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living in Berlin

Guest Posts

6 Top Tips for First-Time Expats Living in Berlin

Disclaiminer: This is a Guest Post

Learn the German language
Sure, most Germans are probably much more adept at speaking English than you would be spluttering a few phrases of broken Deutsch. However, it is recommended that you at least learn some basic German before you move. Not only will knowing the language make your life easier (you’ll be able to discern the various meats and pastries in the delicatessen for instance), you’ll also find it much simpler initiating communication with the locals and you’ll earn their respect by trying your hand at the language (plus you’ll never know where you might need it).

Dress for the weather
Winters in Germany can be cold, and long and often snowy, so be sure to invest in a decent pair of boots and outerwear for these months.
In the summer, expats in Berlin enjoy warm, dry weather, with plenty of things to do. There are places to hike and lakes outside of the city where you can hike and swim to your heart’s content. Germans are very outdoorsy people, so don’t be surprised if when you make friends, you get invited out for camping excursions and barbeques – get those bratwursts on the barbie!

Find yourself some threads
Berliners are style conscious and generally employ a casual and functional dress code; (meaning boots and sneakers, leave the heels at home, ladies). The trend setters of Berlin are much more down to earth when it comes to footwear.
There is a strong hipster culture present in Berlin, both in the style of fashion and in the selection of artisanal bars and eateries popping up all over the city; such as the trendy bar Ä – a laid-back bar in Neukölln offering a basement dancefloor for the folks who like a good boogie.

Get out and sample the nightlife
Germans fully embrace the party culture and the diverse dance music scene that comes with it. Berlin has no fewer than 900 bars and nearly 200 clubs and discotheques, so you won’t have to search far for a great night out! All these top venues attract top DJs from all over the world – mainly in the techno and house scenes, meaning top music and a great chance to mingle with Berlin’s happening scene.
Top clubs include Berghain, Watergate, and White Trash – which, despite its ostentatious name is actually a restaurant popular with expats and also hosts live music and parties in the basement. In fact, basement dancefloors seem to be something of a theme in this city.

Things to see and do
Aside from the main eateries and watering holes, there’s plenty more to see and do in Berlin. If you’re the kind of expat that loves to treat your first few months in a new country like an extended holiday, you’ll want to see all the sights and sounds Berlin has to offer. History geeks can relish in the many museums and historic buildings in the city, such as the Fernsehturn (TV tower), standing at 368 metres (1,207 feet), it’s the tallest structure in Berlin, offering unrivalled views of the city. Nature lovers can enjoy Berlin’s central park and Garten der Welt; a collection of themed gardens and natural oases. Botanischer Garten is another amazing location to explore the flora on offer in the many gardens in Berlin.

Off the beaten track
For the more seasoned expat ready to uncover all the unusual things to do around the city, such as visiting the Liquidrom, a futuristic, new age spa, or the Bierpinsel, a strange, tree-like building built in 1976. Offering you a first-time glimpse into the first in a long line of odd architecture in the city.
Those in the mood for an unconventional breakfast should head to the Reichstag, where you can start your day with a meal on the roof of this historic building.
Or if you’re feeling extra adventurous, you could take a day trip out to the Teufelsberg – a cold war, NSA spy station with huge radar domes towering overhead. The entire place lies abandoned, so if you do decide to venture there, take caution.

Alex works for Currency UK – a foreign exchange company who help expats move their money abroad, with a friendly service and bank beating exchange rates!

featured/ random thoughts

6 Habits I Picked up Living in Berlin

I have been back in the United States for 5 months now. I moved to a new State in a new region, and it has been interesting to say the least. I spent the last portion of my 20’s living in Berlin. It certainly had a profound impact on my very being. Many of the habits, I have taken with me. Some are good, and some are bad. I often have to remind myself, that I am no longer in Germany. Trust me, that is not hard, given that I moved to the South. It is like night and day in some cases. Humans are creatures of habit. That is how we have survived. I am no better than any other human in that case. It is tough to learn one thing, be uprooted to learn another, and now go back to the previous environment. I compiled a list of the habits I have formed and inadvertently taken with me back to the States.

1. Recycling everything– I am originally from the State of California. Growing up, we recycled in my home. My mother was insistent on it. When I moved to Berlin, I got my hippie wake up call, as I like to put it. Germans recycle far more than Americans do, which is a shame, because we really could affect real change if we did what the Germans do. I still place my wine bottles at the door, and other bottles. I forget that the grocery stores no longer have places to recycle my bottles, and that there aren’t specific trashcans dependent on the color and type of trash I have.

2. No small talk– In a region of the country where people pride themselves on being friendly, and very religious, I might add, I find it hard to cut my small talk down to not include absolutely everything that is on my mind at the moment. When someone asks me how my weekend was, I am expected to say: “It was fine,” or “It was good” and leave it at that. They don’t need to hear about my most recent excursions to Little Five Points, where I found the perfect item for my budding crystal collection. I realized, that in Berlin not to many people asked this question, without actually wanting to hear it all.

