Berlin Like a Local with Expat Rachel Bale

Berlin, Prenzlauer Berg
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Rachel Bale is an Australian expat living and working in Berlin, Germany. She moved from Melbourne, Australia, because her boyfriend accepted a design position at Volkswagen and after a little time off to herself, took a job as a secondary school English teacher at an International School in Berlin. You might recognise her from her own blogThe Department of Wandering, which documents her explorations whilst living in Europe. I’m delighted to introduce her as the newest member of The WOW Team, and cannot wait for her to share her insightful knowledge as…

the WOW Expat Blogger.

Rachel Bale in autumn in Berlin

Life as an Expat in Berlin

What is it like being an Expat in a foreign country where English is not their first language?

It can be challenging, but it really does force you out of your comfort zone to really make the effort to learn the local language. While my level of German is still fairly limited, I do try and use it as much as I can in everyday situations. I don’t think you can have a real, authentic experience as an expat if you don’t even try to speak the language.

Why is Berlin so great for expats?

Berlin is really international and has a thriving expat community. The cost of living in Berlin is remarkably lower than in other Western European cities, which means that your Euro goes a whole lot further. Another positive for expats is that the vast majority of Germans in Berlin speak English which definitely comes in handy for those whose German isn’t quite up to scratch. Finally, Berlin is fun! There is always something fun to do every night of the week, all across the city.

Autumn in Berlin

What are some cons to being an expat?

Being an expat definitely comes with its challenges. Not speaking the language fluently is probably the thing that causes the most difficulties in daily life. It’s also hard being away from loved ones and making new friends as an expat can be challenging at first. Adapting to the new culture can also take longer than expected.

Do the cons outweigh the pros or vice versa?

The pros of being an expat definitely outweigh the cons!

To start with, the travel opportunities that are available to those living in Europe are just incredible. I try to jet off to another country for the weekend at least once per month – it’s that cheap and easy to get away. Last month we flew to Copenhagen for only 25 Euros! Besides travelling, it’s great to live in a place that is so vibrant and interesting. I’m always conscious to not ‘waste’ my weekends – there’s so much exploring to do!


How is living in Germany different to living in Australia?

Life in Germany is quite different to life back in Australia. In Europe, I find that a much greater importance is placed on enjoying life rather than squirreling away to save for a deposit on a house and then drowning in a pool of debt for the next twenty years. I also find that Europeans have a much healthier work-life balance than Australians, who can get caught up in the daily grind. The efficient and extensive public transport system in Germany also means that I don’t have to rely on a car to get around like I did in Australia. Living in Europe also made me realise how consumer-based and materialistic Australian society is, which I definitely don’t miss! What I do miss about Australia is the beautiful weather, the wide-open spaces and the quality of the produce, which is unparalleled anywhere in the world.

Bode Museum, Berlin


How would you describe Berlin in a few words?

Gritty, lively and historical.

How would you describe Berliners?

Berliners are gruff, direct and impatient. Behind the rough exterior though, they can be sociable and friendly; it just takes them a while to warm up!

Where are your favourite places to eat in Berlin?

Roamers (Neukölln): The best place for brunch in Berlin complemented by top-notch coffee. I order the french toast every single time.

Street Food Thursdays at Markthalle Neun (Kreuzberg): Berlin has more to offer than sausage and schnitzel. Every Thursday evening, the big Market hall in Kreuzberg turns into an enormous global street food festival, where you can sample everything ranging from Mexican tacos to American BBQ to Egyptian koshary.

Cocolo Ramen (Mitte and Kreuzberg): This authentic Japanese eatery serves up the best Ramen in town.

Shiso Burger (Mitte): This burger joint offers cheap, fresh burgers. I always order the chilli lemon burger, sweet potato fries and edamame beans.

W-Der Imbiss (Mitte): This is my go-to spot when I need a nourishing meal. This place has loads of personality and serves vegetarian and vegan fare but also does the most delicious tandoori salmon in Berlin. Don’t go past the fish tacos!

What are your three favourite neighbourhoods?

In Berlin, every neighbourhood has a personality of it’s own with each one being vastly different from the next. My favourites would have to be Neukölln, Kreuzberg and Prenzlauer Berg.

Roamers, Berlin

Where are your favourite bars?

Luzia (Kreuzberg): This well-known, lively bar has a great vibe and gets pretty busy as the night wears on. It’s the perfect place for a few drinks before moving on to a club.

John Muir (Kreuzberg): This is my favourite cocktail bar in the city. The bartenders have got their cocktails down to a fine art here. My current favourite is the ‘Smokey Mezcalita’: mezcal gusano rojo, habañero infused agave nectar, pineapple juice, fresh lemon and brûléed pineapple. Divine!

Bar Brut (Mitte): The perfect place for a relaxed glass of wine with friends in a central location.

Weinerei (Prenzlauer Berg): Not only is there a huge variety of delicious wines on offer at Weinerei, but another thing I love about this bar is the ‘pay what you think’ system. After sampling a number of wines throughout the evening, you simply leave what you think the experience and drinks were worth.

What neighbourhood would you suggest visitors stay in?

I recommend that visitors base themselves in either Kreuzberg or Neukölln and away from touristy Mitte (the central district). These neighbourhoods have a large Turkish population which means that the food here is delicious. You’ll also find lots of street art and cool bars.

Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin

Berlin, Prenzlauer Berg

What is the best time of year to visit Berlin?

Summer! Berlin comes alive during the short summer months and Berliners are eager to make the very most of the season. Sand is spread along the banks of the Spree, the parks are packed full of sunbathers and the streets are alive. It’s also much nicer to go sightseeing when the weather is nice! All of Berlin’s seasons are beautiful in their own way though and I love witnessing the changes.

What has been your favourite memory so far?

One of my favourite memories of my time in Berlin so far has been last NYE when my best friends from Australia flew over to celebrate. We spent the night letting off fireworks on a friend’s rooftop and had a 360-degree view of the city bursting with colour. It will be a night I’ll never forget!

NYE Berlin

Burgermeister, Berlin

If you were to live anywhere else right now, where would it be?

Shivering through the interminable Berlin winter always makes me dream of moving somewhere tropical next. I’ve heard that Costa Rica is nice this time of year!

Rachel will be joining the WOW Team as the Expat Blogger this year. She will be sharing her expert expat tips weekly as well as sharing her adventures around Europe!

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  • amy.cunningham16@live.com'
    Amy Cunningham
    July 15, 2015 at 5:45 pm

    Hey Rachel!
    I cannot believe what a small world it is. From English Language at Tintern to the other side of the world. I was just scrolling through Facebook, and the ’10 cutest German towns to visit’ page popped up. I am going to a few of them, but then I saw your name at the bottom. NO WAY. When I read that you’re an Aussie I knew it was you – I remembered that Ben got the job with Volkswagen. It seems like you’re enjoying Berlin.

    Hope you are well,

    Amy 🙂

  • xx.taylamarks@hotmail.com'
    Tayla Marks
    May 7, 2015 at 11:12 pm

    Hi I am actually currently in Berlin with my partner and we are in the process of getting our paperwork together to receive a holiday working visa, I wondered if you knew whether we are required to register as residents and take in those forms when applying for the visa? Thank you x

    • Rachel Bale
      May 14, 2015 at 9:02 pm

      That’s super exciting Tayla! Yes, you definitely need to register your address at the Bürgeramt before applying for the visa. Take all the paperwork with you. This document is also really important for things like setting up a bank account.

  • Follow Them 04.12.15 – Follow Us Follow Them
    May 5, 2015 at 10:31 am

    […] Learn about living in Berlin with expat Rachel. […]

    • Rachel Bale
      May 14, 2015 at 9:03 pm

      Thanks for the link love! 🙂

  • schroeter.c86@gmail.com'
    April 19, 2015 at 9:06 pm

    Yeah so glad you love Berlin and to see that your best memory is NY Eve! We Germans absolutely love a good session of firecrackers and fireworks.

    I live just outside of Berlin and though it is our capital, Berlin has still remained to keep it’s chillaxing and very alternative charm in comparison to maybe London.

    Caz | Lunch Break Adventures

    • Rachel Bale
      April 21, 2015 at 3:02 am

      Hi Caz, NYE in Berlin is crazy! I don’t think there’s anywhere else in the world quite like it. In Australia, fireworks are illegal so, needless to say, it’s hard to contain ourselves in a place like Berlin! You’re right — Berlin has such a different feel to anywhere else in Germany. It’s a very unique city.

  • callmeleaa@gmail.com'
    April 19, 2015 at 8:25 pm

    moving from Australia to Germany sounds amazing, I can’t believe you left the wonderful weather behind although you do say quality of life is good in Berlin to Australia. Your journey sounds amazing x


    • Rachel Bale
      April 21, 2015 at 2:59 am

      Hey Leanne, yeah I do miss Australia’s sunny weather, especially during the relentless European winter! But I do love watching the seasons change over in Europe. Every season is so different! Thanks for your comment x

  • This Weekend | Dejlige Days
    April 18, 2015 at 5:41 am

    […] back from Berlin and these are posts I like here, here, here and here about the […]

    • Rachel Bale
      April 21, 2015 at 2:57 am

      Thanks so much for the link love! x

  • daniel.jeschke@googlemail.com'
    April 17, 2015 at 12:34 am

    What a great Blog! Love it. Intersting what you think live is like in Germany. I would say exactly the same about Australia 🙂

    • Rachel Bale
      April 21, 2015 at 2:56 am

      Thanks Daniel 🙂 Where are you from?

  • aradhna452@gmail.com'
    April 16, 2015 at 8:05 pm

    Definitely visiting Berlin later this year! In the process of booking!

    • Rachel Bale
      April 21, 2015 at 2:54 am

      That’s awesome Aradhna! Very exciting!

  • heswbj@gmail.com'
    April 16, 2015 at 6:52 pm

    Great post! Would love to visit Berlin some day.


    • Rachel Bale
      April 21, 2015 at 2:53 am

      Thanks Helena. You must visit one day 🙂

  • purplerj9@gmail.com'
    April 15, 2015 at 10:38 pm

    Nice to hear how you’re finding it, Rachel! I’m on a gap year (well, two, actually) from Aus and spent three months living in Berlin during the time I was studying German at the Goethe Institut. It is my FAVOURITE city here in Germany, perhaps the world. I’m still learning German but it’s getting easier, haha. Spent six months in Würzburg as an au pair and that helped. And I totally agree. Living in Europe makes it so easy to travel and experience a huge variety of cultures that you wouldn’t normally be exposed to in Australia. x

    • Rachel Bale
      April 21, 2015 at 2:52 am

      Hey Ronja, wow, what a wonderful experience to spend two years as gap years. I wish I had done that before I went straight from school into Uni and then into work. You go girl! P.S. Berlin is pretty rad isn’t it? 😉

  • exploresmore@gmail.com'
    April 15, 2015 at 6:09 pm

    Loving the expat insight! I am visiting Berlin for the first time as an “adult” (who plans siteseeing and obsessively takes pictures) next month and I could not be more excited. Looking forward to trying out some of those yummy food places 😀 And looking forward to being back in a country where I can fluently speak the language 😀


    • Rachel Bale
      April 21, 2015 at 2:48 am

      Thanks Julia. You must be so excited to come back to Germany and visit Berlin again. Have a blast!

  • jenniferdstevens@gmail.com'
    Jennifer Stevens | Adventurous Appetite
    April 15, 2015 at 2:31 pm

    Berlin is the next place I want to live! And now even more so after this post 🙂


    • Rachel Bale
      April 21, 2015 at 2:46 am

      It’s a pretty great choice Jennifer! 🙂 Where are you living now?

