Relocating

Relocating Guide to Berlin

Intro

So you've made the decision - you are moving to Berlin. Spoiler alert: you're gonna love it here! If you haven't been here yet - no worries, we will help you to get to know the city! Suppose you already had that pleasure of visiting Germany's capital and you're looking for tips on settling down in the city and dealing with day-to-day life. In that case, we have plenty of those too. We are going to make the move easy for you!

1. Expats' moving stories

We asked employees of the most exciting startups based in Berlin about their experience with moving to the city.

Aina Visa Bentanachs, Product Analyst at We Love X

'I didn't know much about Berlin before moving here, but I had heard that it was a good place for the digital world in Germany and thus, I decided it would be a nice start for my international expansion. After living in Berlin for ten months, I can be certain about how amazing life here is, both in a professional and personal way. The city is full of events, meetings, and opportunities to build a great professional network and that motivates everyone to give the best of themselves. To be honest, I came here with an idea of staying no more than a year, and after this time, I am pretty certain I will stay for a very, very long term.'

Diana Stoica, People Partner at door2door

'Looking back, everything happened very fast - from the moment I decided to move here, to find a great job and a flat. The relocation itself came with many surprises, especially at first, when I didn't know many people, German bureaucracy seemed heavy, and Google Translate became my best friend. Overall, it was one of the most intense years of my life. I learnt to be more serene and embrace everything that comes along.'

Irena Yeung, People Administration Assistant at Solarisbank

'I didn't like Berlin after I moved here and I was thinking about leaving the city. However, after everything has settled down, I started to enjoy my life here. Especially in the summer, there are thousands of things to do, and you never feel bored. What I went through in Berlin, is the unexpected, like stumbling upon a tram party or discovering a hidden basement concert. I'd say that I really enjoy my life in this poor-but-sexy city.'

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1. Expats' moving stories

We asked employees of the most exciting startups based in Berlin about their experience with moving to the city.

Aina Visa Bentanachs, Product Analyst at We Love X

'I didn't know much about Berlin before moving here, but I had heard that it was a good place for the digital world in Germany and thus, I decided it would be a nice start for my international expansion. After living in Berlin for ten months, I can be certain about how amazing life here is, both in a professional and personal way. The city is full of events, meetings, and opportunities to build a great professional network and that motivates everyone to give the best of themselves. To be honest, I came here with an idea of staying no more than a year, and after this time, I am pretty certain I will stay for a very, very long term.'

Diana Stoica, People Partner at door2door

'Looking back, everything happened very fast - from the moment I decided to move here, to find a great job and a flat. The relocation itself came with many surprises, especially at first, when I didn't know many people, German bureaucracy seemed heavy, and Google Translate became my best friend. Overall, it was one of the most intense years of my life. I learnt to be more serene and embrace everything that comes along.'

Irena Yeung, People Administration Assistant at Solarisbank

'I didn't like Berlin after I moved here and I was thinking about leaving the city. However, after everything has settled down, I started to enjoy my life here. Especially in the summer, there are thousands of things to do, and you never feel bored. What I went through in Berlin, is the unexpected, like stumbling upon a tram party or discovering a hidden basement concert. I'd say that I really enjoy my life in this poor-but-sexy city.'

2. About Berlin

Before we jump into the tips itself, it's good to get some overview of the city.

a. History & landmarks

Although Berlin was officially founded in 1237, its recent history is the most eventful one. In 1949, together with the foundation of the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) and the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), the city got divided into West Berlin and East Berlin.

The construction of the infamous Berlin Wall began in 1961 and was the East's effort to separate itself from the West. The Wall fell on 9 November 1989, and the event marks the beginning of Germany's reunification process that ended on 3 October 1990.

There are many landmarks related to the separation period and remaining pieces of the Wall spread around the city, including East Side Gallery, Checkpoint Charlie, and the Berlin Wall Memorial. The famous Brandenburg Gate also used to serve as a border checkpoint. Other popular tourist spots are Alexanderplatz (with the TV Tower), Berlin Cathedral, Museum Island, Reichstag, and Victory Column in Tiergarten.

b. Weather

Weather in Berlin may not be anywhere close to what's experienced in southern Europe, but it's not the worst out there either. The city is located in the temperate continental climate zone. The average high temperatures during the summer are 22– 25°C (72–77°F), and low ones are 12–14°C (54–57°F). During winters, temperatures average from −2 to +3°C (28–37°F). The average amount of rainy days is 100.

c. Food

If you're a foodie, Berlin will treat you well! The city is covered with a very diverse set of restaurants, bars, cafés, and more. The best districts for going out for food or a drink are Kreuzberg, Friedrichshain, and Mitte.

