Living in Berlin: The Ultimate Expat Guide

Living in Berlin: The Ultimate Expat Guide

No convincing is usually required when it comes to relocating to Berlin. It is the dream destination for many, being the capital of Europe’s biggest economic power. But - what do you really know about Berlin, other than its high salaries and an even higher standard of living - and Bratwurst? This guide is to tell you all you need to know about Germany’s vibrant capital before you start calling it your new home. 

 

1. Work in Berlin, Germany

2. Getting around Berlin, Germany

3. Housing in Berlin

4. Living like a local

5. Fun things to do around the city

6. Cost of living in Berlin, Germany


 

  1. Work in Berlin, Germany

 

Berlin offers fantastic work opportunities for its citizens and expats alike - but first, one must know how to effectively look for them. A good place to start is the Arbeitsamt/Bundesagentur für Arbeit (Federal Employment Agency). It’s a public job agency of sorts - a meeting ground for employers and employees. This public service also provides administrative and consultant services to job seekers. 

 

When searching for a job in Germany for the very first time, you need to register with Arbeitsamt - they will help you find a suitable position and will keep you posted on potential jobs in the country. 

 

Similarly, once you have worked in Germany for some time, Arbeitsamt will keep providing support. A German employer will need to give you a notice if you’re about to be laid off - once you receive that notice, you have to inform Arbeitsamt about this ASAP. 

 

If you become involuntarily unemployed after having worked and paying versicherungspflichtig (mandatory social and unemployment insurance) for at least 12 months in the last two years, you will receive financial help. Arbeitsamt will provide you with an unemployment benefit equal to 60-67% of your previous average monthly net income. After 1 year of receiving Arbeitslosengeld I (unemployment benefit), it will change to Arbeitslosengeld II, also known as Hartz IV, which provides the funds sufficient for a basic existence.

 

They will also support you by helping you find a new job, and even training you if you’d like to change career paths. However, the more years of experience you have behind your belt in your domain, the more encouraged you will be to remain in it, as experienced workers find it easier to become employed. 

 

During your unemployed period, Arbeitsamt will match you with jobs that match your profile. You have the right to refuse 3 times - after that, you need to go to the interview for the next position they suggest.


 

Useful job boards when living in Berlin, Germany

 

The people in Germany will usually start their search online, on bigger universal platforms such as LinkedIn or Indeed or ones focusing on a certain niche, like Europe Language Jobs

 

Facebook groups are not popular when it comes to job search purposes - they are used for many other things, but when looking for work, they don’t come off as the most trusted source. 


 

Sectors & languages in demand

 

Because so many dream of working in Berlin, the competition on the local job market is rather high. The main sectors in demand in Germany include:

 

  • IT Specialists, 

  • IT Consultants/Analysts, 

  • Data Scientists/Analysts, 

  • Software Developers, Doctors,

  • Engineers, 

  • Mechanical and Vehicle Engineers,

  • Electrical Engineers,

  • Civil Engineers, 

  • Scientists, 

  • Mathematicians, 

  • Nurses and Senior Carers, 

  • Care Workers, 

  • Metal Workers, 

  • Electronics Technicians or Electricians, 

  • Mechatronics,

  • Sellers in Retail 

 

As you can observe, those who are especially sought after in Germany right now are those working in IT, Engineering, Medical Care, Science, and Retail. The languages in demand - aside from English and German - are Dutch, French, Polish, Danish, and the Nordic languages. 


Working culture

 

You may be familiar with the picture of a German worker as very formal, strict, and perfectly organised. While this stereotype might not be true for everyone it is not entirely false, either. 

 

Unless you know your colleagues very well, the local working culture demands you address them formally (“Sie” instead of “Du”). This concept is called “Siezen” or “Duzen”, depending on which form is being used. It’s all a matter of respect - people will always ask “Kann ich Sie Duzen?” (literally, “Can I say you to you?”, meaning, “Can I address you informally?”) rather than assume and risk coming off as impolite. 

 

Punctuality is incredibly important everywhere - especially so in the professional world. Again, it shows your respect for your team and superiors; you don’t want to waste anyone’s time. Arriving on time works favourably when it comes to teamwork and the employees’ spirits. 

 

Working overtime is not encouraged and most people will drop their pencils once it’s time to clock off. When overworking though, every minute counts. Most companies will have you sign into a system when you arrive at the office and leave, and when you work more than supposed, you either get time taken off your shift another day or in the best case scenario -  you get paid for every minute of overtime.

 

Germans generally don’t like mixing business and pleasure. For the most part, work stays at work. Hanging out with your coworkers after hours is uncommon and on a rare occasion that it happens, talking about work is strictly forbidden by an unspoken agreement. The “work hard, play hard” model is followed here - you remain focused and give your 100% at work, but after it, all you want is to unwind and dedicate your free time to your own hobbies. 

 

In Germany, a strict schedule is followed as well. During the week, few go out, reserving that activity mainly for the weekend. Most want to go to bed quite early to wake up motivated and well-rested the next morning. Streets being busy on working nights are a rare sight in Germany.

 

However, we must remember it’s Berlin we’re talking about. This international, intercultural hub lives by its own rules. While those are the general observations when it comes to the German working culture, the attitudes are constantly changing with the passing time and thanks to expats introducing new ways of living. 


 

Work permit, residence permit, and the visa

 

EU nationals (and citizens of Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein, and Iceland) don’t need neither a working visa, nor a work permit to be able to find legal employment in Germany. The only thing they must do is register their stay if they plan for it to be longer than 90 days. To do so, you have to visit the Einwohnermeldeamt (Residence Registration Office) or Ausländerbehörde (Immigration Office).

 

Citizens from outside of the EU have to apply for an employment visa, work permit, and residence permit. Those coming from the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, South Korea, and Israel also need a work and residence permit, but they are not required to obtain a visa.

 

If you’re a non-EU citizen and are not exempt from visa requirements, you need to apply for it prior to your departure to Germany. You won’t be allowed into the country without a valid visa. Remember it has to be the employment or, in the worst case, a job-seeker visa, as your application for a work permit will be automatically discarded with any other type of visa. You need to prove to the authorities issuing the work permit that you came to Germany for employment purposes, and not as a tourist.

 

The difference between the employment and the job-seeker visa is that in order to receive the former, you will already have to have found a job in Germany. This might be difficult, as not all companies offer visa sponsorship for their future employees. You can be granted the job-seeker visa without a secured position, but you will be under constant scrutiny from the local authorities who will want to prove you’re actively searching for a job when you arrive. 