  • lovingmefree@gmail.com'
    Love Yourself
    April 15, 2015 at 12:34 pm

    Today my fortune cookie said “If you’re never scared, embarrassed or hurt, then you’re not taking enough chances. This post reminds me of the message on my fortune cookie because you took a huge chance by moving to a country where you’ve never lived…in spite of the fear you may have felt! Go you!!!

    • Rachel Bale
      April 21, 2015 at 2:45 am

      I totally agree that we all need to take more chances and risks. Children do it every single day — it’s how they learn. Ask yourself, what’s the worst that can happen? Thanks for your comment x

  • youtheworldwandering@outlook.com.au'
    April 15, 2015 at 3:35 am

    Absolutely loved Berlin!! Such a special place! No where else like it! Im an expat living in the Maldives. Loved this read 🙂


    • Rachel Bale
      April 20, 2015 at 5:25 am

      It’s a pretty interesting place to live, that’s for sure. But the Maldives?! Now that sounds AMAZING!!!

  • aspoonfulofnature@gmail.com'
    April 14, 2015 at 9:23 pm

    aww I love Berlin!!! such a dinamic and happy place 🙂


    • Rachel Bale
      April 20, 2015 at 5:17 am

      You said it Anna! 🙂

  • mymediterraneansoul@gmail.com'
    April 14, 2015 at 6:04 pm

    Hi! I lived in Berlin for some time and it is my favorite European city! I love everything about it!
    Check out my post on the things you can’t miss when visiting Berlin!

    • Rachel Bale
      April 20, 2015 at 5:16 am

      Hey Elisa, I’m not surprised Berlin is your favourite. I’ll be sure to check out your post!

  • olg.rabo@gmail.com'
    April 14, 2015 at 4:34 pm

    I’m actually moving to Berlin this Thursday (still haven’t found where to live, so it’s going to be fun, I guess).
    And I’m soooo looking forward to exploring Berlin as an expat, too!! And do all those day/weekend trips! Ah, I can’t wait until I’m finally there!!


    • Rachel Bale
      April 20, 2015 at 5:16 am

      Olga, that’s amazing! We are now neighbours! How did you go with finding a flat? You’re going to have so much fun here! x

  • charactersandcarryons@gmail.com'
    April 14, 2015 at 1:23 pm

    I haven’t ever been to Germany but I hope to go soon! Berlin seems awesome and a potential place for me to live if I ever want to move to Europe!

    Characters & Carry-ons

    • Rachel Bale
      April 20, 2015 at 5:14 am

      If you’re going to move to Germany, Joyce, Berlin is definitely the place to go!

  • hello@polkadotpassport.com'
    Nicola Easterby
    April 14, 2015 at 10:47 am

    So happy to see Rachel guest posting for WOW! She is such an incredible blogger 😀 Loving these tips on Berlin can’t wait to go back and visit again.


    • Rachel Bale
      April 20, 2015 at 5:13 am

      You’re too sweet, Nicola. Come to Berlin soon! x

  • adelaide.haynes@hotmail.com'
    Adelaide Haynes
    April 14, 2015 at 9:40 am

    The photos look amazing! Can’t wait to go to berlin one day!

    • Rachel Bale
      April 20, 2015 at 5:12 am

      Thanks Adelaide. Berlin should definitely be on your list 🙂

  • lordofthecrisp@hotmail.com'
    April 14, 2015 at 8:35 am

    This post has made me want to move to Europe even more! Berlin is so lovely and the weekend trips away are definitely a bonus!

    • Rachel Bale
      April 20, 2015 at 5:11 am

      It’s the best decision I’ve ever made, Molly 🙂 And the only advice I can give you is JUST DO IT!

