Picture the scenario: young professional moving from Amsterdam to Berlin for a short-term secondment, no contacts in that city, no accommodation provided with the job, not a native speaker and no desire to stay in a hotel. That’s where I found myself 3 months ago. My biggest stress was not: will the secondment be a success; but where am I going to live and will I find like-minded people to spend time with during my time in the city? Then I discovered co-living.

My name is Alba and I am a Millennial. I also need to tell you that I buy into one of the often-quoted Millennial dreams: to live and work whenever and wherever I want. While this is quite a cliché, there is no doubt that Millennials are looking for a lifestyle with higher flexibility and a better work life balance. Indeed, a 2018 Deloitte Millennial Study revealed that flexibility was among the top three items on the younger workers’ wish lists.

The trend of co-everything could be the answer to living this dream. It started with co-working, which changed our approach to office use and rental and more importantly, allowed workers to become digital nomads. Today, you can find a co-working community almost anywhere – from global gateways, such as New York and Singapore, to tropical locations like Bali or Costa Rica. And now co-living has become the natural extension of co-working, shaping the future of urban living by offering affordable rents, communal spaces and flexible contracts – just some of the aspects that attract young generations into this living arrangement.

Digging into what Millennials and Gen Z are looking for, reveals the three Cs of co-living: cost, convenience and community. These factors definitely underpinned my decision to I move into a co-living space. When I started my search for a room, colleagues who had gone through the process were quick to confirm it is not easy. After going through a similar process of flat-hunting in Amsterdam, I thought it could not get any harder. I was wrong. Finding an affordable room in an unknown city where you are not living yet and where you do not know anyone, is a real challenge. After lots of messages sent, and very few – mostly negative – responses, I began to explore alternatives. And this is how I came across the concept of co-living, which is a rapidly growing trend in Berlin.

Co-living was a convenient choice; I could move easily into a fully furnished apartment with common spaces where I could meet like-minded people for an affordable price. Furthermore, contracts are flexible, with termination periods of only one-month compared with more traditional rental agreements of 12+ months. It offers the convenience of hotel living, with weekly cleaning services, bed linen, towels and even toilet paper and washing powder. However, the determining factor for me was the community. A sense of belonging to combat urban loneliness is essential; the 2018 Cigna Loneliness Index indicated that Millennials and Gen Z survey respondents experienced loneliness more often than any of the other generations surveyed. I wanted to  share common spaces with international young professionals.

I identified three different co-living schemes in Berlin. Two out of three did not have availability for my dates; demand is high. So I chose Frendz Living, a new co-living space with 12 rooms in the residential area of Prenzlauer Berg, NE of Berlin Mitte. I was interviewed by co-founder Maxim and moved in to my fully furnished room soon after, welcome snacks and all. It felt like a hotel room, but without a check-out day.

So what’s my co-living experience so far?

Open, diverse and international are the words that best define my “co-habitants”. From an opera singer to an IT manager, what we all share is our similar situation: most of us recently arrived in Berlin to start a new job. Coming from different countries and backgrounds, it is an opportunity to broaden your mind and learn from other cultures.

In a larger-scale co-living concept, events are organized for the residents, to strengthen the community feeling. Although smaller concepts, such as Frendz Living, don’t offer this, it is people that make the difference. In our community, we have collectively taken the initiative to organize social activities around daily life. During my first week, I co-hosted a Spanish dinner with other flatmate. Ten people showed up for a night of tortilla, wine, Latin music and lots of laughs. This was the start of more evenings of movies and popcorn, board games, taco nights, and days exploring Berlin together – events that have helped us bond and create a sense of community.

So is it crowded with twelve people sharing one common area? Actually, no. Everyone has different schedules, so the common area is usually used by small groups at any given time; and you can still retreat to your own private space when the mood takes you. The greater appeal is the knowledge that you can easily share dinner or a glass of wine by just joining the living room.

So co-living was a great way to start my journey in Berlin. In addition to reducing the stress of finding accommodation in a foreign city, the space has given me the opportunity to connect easily with people who are in the same stage of life as me. And community has come in all forms – from help offered by other flatmates in  dealing with local bureaucracy; to sharing a homemade vegan meal with my Russian flatmate. It is the willingness to participate and share that has made co-living so enjoyable. The question is, are we all in the honeymoon stage? Can the harmony be sustained? Stay tuned for the next installment.

About Alba Pons

Alba, originally from Spain, discovered her passion for the hospitality industry after collecting her fist experience at the Sales & Marketing department at Jardin Tropical, a 4-star resort in Tenerife. Then, she started her studies of International Hospitality Management at “Hotelschool The Hague” in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Prior to HoCoSo, Alba has worked at Anantara Bophut Ko Samui (Thailand). Her interest in both market research and concept development, led Alba to join HoCoSo on November 2019 as Hotel Analyst Intern.

About HoCoSo

HoCoSo are advisors with a difference.

We create tailor-made and innovative solutions for clients’ hospitality-led projects by bringing together the optimum team of sector specialists.

Jonathan Humphries, Chairman and Owner of HoCoSo, and his direct team specialize in the extended-stay, co-living, and hotel-alternatives hospitality market; luxury, lifestyle and boutique hotels; and resort developments in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA). Our strengths lie in the following core services: