Don’t be fooled. Moving to Berlin and moving to Germany could be two very different things. Of course Berlin is the capital of the country, but that’s kind of it. If your dream is Germany, German culture and German language, you should probably head to Hamburg or Bavaria instead. Of course, people from Munich would tell you they are, in fact, Bavarians and not Germans.
Berlin is the German city best known for being a milieu of different cultures and nationalities. While the suburbs, like Steglitz and Spandau, are full of real Berliners, these days the more central districts are experiencing the new wave of the young, multicultural and international professionals Berlin is attracting in droves. Here are some facts about both Germany and Berlin:
1. German language
Moving to Berlin? You might find learning German more of a challenge than in other cities, especially if you’re working in the international startup scene. It’s possible that around 10 percent of your colleagues will be German. In the streets, especially in Kreuzberg and Neukölln, English is a major language and most Germans have mastered it to humbling levels. When you buy a coffee, get used to the frustration that comes with the barista switching to English after you attempt your best German accent. Try not to let that put you off. If you’re moving to Berlin and want to learn German, put the hard work in, be disciplined and practice as much as you can. It will pay off.
2. The long arm of the law
When moving to Germany or to Berlin you should remember that Germans take rules very seriously. Berliners are a little bit more relaxed, but the following activities should be approached with caution:
- Crossing the street on a red light
- Using your washing machine or listening to loud music after 10pm
- Hosting parties without warning neighbours in advance (sometimes even the neighbours across the street expect to be warned)
- Getting on the bus with an ice cream (from personal experience)
Oh yes, and don’t try getting on the bus with an ice cream. The author of this blog was forced to leave a bus with a small bowl of ice cream, even after hiding it in her handbag. The bus driver just refused to leave the station unless I removed myself, and my dessert, from his vehicle.
Germany is the largest economy in Europe, but the job market here is much more complicated than you might expect. If you’re moving to Germany, be prepared to spend some time looking for a new job. If you’re moving to Berlin, be ready to look for jobs while working as a bartender for a few months.
Many young people moving to Berlin – also known as Silicon Allee – want to work at a startup so get ready to fight for the positions with dozens of other candidates.
4. Sun? What sun?
If you’re moving to Germany in the autumn from somewhere sunny, say goodbye to the sun for a few months. It probably won’t show its golden face until April. Germany isn’t exactly famous for its sandy beaches, sunbathing and pina coladas in January. If you’re moving to Germany, and Berlin in particular, pack for almost Arctic conditions in the winter. You’ll need them when spending time outside at beautiful Christmas markets or simply to survive the long, cold period from November until March.
5. Rooms, flats, WGs (wohngemeinschaft)
If you’re moving to Germany, keep in mind that the two cities with the toughest housing markets are Munich and Berlin. Generally in Germany, it’s relatively easy to find a flat or a room that will suit you geographically and in terms of price, but Munich and Berlin can be a real nightmare for newcomers. Every Berliner has a few tales (sometimes tales of woe) about looking for housing or apartments to rent. (We regularly post such stories on our blog.) You might find yourself traipsing around the city before crowding into tiny flats with 20 other prospective tenants smiling maniacally at a potential new landlord. Unless of course you use nestpick.