The Berlin Experts: überlin

Today we have another part of The Berlin Experts series for you. We talked with the adorable couple behind one of the most inspiring Berlin blogs out there: the English expats James & Zoë from überlin. Established in 2010 as an online diary to record their Berlin years überlin has quickly grown into one of the most respectable online publications not only about all the cool things happening in Berlin, its fashion and music scene, but also about the challenging experiences of expats in the German capital. Enjoy their thoughts about Berlin and find out more about their work, after the jump.


How did you come up with the idea to move to Berlin and start a blog about it?

When we first visited Berlin in 2006, for a brief, chilly weekend break, we knew we wanted to live here. We’d only just moved to London from the Northeast of England and we slowly fell out of love with the Big Smoke, and in love with the idea of living in Berlin. After nearly five years of procrastination, one day we decided to quit our jobs, pack up our cats and book one-way flights to Germany. We’d always wanted to collaborate on a blog, but could never find the time in our busy London lives; the move to Berlin gave us the time and a good reason to start blogging about our new life.

What is the most exciting part in your work?

Exploring Berlin and our, and other residents’, relationship with it. It’s probably a cliché to talk about all the exciting things happening in Berlin, tucked away in hinter-hinter-hinterhofs on otherwise unremarkable streets – but it’s true! überlin gives us the perfect excuse to spend our time checking out all of the city’s awesome places and events, and, occasionally, access to things that others don’t get to see. We’re lucky that we get to learn about the place we live in and love, and other people who live here, all in the name of blogging!


How does your non-German perspective influence your engagement with the city?

The fact that we’re non-natives with less-than-perfect German keeps us in a constant state of discovery, in a city that always feels new to us in some way. On the one hand, we still experience the kind of frustrations and challenges that our readers do, when they move here from somewhere else – it’s important to us to be able to empathise about this stuff. But this outsider perspective also helps keep things fresh – we’re always learning something new about Berlin, Berliners, Germans and Germany… we never get bored of the place!

How does your readership identify with you?

überlin is very personal – it’s a record of one couple’s (plus a few close collaborators’) experience of Berlin – so our readership identifies with us on a personal level. We take care to respond to every tweet, Facebook or blog comment and email that we can, and try to help out visitors, newbies or established residents in the city. We remember what it was like to move to a city where you know no one and nothing, so we make the most of being in a position to help. It’s really rewarding to give someone advice about moving to Berlin and then, a few months later, meet them for coffee in their new Kiez. We even get recognised on the street from time to time, although not as often as our French Bulldog Olive!


Why should people check out überlin? What makes it different from other blogs dedicated to Berlin?

We have a unique point of view on the city – of all of the English-language blogs about Berlin, ours is the most tongue-in-cheek celebration of the city. You won’t find us bitching when life gets hard – after all, we choose to live here and can leave any time we want – which we think sets us aside from some of the more established expat resources. We publish practical guides to help people move here, and survive once they have, but we specialise in capturing the expat experience – what it’s really like to live in such a unique, ever-changing place.

How would you sum up Berlin in five lines?

For us – despite our outsider status – Berlin is home, more than any other place we’ve ever lived. It’s a safe haven for creatives to experiment and do what they really love, without the critical backlash and financial pressures that other major cities impose. Change is in Berlin’s DNA, and its unique history has created a city that cherishes the new (sometimes at the expense of the past), which provides a unique opportunity for anyone who wants to do something different – whether that means starting an innovative company or partying for four days straight! On the flipside, it can be a hard place to live in – rents are rising and the job market’s not looking any rosier, so it takes hard work and commitment to build a life here. Like the sticker says, Berlin hustles harder!

What’s happening next on überlin?

We’re producing a self-published book based on our hugely popular post, “What I Know About Germans“. The writer, an Australian based out of Kiel, is working on hilarious new content, and the Berlin-based artist Mischief Champion is putting pen to paper for some weird and wonderful illustrations. Coming soon! We’re also collaborating on a project called Give Something Back to Berlin, which connects expats and other non-locals to community projects, to help them to integrate while contributing to the well-being of this great city. Follow überlin on Facebook and Twitter for news on this, and come down to one of the meetups we have planned to say hello! We have lots of great ideas in the pipeline, but we try not to over-plan; we like to see where the blog – and Berlin – will take us next.

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