There’s no doubt that Berlin is an amazing city. Whether you’re looking to work in the startup scene or are a fan of the city’s vibrant art, culture and nightlife, Berlin is the place to be in Europe right now. Despite being a very open, international and safe city, there are still plenty of cultural differences which can make the first few months of moving to Berlin difficult to navigate, says Berlin-based expat Rose Findlay. Luckily Rose has put together a list of ten things to know before moving to help you navigate the waters even before you step off the plane. Follow this way…
Rose Finlay is a content creator for Angloinfo Berlin. Several years of living in Europe, including three located in Berlin, have led her to have a passion for European culture, society, and history. When she is not writing about Berlin and Germany, Rose is a freelance film critic and fiction writer.
1. Learning German Can Only Help You!
So, you’ve decided to move to Berlin and you’ve heard that English is the lingua franca and that German is barely even spoken there anymore. This is a bit of exaggeration. While it is easy to go about town and rarely ever need to utter more German than a simple “danke”, there are still plenty of instances when German is the only language available. This can be particularly apparent when first moving, as you must deal with German authorities and sign various contracts in order to get situated in the country. Learning some German as soon as possible can be a great help in making a successful transition to Berlin, and it will also help you feel more connected to the wonderful culture of the city you’ve chosen to live in.
2. Be Prepared for the Bureaucracy
People aren’t kidding when they say that the Germans love bureaucracy. When you first arrive, it can seem like there are dozens of offices to visit and even more forms to fill out. If you aren’t well-versed in the process, it can be easy to find yourself stuck in a never-ending circle of bureaucracy. For example, to get an apartment you need a bank account, but to get a bank account you need to be registered with the local authorities, and in order to be registered you need an apartment. Save yourself the headache and know the order you need go about doing things before you arrive.
3. A Good Apartment Can Be Hard to Find
Not long ago, Berlin was a haven for artists and students due to its abundance of inexpensive housing options. Unfortunately, those times have passed and now the city is left with an ever-increasing housing crisis. While the housing prices in Berlin continue to be significantly cheaper than other capital cities throughout Europe, the prices are rising and demand is high. Many find it easiest to first find a short-term sublet and then go on the search for the perfect long-term apartment, but even then it’s not uncommon for the whole search to take several months. Do some research on current prices and make sure you have your paperwork in order before you begin.
4. Get to Know Your Neighborhood!
There are 12 districts in Berlin and each has its own unique charm and history. Some districts are urban and trendy with a lively nightlife, and others have the character of small rural villages – including farms, forests, and small medieval churches! Rental prices and availability vary greatly throughout the city, and the best fit for you might not be in the most popular (and written about) areas.
5. (If Possible) Land the Job Before You Come
Berlin may be a cool place with a lot of people coming and going, but there isn’t necessarily a job waiting for you here. While the startup scene is growing and healthy, for those in careers outside of tech, it can be a difficulty finding a job – particularly if your German isn’t quite up to snuff yet. Berlin’s unemployment rate is at almost 11 percent, significantly higher than the countrywide average of 6.7 percent. While many newcomers find a job easily once they’ve moved to Berlin, it’s a good idea to look up listings in your field before arriving to see what the job market is like in your field of expertise.
6. The Party Vortex is Real
So, you’ve heard that in Berlin it is possible to party at the same club for three days straight, and that every night of the week there is some sort of quirky party going on? Well, you would be correct. With world-famous clubs and a vibrant art scene, there is always something interesting going on. Berlin is considered one of the best clubbing cities in the world, and it certainly lives up to this reputation. Just be aware that it is easy to lose yourself here, and that it is not uncommon for newcomers to realize that they partied away several months of their lives.
7. Prepare for the Winter Blues
After the joyful celebration of the Christmas season with its bright lights and markets, the following months can seem particularly bleak. January and February in Berlin are when the temperatures plummet and the weather seems to settle on a state of permanent greyness. If you are prone to suffering from the winter blues, or come from sunnier climes, it is best to prepare yourself for the inevitability of the long Berlin winters. However, with a warm winter jacket and maybe the addition of a sun lamp, it is easy to discover joy during these months as they are usually the quietest time to explore the city.
8. Beware the “Berliner Schnauze”
Despite the internationality of Berlin, it is never a struggle to find the born-and-raised Berliners – their personality is such that they are hard to miss! The famous “Berliner Schnauze”, or Berliner “snout”, is probably best described as a form of sass often accompanied by the unique dialect of the city. If you break a rule, whether it is written or unwritten, they will be sure to let you know with a biting remark. While they first come off as a bit rude, the remarks often have an underlying humor and the best response is to either accept the criticism or learn to give back as good as you get.
9. Plan Ahead Before You Go Grocery Shopping
A common struggle among newcomers is trying to find all of the ingredients for recipes you are used to. While local supermarkets often focus on traditional German foods and basic groceries, it can be difficult to find more “exotic” items and even the search for quality meats and produce can be headache-inducing. It is not uncommon to have to go to several stores to complete a trip for groceries. Look up local privately run bakeries, fishmongers, and butchers – avoiding chains as much as possible in order to get higher quality food. For good produce there are two options: small produce shops are scattered throughout every district in the city and usually offer a higher quality than found in supermarkets, or go to your neighborhood’s weekly market where locally grown produce, cheeses, and meats are often sold. Be prepared to shop for fruits and vegetables more seasonally than you are used to, particularly if you love kale which is only available for a short period of time every year.
10. Always Carry Cash
Whether you are dealing with the authorities, buying from your local bakery, or going out for a nice dinner at a fancy restaurant, it is always a good idea to have enough cash to cover whatever you need to purchase. Credit cards are rarely accepted outside of the most touristy areas of Berlin, and even debit card machines can be hard to find at many restaurants and shops. Luckily, there are many ATMs around the city, but many of these have high withdrawal charges so beware. While most large chains will accept credit cards and debit cards, it always a good idea to check the store’s policies before you begin to order.
For tips, advice and practical guidance about moving to and living in Berlin visit: