illustrations: Berk Karaoglu
Expats arrive in the city with varying levels of life experience and capacities to adapt. Everyone is anxious to speed up the initiation process and finally become a true Berliner, but few are aware that this noble title comes at a price. First off, you have to learn to live with extremely capricious Internet and the general reluctance to accept cash payment. But that’s merely the beginning.
Mauerpark is Overpriced
Mauerpark might be an iconic Berlin institution, but telling yourself that you can still get any good deals in the afternoon is delusional. Check out our guide to the Berlin fleamarkets, explore your alternatives, and never again spend 30 euros on a ‘’vintage’’ teapot that’s very likely to be crushed to pieces by your flatmate trying to act all casual when coming back shitfaced from a night out.
Germans take time to Defrost
Berlin is indeed a melting pot of different nationalities, but you’re still going to encounter some natives. The Germans might seem a bit distant at first, especially if (despite all the money you left at some overpriced language school) all you can agree on is “Ein großes Bier, bitte”. But if you keep at it, you might just realize you’ve made a friend for life. Who can also be quite helpful in dealing with the following point…
Germany = Bureaucracy
Especially for the majority of expats, bureaucracy is definitely the unrelenting obstacle that makes us constantly reevaluate how deep is our love for Berlin because really, how can it be worth all the headache? If you’re German, it might be a little easier – but it’s not even about the language. The sheer amount of paperwork would discourage me even if I didn’t have to pay hundreds of my hard earned euros to an English speaking lawyer.
It starts innocuously with the Anmeldung, escalates with the Rundfunkbeitrag, and then comes to a Steuererklärung. And do I have to mention Waldorf Frommer? We couldn’t possibly list all of the things you have to watch out for – just stay informed and before you ask anything on FAB, make sure to do your homework and research whether someone has already been through the same struggle.
Flat hunt? More like Flat WAR
Flat hunting in Berlin can go on for almost as long as soul searching. That makes sense especially if you consider the fact that some places won’t have you for the sole reason that you don’t seem to possess that enigmatic “vibe” they’re looking for or simply because you eat meat.
My never-failing strategy whenever I needed a room was to abandon any expectations: otherwise, you want to kill yourself by the end of the first fortnight. And more than that, winding up in an unexpected location can turn out to be pretty great. I love living in Steglitz – it’s central enough for my needs, and yet still feels like almost a separate city where I can go for solitary walks and process whatever hectic experiences I’ve had in other districts.
Bikes are like Lovers (don’t get too attached)
Do you still remember getting your first bike? You were so proud to stroll about with the shining companion you’ve been dreaming so long about. You went all over town, making stops at cute cafes and parks, always having the best time and relishing each other’s company.
And then one day you looked out of the window to find out that nobody’s waiting there for you. Your trusted partner is gone. The three stainless steel chains you were counting on are just hopelessly hanging from the fence. There’s no guessing when or how. Maybe you’ll accidentally recognize your loved one on a flea market, but it’s too late for you to do anything then. As they say: if you love somebody, be ready to set them free.