When it comes to cuisines, the most popular ones here are German, Vietnamese, Italian, Turkish, Israelian, and Lebanese. If you're a vegetarian or vegan, you won't have any problem finding places to eat - Berlin is one of the best cities in that regard.

When it comes to coffee, Berlin is home to some of the most recognised roasters in Europe, including The Barn, Five Elephant, Bonanza, and many others. Kreuzberg, Friedrichshain, and Mitte are full of cafés serving coffee and pastries. Some of them, like Silo and Father Carpenter, are also known for offering Australian-style brunches. Most of the coffee places in Berlin close at 6:00 pm. Many of them also have a no- laptop policy during the weekends.

d. Music

As you may have heard, Berlin is the world's techno music capital. There are approximately 280 venues spread across the city, the most famous ones being Berghain, Tresor, Sisyphos, Griessmuehle, and ://about blank. The best way to discover what's happening around the city is to use apps like Resident Advisor, Bandsintown, or Songkick, featuring events taking place around the city. Many clubs post their parties on Facebook as well. When clubbing, be prepared for queuing for a few hours and getting rejected. The average entry fees are between €8-18.

e. Shopping

When it comes to shopping, Berlin doesn't disappoint either. For those looking for fashion stores, Hackescher Markt, Kurfürstendamm (Ku'damm), and Friedrichstraße are the best choice. There are also flea markets on Sundays, like the one in Mauerpark or on Boxhagener Platz.

Shops are closed on Sundays for most of the year, with the exception of eight weeks chosen by the Berlin state. Stores offering touristic products, ones at airports and railway stations, and petrol stations are open for the whole year.

Germany is a cash-driven country and Berlin is no exception here. Be sure to always have some cash with you. Also, make sure that your bank is not going to charge you extra for withdrawing money from an ATM.

Grocery shopping in Berlin is relatively inexpensive. You can check prices of everyday products on Numbeo website.

3. Finding a job

The best thing you can do before moving to Berlin is to find a job, which is a relatively easy task to handle remotely. The city is full of startups, tech companies, co-working spaces, investors, venture capitals, and more. It's also not a challenge to find companies that don't require you to know German - English is an unofficial language of Berlin's tech industry anyway.

Berlin's startups, in opposition to traditional German companies, have a very casual working culture. There is no dress code, working hours are usually flexible, and there are drinks and snacks in the office. It's also quite common to have beers with your team on Friday over a ping pong or a kicker table. Of course, some companies may be more strict and demand from you to work after-hours and be fully dedicated to the project you're working on. Luckily, there's a lot of the good ones out there!

Our very own website, ACELR8 Jobs, is one of the best places where you can look for your future employer in Berlin, as well as other cities across Europe. We collaborate with all of the companies listed on the website directly. Our recruiters will guide you through the hiring process and will give you an introduction to the company that you would like to work for. Most of the roles are engineering-focused, but there is plenty of marketing, design, and product positions too!

If you're not sure how much money you should ask for, we have also created a handy Salary Calculator based on our insights and past experiences. It's an excellent reference for someone not familiar with the Berlin job market.

Once you have the job contract, it's going to be easier for you to find a place to live and get a visa (if needed).

a. Tips on CV and interviews

If you apply or you are contacted by a company with an open job, you will be required to send a CV. A cover letter is not always mandatory but may be a good thing to have as well.

A few things that you should have in mind when creating a resume:

  • Keep it short and clear (max. three pages). Use precise figures, projects, and main achievements. If you are a Team Lead, you can include the number of team members you were leading. If you are a Software Developer, include the tech stack you worked within each company;
  • Include your personal projects, websites, and hobbies;
  • Include the starting and ending dates (month, year) of your previous jobs as well as the location.

Next step on your way to getting a job in Berlin is to attend interviews. Here are some tips on how to get those right:

  • Research the company beforehand. Learn about their products, values, tech stack they use. Go through their websites, social media accounts, blogs, and profiles on websites such as Crunchbase;
  • Prepare for the motivations-to-join question: have a specific and apparent reason in mind why would you like to join the company instead of another one;
  • Familiarise yourself with the job description and prepare answers for potential questions that the interviewer may ask you;
  • Check the LinkedIn profile of the interviewers. You may find common hobbies and experiences that could be worth mentioning to create a connection with the interviewer;
  • Come to the interview with clear expectations regarding your salary or its range. Ask about the additional benefits and the support with relocation;
  • Ask questions about the team, the company's vision and values, and your potential career growth;
  • Just be yourself. Passion and curiosity make a difference.

