Berlin

© Thomas Wolf - Wikipedia

Move to Berlin - a moving guide

With a population of about 3.5 million people, Berlin is the seventh most populous city in the EU. According to our data on Teleport Cities, Berlin is also among the top leading cities with a free business environment and has great ratings in housing, startup scene and travel connectivity. Sounds good, right?

Berlin is generally known as a place with a lot of rich culture and has established itself as a popular entertainment centre in Europe. In the past decade, the up and coming Berlin startup community has begun to settle and establish itself in the area. While Berlin definitely isn’t on Silicon Valley level yet when it comes to an active startup scene, it’s still very much rapidly thriving and living up to the words of the city’s ex-mayor Klaus Wowereit: “Berlin is poor, but sexy”. Want to learn more about this sexy city? Keep reading.

Finding a job

Finding work in Berlin can be difficult, since it has one of the highest unemployment rates of the bigger cities in the entire country. However, the volume of creating new jobs is high and rising, so if you’ve got a good skill set, you shouldn’t worry too much. The IT- and startup scene in Berlin is also growing, so if you’re in a profession related to software or infotechnology in general, you’re in a pretty good place to start off with.

If you’re looking for a job in Berlin, the first thing we encourage you to do is contact a Teleport Scout to help you out. Teleport Scouts are friendly local people who have lived in Berlin or live there now and can definitely give you some tips on where to start, based on your qualifications and previous experience.

If you prefer to do your own searching, here’s a list of job boards to have a look at:

If you’re looking for even more resources, this site has a huge list of job sites for finding a position in Germany. Also, check out resources for finding a job in Germany by Migreat.

Tips for a job application

There are some things you should keep in mind when applying for jobs in Germany. Firstly, many companies in Berlin tend to prefer candidates to already have a German address and contact information. Having such permanent connections to the city shows that working in Germany is a serious decision for you - employers simply feel safer if they know that you’re willing to permanently relocate (or have already done it).

Also, Germany is quite a paperwork-heavy country. In a lot of cases you may be required to provide more than just a CV and cover letter when applying for a job.

You might be asked to also include the following:

- copies of your school and university certificates
- proof of any professional training or courses
- references from your previous employers

Some positions might also require extra information specific to the position that you’re applying for - publications, samples from your work portfolio etc.

Language skills are always a huge plus, but if you don’t speak German yet, don’t worry too much about your CV, cover letter or any other information being in English - many companies in Germany (especially startups) use English as their working language anyway, so it shouldn’t be an issue.

If you really want to work for a specific company but they’re not currently hiring, you can submit an “Initiativbewerbung” (which is basically an unsolicited application) to a company, even if they’re not currently advertising any jobs.

Getting the right visa

These are the main types of job permits that are available in Germany:

- General employment permit – you will need a job offer for a position where the company can not find a German citizen to fill the role. Expats who apply for general employment are required to have a vocational qualification, which allows them to carry out skilled work.

- Specialist professional residence permit for Germany - the majority of applicants tend to be graduates with specialist skills. University professors, managers with several years of experience, and those with very specific skills can also apply for this type of permit. Applicants must also prove that they have sufficient funds to support themselves while in Germany and have a firm offer of employment.

- University graduate permit – if you are a degree holder from a reputable foreign university, you may come to Germany for 6 months to look for work. You are not allowed to work while looking, and you need to have health insurance and be able to survive financially.

- EU Blue card – if you have a guaranteed well-paying job in Germany, plus a university degree from a German or equivalent foreign university. This has a lot of benefits and offer a fast track for permanent residence.

- Student permit – if you are undertaking education in Germany. You can also work up to 10 hours per week with this permit, as long as it is deemed okay by your school.

- Freelance/self-employment/artist visa – applicable for certain professions. To obtain a self-employed residence permit applicants will need to demonstrate how their specific skills are required in the particular area of Germany where they plan on settling down. Those wishing to set up a business will need to show that their business will make a positive contribution to the local economy, for instance by employing local staff. Applicants must also be able to prove that they can fund the start up of their own business as there are limited business funding opportunities for non-German nationals.

- Researcher permit – if you are coming to Germany to perform research and have a contract with an approved German research institution.

For more information, check out the official site with information about Entry Visas and Residence Permits, the rights and duties of EU/EEA/Swiss nationals moving to Germany, or info about the freelancer visa process (from within Germany).

Apartment hunting

While there is a lot of available property in Berlin, finding a place that fits your requirements and budget can still be a bit of a pain. In addition to looking at online rental and property sites, check some more uncommon channels as well - like asking your friends - you never know what opportunities are out there that aren’t being publicly advertised!

Flatshares are quite popular in Berlin, especially with students and young professionals with a tight budget. If you don’t mind sharing, look for those as well as single apartments - it’ll probably save you some money.

Rents in Berlin are on the increase, and you should probably expect to pay a little more for a new lease (and don’t mind it too much if you hear about low rents from friends who have been staying at their place for 5+ years).

For finding a place for long term stays, check out these sites:

WG-Gesucht - mainly short-medium term housing (but can also find longer term)
Immobilenscout24 - longer term housing (typically 1+ years)
Also, check out this Facebook group
Woloho newsletter for finding housing
Zoomsquare
Exflat by the expat magazine Exberliner

For short term stays:

Airbnb
9flats
Berlinovo
Wimdu
Couchsurfing

A neighborhood guide

Berliners call their neighborhoods “Kiez” and they are usually named after the main street of the area, where the more important places (restaurants, bars, shops etc) are. A “Kiez” is a subsection of an official city district. Life can be very different in “Kieze” even though they are located quite close to each other, so it’s important to know the differences and pick the neighborhood that suits you best. In the following bit we give you an overview of the most popular and liveable districts and their “Kieze”.

East Berlin

Prenzlauer Berg

Prenzlauer Berg is the super nice, wealthy and gentrified neighbourhood. A lot of people moved here from Southern Germany in the last ten to fifteen years and the original residents are mostly gone. However, prices have shot up, which is true for everyday things like shops, cafes etc as well as accommodation.

Mitte

Mitte is the historical centre of Berlin, and lately emerging as it again, continuing to be one of the more modern and urban areas of the whole city. There are plenty of great cafes, restaurants, shops, museums, galleries and clubs throughout the district, although they have been started to be pushed out by places that run on the tourist trade - which has resulted in falling standards and expense. This rise in tourism is especially the case the farther South you go (south of Torstraße).

Friedrichshain

Friedrichshain is rather industrial and not the easiest on the eyes, however, it is full of young, hip people - often the first choice for young and thriving 20-somethings. and the neighbourhood around Boxhagenerplatz is really a very funky place indeed. That said, the square and Simon Dach Straße itself and Revaler Straße can be very loud and busy at night with a massive bar scene. If that’s not your thing, then you should look for a place further East, towards Ostkreuz, where a new kiez has developed.

West Berlin

Kreuzberg

Kreuzberg was originally a mix of immigrant families, but has now been discovered and gentrified. You can divide Kreuzberg in two areas, the SO36 part (close to Wranglekiez and Oranienstraße) and the western part around the Bergmannkiez.

The SO36 area around Oranienstraße is still the beating heart of Kreuzberg, and its mix of anti-establishment folk, great bars, and a large immigrant Turkish presence. Towards Görlitzer Park, and the Spree, there’s an increased tourist presence. That said, … there is still a very active alternative (left wing) scene and from time to time a burning car is seen and fast food chain stores have still a very hard time to open up. At the Görlitzer Park there are still a lot of drug dealers, living around the Wranglekiez though is still every hipsters dream

Bergmannkiez

The Western side (Bergmannkiez) is generally lovely, with a lot of greenery and old, beautiful buildings. After the closing of the airport the Kiez goT a huge new park with the Tempelhofer Park. It is the more expensive part of town, but has great restaurants and shopping options. If you’re looking for a calmer neighborhood in Kreuzberg to move in, this would probably be your first choice, instead of the some more “alternative” neighborhoods.

Schoeneberg

Schoeneberg is also a very nice neighborhood, although finding affordable housing in this area can be difficult. The people in this area are from different backgrounds - from immigrants to young professionals and retirees, although they might be generally a bit older than in some of the “hip and young” areas.

Wedding

People have been saying for a while now, that Wedding is “next” - it’s the place that a lot of young people in Berlin are flocking now, largely thanks to its emerging arts scene and and an interesting vibe. Rents are relatively cheap as well.

Neukölln

Neukölln started out as a mostly working class and immigrant neighborhood, which 10 years ago was still quite tough area. Then it became an area for young artists looking for a cheap place to live, and is now in the full gentrification process and becoming an increasingly expensive place to live. It can be quite hard to find an apartment with a good price, which is why there are less young people and students moving there.

Tiergarten

Tiergarten is the neighbourhood north and south of the Tiergarten, or Central Park. It’s a mostly safe neighborhood, but some complain there’s not enough to do there - it’s full of embassies, government buildings and corporate headquarters.

Internet & mobile provider

Mobile phones
There are four main network operators in Germany:
- Deutsche Telekom (formerly known as T-Mobile)
- Vodafone
- O2 (owned by Telefónica)
- E-plus (acquired by Telefónica)

E-plus and O2 have recently been joining forces to become one provider, and plan to be merged by 2016 or 2017. T-Mobile and Vodafone have the best mobile coverage in Germany. Cheaper alternatives to the overpriced big carriers are Congstar (T-Mobile Brand), Blau and Symio. In Germany, in most cases, you need an “Anmeldung Bestätigung”, an address to get a SIM card, even for prepaid cards. For contract SIM cards you also need a bank account.

Internet providers
The market and price offers for internet providers change fast. Also, be aware that it could take you several weeks in Germany to get your internet connection in your apartment running. These are the fastest ISPs in Berlin:

Public WiFi:
Most coffee shops in Berlin have access to free wifi, so if you enjoy working from coffee shops, you’re in luck! What’s even more convenient is that the city also has its own W-LAN that is free for 30 minutes per day and available in about 100 hotspots in almost all areas of the city. The hotspots are called “KD WLAN Hotspot+”, “Vodafone Hotspot Free” or “30 Min Free WIFI”. An overview of the WLAN hotspots of the project “Public WiFi” and the WLAN access points of the public institutions of the State of Berlin can be found here.

Getting around - public transport & driving

Public transport

Berlin is a big city, but there are good news for non-drivers as well - it has an efficient and affordable public transportation system - you’ll grasp how it works quite quickly if you use it a lot from the get go. The name of the public transport company in Berlin is BVG (Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe). You can find detailed information and a journey planner on www.bvg.de.

A little pro tip for those who prefer public transport - please be aware of ticket sellers on the streets - In some areas like Mitte, Kreuzberg or certain airports, people sometimes try to resell you used tickets. Many of these, especially day tickets, are fake and invalid.

Traveling by bike

Bikes are getting more and more popular in Berlin. If you enjoy cycling, there are two main services in Berlin to rent a bike conveniently on the street, or for techies - via an mobile app: Nextbike or Call A Bike.

Car Sharing

Renting cars on demand for short trips becomes huge in Germany currently. A lot of providers are fighting for the market. Here are the most popular:

Drive Now - Only Mini and BMW, nice but expensive.
Car2Go - Only Smart but biggest area.
Flinkster - Brand by the Deutsche Bahn
Berlin Stadtmobil
Greenwheels - The green version 😉
Hertz on Demand
Cite Car

Taxis and Uber

If you like taxi apps, check out MyTaxi, which is currently the best one in the Berlin area.

Uber is not currently fully available in Berlin because of legal reasons - this actually might change any minute again - anyways, you can still use the app, but it connects you to normal taxis in the city and therefore is currently not any more “special” or cheaper, like it is in other cities.

Special tip for hunting a taxi in Berlin:

The taxi “Kurzstrecke Tarif”: If you get a taxi on the street via “hand sign” you can ask the driver for a Kurzstrecke Fahrt. For a trip up to 2km it costs you only 5 euros. If your trip ends up being longer, it jumps to the normal rate. This rate is not available if you call a taxi by phone or jump into a car at a taxi stand.

Finance & banks

Banks

The traditional German banks are for international standards expensive and their service and flexibilty is often not the best. Currently we recommend a new banking startup Number26 or potentially DKB, the later only if you speak German. You can open a Number26 account without having your residency registration certificate, if you do so via video call (rather than going to the post office to verify your ID there).

Money

ATMs

ATMs are generally easy to find everywhere in the center of the city. Most major credit cards are accepted in ATM’s, as well as debit cards that are part of the Cirrus, Plus, Star or Maestro systems.

Banks and bureaux de change

Foreign currency can be exchanged in most banks. Bureaux de change are usually open outside normal banking hours and more importantly - have better exchange rates than banks. Using an ATM is still the cheapest option in most cases.

Credit cards

Locals usually prefer to use cash for most transactions, although larger hotels, shops and restaurants also accept major credit cards and many will take Eurocheques with guarantee cards as well as and travellers' cheques with an ID, especially if you’re paying lower amounts - below 5 Euros.

If you want to draw cash on your credit card, some banks will give an advance against Visa and MasterCard cards. However, you may not be able to withdraw less than the equivalent of US$100 - using an ATM is still the best option you can go for.

Education & schools

The quality of education in Germany is generally considered to be quite good. If you’re an expat and looking for education options for your kids, there are a number of international schools in Berlin - that’s where most expats prefer to send their kids to. They do tend to be quite pricey, though, so for those who can’t afford it, the option of a bilingual school is also worth exploring.

Kindergarten

You can send your kids to kindergarten between the ages of three and six - but it’s not compulsory. From the ages of 7-18, school is compulsory, which is the case in many other countries in Europe.

Primary education

The education system varies throughout Germany due to the fact that each state is in charge of its own education policy. However, most children attend primary school, or Grundschule, from the age of six to twelve.