 

Once you obtain the correct visa, you need to apply for a work and residence permit after you arrive in Germany. This is done at Ausländerbehörde (Immigration Office). In order to receive a joint work and residence permit in Germany, you must:

 

  • be an employment visa holder

  • get health insurance that is recognised in Germany

  • register your address in Germany at Bürgeramt (Citizens’ Registration Office)

  • prepare all the required documents and forms, including the work and residence permit application form

  • make an appointment at Ausländerbehörde

 

The documents you will need to bring with you to the work and residence permit appointment are the following:

 

  • passport

  • passport pictures (following the ICAO guidelines)

  • residence permit application (Antrag auf Erteilung eines Aufenthaltstitels)

  • work contract (it can also be the offer if you haven’t started the job yet, as long as it states your salary, position, and duration of employment)

  • Declaration of the Employment Relationship (Erklärung zum Beschäftigungsverhältnis) - completed by the employer, only available in German

  • certificate of registration (Meldebescheinigung)

  • proof of health insurance

  • tenancy agreement 

  • a letter from your landlord confirming your residency in Germany

  • university diploma

  • CV

  • cover letter

  • bank statements

 

Bring both original and copies of all documents - that includes official ones such as the university diploma. You may also be required to pay an application fee. 

 

More information about obtaining visas and the work and residence permit in Germany is available on the Germany visa website.


  1. Getting around Berlin, Germany


 

Public transport

 

Germany is very well-connected by an extended public transportation system. It is generally said to be punctual, with few exceptions - mostly when it comes to trains and buses.

 

As Berlin is a large, extensive city, getting everywhere on foot may not always be possible. In big cities, the public transport system is operated by a transport association integrating all means of public transport into a single network. 

 

Tickets can be bought for certain Travelzones - the city centre is usually A, B is a bit further out, etc. The tickets will be called BerlinAB, BerlinABC, and so on, according to the number of zones you intend to travel across. A single ticket (with no subscription) is valid on all means of public transport except long-distance trains for 120 minutes, as long as you travel within one zone. It is also only valid in one direction - you can’t travel to XYZ and back on the same ticket!

 

A single ticket costs between €2 and €4. Before boarding, you must validate your ticket. There are generally no barriers preventing you from entering without purchasing or validating your ticket, but “Schwarzfahren” (travelling without a valid ticket) is fined €60. Inspectors are regularly present in all means of transport and are dressed casually to prevent you from spotting them straight away. 

 

Fun fact: If you are a student (no matter if it’s at a public or private university), the cost of a yearly ticket will already be included in your student fees. It cannot be refunded, so even though you don’t use the public transport a lot or have a car, you will still be paying for a yearly ticket (in semester rates) for as long as you keep studying. However, it is the BerlinABC pass, so it allows you to travel outside of the strict area of the city and is a nice opportunity for taking day trips! 

 

Buses 

 

They usually connect the city centre with more remote places outside of it. In the smaller towns outside of Berlin, they will be the only means of transport running at night. Their logo is a green H (standing for Halteselle) on a yellow background.


 

Trams

 

The Straßenbahnen (the German word for trams) have multiple stops scattered all around Berlin. They are usually combined with bus stops - a bus stop that is also a tram stop will be indicated by the word “Tram” on a red background. 


 

Metro

 

The Berlin metro, called Untergrundbahn or, more commonly, U-Bahn, comprises of 173 stations spread along 146 kilometres and 10 lines. Some of those stations will be placed above ground, despite the name “underground” suggesting otherwise, so don’t be surprised. The symbol of U-Bahn is a white U on a blue background. 


 

Trains

 

S-Bahn (Schnellbahn or Stadtschnellbahn - literally translates to “City rapid train”) is an urban-suburban rail system. It serves a wider metropolitan region, linking the suburbs and commuter regions with the main rail station and the city centre. The S-Bahn is denoted by a white S on a green background. 


 

Taxis

 

Taxis in Berlin are quite expensive, but short trips of up to 2km are included in a fixed rate of €5. To enjoy this special tariff, you should say to your taxi driver in German: “Kurzstrecke" as soon as you get into the car.



 

Berlin Airport

 

The regional airport express train FEX links the airport to Berlin Central Station (Berlin Hauptbahnhof). It departs from Terminal 1 railway station every half an hour, and the journey takes another 30 minutes. Furthermore, the regional trains RE7 and RB14 also head to Berlin city centre.

 

The express buses X7 and X71 travel frequently between the underground station Rudow (terminus U7) and terminals 1-2. The journey takes 16 minutes. Additionally, the express buses BER1 (Steglitz City Hall - BER T1/2) and BER2 (Potsdam Central Station - BER T1/2) run several times a day.

 

A Taxi from Berlin city centre to the BER Airport is approximately €53, so unless you have a lot of heavy baggage, it’s a lot cheaper to use the public transport system where a ticket will cost you €3.80.


 

  1. Housing in Berlin

 

Flat hunt 

 

Finding accommodation in Berlin - especially one that won’t drain your funds - is a challenge. There have been reports of cases when the queue for a viewing of a flat located on the 7th floor ran down the stairs and out onto the street - true story. We are not saying this to terrify you, but to make you aware of how crucial it is to start looking for a place to live as soon as possible when you plan to move to Berlin. 

 

The city has had a shortage of housing for years now, and with the growing number of newcomers wanting to call this place home, the process of finding accommodation can take up to a year now. 

 

The flats usually come absolutely bare - with no light fixtures, furniture, appliances, etc. It is also not rare to see a flat with the entire kitchen missing - you will therefore need to furnish and equip it entirely on your own, and either take everything with you when you move out, or negotiate a good deal with the new tenant. 

 

Needless to say, then, that given the long, difficult process of finding a place to live paired with the effort put into decorating the flat, once you move in, most Berliners do not move out until they absolutely have to. 

 

The paperwork required when renting a flat is another major factor behind most people’s frustration. The documents you absolutely need to provide your future landlord with are:

 

  • copy of passport

  • form from the previous landlord saying no rent is owed to them

  • proof of personal liability insurance

  • last 3 paychecks (when you are employed on a contract, self-employed people will send in their yearly income rather than payslips)

  • credit check (called SCHUFA, it costs €30 and you must pay for it yourself).

 

The renting itself - not counting the money you need to invest in furnishing the flat - is very expensive, especially if you want to live in or close to the centre. Most people do want that, given the size of Berlin and how it can take up to an hour to reach downtown from outside. 

 

A common way to cut the costs is to move into shared flats (the so-called WGs). Not only is it cheaper, but it is also a way to avoid the bothersome paperwork. While you can expect every landlord to demand all the documents listed above, the kind of paperwork you will be required to submit here will depend on the person sub-letting a room in the shared flat. The contract will be signed in their name, so you also won’t have to deal directly with the landlord. 

 

While it may be easier, it is also important to watch out - always make sure the sublet isn’t illegal and that you get along with the other tenant. Since their name is the only one in the contract, in the eyes of the landlord, they are the ones making demands and decisions. They will be the link between the landlord and you, so staying on good terms and ensuring they are a fair and square person will work in your favour. 

 

An insight from a seasoned Berliner: before moving into shared accommodation, always ask about the habits of the flat. Some people might prefer their flatmates not to eat meat, others won’t tolerate guests, and you would most likely rather avoid joining a nudist flat if you’re not into this yourself (also a true story). Better safe than sorry.

 

When it comes to the previously mentioned illegal subletting, beware of the infamous “Keine Anmeldung” warning in apartment listings. This most probably means the sublet is illegal, because of which you will be unable to register at the Citizen’s Registrations Office. This can be a problem for people living in Germany on a visa or applying for other documents. 