  • snglasbrenner0@frostburg.edu'
    April 14, 2015 at 6:24 am

    I can’t wait for more posts about Berlin! My friend is interning there this summer and I’ll be visiting her for a few days. So excited to see an insider’s view of the city!

    • Rachel Bale
      April 20, 2015 at 5:10 am

      I can’t wait to bring you more, Sara! What a perfect excuse to visit the city if your friend is interning there. Hopefully I can give you some more tips before your arrival!

  • andreaata13@gmail.com'
    April 14, 2015 at 6:14 am

    Now that’s a way to spend NYE; that rooftop view :O Reading this thinking to myself that I wish I had tried out the Kreuzberg area when I was last in Berlin. It’s a city that surprised me (in a good way, of course!). Can’t wait to read more 😀
    Andrea | http://nomoneywilltravel.com

    • Rachel Bale
      April 20, 2015 at 5:08 am

      It will be a night I’ll never forget, Andrea. Well, you’ll just have to plan another visit to Berlin to check it out! 😉

  • wanderbeforewhat@gmail.com'
    Sarah Lynn
    April 14, 2015 at 5:59 am

    Great post! Thanks for the insider tips 🙂

    Can’t wait to see what else you share in your new role! Congrats!


    • Rachel Bale
      April 20, 2015 at 5:06 am

      Thanks so much Sarah. I can’t wait to share more with you soon! x

  • travelfoodfilm@gmail.com'
    Jake Ryan
    April 14, 2015 at 5:39 am

    Loved reading this because I’m visiting Germany this year for the first time and Berlin is on the list of must visits while I’m there.


    • Rachel Bale
      April 20, 2015 at 5:06 am

      Hey Jake, it’s great to hear that you’re visiting Berlin soon! GET EXCITED!

  • ursu1607@gmail.com'
    April 14, 2015 at 5:23 am

    I absolutely loved reading this interview and getting to know more about Germany. 🙂

    • Rachel Bale
      April 20, 2015 at 5:04 am

      Thanks so much for your lovely comment, Ursula. I look forward to sharing more soon x

  • tallgirlbigworld@gmail.com'
    Claire @ TallGirlBigWorld
    April 14, 2015 at 5:17 am

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I’m currently studying in Germany right now, and I plan on making my way to Berlin soon 🙂


    • Rachel Bale
      April 20, 2015 at 5:03 am

      Thanks for reading Claire. Where in Germany are you studying? You DEFINITELY need to make a visit to Berlin a priority! 😉

  • carolina.aurelie@outlook.com'
    April 14, 2015 at 4:13 am

    I love you post about Berlin and it’s so interesting reading about Europe and Germany from an Australian. 🙂
    If you’ll be in Leipzig someday, I would be happy to show you around a bit (it’s just an one-hour train-ride from Berlin).

    • Rachel Bale
      April 20, 2015 at 5:02 am

      Thanks for the invitation Caro! I’ve been wanting to visit Leipzig for a while now so might have to take you up on the offer! 🙂

      • carolina.aurelie@outlook.com'
        April 22, 2015 at 3:07 am

        Yes, don’t hesitate to send me an email (carolina.aurelie@outlook.com) when you’re planning to visit Leipzig. 🙂

  • aslibildirici@gmail.com'
    Asli Bildirici
    April 14, 2015 at 3:53 am

    Berlin seems to be a great place to be. I’m an expat in Europe too so I’m looking forward to read your experiences.

    Girl Against Oleka

    • Rachel Bale
      April 20, 2015 at 5:01 am

      Berlin is such a fun city to live in Asli. Where are you living in Europe?

  • verafromtheblog@gmail.com'
    April 14, 2015 at 3:47 am

    Wow, that was interesting to read! Berlin must be a gorgeous city, full of history and life and with a beautiful community to meet. I would love to go there one day and check all this cool places! With love,

    | Bloglovin

    • Rachel Bale
      April 20, 2015 at 5:00 am

      Thanks for reading Vera! Berlin is indeed full of all these things. You should definitely plan a trip! x