Are you considering moving to Berlin? Well, there’s a lot to consider before you relocate, and some important information you should know ahead of time. The largest city in Germany – with over 3.7 million residents – may feel like a parallel universe for some. It’s a liberal city that offers many possibilities, whether you’re coming to work, attend school, or just live.
People are drawn to Berlin for different reasons. Some go to Berlin to study, while others are attracted by the art scene or the Freelancer Visa. Others end up relocating to Berlin with their companies. Whatever the reason, moving to Berlin is one of those experiences that you will remember for the rest of your life.
Why Move to Berlin?
Germany’s capital is one of the 15 most popular tourist destinations in Europe, and that’s because there are so many things to do there. Whether you’d like to visit its beautiful parks, monuments, and gardens or just walk around town visiting museums and indulging in some delicious German food and beer, there’s something for everyone.
It’s also a great choice because it’s close to beautiful destinations like Potsdam, where you’ll find Sanssouci Park; Dresden, which is a gem in itself, stretching along the Elbe River with its elegant palaces; and the Wannsee, which is the place Berliners like to go sailing and rowing.
But, of course, the city itself and its surroundings aren’t the only reason to move to Berlin. The cost of living is pretty low if you consider the fact that capitals are usually an expensive place to live. However, public transportation is cheap, restaurants don’t charge exorbitant prices, and waiters don’t expect to be tipped. But if you’d still like to leave something, 5% on top of your bill is sufficient.
Berlin’s unemployment rate is at 8%, which means that if you’re looking for a job, you’re very likely to find one! Berlin is also great for entrepreneurs, freelancers, artists, and students. There’s a lot happening in the city, and many young expats live there, so that offers numerous business possibilities.
Should You Move to Berlin?
There’s no right or wrong answer, and it depends on many factors. If you’re still not sure whether or not you should move to Berlin, we recommend you to be honest about the reason(s) you want to live there. Before you do anything, see if the city actually has what you need. Will you be able to make a living there and support yourself and your family?
If you’re relocating to Germany with your company or if you already have a job offer or university acceptance letter, it’s much easier to decide. But, no matter the reason, be sure you do some real reflection and research before making a huge life-changing decision.
Everything You Need to Know Before Moving to Berlin
If you’ve decided that moving to Berlin is right for you, there are a few things you will want to do before you go. Berlin is a great city, but just like any city, it has its downsides. We’ve created this list so you can get a complete overview of what the city is like and what to expect after moving to Berlin.
1. You Will Need to Plan Before Moving to Berlin
Of course, you need to plan before relocating anywhere, but Germany has some special requirements that you will need to be familiar with. In fact, not complying with these requirements might mean that you can’t live legally in the country.
Ensure you know everything you need to know well before you plan on actually arriving. Pay special attention to things like visa requirements, proof of being able to support yourself and your family financially, health insurance, and the work & residence permit.
2. You Must Register in Berlin – Anmeldung
In order to legally live in Berlin, you must register your address in Berlin – and this process is called Anmeldung. This is one of the essential parts of relocating to Berlin, and it should be done in the first 2weeks after you arrive in the country.
The deadline is 14 days after your arrival, In any case, you should book the appointment as soon as you move in; make it your top priority. This way, you won’t get a fine and you won’t get in any kind of trouble.
During your appointment, you can also request your tax ID (called Steuernummer), which you need if you’re going to work in Germany.
3. You’ll Need Health Insurance
Having health insurance is mandatory for those living in Germany, and you need to have it in order to get your work & residence permit. But, you can’t just get any health insurance – and your travel insurance does not work either. You need insurance that complies with German law. So, make sure you do your research before just choosing any health insurance option on your own.
4. You Must Open a Bank Account
You will also need a bank account if you want to live in Germany. Ideally, you will want to transfer some funds from your bank account in your home country to prove that you have enough money to support yourself and your family. If you don’t know where to open a bank account, N26 makes it really easy. N26 is a German bank that allows you to open a bank account online without going to an office.
5. You Should Select a Neighborhood that Suits Your Needs
Berlin is a big city, and there really is something for everyone. When moving to the city, you should take the time to get to know the neighbourhoods and compare them to see which one suits your needs. Of course, knowing what you’re looking for will make it easier for you to choose.
For example, if you want a cheap yet spacious apartment, you’ll likely have to live in the outskirts of the city. If you come with children, maybe you’ll want to look for neighbourhoods that are better for families. If you want to learn more about the different Berlin neighbourhoods, take a look at this blog post, which will help you select the best place for you and your family.
6. Renting an Apartment is Not Always Easy
It’s no secret that living in Berlin is great, and because of that fact, there are a lot of people who want to live there. Competition for good apartments is pretty high and you might find that there are lots of people viewing the same place as you. Did you hear about the apartment that attracted 1,800 people to its viewing? Needless to say, getting an apartment can be a bit of a nightmare but there are ways to navigate this process, like hiring professional help that can help you find your new home and get settled in.
7. You Will Need a Work & Residence Permit
If you want to live and work in Berlin, you’ll need a work & residence permit. The type of work & residence permit will vary according to what you plan to do in Germany.