 

Another thing you need to be aware of and familiar with are the terms Kaltmiete (“cold rent”) and Warmmiete (“warm rent”). Understanding them is crucial to working out how much your rent will be in total:

 

  • Kaltmiete (cold rent) - also called the basic rent. It is the flat rate based on size, number of rooms, furnishings, and location. Doesn’t include any additional fees.

  • Warmmiete (warm rent) - consists of the cold rent plus any additional costs or service charges (Nebenkosten).


 

Helpful websites for finding accommodation in Berlin:

 


Where to live? Districts in Berlin

 

After the fall of the wall dividing Berlin into Eastern and Western part, the two completely different sides of the city had to merge and become one. The long separation has made them into almost two distinct worlds, and the contrast resulted in a lack of a common vibe that could be identified in Berlin as a whole. Elegant and more chic districts will clash with trendy, hipster ones and modern, almost futuristic parts.

 

Nowadays, Berlin is divided into 12 neighbourhoods (Bezirke). Each of them is divided into smaller districts (Kieze) and has its own, unique vibe. We will only describe in detail the 3 neighbourhoods most commonly chosen by expats, but here is the list of all of them, just in case it comes in handy:

 

  • Mitte, 

  • Pankow (including the hipster-district Prenzlauer Berg), 

  • Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, 

  • Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf, 

  • Neukölln, 

  • Lichtenberg, 

  • Marzahn-Hellersdorf, 

  • Reinickendorf, 

  • Steglitz-Zehlendorf, 

  • Tempelhof-Schöneberg, 

  • Spandau, 

  • Treptow-Köpenick


 

The 3 districts most commonly inhabited by expats:

 

Berlin-Mitte - the people who decide to move here will live between “world-famous sights, government quarters and cultural temples”. It is the heart of Berlin, so to say - both from a cultural and geographical point of view.

Since it’s a big district, the outer borders (Wedding and Tiergarten) tend to be less fashionable but cheaper in rent and still well-connected. Tiergarten might not be as central as living at Checkpoint-Charlie, but as the name says, it has Tiergarten, which is basically Berlin's Hyde Park.

 

Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf - compared to the more Eastern districts of Berlin, Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf tends to be more quiet and laid-back - some might even say conservative. If you have spent time here in the last years, though, you will have noticed the early stages of a young, vibrant revolution.

 It’s a good balance between Berlin’s typical energy and a more cosy way of living. The main attraction in this district is the Kurfürstendamm, the city’s most popular boulevard/shopping mile. Other famous spots are to be found on and around the almost 4km-long Ku’damm (as called by Berliners), e.g. the Zoological Garden (RIP Knut), or Schloss Charlottenburg (known as the “little Versailles”).

 

Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg - if you want to experience Berlin to the fullest, you should consider FHain-XBerg. This is Berlin’s most well-known and vibrant district, and there are definitely no cosy or conservative vibes here. 

 The streets here are lined with record stores, independent bookshops, street art, and countless bars, clubs and pubs (due to this, it has morphed into the student quarter). It is also home to Berlin’s punk rock movement, which to this day shows in all areas.

 

While most of the district looks all over the place in the best sense (even though to some, it appears almost dirty), it will also provide you with beautiful landmarks like the Landwehrkanal, the East-Side-Gallery, and the Admiralsbrücke. Kreuzberg, together with Wedding, is home to the largest contingent of Turkish residents in the city, which also affects the culture of the district (especially when it comes to the food spots there). 

 

 With all that being said, Berlin as a whole is not the most aesthetically pleasing place, but it definitely has its charm. You should focus on what is important to you in your everyday life, rather than the aesthetics of your surroundings because eventually, you will appreciate the paradox of the imperfections of the city and realise that it’s part of what makes it beautiful in its own ugly but endearing way.

 

Registering address in Germany

 

In order to apply for a work and residence permit, you will need to register your address first and obtain the Meldebescheinigung (Residence Registration Document). This can be done at the local branch of Bürgeramt (Resident’s Registration Office). 

You have to make an appointment by contacting the Bürgeramt and bring the following documents:

 

  • passport

  • tenancy agreement

  • *confirmation letter from the landlord stating that you have moved into under the given address

 

*again, watch out for the “Keine Anmeldung” comment in apartment listings. You won’t receive the confirmation letter if you rent a flat marked by this badge.

 You will usually receive your Meldebescheinigung on the day of your appointment. 

 

  1. Living Like a Local

 

People

 

Around 20% of Berlin’s population are foreigners, and another 30% have an immigrant background, so it’s hard to put your hands on what a “true Berliner” is really like. Generally, Germans tend to come off as cold and disinterested (this is called having a “Berliner Schnauze” - Berliner Snout) to many. It may be the first impression, but it doesn’t last long - once they warm up to you, they will turn out to be the most fun and thoughtful people. 

 

Germans are also said to be organised and responsible - that much is true. Efficiency is ingrained into the nation’s culture, so everyone grows up understanding its importance. What’s more, Berliners are very open-minded and progressive. 

 

If you’re trying to make a local friend, they may be hard to crack and get to know at first - especially if they have been living in the city for a while and already have a group of their own. A lot of people are expats in Berlin though, so it might be easier to find your own support system, since many others are also looking for a kindred spirit. 

 

Randomly chatting someone up and becoming friends with them is rather hard and rare, at least in comparison with countries located a bit more to the South. A better way to make friends would be to attend events, become a regular visitor at a local café or pub, find like-minded flatmates, sign up for a language course, or use Facebook groups. 

 

Useful Facebook groups to make friends in Berlin:

 

 

Meetup is also becoming increasingly popular - you’re more likely to get along with someone when you meet a big group as opposed to hanging out one-on-one (not to mention there’s also less pressure), so it’s a good way of getting to know new faces.  

  

The LGBTQ+ Community in Berlin

 

Berlin is home to one of the highest numbers of places dedicated to the LGBTQ+ community in the world. As we have mentioned before, Berliners express very progressive viewpoints and are open-minded, which has its reflection in the city’s thriving queer stage. The fact that 150 000 people participated in this year’s Berlin Pride Parade is perfect proof of that fact. 

 

Same-sex marriages are legal in Germany. Same-sex couples also have the right to adopt children. Berlin even has its very own gay museum, welcoming visitors since as long ago as 1985! All of Berlin is LGBTQ+ friendly, but especially the Schöneberg district is famous for its plethora of queer-friendly spots.

 

LGBTQ+ visitors can count on support when coming to Berlin. Organisations such as LSVD (Lesbian and Gay Association in Berlin) are a source of information about entertainment venues, and even provides counselling services. Lesbenberatung is another one, dedicated to lesbian and bisexual women. It’s an unlikely event that a representative of any colour of the rainbow will experience discrimination on the grounds of their sexual orientation or gender identity, but these organisations will offer the necessary help when needed.

