Every October, thousands of new students come to Berlin to start a new educational journey. But Berlin not only offers good education through excellent universities; this city is a great place to learn to be yourself. It’s an adventure that, for some, results in staying here, as I did myself 13 years ago when I moved here to study. For others, Berlin is only a temporary station – an intermission between other cities and places.
But regardless of the length of your stay, moving to Berlin is an exciting experience with many unknown possibilities waiting for you. Still, some things are tricky to figure out, and we at iHeartBerlin love to support all Berliners by giving the best recommendations for places and experiences. In collaboration with the newly opened Neon Wood co-living space, which provides beautifully furnished small apartments who want to share a beautiful place with likeminded people, we have collected some helpful advice for your first steps in Berlin. Our guide is visually illustrated by none other than Berlin expert and Berghain Lover Sophia Halamoda. Enjoy.
I remember my first weekends in Berlin – no friends or acquaintances whatsoever to spend my free time with. What did I do? I just went out my comfort zone and started discovering the city by myself. From nightclubs to art performances and Mauerpark karaoke sessions – nothing was beyond my hungry curiosity. Still, I did not hesitate to search for a community of like-minded people. My first year was full of communal activities. Theater clubs, language courses, yoga sessions in the park – all are good places to meet people who are not too cool for school and may result in good friendships in the long run.
Finding a place to stay is maybe the hardest challenge in the beginning. I really recommend to not start your life in Berlin by crashing on couches or drifting from one temporary stay to another. It’s frustrating and will bring you a lot of stress that doesn’t pay off in the end. A different option from a random flat share is Neon Wood, a newly opened co-living space in Berlin Friedrichshain. Situated next to the impressive Frankfurter Tor, this space not only provides a stress-free and well-designed first small apartment, it bypasses the crazy competition of the Berlin flat market. Also, it will feel different than moving completely by yourself. In the communal space is enough room to meet new people and share your first experiences with Berlin.
Walking around the streets of Berlin – and especially going out at night – you will see many crazy outfits and individual styles. There is this specific mix of vintage, new, designer and DIY aspects that will make your personal style so Berlin. But you should not rush into doing so. Unless you want to go to a costume party, you don’t need to buy a full wardrobe of crazy styles at the next flea market to fit style-wise in Berlin. What makes Berlin style unique is feeling comfortable in your clothes, regardless if it’s a pink fake fur coat or a classic pretty black dress. But if you feel like you want to experiment a bit more I recommend looking for swap parties or self-organized flea markets. They are a perfect opportunity to get some real style inspirations from locals.
Berlin has one special aspect you won’t find in any other city: the Kiez Kultur. That means that your neighbourhood is more like a little village inside a big city. To be part of your local community, spot the places where people meet and share their lives. And don’t be shy to greet the people you meet on a daily basis. You will find out that being friends with your grumpy (on the outside) German baker or the sleepy Turkish Späti owner is not only pleasant, but a lifesaver in times of need, like for Sunday groceries.
My first jobs in Berlin were not at all standard. But that’s actually the freedom of this crazy job market. There is a need for everything. If you need a regular and reliable income, look for a job in your university or in a cafe next door to your home. A regular job needs to fit into your daily schedule geographically as well, because you can spend a lot of unpaid time riding around the city if you just randomly apply. For a little extra excitement, there are funky jobs like distributing flyers for your favorite party (where part of the payment is guestlist for lifetime if you are lucky) or being an extra in a Hollywood movie. Shooting a party scene with Brad Pitt or the Sense8 cast might not make you rich, but it’s a hell of a story to tell your grandchildren one day.
We hope these tips will help you start your life in Berlin. Did we miss something? Feel free to share more tips with us in the comment section.
Thanks to Neon Wood for sponsoring and collaborating on this article.