Berlin, Germany Report of what it's like to live there - 07/07/15
Personal Experiences from Berlin, Germany
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
2. How long have you lived here?
3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Embassy housing is either apartments in the city, or Stadtvilla townhomes in the suburbs near the grunewald.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Food is relatively cheap. If you shop at Lidl, Aldi and Rewe for most of your groceries, you should be fine. For a wider range of grocery options, get an account with Metro. Contrary to what you will be told (that it is only a bulk market like Costco or BJ's) you do not have to buy bulk there, they sell turkeys, you can find hot peppers on a regular basis (along with other fruits and vegetables that would be considered 'specialty') and they have american-style bacon.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
KFC, McDonald's, Vapianos, Pizza Hut, Burger King, Subway are all in-town. At the larger malls in the city are even more local fast-food places.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Your dishwasher and laundry room will be your new best friends.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes. There are a number of gyms in the city, in addition to the gym at the Embassy.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Germany is a cash economy for the most part. You can use your cards, and you will get a bank ATM card to make withdrawals, but mostly you'll be using cash.
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
It's always good to learn some of your host country's language. A lot of people speak English but you will still encounter people who will not or do not. There are a number of language schools in-town if you want to learn German and did not get the chance to learn before arriving.
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes. While there are accommodations for handicapped people in Germany, there are areas of the city that would be difficult to navigate. Not all metro stops have elevators, for example, and many eateries and shops are what could best be described as 'handicapped unfriendly.'
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Yes. Completely safe and affordable. You can buy day, week, month or year passes for the metro. In-town it is easier to walk or use the metro than drive, unless you are going grocery shopping.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes. You can get it from T-Mobile or Kabel Deutschland.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Bring your own unlocked smartphone and buy a pay as you go data plan/sim card. Easier to reload your phone than get locked into a contract.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Nothing out of the ordinary for a large metropolitan city. As long as you are aware of your surroundings you should be fine.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
People don't vaccinate their children. If you have kids, make sure they get their vaccinations on time.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Winters can be cold and snowy, but not always. Weather is pleasant for most of the year. Summer is miserable with no air conditioning. You will want to go buy a A/C unit for the hottest part of the year.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
2. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Big community but also non-existent. Post is what you make of it.
2. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
It is a good city if you can make your own fun.
3. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
4. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Yes. There are race issues in Germany related to Turks and a number of other immigrant groups that have made a life for themselves within Germany.
5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Winter markets, traveling the romantic road, seeing castles.
6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Winter markets, Ritter chocolate store, Museum island, buying clothing by the (kilo!), Thuringer bratwursts, taking in a show at Friedrichstadt-Palast Berlin. There are a lot of things to do in the city, you just have to decide what you are interested in doing and not wait for someone else to make plans.
7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Steins, Black forest clocks, Nutcrackers, glass ornaments, Lebkuchen, PRETZLES!
8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Easy access to the rest of Europe. Access to a wide range of goods and services.
9. Can you save money?
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
That the city was nothing like the rest of Germany.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Idea that Germans are efficient.
4. But don't forget your:
Portable A/C unit.