner I felt like a game show contestant who had reached the final round to respond correctly once more and win the million. After applying for an apartment in a new building on Schleissheimerstrasse, I was one of three chosen from a hoard that had, days earlier, fought its way up and down the unfinished staircases, trying to remain clean while avoiding worker’s tools, cords and debris. This was it: my dream place came with a French glass window offering a view of a lovely turn-of-the-century building and a sushi place across the street. During the interview, I sensed my “beautiful 45-sqm, 1.5-rm apartment under eaves with a 10.98-sqm terrace”—based on which I had made mental invitations for my housewarming party—slipping away when I learned the dream space was short one kitchen.

Upon learning that I am an American, another landlord decided to make my decision for me: on her one trip to America, she reasoned she saw that “we” have big kitchens, so hers couldn’t possibly meet my needs. There were other size considerations, for instance, my almost six-foot height. I was turned away after waiting in a line of more than 30 people. An energy-saver light left us, repeatedly, in complete darkness. Moving up in line to assume “light switch duty,” I was greeted by a pleasant older German couple that immediately identified the obvious. The severe slope of the ceiling and walls meant that I would either have to forfeit the use of 25 percent of the rented space or schedule weekly chiropractic appointments.

Ironically, the more I met the crisis head-on, the pickier I became. Who’d have thought that dietary preferences could affect an apartment search? I applied for units near cheese shops based solely on my passion for Pecorino. As a vegetarian, I passed up the opportunity to look for digs on Feilitz-strasse behind McDonald’s. Several possibilities were wedged between battling Döner meat sandwich stands—the thought of walking by pungent cones of Kebap every day turned my stomach. Thank you, no.

Frustrating and time-consuming, my efforts continue. Now able to unpack my suitcase for a few months, I thank the friends who’ve rolled out a sleeping bag for me. With the Munich street map now memorized, I’ve fantasized about moving into dozens of apartments around the city, but I still seek the address I can finally call home.

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