Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Status Report

In a few hours, I'll head down to Kopfbahnhof, that remarkable rail-only travel agency in Schöneberg, and pick up another Berlin-Montpellier-Berlin train ticket. I'll spend Bastille Day going from here to there, arriving in time to join some friends atop a parking garage to watch the fireworks. The next day, I'll get back to the work of finding a place to live.

This time I'll be better prepared: I'll have copies of my bank statements from both the U.S. and Berlin. I'll have sheafs of letters from people who've employed me over the last year, although, given the vagaries of freelancing, they'll probably be a bit ambiguous as to precise income figures.

What I don't have just at the moment is an ironclad plan, and that worries me. Some of it is just plain due to lack of information. There's been some talk of a place going empty at an unspecified time which would be absolutely ideal in terms of space, location, and price. But it's just that at the moment: talk. There's been at least one offer from one of the e-mail robot lists that sounds good, but whether it'll still be open when I get there -- not to mention whether my attempt to contact the landlord about my interest landed safely -- is far from certain. There may well be more of these, although the same uncertainties apply.

Another worry is money. I'm still okay on that, but I owe another month's rent here, and there's the ticket and the hotel, which, this time, is out in the 'burbs, albeit not very far from the center of town, where I need to be. I've got more coming in, and a story to do down there once I get there. But still...

Should I concentrate my energies on finding a furnished place to move into, and have to turn around and go back once I return from this trip? That will involve paying two rents, which eats away at the nest-egg I'm going to have to have to secure a permanent place with enough to worry me. Should I instead concentrate on finding that permanent place? That's the most economical solution, but the riskiest: what if, again, I don't find one? What if the landlord rejects me because I'm self-employed? One thing I tapped into on that last trip was a deep instiutional French insecurity about independence, something I hadn't counted on. I guess my model for finding a place in this university town was Austin, another university town. And, weather notwithstanding, it's not Austin. Nor is it Berlin, with lots of cheap places standing vacant most of the time.

And the thing is, there don't seem to be any hard and fast answers to this. I'm going to have to wing it, absent a miraculous shower of income-producing work in the next couple of weeks to assuage my worries. I'm still utterly certain I'm going to succeed somehow, but if I seem a bit tense these days, it's because so much is unknown. It's the nature of the "somehow" that's got me biting my nails.

Suggestions welcome.


Anonymous said...

This question won't help you, but I'm curious: What do you do about immigration status? Can you move from Germany to France just like that? Do you have to file papers? Apologies if you've written on this and I missed it. bjb

Ed Ward said...

In a word, Schevingen. Open borders. If I'm OK in Germany, I'm OK in France, although within a given time they'll want me to get a Carte de Séjour there.

First things first, though: an apartment to séjour in.

Don said...

What about renting/buying a caravan (house trailer) as an interim step. Many Canadian and American full-timers own one in the South for winter months and one in the North for summer? Maybe the rules are more flexible. Landlords seem to have a lot of power in Europe.

Ed Ward said...

Um, no thanks. How do I get into Montpellier to continue to look for apartments? I don't own a car and can't afford to buy one (let alone gas).

Landlords have a lot of power until they give you a lease, at which point it gets lots more egalitarian.

George said...

Wow, Ed, this seems like quite a conundrum. I wonder whether the upcoming typical summer vacation month might have some effect, where I hear that much of Western Europe takes all of August and some of July off. I'm almost thinking the furnished place might be what you'll have to do. If there's some way you can have a couple of those in the back pocket while you give the permanent place one last try? Some of this is reminding me of things I've heard from that A Year In Provence book, namely many French being slow about paperwork and not too friendly with Americans. Yet my own brief experiences in France revealed the latter was much overblown, though certainly the pace of life is slower.

Anonymous said...

It's actually the renter that has a lot of power in Europe, not so much the landlord. That's why landlords will think more than twice before renting to somebody.

The deal is, because Ed is a freelancer (ie. doesn't have a guaranteed and constant stream of money) and at the same time can't prove a substantial amount of savings, what happens if he isn't able to pay rent?

Well, nothing happens. That's the problem. The landlord has limited power to kick somebody actually out. It takes months (and if it's winter, fuggetaboutit, you can't kick anyone out in the cold months). The landlord might never see his money again. So they're very careful to rent to the right person.

Ed, just wait until you try to open up a bank account in France as a foreigner... ui... if you thought renting was ridiculous.

And Ed, I'm sure you know these sites, but in case you missed one:


Good luck!