What to keep in mind before you move to Berlin
Whether it was the thriving start-up scene, a world-famous night life, or the cultural diversity that sold you, you’ve decided to move to the capital and call Berlin your new home. But even if you’ve visited Berlin before as a tourist, moving to Berlin is a whole different story. That’s why we’ve compiled a helpful guide of everything you need to know before settling in Berlin.
Which neighbourhood suits you best
Any local Berliner will tell you that no neighbourhood—-called kiez in German-—is the same in the capital. No longer just West versus East, the Berlin of today is divided into 12 distinct districts, and countless Kieze within. So, before you start looking for an apartment to move to Berlin, you need to figure out what kind of community you’re looking to be a part of, which amenities are important to you, and overall, what kind of environment you’d like to live in. Picture yourself living in Berlin: are you out every weekend, dancing the night away in the coolest bars and clubs? Then perhaps Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, home to many of Berlin’s most famous party spots, is where you might want to call home. Boxhanger Kiez in Friedrichshain, for example, not only offers excellent nightlife opportunities, but a wide array of shops and restaurants and excellent local infrastructure. Or perhaps you envision yourself in a more family-friendly area, going to weekly farmers markets and frequenting laid-back cafes. In that case, Prenzlauer Berg might suit you better. The district’s trendiest neighbourhood, Kollwitzkiez, has a weekly eco-market and a well-rounded gastronomy. To read all about every district in Berlin, and decide for yourself the best place to live, check out our neighbourhood guide.
Finding an apartment can take time
After you’ve picked your perfect location, you can start the hunt for an apartment. Finding an apartment with a fair contract in a desirable area is no easy feat in the capital. It's also not something you should try and accomplish before you move to Berlin. An ever-increasing number of scammers are lurking on popular apartment-hunting sites, offering too-good-to-be-true apartments and taking advantage of newcomers. A good way to avoid this is to have a consultant help you find a home and meet the leaser in person before signing any contracts. But renting isn’t your only option: Berlin presents a unique opportunity for those who are looking to invest in property, due to its relative affordability compared to other European cities and the stable German real estate market. If you are looking to buy your own home, you’ll want to find a reputable real estate consultant to help you find the perfect apartment in your desired area within your budget. EverEstate has you covered—-our experts are fluent in both English and German. Best of all, we don't charge a commission on most apartments, which in Berlin is typically 6% of the purchase price.
Get your Anmeldung
Whatever you end up deciding, once you do make the move to Berlin you will need to register your home address with the city in order to receive a crucial document called the Anmeldung—something you will need in order to open a German bank account, start a job, apply for a visa, and do almost anything bureaucratic. You should not put off applying for your Anmeldung once you’ve found a place to live, or you’ll undoubtedly end up with delays and roadblocks as you set up your new life in Berlin.
How to navigate the public transportation
Now that you’ve settled into your new apartment in your ideal location, it’s time to get acquainted with the BVG: the Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe. Unless you came to the city with a car, the BVG is about to become your best friend (or, in case of delays and cancellations, perhaps your worst enemy). The infrastructure in Berlin is well-connected, with a multitude of services to bring you to your destination. Buses, trams, above ground and underground trains connect the entirety of the large, spread-out city in one network. The lines run frequently throughout the day, with night services taking over after hours at less-frequent intervals, meaning wherever you are, and whatever time it is—you will be able to get to where you need to go. Single tickets cost €3.00, and monthly passes start at €63.42. While Berlin operates on an honour system (no ticket counters to get through at the stations), undercover controllers frequently check tickets, and those without a valid ticket face a fine upwards of €60.
Cost of living
The capital’s “poor but sexy” reputation insinuates a low cost of living in Berlin, and while many things are much cheaper here than other parts of Germany and Europe, it’s still important to budget wisely while planning your move to Berlin. Real estate prices are still lower than many other major German cities, but thanks to a property market on the rise and influx of people moving to the city and investing in property, apartment prices are on the rise. However, current interest rates are still relatively low, while housing continues to increase in value—making now a perfect time to buy. Germany is also a relatively easy place to buy real estate if you're an expat. Other living costs to be aware of are groceries, which in Berlin are approximately €350/month for a couple, or €750/month for a family. Eating out will cost you between €8-25 for a meal per person, depending on the type of restaurant you choose.
Always carry cash
Despite being one of the biggest tech start-up capitals in Europe, Berlin is still lagging when it comes to certain modern conveniences. Outside of large supermarket chains and touristy hot spots, many restaurants, cafes, bars, and shops are still cash-only, or require a minimum amount to pay with card. Banks and ATMs are usually not hard to find, but if you don’t want your waiter to give you a dirty look when it’s time to pay and your pockets are empty, you should always double check that you have plenty of cash on hand before going out.
It’s easy to connect with nature
Unlike other large metropolises, Berlin is rich in green spaces, with 2,500 public parks covering approximately 6,500 hectares. Bordering the west of Berlin is the Grunewald forest, with over 3,000 hectares of untamed woodland and plenty of trails for biking and walking. And despite being a landlocked city, Berlin and the surrounding Brandenburg has no shortage of waterfront: approximately 3,000 lakes dot the cityscape, not to mention the river Spree which flows through the middle of the capital. Luckily this means that whichever district you choose to call home, escaping to a natural oasis will never be too difficult.
Enroll your children in the school system ahead of time
Long processing times for day-care centres (called kitas) and schools in Berlin means you should get on top of enrollment as soon as possible if you have kids. School education is mandatory in Berlin from the age of six, and all children must attend school for at least nine years. Children from the age of six attend primary school, which lasts for six years, before attending high school or an integrated secondary school according to their skills. Be sure that your children have all necessary qualifications and paperwork in order before registering for schools. You can wait to do this after you move to Berlin, however.
There’s no better place to call home
Every city has its own advantages and disadvantages, and Berlin is no exception. That being said, Berlin’s unique and diverse culture offers something for everyone. Wide-ranging and endless nightlife opportunities, an eclectic gastronomy, a thriving arts scene, an international culture, and dynamic, forward-thinking companies ensure that Berlin is fast becoming one of the most desirable places to live in Europe. The city’s divisive past is remembered sombrely, but just as easy to see is Berlin’s vibrant future. Germany’s “poor but sexy” capital is a treasure trove of opportunity for all walks of life—young, old, students, families, artists, and entrepreneurs. No wonder so many people from around the world are moving to Berlin! However you identify, Berlin is here to welcome you home.