BERLIN Expat Life

10 Reasons Why Berlin is a Great City for Expats

Berlin bikes
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Have you ever dreamed of moving abroad? I had always imagined myself living in a faraway land, learning a foreign language and immersing myself in a completely new culture. Almost two years ago I took the plunge and moved away from my home in Melbourne across half the world to Berlin.

Formerly regarded as ‘poor but sexy’, Berlin is now booming, in more ways than one. It has officially become one of Europe’s most visited cities, but it appears that tourists don’t just visit the city; many never want to leave! With every fifth resident possessing a migrant background, it’s fairly safe to say that Berlin is indeed a city of immigrants.

Here are 10 reasons why Berlin is a great city for expats:

1. It’s cheap

Berlin is very inexpensive and is in fact one of the cheapest capitals in Western Europe to live in. Your Euros go a long way here and enjoying a good quality of life here is relatively easy. Rent, food and public transport are all very affordable which means that there always seems to be extra money left over for travel! One of the clearest indications that a city offers great value is when the beer is cheaper than the water, which is the case in Berlin. What’s not to love about that?

2.The public transport network is excellent

Berlin’s extensive public transport network connects virtually every corner of the city so no matter where you live, it is super easy to get around. I love the fact that there is virtually no reason why you would need a car, unlike Australia where it is unavoidable. The system is reliable, efficient and affordable and the trains run all night on the weekends.

Public transport. Berlin 3. Most people speak English

Most Berliners can speak English exceptionally well, which is very handy when you’ve only managed to master the basics of German! What’s also nice is that Berliners will switch to English almost without blinking if they detect that you’re not a native German speaker. This is handy when you’re struggling to express yourself in your broken German, but if you’re genuinely want to practise, it can also be frustrating!

4. It’s entrepreneurial

Berlin has been the most talked-about startup hub in Europe for some time now, having all the ingredients for a dynamic, entrepreneurial city. Startups are appealing for some expats, as landing a job at one also means eligibility for a Work Visa. The startup scene in Berlin is young, energetic and offers a lot of variety. Berlin is also an ideal base for creatives and the self-employed. There is no shortage of co-working spaces available across the city either which makes networking with other like-minded people easy.

5. It’s fun

There are plenty of reasons why Berlin was recently named the ‘most fun’ city in the world by Telegraph Magazine. The nightlife in Berlin is world-renowned and the city has become the global centre of electronic music. Berlin boasts some of the best clubs in the world, housed in some of the most unique spaces: think disused cellars and abandoned industrial buildings. Clubs don’t close on the weekends so it’s possible to party from Friday all the way though Monday. If you’re not the clubbing type, there are plenty of other fun things to keep you entertained. Fancy a session of Sunday karaoke in the park? What about exploring an abandoned amusement park? Or how about flying a kite on the tarmac of the old Tempelhof airport? There’s something for everyone.

Mauerpark Karaoke, Berlin 6. The travel opportunities are endless

Living in Europe means that it is super easy (and cheap) to jet off on a weekend getaway. Fancy a weekend in Barcelona? What about Lyon? Or Copenhagen? If you book early enough, you can score some unbelievably cheap deals too. Last year I flew down to Salzburg in Austria for 16 Euros! With prices so cheap and with everything so close, you quickly find that you’re travelling to somewhere new every month. No complaints there!

Train travel, Europe 7. It’s tolerant

Berlin is non-conformist and is, in fact, a haven for subcultures. It is known as one of the most liberal cities for minorities in all of Europe, making the city a target for migrants craving acceptance and freedom of expression. You really can be yourself in Berlin without fear of judgement, which is very liberating.

8. There are lots of other expats

A thriving expat community exists in Berlin, meaning that there are lots of others in a similar situation as you. You’ll find that bonding with other expats is easy, as you’re all connected by a shared experience. Some of your strongest friendships will be forged as an expat, as your expat circle quickly becomes almost like your family away from home.

9. You’ll get fit

Berlin is a huge city – 9 times bigger than Paris – and you’ll soon find that one of the side effects of getting from point A to point B is becoming fit. As the vast majority of people don’t own cars in Berlin, getting around the city means taking public transport, walking or cycling. Being active is a natural part of your day when you live in Berlin.

Berlin bikes

10. Work-life balance is a high priority

Achieving a healthy work-life balance is a high priority for us all in this day and age. Expats in Germany will be happy to discover that the German government also sees this as important. German law mandates that every employee in the country receives a minimum of four weeks of paid vacation leave per year — although many can receive up to 30 days — and that working hours don’t exceed 40 per week. In addition, Germany’s employment ministry has banned employers from contacting staff outside of working hours except in emergencies under new measures to prevent employees from burning out. It’s reassuring to know that the labour laws in Germany are set up in the favour of employees.

Have you been to Berlin? What makes it a great city in your eyes?

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    June 7, 2015 at 1:06 am

    Christie, I have lived in Melbourne my entire life and I love it here! It’s a very multicultural city and we are very big foodies and coffee lovers 🙂

    May 9, 2015 at 10:10 pm

    I’m German and lived in Berlin during the past two months and it’s true that everyone speaks English there, it’s crazy! In other German cities I always wonder how tourists can survive because not one restaurant offers menus in English, nobody speaks English, people are even annoyed if somebody doesn’t speak German… But in Berlin in bars or restaurants sometimes people even asked me in English to place my order, so strange 😀 Great that we at least have one welcoming city.