 

 

Language

 

We won’t lie to you - the German language is a hard one to learn. But German speakers are also one of the most sought-after worldwide. The excellent professional perspectives and the lush salaries awaiting you for being able to speak German might be worth the hassle. 

 

To kick off your adventure with the German language, here are some basic phrases you can start with:

 

  • Good morning - Guten Morgen 

  • Good afternoon - Guten Tag (used after 11/12) 

  • Good evening - Guten Abend 

  • Hello - Hallo 

  • Goodbye - Auf Wiedersehen/Tschüss

  • Goodnight - Gute Nacht

  • How are you? - Wie geht es dir? (informal) / Wie geht es Ihnen? (formal) 

  • Thank you, I’m okay. HBU? - Danke, mir geht es gut. Und selber? / Und dir? 

  • What’s your name? - Wie heißt du? 

  • My name is… - Mein Name ist … / Ich heiße…

  • Nice to meet you! - Schön dich kennenzulernen! / Schön Sie kennenzulernen!

  • Cheers! - Prost! 

  • Have a nice day - Schönen Tag noch

  • Enjoy your meal! - Guten Appetit! 

  • Yes - Ja 

  • No - Nein 

  • Maybe - Vielleicht 

  • I don’t know - Ich weiß es nicht 

  • I don’t understand - Ich verstehe nicht 

  • Please - Bitte 

  • Excuse me - Entschuldige / Entschuldigen Sie, Verzeihung (for both)

  • Thank you - Danke, Dankeschön, Vielen Dank 

  • You’re welcome - Gern geschehen, Bitteschön

  • Do you speak English - Sprichst du Englisch? / Sprechen Sie Englisch? 

  • How much is it? - Wie viel kostet das? 

  • Where is the toilet? - Wo ist die Toilette? 

  • Help! - Hilfe! 

 

Save the Date

 

National Holidays in Germany

 

While there are some holidays that are the same in all of Germany, a lot of them vary between the Bundesländer. Each region may have its own customs and traditions - celebrate a holiday differently, or not celebrate one at all, replacing it with another one instead. Below, you will find the public holidays that are typical for Berlin:

 

March 8th - International Women’s Day (celebrated just in Berlin)

May 1st - International Worker’s Day (Tag der Arbeit)

Late April to early June - Ascension  Day (Christi Himmelfahrt), always celebrated on a Thursday

May or June - Whit Monday (Pfingstmontag), always 50 days after Easter

October 3rd - Day of German Unity (Tag der Deutschen Einheit), celebrates the reunification of East and West Germany in 1990

 

Oftentimes, when holidays are on a Thursday, or Tuesday, the day after will also be given off to create a long weekend. It is called a “Brückentag” - Bridge Day. 

 

Events in Berlin

 

When thinking about events in Germany, many of you (admit it) will skip straight to Oktoberfest. This particular festival is primarily organised in Munich and even though there are some local celebrations spread across other German cities, Berlin has so much more to offer.

 

Berlinale (February) - International Film Festival, one of the most prestigious in Europe. Every year since 1951, best films, directors, screenplayers, actors, actresses, composers, and many other members of the filming crew are awarded the Golden or Silver Bears in multiple categories. 

 

Karneval der Kulturen (May) - Carnival of Cultures. It’s an event meant to celebrate the diversity and multiculturalism of Berlin. It involves a lot of costumes, music, and good food from all corners of the world. Members of ethnic groups living in the city organise performances and parades, promoting their native cultures. The event was cancelled in 2022, but is set to return in 2023!

 

Zug der Liebe (August) - Train of Love. It’s an annual protest passing through the streets of Berlin managed by an organisation of the same name. The group is primarily made up of musicians, music enthusiasts, and media professionals. The event itself is meant to call for more compassion, social commitment, and kindness. 

 

Lange Nacht der Museen (August) - Long Night of Museums. On that day (or rather, night) museums all around the city stay open until 2AM, allowing visitors to discover them from a different perspective. A ticket for the whole event (that will cost you €18, or €12 at a reduced fee), grants you free entrance into all participating museums throughout the whole duration of the Long Night of Museums. 

 

Festival of Lights (September - October) - one of Berliners’ favourites. It’s the Berlin branch of a broader international event turning famous monuments all around the city into works of art (even bigger than they already are). The buildings are illuminated with lights of all colours creating shapes, images, and even letters. Every year has its own motto that dictates the edition’s theme. In 2022, it’s “Visions of our Future” and focuses on topics such as sustainability, diversity, mindfulness, and scientific development. 

 

5. Fun Things to Do Around The City

 

German cuisine 

 

Berlin is a paragon of multiculturalism. That being said, you will rarely find typical German food in Berlin’s capital (with some exceptions) unless you’re specifically searching for it. Once you do find it, you will most most likely find a couple of these things on the menu: 

 

  • Königsberger Klopse - named after the former East Prussian capital of Königsberg (now Kaliningrad in Russia), this dish consisting of meatballs, is served in a creamy white sauce. It’s especially characterised by the capers in said sauce, that add a tangy, olive-y flavour to what is otherwise a very heavy meal.

 

  • Maultaschen - originally from the southern region of Swabia, Maultaschen are essentially ravioli but bigger, perhaps closer to the likes of pierogi than the Italian filled pasta. They are typically palm-sized, square pockets of dough with fillings that include minced meat, smoked meat, spinach, bread crumbs and onions and various herbs and spices. Simmered and served in a broth, rather than a thick sauce, they make for a tender treat, especially during the cold German winters. 

  • Sausages - this next one seems self-explanatory and perhaps even obvious but bear with us here, this is an important part of German culture, so we do not want to give it any less attention than the other foods. 

 There are various types of sausages that are common; cured, smoked etc., but the most known is probably the Bratwurst, specifically Thüringer Rostbratwurst, served in white bread with condiments - a great on-the-go food. 

 Others include Nürnberger Rostbratwurst (smaller and thus not served inside a Brötchen, you might want to sit down for this one) and the Weisswurst, clearly differentiating itself from the other golden brown deliciousnesses, hence the name “white sausage”. 

 Fun Fact: The first German Bratwurst Museum opened in Thuringia in 2006

 

 If you think we are done talking about sausages, you’re wrong. You have yet to hear about the most popular incarnation of the Bratwurst:

 

  • Currywurst - this German street-food classic is commonly attributed to Herta Heuwer, a West-Berliner and food-kiosk owner in the British occupation zone, who in 1949 managed to sweet talk British soldiers into giving her ketchup and curry powder. 

 

Heuwer served this concoction of sweet and spicy over grilled sausage and thus became what most Germans would call a national hero. Sure, she never won a Michelin star for her culinary invention, but we would argue you have to try it when given the chance - they don’t sell 800 million portions a year for nothing. 

 

  • (Käse)Spätzle - spätzle originally come from Baden-Württemberg. Again, comparable to pasta, these egg noodles have a chewy, dumpling-like texture and are typically served alongside meat dishes with gravy. 

If you’re in need of something that will spice this dish up a bit, we have the perfect variation for you: by simply adding some cheese, you have made yourself some Käsespätzle: This variant is an extremely popular dish in southern Germany, especially in regions like Swabia, Bavaria and the Allgäu.

