My first post in absolutely ages is one that is somewhat tenuously linked to English teaching, but one related to a topic that has been, is and will continue occupying a great deal of my time.
Having recently moved to my first Hauptmiete flat, home furnishing (and the positioning of said furnishings) has suddenly become a keen field of interest for the first time in my life. Flats in Berlin are almost always unfurnished and moving into one can put in a serious dent in your wallet, taking into consideration where you’re going to sleep, put your dirty/clean clothes and keep your perishables.
Here are some ideas to keep the cost down.
The first port of call should be your nearest and Berlin-dearest. Of course, your options will depend a lot on the transience-level of your friendship group, but my experience with my recent move has been universally delightful – picking up a sofa, 3 tables, 2 chairs, 2 rugs, a washing basket and a smile on my face.
Second hand websites
Craigslist is widely known and is used by the international i.e. not German community. Therefore, sales are usually handled in English making your life easier if you (like me) are uncomfortable making phone calls in German. Ebay Kleinanziegen is an excellent resource and has a far, far wider range of offers. If you can manage a smattering of Deutsch (or just send an email in German with the help of Google Translate) then this will be the better option.
Transport is likely to be your biggest headache. Short-term van rental from companies such as the omnipresent Robben & Wientjes provide a relatively cheap and easy solution. Going rate for a day is around €50, although be sure to reserve in advance on the weekends as they get very busy.
Berlin is flohmarkt (flea market) crazy with around 50 taking place each Sunday, according to Tip Berlin. The one in Mauerpark is the biggest and offers the widest range of stuff and of greatly varying quality, from borderline junk to quite beautiful pieces of furniture. Other flohmarkt are significantly smaller with correspondingly limited furniture selections.
Aside from the hit-and-miss quality of the stuff, the biggest problem here is the price. The cost for used furniture can hit that of new items. Dedicated second hand shops also fall under this category although one positive point is that they offer 1-2 year guarantees.
By far the least imaginative (but lets be fair, by far the easiest) way to populate your new digs is a visit to Sweden’s finest. There are 4 in Berlin – Spandau, Lichtenberg, Templehof and the one near the airport that nobody goes to. I’m not going to try and provide secret insights about the biggest and most successful home furnishing company in the world. However, I will say that for some items in my flat (fridge, chest of drawers), IKEA was the best option.
A stern warning to end with:
Stay away from the IKEA art section. I know absolutely nothing about art, but I’m pretty sure that art isn’t art when a gazillion people have identical pictures adorning their walls.