8. You Might Need External Help
While doing everything on your own might seem simple, it’s not. Germany is extremely bureaucratic, so it might be hard to navigate its system, especially if you don’t speak German and are afraid to do something wrong. Asking for help might cost you some money but it will save you a lot of trouble. If you are unsure what to do and how to get your work & residence permit, you should contact an immigration consultant to help you.
9. You Can Get Around Knowing Only English
Berlin is an international city, so most people speak English. It’s rare to find someone who can’t speak English in supermarkets, restaurants, and stores. However, your experience will be ten times better if you at least try to learn the language. This way, you can fully communicate and even make the bureaucratic part of moving to Berlin a little bit easier.
10. Berlin Weather Can Be Dreary
The German capital city of Berlin is amazing in the spring and summer, but not so much during the fall and winter. The days get noticeably shorter and you have much more rain and clouds. The winter is especially very cloudy and rainy, and also very cold – you can expect to experience an average of 2 degrees during the coldest months.
11. Berlin is Cheap
Berlin is one of the cheapest capital cities in Europe. While it’s not as cheap as it used to be, it’s still very affordable. The value for money you get from living there is amazing. One example is the food and public transport. However, as we mentioned above, you might have a difficult time finding affordable housing because of the intense demand.
12. You Can Easily Get Around with a Bike
Berlin is huge, but it’s also flat, which means that biking around is easy. While you can benefit from the city’s great (and affordable) public transportation system, you can also get a bike and enjoy the great spring and summer days in the fresh air for free!
13. The Food Scene Is Amazing
Berlin is ideal for those who love eating because it’s one of the European cities that specializes in a wide variety of cuisines. Thanks to the cultural diversity of all the immigrants and expats living in the German capital, you will find dishes you’ve never even heard about before. The best part is that it’s so inexpensive! Most restaurants charge a reasonable price for their dishes, and you’re not even expected to leave a tip.
14. Some Businesses Only Accept Cash
Even though we’re so accustomed to using the many different electronic payment options out there, there are still some businesses that don’t accept credit or debit cards in Berlin. It’s a good idea to always have a little bit of cash with you.
15. It’s Not Easy to Make Friends (But It’s Not Impossible)
People complain about big cities and how hard it is to make friends, and Berlin is no exception. Making friends in Berlin is not extremely easy, but it’s not impossible. It might take a while, but once you find some good people, you have your crew. If you’re afraid, remember there are always expat groups on Facebook and Meetups. You can also start going to coworking spaces that host events and other in-person activities so you can meet like-minded people.
16. You’ll Find All Kinds of People
Berlin is home to people from all over the world, so you will meet all kinds of people, which will make your experience even more interesting. You will not only find people from other parts of the globe, but you’ll also meet people with different interests, different careers, and different mindsets. Living in Berlin, surrounded by all these people, definitely opens your horizons, both personally and professionally.
17. Berlin is Full of Artists
As we mentioned above, the German capital offers artists the option to get a German Artist Visa, which means that many talented artists call Berlin home. Aside from that, Berlin has many great universities, museums, and rich history and culture. The art scene is huge, and you’ll find all kinds of inspiring and interesting art there.
18. There Are Many Great Coworking Spaces
There are so many remote workers, digital nomads, entrepreneurs, and start-ups in Berlin that it’s not hard to find great coworking spaces that promote interesting events and activities. Many even let you bring your pet with you! You can find different types of coworking spaces, from more laid-back ones to more corporate-looking ones. If you work remotely, you won’t have to worry about finding a proper place to set up your workspace.
19. You Will Need to Adapt
Depending on where you’re coming from, you might be intimidated by some of the customs, the different ways of living, and the bureaucracy. For example, you might struggle at first to bag your own groceries fast enough without making people angry; most German cashiers are known for their speed. Another difficult thing for many foreigners is sorting the trash. Germany is extremely specific, so you might find it really hard to separate your trash in the beginning.
Just remember that whenever you move to a new country, you have to adapt and understand that society’s specific habits and behaviour – even if they seem strange to you at first.
20. Almost Nothing is Open on Sundays
This is another thing you’ll need to adapt to. Some countries have stores and supermarkets open seven days a week, but not Germany. Sundays are meant for relaxation, so if you’re used to grocery shopping on Sundays, you will need to adapt.
21. Relocating to Berlin Will Change Your Mind – and Your Life
Berlin is a great city, full of young and vibrant people. It’s a city with lots of history and culture, but also innovation and creativity. There’s a community of expats, people from all over the world, that help bring the city to life.
The German capital is impressive and lively, and its liberal and non-conformist style makes it even better. Berlin makes it possible for anyone from any part of the world to feel at home and yet, experience the whole world within your own neighbourhood.
Legal disclaimer: According to the German Rechtsberatungsgesetz – Legal Advice Act – this article does not constitute formal legal advice and should not be considered case-specific advice. It does not replace speaking with our team members or obtaining professional legal advice. Further disclaimer details are incorporated in our Terms & Conditions of Use.
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