 

  • Rouladen - a delicious blend of bacon, onions, mustard, and pickles wrapped together in sliced beef or veal. They go along well with a lot of side dishes: from potato and bread dumplings, to the aforementioned Spätzle, all the way to the infamous red cabbage salad, or, like Oma would say, Rotkohl. Nothing more to add, this one speaks for itself. 

 

  • Spargel - Germans are crazy about white asparagus. Harvest time arrives (Spargelzeit) around mid-April and from that moment on, you will not be able to escape the word “Spargel” anywhere you go. To prove that we are not exaggerating, we conducted a bit of research and found out that a total of over 70.000 tons of asparagus is consumed per year in Germany and I think that’s enough to prove our point. 

 The most popular pairing is with hollandaise sauce and Schnitzel, but the Germans know no limits: wrapped in bacon, made as a soup, fried, alongside pancakes or with scrambled egg - asparagus madness. 

 

  • *Döner - not a German dish, hence the little star by its name, but it deserves a honorary mention. Kebab has swiftly buried its way into the Germans’ hearts and established its role as an important element of the local gastronomy. Due to the huge Turkish community in the city, you cannot miss out to eat the best Döner Kebab of your life here.

Currywurst

 

Berlin’s best food places

 

Berlin’s gastronomical scene is a true journey around the world. Whatever you’re craving on a particular night, you can bet your money they have it. Here are just a few suggestions from thousands upon thousands of spots worth recommending:

 

Restaurants

 

Lon Men’s Noodle House (Taiwanese, Charlottenburg) - decade’s old Taiwanese restaurant famous for its soups, handmade noodles, and dim sum. It’s perfect if you’re searching for something quick and easy: the place is small but you will rarely wait over 10/15 minutes for a table, and everything on the menu is under 15€. This restaurant is in the heart of Little Asia and you will find a lot of other great Asian spots in the vicinity, such as Madame Ngo, NU, or Ryotei 893 (this place is hidden behind a graffiti-sprayed, vandalised-looking mirrored wall, but don’t be fooled!). 

 

Otto (German, Mitte) - a small restaurant with a big heart. All the ingredients that can be harvested locally, are harvested locally (in the foresty area of Brandenburg), and all the products that can be made in-house, are made in-house. The menu consisting of a few positions at a time is designed in a way to implement as much local produce as possible. Booking in advance is necessary!

 

Burgermeister (Burgers, 3 different locations) - this burger joint first opened in the Schlesisches Tor Station’s former public bathroom, but has since expanded and now consists of 3 locations in total (the other two are not bathrooms, even though you have nothing to worry about, it has been meeting health standards ever since its opening). It offers a comparably small menu to other burger joints but has all of the essentials: Cheesy burgers and fries and, in a city like Berlin, the vegan burger. 

 

Markthalle Neun (Market, Kreuzberg) - a spot beloved both by locals and tourists alike. It’s a market hall where you can grab a bite or purchase a local product to take home with you to sample in the evening rather than on the spot. However, if you have time to spare, it’s also great to hang out directly in the hall and try food from the various stalls the place has to offer. Street Food Thursdays are organised weekly, and it’s when you’ll find cuisines from all over the world - South America, Asia, Africa - you name it! Markethalle is a true sanctuary of good food and drink, and is worth dealing with the crowds.

 

Lavanderia Vecchia (Italian, Neukölln) - delicious Italian cuisine in a romantic, candle-lit setting. Although the dinner menu is a bit costly, the lunch offers consisting of classic Italian dishes are very affordable! The options change every day, so make sure to follow their social media for yummy updates.

 

Shaam (Syrian, Neukölln) - many shamelessly call their shawarma the best in town. The balance of flavours between spicy and salty, creamy and garlicky, is unbelievable. The dips are always fresh, the pitas always crunchy, and the meat always juicy. There is also a variety of vegan options available, so you really have no excuse not to visit. 

 

Cafés

 

Café am Neuen See - situated right along a small lake in Tiergarten, Café am Neuen See is one of Berlin’s most popular cafés and beergardens. The picturesque look makes for a great (first) date: enjoy breakfast with a view and rent a small rowing boat after to enjoy Neuer See or take a reading break under the trees. It might be too crowded to be crowned your local hang-out spot, but it is definitely worth a visit! 

 

Father Carpenter -  a charming café hidden away in a secret nook close to Hackescher Markt, making for the perfect little escape from the busy streets outside of the courtyard. This well-designed coffee shop is becoming more and more popular, so you might be placed on a seating list, but don’t worry: it usually does not take more than 10 minutes for you to enjoy a cup of coffee or French Toast after having explored Mitte. 

 

Five Elephants - a true coffee pioneer in Berlin, with its minimalist interior and Kreuzberger hip-vibe, the roastery focuses on sustainable partnerships, using only fair-trade and eco-friendly beans. Their coffee is best paired with what a lot of people claim to be Berlin’s best New-York-style cheesecake. Oh, and don’t speak German? No problem, neither do half the staff (that’s VERY Berlin, by the way). 

 

Nightlife

 

Berlin is the epicentre of nightlife. The famous German seriousness disappears altogether once the weekend rolls in. You can experience some of the wildest parties of your life here, as it’s not uncommon for a Friday night to finish on Monday. 

 

Berghain - this industrial monster is one of the city’s most famous clubs. Located in a former power station, it’s a true heaven for techno lovers - both those on the wild side, but those who don’t frequent clubs on a regular basis also give in to its undeniable pull. 

It’s the kind of club with a zero-tolerance policy for cameras. Say goodbye to fun Snapchats and daring Insta stories. What happens in Berghain, stays in Berghain. And expect to see a lot.

 

Sisyphos - this former biscuit factory provides lots of open space, both indoors and outdoors - including a pond outside. When you go to Sisyphos, you usually stay the night and don’t leave until the music cuts off and the lights come on. It is a place with its own time zone, with the ability to both stop the clock and make it tick faster. 

 

Ritter Butzke - yet another old factory presently housing a club. This might bring to mind Berghain at first, but make no mistake, these two clubs are very different. In fact, their industrial setting might be the only thing they have in common.

Ritter Butzke’s notorious past of illegal parties adds to its charm - fully legal these days. The bouncers sometimes dress up as knights, in honour of the club’s name (“Ritter” means “knight” in German). Bring a coat, though, as it might be a while before you come in if you show up at the club’s rush hours. 

 

KitKat - this hedonic venue radiates sex appeal. Get ready for enough rooms to get lost in, fetish dress code parties, and even a swimming pool! Multiple events with varying levels of debauchery are organised regularly. Make sure to check out the dress code for each, as it’s taken very seriously!

 

8MM Bar - whereas the previous suggestions mostly live and breathe techno, this one radiates the Rock & Roll spirit. The stage has welcomed many legends over the last 2 decades, and continues to host live concerts. No old factory vibe here - 8MM is compact-sized and cosy, attracting internationals from all over the globe.