4. Visa

Getting a visa for some of you may be the most challenging thing to take care of before moving to Berlin, but we will help you handle that part as well!

a. EU citizens

Citizens of countries that are members of the European Union can live, study, and work in any other member-country, including Germany. You just have to have your local ID or passport for identification. That's it!

b. Non-EU citizens

Process of getting a visa will depend on your nationality and the type of job you're going to get. You can get detailed information, together with all of the requirements, on Germany's Federal Foreign Office's website.


5. Finding a flat

When finding a job in Berlin may seem like an easy task if you have the right skill set, finding a place to live is another story. The local housing market is bustling, there is a shortage of apartments, and rents kept growing for the past few years. Luckily, with July 2019, a 5-year rent freeze got introduced to the city.

a. Neighbourhoods

There are 12 administrative districts in Berlin, with Pankow, Tempelhof-Schöneberg, and Mitte being the most populated ones.

If you're looking for a more lively place, full of places to eat, bars, and clubs - Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg would be the best choice for you. Both districts are known from graffiti-covered buildings, the overground U-Bahn tracks, and a busy nightlife. Neukölln has a similar vibe to those districts, but instead of loud clubs, you will find more cosy bars there.

If you're looking for a calmer yet well-situated place to live, the best options for you are Charlottenburg, Prenzlauer Berg, and Schöneberg. All three are especially perfect if you're want to move to Berlin with your family. They are full of parks, restaurants, and shops.

Mitte is excellent for those looking for something in between. You will find a lot of cool bars and hipster coffee shops here, as well as small parks, to rest a little.

For a more detailed look into Berlin's neighbourhoods, we recommend checking Hoodmaps website.

b. Websites with flat listings

There's several websites, apps, and Facebook Groups where you can look for a flat to rent in Berlin. The most popular one, WG-Gesucht, is an excellent option if you're looking for a flatshare. For those seeking a studio, one-room flat, or something more significant, ImmobilenScount24 is the best place. Be aware, though, it's easier to find a room in a shared flat than an apartment since landlords may require documents like Schufa (credit check), payslips from last 3 months, and a reference from your previous landlord.

Facebook Groups is an excellent opportunity for a more personal reach out, and there are many groups there with new listings being published multiple times per day. The most popular ones are:

c. Anmeldung

After you find a place to live, you have to get an Anmeldung (German for registration). You will need it for your work, getting a German phone number, opening a bank account (in case you want to have a traditional German bank), and many other things. To get an Anmeldung, you have to book an appointment at any Bürgeramt office in Berlin via this website. You'll have to bring:

6. Bank account

Your next step after finding a place to live would be setting up a German bank account. It's often required by some companies and authorities that use direct debit that allows them to charge your account without asking you to pay. It's mostly used by phone service providers, public transport authorities (BVG in Berlin). It can be even set up as a payment method for several online stores, including Amazon.de.

When choosing a bank, you have to keep in mind you'll be withdrawing money from ATMs quite often since Germany is a cash-country. Traditional banks like Sparkasse or Commerzbank offer you free withdraws in their own ATMs. Still, they will charge you a fee when using a machine from another network than their own. Those without physical locations, like ING DiBa or N26, allow you to use any ATM free of charge.

The next thing you should know about is EC-Cards. A lot of places don't take cards at all. A part of those that do accept only Giro cards issued by Mastercard's Maestro or Visa's V Pay. More and more places start to accept standard credit and debit cards so that it's becoming less of a problem.

One of the most recommended options for expats moving to Germany is N26. It's a free, mobile bank that offers English-speaking support combined with modern and well-designed apps. Every N26 account comes with a free MasterCard debit card, and after spending €100, you can get a free Maestro card too.

Most of the traditional German banks with branches don't offer their services in English, except for Deutsche Bank. After the initial registration that has to be done in German, both app and the customer support is offered in English. There are a few different types of accounts with different fees and included cards - you can find more details on their website.

If German is not a problem for you DKB and Comdirect are the most recommended online-based banks in Germany. Both offer free EC-Card as well as Visa credit cards. There are no extra fees too.

