For Devendra, applying for a room in a shared apartment in Zurich was like a cross between a job interview and a blind date.
I was only allowed to stay in my university accommodation for one semester. After that, I was to be at the mercy of the Zurich housing market. I needed to secure a room in a shared apartment and fast. My biggest problem: the stiff competition for available slots. I had to get my act together to stand a chance.
How does one write an application for a room in a shared apartment (Wohngemeinschaft or WG in German)? A professional CV would be too formal. My email application should stand out of hundreds. Just saying that “Your room is reasonably priced, and can I get it?” wouldn’t suffice. So, I decided to write a casual description of myself and sent it around. As I didn’t get many replies initially, I realised that I need to fine tune my application.
I began by adding a photo of myself. I also mentioned my willingness to enter into a long-term commitment and mentioned my previous experience in shared housing. Both turned out to be game changers later on. I was initially afraid, that being a foreigner, it would be hard for me to get accepted. However, that was not the case. As a foreigner, I was also bringing a different culture to the flat. Many students find it interesting.
After a few applications I got invited to my first “WG casting”. WG casting was a completely new experience. It is a kind of hybrid between a job interview and a blind date. It typically involves a tour of the apartment, another round of introduction, and an informal chit chat. Usually 5-10 people are invited for a WG casting. Sometimes all the applicants are invited together. It lasts around 30 to 45 minutes. After the interview, one waits for the results.
Luck always plays a crucial role. Before getting accepted in a WG, I applied to almost 100 flats. I got invited for “WG Casting” to 10 of these. Although, I got rejected nine times at the final stage, it gave me a wonderful opportunity and excuse to roam around the city. I also got to know a lot of different and interesting people.
Here are a few of pointers, which may help an international student find the perfect WG. If possible, one should write an application in the local language. I started applying only in German after a few rejections. That helped my application a lot. However, there are consequences when you use German in an application. There were a few castings where we conversed entirely in German. Even though I understood most of the conversation, my participation was limited, as my German was not fluent.
I would also advise not to get disheartened after a few rejections. Most of my emails didn’t even get reply. The entire process is completely subjective and random, and everyone eventually finds a WG.
Although the entire house hunting experience was quite demanding, I learned a lot. It is hard to find a group of people with interests aligned with yours. It takes time. Patience is the key to success.
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