 

Places to Go / Things to Do

 

It is safe to say that living in Berlin, you will have something to do 24/7, 365 days a year. Boredom is simply not a concept here, and if someone claimed to have seen everything worth seeing in Berlin and has nothing left to see, we would confidently call them a liar. 

 

Parks

 

Berlin remains unrivalled when it comes to cities with the biggest amount of green areas in Europe. Some of the locals’ favourites include:

 

Mauerpark - the area used to be placed between the Berlin Wall that used to divide the city and country into Eastern and Western parts (hence the name: “Mauer” means “wall” in German”). You can attend the flea market organised there every Sunday, or attend the various performances hosted by artists at random patterns.

 

Gärten der Welt - it’s not your regular city park. Opened on Berlin’s 750 anniversary, its goal is to celebrate internationalism. You can stroll through 19 themed areas, each representing a different culture. Admire Asian structures, walk through British gardens, or get lost among Italian sculptures. You need a ticket to get in, but boy, is the experience worth it!

 

Gleisdreieck Park - the centre of alternative Berlin. Facilities made of shipping containers, street food market, abandoned rail tracks, and open-air parties. It’s not the type of park where you come to chill - in Gleisdreieck (German for Triangular Junction), you can enjoy a variety of activities, from beach volleyball to adventures in the skate park. 

 

Temperhofer Feld - original is one way to describe it. Created in 2008, it’s a former military airport ground. It might not be how you imagine a standard park, but the airstrips are a great spot to go crazy rollerblading or go cycling. The huge swats of grass make for a perfect picnic ground, so even though unorthodox, don’t cross the place out until you visit!

Other spots

 

We won’t go over the classics such as Checkpoint Charlie or the Brandenburg Gate - we are more than certain you have heard about them on more than one occasion. We won’t overwhelm you with the obvious, then, and will offer some less-known gems instead. 

 

Spreepark - this may not be everyone’s cuppa tea, but it definitely is worth a mention. This abandoned amusement park is a treat for adventure-seekers. You may be wondering how - didn’t we just say it was abandoned? Well, there are guided tours organised, and before you say it’s not worth your money, an abandoned amusement park definitely has its charm - albeit a slightly dark one. 

 The parks’ infamous history adds a bit of spice to the whole experience. We won’t share many details here - you can look it up or, better, find out all about its naughty founder during a tour to Spreepark. In fact, the spot is so mysterious, that not all Berliners are even aware of its existence! 

 

Liquodrom - whereas the previous attraction looks like something out of a dystopian movie, this one is pure science fiction. This futuristic spa is just surreal on the outside as on the inside. The site itself used to serve as a train station during the war, but now is full of jacuzzis, saunas, and baths. 

The interior is ruled by high-tech solutions, contributing to the general impression of having travelled into the future. The spot’s main star, the huge, saltwater floating pool offers spectacles of lights and music that presumably can be heard under the water. It’s a truly out-of-the-body experience you cannot miss once in Berlin.

 

Buchstabenmuseum (The Museum of Rescued Letters) - no, it’s not about letters in the paper form - this unique museum is a collection of old typographic signs. Most of them come from Berlin, but some have been brought from other parts of Germany - a few even from outside of it. 

The museum not only offers an alternative to the more classic spots - it also contributes to commemorating long-lost places, conducting research and documenting old venues that no longer exist but that once upon a time mattered to many. It brings out the echoes of the past, giving them the one thing we all crave the most - remembrance. 

 

Tropical Island Berlin - a tropical island? In Berlin? Where??

No, we’re not lying - the only trick is that the island is artificial, located in an airship hangar which, coincidentally, also happens to be the world’s largest free-standing hall. The interior is meant to look like an actual island, with numerous pools, tropical plants, and beaches - even the sky looks real! There is even accommodation on-site, as the place is open 24/7, all year round. 

The whole venue measures approximately 5600 square meters and is located about a 1h-drive away from Berlin. Once there, aside from the pools and beaches, you can also enjoy waterslides, countless bars and restaurants, a golf course, a spa, and facilities for children. 

 

Sports

 

First and foremost, Germans are die-hard fans of football. Their cool and composed facade completely crumbles whenever their national team marches onto the pitch. Opinions about local teams oftentimes constitute the topics of heated discussions, and even though harsh, we think it’s safe to say you can insult somebody’s mother before you insult their favourite football team. 

 

The second place on the podium might come as a surprise, but Germans like to both watch and play handball. Many teams are created across all levels, which allows everyone to try their hand - pun fully intended - in this lively sport. As to professional games, the tickets to them are quite affordable, so they constitute a popular source of entertainment. 

 

Last but not least, we simply could not move on without mentioning Formula 1. Germany and cars go together like brownie and vanilla ice cream, so naturally, Germans are also crazy about car-related sports. It’s no joke to them, either, as some of the most successful names in the world of motorisation come from Germany: Rosberg, Schumacher, Vettel. 

 

Naturally, Formula 1 is not your only opportunity to watch Germans break speed limits. There are plenty of other competitions, Rallye Deutschland being one of the most renowned ones. Berlin also has its very own Formula E race - Formula 1 for electric cars only - taking place annually at the Tempelhof Airfield. 

Shopping in Berlin

 

Berlin is so full of different shops, markets, and shopping centres, that you cannot possibly walk more than 5 minutes in a random direction without stumbling onto one. Some of them, however, are more worth your while than others, so below you can find a few of a local’s suggestions:

 

Kurfürstendamm - this 5km-long street is a mix of high-end stores like Louis Vuitton or Balenciaga, small, chique private boutiques, and affordable chains such as H&M. The end of the passage is crowned with the famous KaDeWe (Kaufhaus des Westens) - a department store counting itself 100 years and 6 floors.

There, you can find everything; from more common things such as clothes and cosmetics, to the less-obvious ones like furniture. The last floor houses a culinary travel all over the world - food from different corners of the globe.

 

Alexa - Alexa, play Shopaholic by Nicki Minaj. No, this shopping centre has nothing to do with our beloved robot from Amazon. Its name comes from its proximity to Alexanderplatz, a plaza that is very well-connected by public transport.

It’s not Berlin’s most decadent or popular mall, but it’s more compact, which means you won’t have to walk far on your quest around the 180 shops there. And once you need to give your eyes a rest from taking in all the clothes, you can catch a break in the food court or go bowling on the top floor.

 

Mall of Berlin - located in the very heart of the city, it offers almost a hundred more shops than the aforementioned Alexa. Here, do get ready for a workout, navigating the mall’s 200 000 square meters. You will be rewarded by the largest food court in Berlin, though, where you’ll be able to catch up on all the calories you’ve burned running from shop to shop. Many of the major touristic spots are within a walking distance, so you can easily combine a sightseeing tour with a trip to the Mall of Berlin.

 

Friedrichstraße - another great spot to catch a break and reward yourself for being an active tourist with a new pair of shoes or a t-shirt. It’s located at a stone’s throw from Berlin’s classics such as the Brandenburg Gate and Checkpoint Charlie. Gendarmenmarkt, with its famous Christmas Market happening every winter, is just a 10-minutes walk away. 