7. Insurance & healthcare

There's no workaround with insurance in Germany - it's mandatory. Cost of insurance is about 14.80-16.30% of your gross income. Also, if you're going to earn less than €56k per year, half of the cost has to be covered by the company you work for. Below this salary, you also have to be insured by one of the public institutions - TK, AOK, or Barmer. All of them have similar benefits and allow you to sign up in English. After the registration, you'll receive a plastic card that you have to have with you every time you're going to visit a doctor.

People who make more than €56k per year or are freelancers can also pick a private insurer. They are also obligated to pay the entire cost of their insurance.

8. Mobile phone

When it comes to getting a German phone number, it's the same as with choosing a bank - there's a lot of options out there. Your final decision will depend on many factors. Still, you can simply start with choosing between getting a contract or a prepaid.

If you want to get a contract, you can choose between Germany's four biggest carriers: Telekom, Vodafone, O2, and 1&1. All of them also offer support for eSIMs, so if you have a phone that supports it, you can use it together with your old number. 1&1 is the only one from the four that doesn't offer eSIMs for wearable devices like the Apple Watch, though.

As an alternative, there is a lot of different companies offering prepaid options, all being sub-brands of the bigger carriers. They include Aldi Talk, Otelo, Congstar, Lidl Mobile, Blau, and Edeka Mobile.

9. Moving around the city

Getting from A to B in Berlin is rarely an issue. Public transport usually operates flawlessly, bike paths are spread around the whole city, and mobility services grow one on the other.

a. BVG

Public transport in Berlin is operated mostly by Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (German for Berlin Transport Company), simply referred to as BVG. They manage U-Bahns (underground trains), trams, buses, and ferries. There are also S-Bahn’s (sub-urban trains) operated by Deutsche Bahn.

There are no separate fares regarding the transportation method. Still, there are three different tariff zones: A, B, and C. You can get ticket machines available on all of the U-Bahn stations or via BVG Tickets app. A standard monthly ticket costs €81, but you can also get a yearly one, then the monthly cost drops to €63.42.

Berlin's public transport system is pretty well integrated with Google Maps, Apple Maps, and Citymapper, including alerts about disruptions. There is also an official BVG FahrInfo Plus app, and DB Navigator app if you want to get out of the city for a weekend.

b. Bikes and kick-off e-scooters

Berlin has an excellent infrastructure for biking - there are many bike paths on the streets and sidewalks as well as separate bike street lights on the busiest intersections.

You can get your bike in one of many small shops around the city or buy it in a big sports shop like Decathlon. You can also check out one of many Facebook groups, like Sell Your Bike Berlin.

If you don't need to use a bike daily, you can try one of many rental bike services, like Nextbike, Lidl Bike, Mobike, and Lime's JUMP. Germany recently allowed electric kick-off scooters to be used on the bike paths and the streets, so there are quite a few apps for renting those too, including, again, Lime, Voi, TIER, and Circ.

c. E-scooters, cars, and ride-sharing

Biking around Berlin allows you to get to most places quite fast, but there are other options too. You can rent electric scooters, a car, or just hail a ride.

When it comes to e-scooters, there are two services to choose from: Tier, and Emmy. If you want to rent a car, you can pick between SHARE NOW (formerly Car2Go and DriveNow), Sixxt Share, Miles, and WeShare.

Uber is available in Berlin, but it's almost as pricey as a taxi, which, by the way, can be ordered via FREE NOW app. Ride-pooling services, including FREE NOW's Match, really kicked off in Berlin. Other popular options are BerlKönig and CleverShuttle.

10. Meeting people

Moving to a new city or a new country always comes with getting to know new people around you. Around 20% of people living in Berlin are expats from around the world, with another 15% being people whose parents migrated to Germany. This diversity makes Berlin one of the most exciting places to live and to meet new people.

If you want to meet more expats such as yourself or just ask more questions you may have about moving to the city, the best place to go is Facebook Group berlin EXPATS. There are many meetups for expats too, and you can find them on Meetupor Couchsurfing. If you're looking for events related to your hobbies or work, you can also check out Eventbrite or Facebook Events.

Another great way to meet new people in the city is dating apps like Tinder. If you're not interested in dating itself, you can give a try to Bumble and OkCupid - in both of them, you can set that you're looking for new friends.

Also, be sure to get WhatsApp on your phone! That's the primary way how people in Germany communicate with each other.