3. Drinking tap water (with NO ice)– The tap water in Georgia is NASTY. Now, that I think of it, the only good tap water I ever remember tasting in the States was in New York State. I tried to pull that here, and immediately was grossed out by the amount of chemicals I tasted. I ran to the store to get a gallon of water, and vowed never to drink it again. I am honestly afraid a filter won’t work either.

4. Using random German words– German is super efficient when it comes to conveying an emotion. Despite a heavy German population in the South. Many of these folks, never attempted to speak it. It’s useless to say words like “Achso” or “Genau” when no one really understands you. It’s tough to let them go, they are so efficient!

5. Carrying cash with me– I got into the habit of carrying cash in Berlin, because there were several establishments that simply didn’t take it. Here, everything can be paid with a card. I mean everything.. Car wash/bar/convenience store, parking lot.. Everything. I forgot about the convenience, but the German in me always thinks that I would rather not be tracked of all my purchases, and I still would rather pay cash.

6. Bringing my own bag to the supermarket– In California, this is so not a problem, because people have to pay for their own bag in some cases. I swear the look on the bag lady/guy’s face when I start packing my own bag’s is priceless. I wonder sometimes if they actually WANT to pack them. Just trying to do my part. I can’t believe that other people do not do it.

7. Time– I swear to god, Americans are really lax about time in some cases. I have been waiting for more than 5 minutes, and I get a text saying they will be 15 minutes late. I am fuming… why did you not just tell me you would be 20 minutes late in the first place? Why are you even late? I have to remember where I am sometimes. ‘Murica.

8. Love of Good Bread– I used to wonder what the deal was with the bread. My German ex or my friends always complained that the bread in the States tasted awful. They are SOOO right. I cannot stress enough that bread in the States is not in fact bread. Not sure what they are serving us. I have been going to deli in the back of the store for fresh bread at this point.

9. Food Quality– I had only been back to the States once in my entire time living in Germany. I decided to go back home, and eat a bunch of my favorite things. In N Out, Taco food trucks, just all around horrible food right. I am a vegetarian now, but it started only as a way to not get sick. After I returned, I had a horrible bout with food poisoning. I did some research, and discovered that the meat production standards are far different from those in Germany. Generally, anything out of the States tastes better. I can taste the chemicals on everything. Everything has too much sugar in it, and not enough actual flavor. I cook now mostly, or rarely go out. Even the juice tastes like chemicals.

I honestly hope to never lose these traits. I can definitely relax with the time issue, but I honestly feel Berlin made me a more aware person. I am happy for the experience. What about you? Any habits you developed while in Germany that you took back home with you?

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Neu in Kreuzberg

Kreuzberg is one of the “hottest” places to live in Berlin at the moment. I would liken this place to Brooklyn back in the late 80’s and now 90’s, and is currently experiencing the same cycle of gentrification that Brooklyn has undergone. This neighborhood is home to the largest amount of non-german residents in Berlin. Most of the residents have been historically Turkish since the 1960’s, where many came because of the attractive low rent controlled apartments available in the city. Along with Turkish immigrants came creative artists types and students. I am currently living in this area. Kreuzberg has a vibe for almost everyone looking for some fun in Berlin. I love it so far.

Why Kruezberg?

I decided to move here after I realized most of things I wanted to do were here. If I wanted to see some hip-hop, I had to go to Kreuzberg, if I wanted some good Mexican food; Kreuzberg, and so on and so on. All of my jobs have also been here. Instead of getting a bigger place, and staying in the neighborhood I had grown accustomed to (Tiergarten/Moabit), I decided to try my hand at moving here. This is easier said than done, I might add. Rents are going up little by little, and the only ones who seem to be able to afford it are people are making good money in Berlin or independently wealthy folks. I also love the mix of people. I would have to admit, almost every Nationality is represented here. No longer am I going through an entire day without seeing someone that looks like me, or not hearing any English. Now, I hear everything.. Spanish, Italian, Russian, and many other languages I am sure I do not understand. I am closer to all of my friends, and it has made it easier for me to go out for shorter amounts of time. I used to stay out all night, because I would miss the last train. Now, I can simply walk home. That is why I pay all this money for this tiny apartment in Kreuzberg!

Here are some of the pictures I have managed to snap while walking around on my daily commute, and out and about

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This is a church I see daily. I really have to get the name of this church

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I tried to cross the street, and noticed the TV tower in the distance

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It says: “I got the street”

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This place houses Romany people and people “living a free life” so to speak

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This was actually on the church already pictured above

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This farmer’s market has practically everything

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Out with a friend, who I am finding to be quite awesome

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I usually go here for lunch

I love my new neighborhood, and it has given me new life and new outlook on living in Berlin. I also like all the new friends I have been meeting. I am happy in Berlin.

Sources

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kreuzberg