6. Cost of Living in Berlin, Germany

 

The high salaries in Berlin make for elevated standards. According to Numbeo, the monthly living costs of a single person, as of August 2022, are approximately €887.90 without rent.

 

Food/Grocery shopping

 

The most popular supermarkets in Germany include Lidl, Edeka, Aldi, and Kaufland. REWE is a bit more high-end, so expect to spend more there.

 

Below, you can see how much you would approximately spend on an average shopping trip to a standard supermarket:

Other expenses

 

Besides the costs of food and rent, you also need to keep in mind additional expenses such as your mobile phone bills. There are different plans available, so you can choose one that will best suit your needs:

 

  • post-paid - one of the most common options for the locals, as it’s the most suitable long-term. It usually includes a 12 or 24-month contract, paid for at the end of each month, depending on the services used. It may come with a phone, which you pay for in monthly instalments throughout the duration of your contract.

  • SIM only - an option for those who already have a device and only need a SIM card. It’s similar to the previous one, but without a phone in the bundle. You also choose the best plan according to your needs and pay for it monthly. In Germany, this type of deal usually comes with the most flexible terms.

  • pre-paid/pay-as-you-go - you purchase a SIM card, activate it, and top it up with a specific amount. Once you run out of money, you re-charge the card again. You can do so online, at the mobile phone branch, or in a supermarket. The best option for when you’re staying in the country for a short time and need a local number.

 

If you have registered your residence (doing your Anmeldung) and opened a bank account already, you will be able to sign up for a contract at one of the following German mobile phone contract providers:

These are the deals that, according to our research, are the most favourable ones. 

 

Taxes

 

There are 2 basic terms you need to be familiar with when it comes to the tax system in Germany: Lohnsteuer and Einkommensteuer. Both mean “income tax”, but they cover slightly different things.

 

Einkommensteuer is a broader term including income from various sources: investments, self-employment, rent collections, fees, etc. 

 

Lohnsteuer refers only to the tax deducted directly from your fixed salary. It constitutes part of the Einkommensteuer and makes up ⅓ of the German’s government annual revenue.

 

To illustrate, a self-employed freelancer will pay the Einkommensteuer based on their income in all forms, but it will not include the Lohnsteuer, since they do not have a fixed salary. 

 

In Germany, any income you earn is subject to tax. You may be entitled to apply for a refund at the end of the tax year. To do so, you must submit a tax income return form by December 31st of each year.

 

The tax system is managed through the Steuer ID (also called the Steuernummer). It’s a personal tax ID number assigned to every taxpayer upon registration. It is unique to every person and must be included in all correspondence with the Finanzamt (tax office). It is the number they identify you by that is created randomly and doesn’t give away any personal information, so it’s the only way the officers can proceed with your case. 

 

As a freelancer or entrepreneur, you also can’t do your taxes or invoice your clients without the Steuernummer. Applying for it at the local Finanzamt is therefore crucial for any professional activity.

 

 

Income tax rates

 

The amount of tax you need to pay depends on how much money you make, as well as on what tax class you’re in. The progressive tax starts at 1% and can rise up to 45% for very high incomes. 

 

The common tax rate of 42% applies to the income brackets of €58,597 to 277,825 for 2022. Any income above the upper limit of this is subject to a 45% tax rate. 

 

A certain amount is always exempt from tax in Germany - in 2022, it’s the first €9,984 made every year for each individual. Everything above that applies to regular taxation. Some types of income such as maternity leave or unemployment benefits are also fully exempt from tax. However, while the money gained through tax-exempt sources won’t be directly taxed, it will be used to determine your tax rate.

 

Both residents and non-residents are only taxed on German-sourced income. Any income made abroad will also be taken into consideration while determining an individual’s tax rate. 

 

Apart from income tax, in Germany, you are also obliged to pay the Solidaritätszuschlag, or simply Soli (solidarity tax). It is capped at 5.5% of income tax. The tax-free amount for Soli is the first €16,956 made each year for every individual. 

 

Income tax classes

 

There are 6 basic income tax classes (Lohnsteuerklasse or Steuerklasse) in Germany. Which one you belong in will determine the tax rate you will be subject to. The main factor in deciding which tax class you fall into is your marital status:

 

Class I - single, widowed, divorced, legally separated, in a civil partnership, or married to someone living abroad

Class II - single or separated parents, eligible for child allowance

Class III - married with an income significantly higher than your spouse (provided both you and your spouse are employed in Germany), or recently widowed

Class IV - married, with an income similar to your spouse (provided both you and your spouse are employed in Germany)

Class V - married, with an income significantly lower than your spouse (again, provided both you and your spouse are employed in Germany)

Class VI - workers with more than one employment, self-employed 

 

Other taxes 

 

When you’re employed in Germany, the taxes are deducted directly from your salary. Aside from the aforementioned Lohnsteuer, you will also notice other deductions taken from your payslip:

 

 KV/Krankenversicherung (health insurance) - the costs of health insurance in Germany are split 50/50 between the employer and the employee. In the case of public insurance, it’s a set rate of 14.6%, translating to 7.3% paid by the employer, and the other 7.3% covered from the employee’s own pocket. 

When it comes to private insurance, the costs will depend on the company and plan chosen, but the employer will also contribute 50% of that amount. It won’t, however, be deducted from your monthly pay as in the case of public insurance, but it will be added to it. You will be able to use that extra amount to pay your private insurance company directly. 

 

RV/Rentenversicherung (pension insurance) - in 2022, the rate for this deduction is set at 9.3%, and both the employer and the employee pay this amount. However, this money does not go to your future pension plan. It is distributed as pensions for today’s retired people, and those unable to work due to incapacity. When you retire, it will be the employees forming part of the workforce at the time that will contribute to your pension. 

EU residents must have worked and paid the RV for at least 60 months to be able to receive their pension upon reaching Germany’s official retirement age - currently 65 years and 11 months. Those who have contributed to pension plans for more than 45 years may retire at 63. 

Non-EU citizens who have been paying the pension plan may apply for a refund of the RV payments once they have been out of Germany for 2 years. 

 

AV-Arbeitslosenversicherung (unemployment insurance) - similarly to health insurance, this one is also split 50/50 between the employer and the employee. The monthly rate is 2.4%, with you paying 1.2% and your employer the other 1.2%. The AV is mandatory in Germany. 

As mentioned in the work section, the unemployed are entitled to the benefit of 60% of their previous net salary, granted by the Arbeitsam. It is known as Arbeitslosengeld I, and you must have worked in Germany for at least 12 months in the 2 years before becoming unemployed in order to be able to receive it for 1 year. After the 1 year is up, this will change to Arbeitslosengeld II, also called ‘’Hartz IV’, which is an amount sufficient for covering the most basic needs. 

 

You are eligible for the unemployment benefit if:

  • you’re available for work (there is nothing impacting you from starting work straight away, for example recent injuries)

  • you don’t have a job or work less than 15h/week

  • you’re registered at the Arbeitsamt (unemployment office) and have applied for the Arbeitslosengeld (unemployment benefit)

  • you are actively looking for a new job (applying, sending out CVs, attending interviews, etc.)

