Every student, job seeker, refugee or pensioner with low income has probably faced the following problem at least once in Germany:
“Damn, I would really like to have some new furniture, but unfortunately it is hardly affordable here.”
There are three well known possibilities to find furniture in Rostock:
- You buy it from standardized large market chains (e.g. Ikea, Otto) for high purchase prices
- You build furniture yourself, if you have the skillset and patience
- You buy the furniture privately, often spot cheap but in a very questionable condition. If you detect defects in the goods after your transaction, then return is excluded in most cases and a lawsuit against this salesman is not worthwhile for you.
As you can see, options are extremely limited for people on a low budget. Still, there is another great, and for many people absolutely unknown, solution: Sozialkaufhäuser.
These Sozialkaufhäuser, some of which are privately and some of which are publicly organised, are only pursuing a limited profit-making intention, since the deaconry aspect is their primary concern. Individuals can hand over their furniture, technology or everyday things at a Sozialkaufhaus and this store then passes it on to other people in need for an apple and an egg. Sometimes you will even find one or two rare treasures there, in example when pensioners give away their old records or some forgotten oil paintings from their attic. If you are really lucky, you may even find an entire kitchen furnishing for 50€ – how I did back then when I first moved to Rostock five years ago. Ultimately, the Sozialkaufhaus is like a middle sized flea market. Of course almost all items are in used condition, but the staff regularly cleans and checks for functionality.
Only people in need are allowed to shop here and you have to hand in papers that prove your social dependance. In Germany, low earners, unemployed, pensioners, students and similar marginalized groups with demonstrably low incomes are regarded as persons in need …. which of course also says a lot about social distribution policy in Germany, but that would go beyond the scope of this posting. You can look around there like in a normal department store, reserve items and usually have them delivered directly to your apartment for an extra charge of 5-10€. These Sozialkaufhäuser often employ people with a difficult past to give them a new opportunity to start over their careers. So shopping there also promotes a reintegration project. It becomes a give and take situation and a win-win for both sides. There is a store on the east side and a store on the west side of Rostock.
Of course, where social support can be found, the deceitful exploitation of this system is not far away. The author has already seen in his own circle of acquaintances how many high earners sent their own buddies in need to a store to buy certain goods for them. That this behaviour destroys the entire purpose of this system does not seem to mind them very much.
It should be noted that especially at the beginning and at end of the month, after most people have received social support or salary payment in Germany, the Sozialkaufhäuser are often overcrowded. One should look out for new deliveries especially in the middle of the month when everything calmed down a little bit.
Nevertheless, it is and remains a great opportunity to furnish your apartment on a tight budget.