Swapping the glamour of LA for the shabbier charm of Berlin, Oliver Bristow and Jeff Steiger relocated themselves, their business and two dogs Aujus and Winston.
After moving to Berlin, Jeff landed a German speaking job in the fashion industry after just 6 months of lessons. With a bit of hard work it can be done! So proud.
We catch up with them a year after their move to see how they are settling in.
You guys had stable jobs in the USA, a house, and various music projects rooted in the local scene. Why move to Berlin?
Oliver: I had been working at Amoeba (the world’s largest independent record store) for almost 20 years, and while I loved my job and the people I worked with, it became very comfortable.
We were both searching for something new. Between the political climate in the US and the ridiculous amount of time we spent in traffic in LA everyday, we decided to sell our house and make the move. Sometimes it’s good to make yourself vulnerable and this move has certainly done that.
We just wanted a change, and we’ve always loved Berlin.
How did you find the relocation process? What was the toughest part for you? Finding a flat, getting a visa, finding work?
Thankfully due to Expats In Wonderland we had our flat within 2 weeks of landing in Berlin and visa sorted within a month. We took 6 months off to take an intensive Deutsch course, before looking for work. I suppose that was the hardest part. I found work quickly after finishing up the course and Oliver is now working in Music Copyright aside from his label work.
Which neighbourhood have you chosen to live in and why? Did you consider other areas?
We were open to a few different areas, but landed in Kreuzberg. We love it here, the Kiez is much more mellow than in years past and we’re central to everything.
Why did you choose your particular apartment? What features/factors were most important to you when choosing a place to live?
We chose our place because we fell in love with the exposed brick, the proximity to the parks and the canal, and how close we are to friends, our gym and more.
What approach have you taken to making your living space your own?
When we first arrived we got some basics for our flat, but not much.
We shipped our furniture along with 2000+ records in a shipping container over from LA, so it was around 6 weeks before everything arrived.
How did you find the process of relocating your labels over here?
(O) My record labels were already manufactured and distributed here in Germany through Wordandsound in Hamburg, so we already had a network here. We’d been coming here for many years and doing label nights at places like Berghain/Panorama Bar. Most of the artists on the label are based either in Berlin or Europe, so from that perspective it’s been a real advantage to be closer to everyone.
Do you ever get homesick for your home country? What things do you miss the most? Are there things you do or places you go when you need a taste of your roots?
I wouldn’t say homesick so much as missing family and friends. That’s the hardest part. That and tacos. Definitely miss tacos.
What do you think Berlin has to offer that is different to your previous home town? What are the best things about living in Berlin?
Berlin has such a strong artist community and such freedom. There’s just something magical about it. I love that fact that I don’t have to own a car anymore and that I can get anywhere I need to via bike within 10 – 20 mins. Summers at the lakes are amazing and our dogs absolutely love all the parks.
How have you integrated into the city? Have you learnt German? Did you make local friends or mostly expats?
We’ve made a lot of new friends. Some though the music community and others through our German courses.
Do you have any specific plans for what you would like to accomplish while living here, or just enjoy the lifestyle and spoils of the city?
We’ve just finalized our GmbH for a future project, can’t really say much about that yet, but other than that just soaking up the culture and enjoying everyday life in a new city.
What are you favourite places in and around Berlin to…
We mostly cook at home, but there’s an Israeli spot ‘Cafe Mugrabi‘ here in Kreuzberg that’s fantastic. Lon Men’s Noodle House in Charlottenburg (best Tawainese) And Ammazza Pizza in Kreuzberg is a go to spot for us as well.
Biking in Grunewald, and discovering all the parks and lakes!
What advice would you give to other expats thinking to move to the city?
Biggest advice would be to take some German lessons, not only will you learn the language, but loads of history & culture and meet new people from around the world.