  • you have worked a minimum of 12 months in the last 2 years before becoming unemployed

 

Medical care

 

You need to sign up for a health insurance policy in Berlin in order to receive an Insurance Card. You will have to carry it with you to every appointment at the doctor’s or at the hospital. In order to apply for it, contact the Berlin branch of your chosen insurance company. If you are employed, your employer will most likely do it for you, but they may ask which insurance company you prefer. 

 

Public insurance

 

The costs of public insurance depend on how much you earn. As mentioned before, it is deducted directly from your salary at the monthly rate of 14.6% (with you paying 7.3% and your employer covering the other 7.3%). 

If you are unemployed and receiving the unemployment benefit, you will be insured by a public company without any costs on your side. If you’re not entitled to the unemployment benefit, the average cost of public insurance is €180/month

Your eligibility for public insurance in Germany also depends on your country of origin. EU nationals covered by the Public Health system in their home country can submit proof of the fact and the coverage will be transferred to Germany (for example through the EHIC card). 

 

You are eligible for public insurance in Germany if:

  • you are employed, with a salary lower than €62,550/year

  • you are a student under the age of 30

 

Some of the biggest companies offering public insurance in Berlin are:

 

Private insurance

 

The costs of private insurance will depend on the company and plan you decide to go with. It will usually be calculated based on your age, the state of your health, and the services you want your insurance plan to cover. 

 

You need to apply for private health insurance in Germany if:

  • you are employed, with a salary higher than €62,550/year

  • you are a student over the age of 30

  • you are a post-graduate student or are receiving a scholarship (and don’t have an employment contract elsewhere)

  • you are signed up for a preparatory or language course

  • you are a researcher or a guest scientist

 

Some of the most popular private insurance companies in Berlin are:

 

Films and books set in Berlin

You now know Berlin from the practical side. But how is it perceived through the eyes of directors and authors? Find out by checking out the following films and books connected to this city:

 

Movies 

 

  • The Lives of Others (2006)

East Berlin, 1984. Gerd Wiesler, an officer of the Stasi - the East German secret police  - attends a play written by famously conformist writer Georg Dreyman. Wiesler considers the writer’s perfect track record as suspicious and later convinces the Minister of Culture that this situation calls for surveillance to assure the safety of a greater Socialist society. 

When tasked with monitoring Dreyman and his lover Christa-Maria, the Minister’s secret infatuation, the once cynical Stasi officer finds himself increasingly more absorbed in the private life of the couple, gradually becoming an accomplice. 

 

Something a little more light-hearted:

 

  • Tschick (2016, English title: Goodbye Berlin)

Fourteen-year-old Berliner Maik, as most teenagers, has a lot on his mind - mostly Tatjana, his crush and unfortunately for the loner, the school’s it-girl. A series of unfortunate events, mainly the missing invitation to Tatjana’s birthday party and the humiliation of being reprimanded by his teacher for his project about his alcoholic mother and her visits to the “beauty farm” (otherwise referred to as a rehabilitation centre), lead to stagnating confidence for the young student. 

Maik’s low comes to an end with the beginning of his friendship with his new classmate Tschick, an unruly boy of Jewish-Gypsy origin. The transfer student shows up at Maik’s house with a stolen light-blue Lada at the beginning of summer break and convinces the recluse to explore East-Germany’s great outdoors - growing wiser with every bump in their road. 

 

  • Goodbye, Lenin! (2003)

As a result of seeing her husband run off to West-Berlin for another woman and son Alex, walking into an anti-Berlin wall demonstration, and being arrested by the police in 1989, now-single-mother Christiane Kerner suffers a heart attack and goes into a coma. 

While Christiane remains under coma, Germany undergoes some drastic changes, with the fall of the Berliner Mauer followed by the reunification of East and West. When she wakes up eight months later, her state is still unstable - any shock could lead to major health deteriorations. 

 To avoid this risk, Alex decides to try to hide this completely changed Germany by keeping her at home, where he can control what she is exposed to. Although faced with disagreement by his sibling Ariane and girlfriend Lara, they work together to keep their secret and recreate East Germany in their home. 

 

Books

 

  • Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo by Christiane F.

We Children from Bahnhof Zoo is a non-ficiton book from 1978 that depicts the lives of Berlin children and their hardships, growing up in an area that was known for its prominent drug scene and prostitution - the capital’s infamous Zoo train station. 

 While the author, Horst Rieck, was following the trial of a Berlin businessman, accused of prostituting children in exchange for heroin, one of the witnesses’ stories, that of Christiane Felscherinow (15), spiked his interest. What was originally meant to be a two-hour interview, turned into the most read non-fiction work since World War II, with more than 3 million copies sold. 

 

  • Berlin Calling by Kelly Durham

During Germany’s rapid ascent under Adolf Hitler, Maggie O’Dea, an American-born student, finds herself falling in love with a handsome German soldier and with a seat at the Propaganda Ministry, setting off her broadcasting career. 

 Berlin Calling embodies the infectious nature of nationalism, as Maggie slowly realizes Hitler’s regime's true intentions. With her flourishing career, one that she was able to build through the naive allegiance to the country, and the conscience-crushing reality of her role in history’s worst tyranny, she has an ideological war of her own to fight.

 

  • Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin

Named one of the hundred most important novels of all time in 2002, Berlin Alexanderplatz follows the murderer Franz Biberkopf, newly experiencing freedom after being released from prison and determined to turn his life around. Shortly after, Franz is dragged into the criminal activities of the German metropolis again when he meets Reinhold, a gangster boss and nymphomaniac. 

 After being wronged by Reinhold and losing an arm in the process, Franz confines himself to silent resignation as an act of loyalty to his promise of becoming a better man, but quickly realizes that his efforts to extricate himself from the underworld of Berlin are futile. Against all personal odds and the addition of the imminent growth of Nazi-Germany, life takes a surprising turn for Franz finally.

 

 

Berlin Playlist

You know Berlin - its rules, best spots, and customs. You’ve seen it. You’ve read about it. What’s missing?

Feeling it.

To do so, power up the playlist inspired by this vibrant, multicultural city and let the vibes of Berlin seep into your bones, crawl underneath your skin, burrow its way into your heart.

 

Berlin has seen multiple ups and downs, only to transform into the grand city pulsing with life we all know nowadays. It has a specific climate to it, but once it sucks you in, it won’t let go easily. Hopefully, this guide has shed some light on how to relocate to Berlin, and revealed that there are many reasons beside the financial ones that make this unique place a desirable destination. Everyone loves Berlin for a different reason, so we wish you the best of luck in discovering what yours is going to be!

 

P.S. This guide wouldn't have been delivered to you had it not been for a Member of our Team, Francesca! Having grown up and spent her life in Berlin, she is responsible for all the research for the article - and she has also shared some insider tips only a pure-blooded Berliner would know, so a HUGE thank you is due!

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