Ok, I know there are one hundred and one blog posts, listicles and interviews on how to successfully to move to Berlin. Hell, I’ve even dipped my toe into the advice column pool before.
But to be honest, when I was moving here it was still really hard to find all the information, especially in one place. And let me tell you this, if you think your local Bürgeramt employee will go out of their way to assist you, or help you at all for that matter, then you’ve got another thing coming. What is a Bürgeramt you ask? See, you need my help already!
Plus, I’m kind of hoping this post goes viral, kick starts my freelance career and makes everyone want to hire me. Help me to help you. Fair warning in advance, German words are really really long and I am wont to abbreviate, so beware of abbrevs. Ok, here goes …
1. Get your shit together. I’m not trying to make you feel bad here, but that thing about German bureaucracy is not a joke, they’re literally obsessed with it. Unfortunately, the part about Germans being super organised is a joke. No one person can tell you all the information you need or sometimes the information that seems to be their job. They are however obsessed with rules for the sake of rules. So, get your shit together and get going. As a rule of thumb, make photocopies of everything, bring everything to every appointment.
2. Register your address (Anmeldung bei der Meldebehörde). I’m not going to lie this is a massive punish but they make you do it so here’s the best way. You must register your address within 14 days of moving to Berlin at the … wait for it … Bürgeramt! Yay, everyone’s favourite land of grumpy people. Make an appointment online at your local but beware, appointments fill up far in advance. Avoid the wait either by making an appointment at some far out Bürgeramt or by rocking up extra early, like before they open early, and just waiting. Warning, some Bürgeramts don’t like the rocking up method, go figure, so the safest way is via appointment. I always had success at the Bürgeramt Rathaus Neukölln. As of recent, you will also need a Wohnungsgeberbestätigung from your landlord that says you have permission to live in the apartment you’re registering at. This can be tricky if you’re sneakily subletting someone’s room but it is however, required 😥
Bring your passport and this filled out form. Don’t worry if you can’t read it they’ll probably help you when you get there. Otherwise, bookmark the shit out of Google translate. When you get your Anmeldung, make copies of it. It doesn’t hurt to carry a copy on you, for some reason people also love asking you to see this.
ps. the 14 day rule is not so strict in my experience. If you’re worried about it, ask a friend to temporarily register at their address.
2. Get health insurance. It’s a requirement to have German health insurance whilst living in Germany. Usually your employee will pay half, the rate is worked out based on your salary. If you’re a freelancer, you’ll need to pay this yourself. Try KKH, Care Concept or TK. Travel insurance depends where you’re from and which visa you’re applying for. As an Australian applying for the Working Holiday Visa you will need to show that you have travel insurance for the whole year plus German health insurance.
3. Get a visa. The place where you get your visa is called the Ausländerbehörde Berlin. It has an even less fun vibe than the Bürgeramt so prepare your morale. Appointments also fill up months in advance so book an appointment online ASAP even if you’re not 100% which visa you’re going to apply for. If you’re applying for a working visa, doesn’t hurt to bring copies of your university degree and references from previous jobs. They like to tell you that they don’t speak English here, and some of them actually don’t, but I never went with a translator although obviously that would be life a whole lot easier. Don’t pay a professional (what great advice you get here!) just rope in a friend and pay him back with Ausgustiner or Stone beer if you’re fancy. Each visa will have different requirements but it’s safe to say you’ll often need:
- Passport. Photocopies of passport.
- Money. Cash to pay your visa fee and bank statements from the past 3 months proving you have money.
- German health insurance.
- Job contract.
- Anmeldung. Photocopies of your Anmeldung.
4. Get an apartment. This is one of the trickiest parts since Berlin is teeming with expats looking to pursue their art and embrace their true creatives selves with cheap rent and living costs. Not to put you off, I mean who isn’t looking to find their true creative selves #amirite? Just be realistic about your apartment search. You’ll probably have to move around between a few short term sublets like literally every single person I know who has moved here before you find the dream digs. Look on WG Gesucht, sign up to Woloho newsletters and join the Facebook group Sell Your Stuff Berlin to find your new home.
When it comes to location, Kreuzberg is obviously too-hip-to-quit, but actually there’s still a lot there to offer. Probably a little bit more expensive and busier now than in the past but definitely still cool. Neukölln is the new Xberg and is where the real hip kids chill. I’m a bit biased here as I live in Neuks but for real, it’s definitely cool and an area you can still find cheap rent. Friedrichshain is described in literally every travel guide as trendy, so I’ll let you take that as you will. Prenzlauer Berg is notorious for prams and new parents, but is also a beautiful if expensive area. Mitte is your tourist hub but certainly has some beautiful areas and hip activities to show for it. Definitely on the more expensive end of things. Schöneberg is an oft overlooked suburb and one I wouldn’t mind living in myself. A bit quieter, big apartments and the old stomping ground of David Bowie, what’s cooler than that?
4. Get a job (if you want to). Look, that stuff I said about finding your inner creative being, I was only partly joking. That’s a totally legit pursuit of your time. As my American friends would say, you do you. Still not really sure what that means but I think it applies here. If you are looking to get a job then check out Indeed, Berlin Start Up Jobs, Connecticut and the usual suspects like LinkedIn or Germany’s version, Xing.
Other helpful but not absolutely necessary stuff ….
5. Open a bank account. Here is where your Anmeldung, passport and visa (this is theoretically in your passport, don’t freak out) comes in actual use. I recommend Sparkasse for frequency of ATMs and the option to bank online in English. Make an appointment at your local branch and bring all of the above mentioned documents. Wait for your card to arrive, create your pin and Bob’s your Uncle. Keep in mind, a normal bank account and debit card will not allow you to shop online. You can usually get around this by using Paypal, if you don’t want to get a credit card.
6. Get a phone plan. Ok, you have two options here. Option one, buy a shitty sim and top up your credit every few weeks to relive puberty and that flip Motorola we all had. You can buy these at LIDL. Option two, get a cheap phone plan that direct debits your account and actually spend less money than if you were buying credit. Now look, I’ve done both, so no judgement here. But option two is the clear winner. Winsim is cheap, fast and easy.
7. Learn German. Or don’t. But life is kind of better when you speak at least some German, coming from an admitted beginner. Sign up to a class straight away, don’t put it off! It will seriously make such a big difference to your life and plus then you can tell if someone is swearing at you in German and appropriately, swear back at them. Check out Expath, the classes are small, comfy, not intimidating and in the evening so you can go after that job that you definitely have.
If this all sounds like an incredible hassle, that’s because it is. But, that’s kind of ‘classic moving to another city’ fare. Don’t worry, it’s hard but you can do it … thanks to this super informative yet entertaining guide that you really want to share on Facebook and help go viral. Hint hint.
What did I miss? Let me know what elusive moving to Berlin fact you’re still dying to know in the comments!