Setting up your new place: Furniture, Utilities, Internet, etc

Yay! You should now have all of your residence paperwork set up (if you've been following my steps so far: obtaining a residence, registering your address with the city, & setting up your appointment for your residence permit). Your next priority is probably setting up your apartment. Here's some information that will help you organize everything you'll need.

Furniture

     I would prioritize furniture first, especially if you're on a tight budget, because IKEA (likely your cheapest option) is usually 2 weeks out for delivery. Maybe if you go to the nicer (far more expensive) furniture stores, they would have faster delivery? We also looked at other companies that can deliver your IKEA purchases, but IKEA's service actually had a shorter wait time which meant we would have a bed sooner. This was important because my ridiculous husband couldn't find an air mattress for the first week so we had been sleeping on the floor (Don't worry, I discovered not long after that Rossman had one all along... Note to self: don't depend on husband to find things 😤). We had looked at several other furniture stores in our area & any big brand stores' websites, and I can honestly say IKEA was by far the cheapest. Especially if you'll be needing to install a kitchen.
     I've mentioned before that renting apartments usually mean you'll get an empty shell with a toilet and bath. Literally. They won't even come with lightbulbs, let alone light fixtures. You can specifically look for apartments that are furnished with a full kitchen, but they're usually higher in rent or hard to find. In Jena, the difference seemed enough that we'd make up for having to buy a kitchen in 3 months so it wasn't worth it to pay more in rent. If you're worried about the kitchen, here's what we used to build a very basic and cheap one. Hopefully it can help you get a ballpark amount.

Cabinet Shell to hold your sink/stove/oven: KNOXHULT €117
Cheapest stove that had more than one hot spot: LAGAN HGC3K €100
Cheapest oven (I would advise against this oven, it is so weak): LAGAN OV3 €100
I don't remember which sink we purchased but I believe it was around €100
Fridge: LAGAN Kuhl €200
Washing Machine from Saturn.de on sale (8kg Comfee) €270
A couple of shelves from IKEA: depends on how many you want and what kind
Total = around €1000 for a kitchen

     As usual with IKEA items, you will need to build and install everything on your own. Thankfully my husband is a bit handy and only needed to buy a €30 Jigsaw and basic tools to build the kitchen, but if that's not something you're up for, you can always hire IKEA (or whatever company you purchase from) to do so. It can be expensive though so keep this price in mind as well. We were very conscious about the price since we're only planning on staying for a few years.

*Bonus - OBI (Germany's Home Depot-same orange and everything lol) now rents power tools at an hourly rate which they didn't before (thanks OBI...) If you don't need anything fancy, IKEA also sells basic power tools at their locations for very cheap.

A kitchen before we installed our washing machine and some wall shelves
Everything from IKEA as listed


Electricity/Water

     Now you're probably wondering why we weren't freaking out about our water and electricity first. The system seems to be different here as they don't separate utilities by household. Which means the utilities don't get "cut" when you move out, and electricity/water is already available when you move in. BUT you'll still have to set up a contract with a provider. For us, water was "included" in our rent (up to a certain amount/year). And we had to find an electric company to contract. Your landlord should have a company to recommend or a company they have a partnership with to provide you with a discount.
     All you have to do is take your “Anmeldungbescheinigung” (Address Registration Certificate from the Burger Services), bank information (most payments in Germany are set up through automatic withdrawals), and your rental contract which shows your starting electricity meter numbers. The company will also ask how long you want the contract for and the amount per year. You can do month by month, yearly, etc, but it's cheaper to go for longer contracts. We knew we'd be staying for at least 2 years which is what we decided on. As for the amount, they can show you average usage numbers, and it's not a big deal if you go over a little. They will refund you the amount for any unused electricity.
     We were told the system is this way due to one company controlling all of the city's electricity. The companies you contract then request usage from this "mega company" and take charge of your meter usage. Strange, but it's also how the internet works here. Which we'll talk about next~


Internet/Cell Service

     As I was saying, the system for your household internet is similar to getting electricity. There's a "mega company" which, in this case, is Telekom (aka T-Mobile!). Telekom apparently used to have a monopoly on internet/phone services in Germany so they own all of the wiring/system. Now different companies have to request usage of this system to provide you with their own contract/pricing.
     You can choose to sign up with Telekom (fastest set up) or go with other options. Friends have told me that O2 is the cheapest, but customer service is pretty horrible if you ever run into problems. We ended up going with Vodafone because they provide free EU roaming. As avid travelers, we lit up at the offer. I would say pricing is about the same as AT&T back home which is fine, but the slow set up time can really suck. Your cell service is instant, but it'll take around 3 weeks after you sign up with Vodafone for them to gain access to Telekom's internet services and have a service man sent out to your home. They'll try and make up for it by providing you an extra 10GB of data on your cells, but 10GB can go quick if you want to Netflix/Hulu. We just ended up sitting around cafes for the first few weekends...


TV/Radio Tax

     Now this one's a funny one. Every household in Germany is required to pay a TV/Radio Tax (Rundfunkbeitrag). This tax funds the production and broadcasting of Germany's public channels. Because nowadays every household is likely to have a tv/radio or internet (which can access these channels), it is required to pay unless you are blind/deaf. It'll run you €17.50/month, and thankfully, it's per household, not person. You should automatically receive this letter after registering your address with the city, but if you don't, you will have to contact the Beitrag office to make sure & pay. If you don't, you'll have to pay everything you missed along with some hefty late fees. If you refuse to pay, they will take legal actions so it's best to just comply.


Garden Plots

     This one doesn't really have to do with your apartment, but if you love gardening, Germany is quite the place to be. 'Garden plots' (Schrebergärten) are popular to 'purchase' here if you're interested. You might have already noticed a 'Garden Colony' depending on where you live. They look like fields that are squared off with tiny homes on each square. You can "purchase" a plot from a previous owner, but you wouldn't actually own the land, just everything on the land. This is all determined by a government appraiser down to every little herb (predetermined by goverment standards). Do keep in mind that as much as you can enjoy your own garden, there are many rules to managing your garden plot. It's kind of like having an HOA that tells you what you can/can't grow, what kind of house you can build, and so on. Some garden plots actually have an HOA/Management club.


Hope this has been helpful! If you have any questions, never hesitate to ask~





*This is simply what I learned from my personal experiences/research. Please always make sure to consult with the proper authorities and take this post with a grain of salt.

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