Berlin is a city that attracts an opinionated cohort of expats, locals and transplanted Germans. If you are moving to Berlin you’re going to hear a lot of noise from all sides about what it’s actually like to live and settle in the city.
Some of the move to Berlin myths that we’ll be busting are a source of rigorous debate, particularly in your local dive bar. After a decade of living here, we can tell you that those conversations get pretty old, so if you find yourself looking for some straightforward answers, without being mansplained by some veteran raver, then here we go.
Myth 1: Berlin is over, you missed it and shouldn’t move here
Welcome to the spiritual home of 90’s nostalgia. It’s true that after the wall came down there were some lawless years in which the city was a free-for-all of empty industrial space, attracting artists and musicians looking to escape military service in a drive to repopulate the city. However, Berlin has a long and rich history the reaches far before the creation of techno, and it’s not a transitory place which loses its cultural significance so easily.
A few Google searches for “should I move to Berlin” will lead you to kilometers of forum threads warning you to take cover and run as far away from the city as if some kind of Chernobyl disaster took place leaving a fallout of unemployment, bad weather and misery in its wake. Don’t be afraid.
Yes rents are higher than they used to be, the city is richer and in parts being sold off to companies looking to buy a taste of the local lifestyle at a premium price. However it’s still a place that successfully fights back against corporations like Google, bases its economy around independent businesses and is one of Europe’s top rated cities to live and work as a freelancer or self-employed.
Finding a flat in Berlin is still considerably more affordable than in other European capitals, and there are a lot of amazing working opportunities in companies where English is spoken as a first language. Not to mention it boasts one of the most prestigious and inspiring nightlife cultures in the world. That’s why so many of the best artists, musicians, creatives and entrepreneurs in the world make the city their home. We know, we relocated them!
Myth 2: Finding a flat as a freelancer is nearly impossible
The paperwork is intimidating, and don’t expect any molly coddling in your native language throughout the process, but despite the rumours that a full time contract is a prerequisite to getting a flat, we secure apartments for freelancers all the time.
Much of the flat application process, regardless of your working situation is about taking a methodical approach, speaking to the right people in the right way, following up like a maniac and ensuring that papers are presented to perfection.
Ultimately, as long as you are able to show that your monthly income is three times the cold rent of flat that you are applying for, then you should qualify. This rule is the same for contracted employees, freelancers and the self employed. Just a few other documents are required for freelancers, such as tax returns or if you are new resident a financial forecast, but we are experts in putting together the entire package to help you secure the flat of your dreams.
Myth 3: It will be impossible for UK citizens to work in Berlin after Brexit
After 13 years of travelling around Germany as a touring dancer, without EU citizenship, I can say that living in Berlin as a UK citizen will continue to be possible after Brexit. Sure, there will probably be a few more hoops to jump through, and certainly some trips to the immigration office, but we help people from outside of the EU relocate to Berlin every week.
While life after Brexit will certainly be more bureaucratic, and some restrictions will be applied to those working in “unskilled” professions, there are still plenty of opportunities to make the city your home. That said there are a few things that UK citizens should bare in mind when thinking about making the move in the near future.
- You may be restricted from carrying out “unskilled” work such as in restaurant, retail and bar jobs.
- English teaching qualifications can be a great way to get a visa, and make a basic living on arriving in the city.
- Artist visas can often be more easily obtained than business freelance visa which need to be processed through the chamber of commerce.
- Starting a business will certainly require a detailed business plan, and potentially an initial significant capital investment.
- Letters of intent are often required to qualify your visa. You may be able to get significant help from friends or business associates already resident in the city.
Our visa service offers guidance on all of the above, so if you are unsure about how to prepare your application then get in touch and we’ll guide you through.
Myth 4: You will have to pay three times your rent upfront as a deposit
Once you secure a flat contract it is standard practice in Berlin that your landlord will take up to three times the monthly cold rent as a deposit. This amount offers them security for any damage, or loss of the provided amenities during your stay.
Contracts are often full of stipulations about this amount of money, ranging from small print about the position of existing furniture, to the brand and type of paint that needs to be used when moving out.
It often happens that your landlo
rd will demand the full security deposit upfront in a single payment. This can be financially crippling for some people as with an average cold rent of €900 for a two room apartment, you can expect to lay out around €4000 in month one for your unfurnished place. It is also illegal.
Thanks to strong protection laws for tenants in Germany, you are entitled to split your deposit payment down into three monthly installments. This is a requirement by law, so if your landlord debates this fact with you, you can play the legislation card and they will begrudgingly comply.
Myth 5: Living in Berlin is easy without speaking German
While this city certainly boasts a chunky portion of immigrants living within an international bubble, and speaking as much German as it takes to select the salad and sauces on their kebab, it’s not a painless existence.
A few words of German will go a long way, and we encourage all new residents, if they have the means, to enroll in a course or get some private tuition. Your quality of life will be improved, and you can deal with some of the basic life administration that will help you to get settled faster.
Don’t worry if you have just arrived and don’t speak a word. With some of the basics in place you will be able to understand why the guy checking your boiler is shaking his head while making explosion hand gestures, and sweet talk the Berghain bar staff into a cheeky shot or two. Both good friends to have for the price of a few lessons.
If you are moving to Berlin with a job already, it’s likely that your employer will offer some kind of subsidised class to help integrate international employees. These are classes often carried out in working hours at the expense of the company. It’s not a legal requirement, but quite common even in the start-up scene, so don’t be afraid to ask.
Language schools are commonplace around the city and generally offer part-time or intensive course options from as little as €150 per month. For a private tutor you can expect to pay between €25 – €35 per hour. Often if you take lessons with a friend you can save a little on this. Tandem partners can also be found using apps and websites.
Sounds hard and I’m tired…
Any Expats In Wonderland client will tell you that we’re ungloved cage fighters when it comes to battling bureaucracy in this city. The reason that we get out of bed in the morning is to smell the blood of a quivering civil servant or landlord standing in the way of you making the city your home.
If you are moving to Berlin and want to find a flat, get a working visa, register with residency or tax office, or get German health insurance, then book a free 20 minute consultation and we’ll get to work.