    May 6, 2015 at 7:58 am

    Great post Rachel. I have an Aussie friend living the ex pat life in Berlin but coming from the creative industries she says it’s very hard to make any money. She has to substantiate her arts/culture related work in Berlin with projects internationally, usually at film festivals. Perhaps it’s different for different industries but from her perspective it can be very hard to make money.

    May 6, 2015 at 1:11 am

    This was a great post! I haven’t been to Berlin yet, but I’m dying to visit. I just applied for a working holiday visa in Australia, so I am planning to be an expat soon too! Right now, Melbourne is the city at the top of my list! Do you know what the expat culture is like there?

    May 5, 2015 at 9:54 am

    I would love to go back to Berlin someday. I’m pretty sure a lot has changed!

    Karen Farber
    May 5, 2015 at 4:35 am

    Okay well now I want to move to berlin! It sounds like the most amazing city! Need to visit!

    Leanne Winters
    May 5, 2015 at 2:46 am

    The more points i read, the more i want to jet off. I love how the german laws are great for employees, how awesome xx

    May 5, 2015 at 1:27 am

    Great post! I am an Aussie currently living in London and have been looking into Berlin for when my visa runs out here…

    May 5, 2015 at 1:01 am

    I loved Berlin. I really like most places I travel to, but Berlin was one of the few that I just felt at home in immediately.

    May 4, 2015 at 9:16 pm

    I am an ex-pat and have been living in Berlin for the last 5.5 years and I have to say that I agree with everything on this list!

  • Rachel Bale
    May 4, 2015 at 7:03 pm

    It is Saul! Do you live in Berlin too?

    May 4, 2015 at 6:57 pm

    I spend a month in Berlin for a summer course and I am dreaming to go back ever since 🙂
    Thank you for your post about your experience! I have no doubt that I will move there in a few years

    May 4, 2015 at 5:47 pm

    Thanks for this! Hope to see more 🙂

    May 4, 2015 at 5:43 pm

    Yes, Berlin is great. Especially for nights out. I miss having clubs like Watergate in Prague.

    • Rachel Bale
      May 5, 2015 at 5:50 am

      Berlin’s nightlife scene is definitely hard to beat anywhere else in Europe Tereza! Prague does have its up-sides too though 😉

    May 4, 2015 at 5:22 pm

    Berlin is is wonderful and a great place to live, and the same goes for many cities in Europe. European cities have character, they are all so very exciting and so full of life and history.

    • Rachel Bale
      May 5, 2015 at 5:46 am

      Agreed Dorothèe. Which European city can you see yourself living in?

    La Bijoux Bella | by mia
    May 4, 2015 at 3:16 pm

    European living has always been a fascination in the eyes of the foreigner, from lifestyles to high fashion, to fine cuisine. It’s a life of enjoyment and yet it’s far more convenient to travel around town without a car. Metro and everything is pretty much within walking distance, take the high speed train from Berlin into Paris is about 6 hours, have brunch, spend the afternoon at the garden of Luxembourg , stroll the Champs Élysées and hop on the train back to Berlin. It’s a win win situation at the very least, that alone is an invitation to move to Europe … 🙂

    • Rachel Bale
      May 5, 2015 at 5:30 am

      Yes, yes, yes, Mia! Too many good things 🙂

    May 4, 2015 at 3:07 pm

    I lived in Berlin for almost two years and I struggled to find many people who could or would speak English to me, even at our bank. This combined with the intolerance to my basic level of German (I was taking lessons) made my time there very isolating. I had an operation in a Berlin hospital and in the three days I was there and the initial paperwork meetings not one person would speak to me in English.

    • Rachel Bale
      May 5, 2015 at 5:28 am

      I hear ya, Melanie. The bureaucracy can definitely be intimidating. Older Berliners are less likely to speak English, but almost all the younger ones I’ve encountered do, seeing as it’s compulsory to learn English in schools. It’s sad to hear that you had an isolating experience in Berlin.

    May 4, 2015 at 2:10 pm

    Oh wow those labour laws alone are reason enough to consider a move to Germany. Especially since I’m American and the daily work grind can be a bit never ending if you let it.


    • Rachel Bale
      May 5, 2015 at 5:23 am

      They really are Monika. It’s definitely nice to feel like the law is on your side. I can imagine that it would be quite different in America.

    May 4, 2015 at 11:31 am

    I didn’t think I would enjoyed Berlin as much as I did when I visited 5 years ago. It was only for a short 3 days but I thoroughly enjoyed my stay there. And the part about its wide transportation network is so true.

    • Rachel Bale
      May 4, 2015 at 7:08 pm

      Yes Lash, it is a very safe city. Do you have any plans to come back to Berlin for another visit? I’m sure it’s changed a lot since you were last here five years ago.

    Michelle | Lights Camera Travel
    May 4, 2015 at 10:49 am

    Your post has just got me SO excited to visit Berlin in September!! It sounds exactly like my kind of city 🙂

    • Rachel Bale
      May 4, 2015 at 7:06 pm

      I’m so excited for your upcoming Berlin travel plans Michelle! I’m sure you’ll love it! September is a beautiful time to visit too. 🙂

    May 4, 2015 at 10:40 am

    uhh I wish I live in Berlin! no 6 is my fav reason 🙂

    • Rachel Bale
      May 4, 2015 at 7:04 pm

      It’s definitely one of my favourite reasons too Vonny 😉