Secondary education

There are five types of school that make up the secondary education system in Germany:
Gymnasium – secondary school which is designed to prepare students for tertiary education and finishes with final examination after grade 12 or 13.
Realschule – this type of school offers a broader education for intermediate students. Realschule offers a range of vocational subjects in addition to the traditional academic courses. There is a final assessment after grade 10.
Hauptschule – this type of school offers students a vocational education and the final examination takes place after grade 9 or 10.
Gesamtschule – school which combines academic courses with vocational ones and allows the student to transfer to either Hauptschule or Realschule in grade 10.
Sonderschulen – another type of school which prepares students for Hauptschule or Realschule. Only one in 21 pupils in Germany attends this type of school.

Tertiary education

To apply to university, students generally have to pass the Abitur exams after their Gymnasium education. However, students who have attended Realschule and passed the Master Craftsman’s Diploma, or Meisterbrief, have also become eligible to apply for certain university courses.

For students who do not choose to attend university in Germany there is a special system of apprenticeship in place called Duale Ausbildung, which allows pupils who have studied vocational courses at secondary school to do in-service training at a company.

Universities

The Berlin-Brandenburg capital region is one of the most prolific centres of higher education and research in Germany and Europe. Historically, 40 Nobel Prize winners are affiliated with the Berlin-based universities.

Berlin has four public research universities and 27 private, professional, and technical colleges, offering a wide range of disciplines.

For further information, check out the full list of universities, colleges, and research institutions in Berlin.

Healthcare

Cost of healthcare

It’s necessary for everyone in Germany to have some form of health insurance. If you’ll be working for a German company, you can use the state health insurance plan. However, if you’re self-employed or a freelancer, you need to purchase private health insurance, which is a lot more expensive.

If you’re from an EU country, you can use the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to get medical coverage - having the EHIC means that you can get treatment on the same basis as locals, even if you’re not a citizen. However, keep in mind that the card does not cover all medical costs (for example dental treatment). Citizens from non-EU countries who can’t get an EHIC, should definitely get private health insurance to make sure they are covered if something should happen.

House calls

If you’re too sick to leave the house, call the Emergency Doctor's Service, which specializes in dispatching doctors for house calls. PS: you might be charged for this - the charges depend on the treatment required by the patient. Make sure you have either your EHIC or insurance information with you.

Pharmacies

Prescription and non-prescription drugs are sold only at pharmacies (Apotheken), so don’t go looking anywhere else, like supermarkets or grocery stores. You can recognize pharmacies by a red 'A' outside the front door.

People & culture

As with most places around the world, attitudes and behaviors of the German people can vary depending on where and which area you’re in - generally, it is said that southerners tend to be more conservative than northerners, although this might obviously not always be true at all.

The big cities in Germany, such as Berlin and Hamburg, are famous for their tolerance, which comes partly from the cities’ appeal for unconventional Germans who relocate there from elsewhere in the country, and also from their large immigrant populations and therefore - diversity.

Even in those diverse and tolerant places, however, it doesn’t hurt to keep some things in mind. One of the most important things concerning communication is the use of du and Sie (“you”) to strangers, which is quite important. Du is used for friends, or among young people, and the formal Sie is expected from pretty much everyone else you speak to.

Learning German

Most German people speak English on a good level and most important information is available in English as well, so it’s generally completely possible to live in Berlin without speaking the language. However, if you’re planning to stay for a while, then why not learn it anyway?

If you want to learn German on your own, check out these apps to make it easier:
Duolingo
Tandem

However, if you’re looking for a more human teacher, universities are a good way to go. The cheapest German courses with good teachers are at the city community colleges (or Volkshochschule, as they’re called in German).

For options, you can check out the Goethe Institute in Mitte, which is the most famous language school, in Berlin (but also a bit on the pricier side). For a cheaper option, have a look at the Hartnackschule in Schöneberg or the Volkshochschule with locations throughout the city.

Cost of living

You can find al you need to know about the cost of living in Berlin on the Teleport Cities Berlin city profile (and if you sign up, you can compare the cost of living in Berlin to where you currently are, as well!)

Taxes

German taxes are relatively high, and at the same time quite complex. How much you will pay in tax depends on a long list of factors, including where you live and your personal situation.

Due to Germany being a federal republic you pay taxes on multiple levels: the federal, state and municipality level. Most taxes are decided on the federal and state level, leaving the municipalities in control over only relatively minor taxes.

As a German tax resident you have to pay taxes on your worldwide income, which is common in most western countries. You are considered a tax resident if you have a residence available to you in Germany, or if you have “habitual abode” in the country. If you spend a total of 6 months in Germany within a given calendar year, or any consecutive 6 month period, you are considered to have habitual abode in Germany.

Income tax rates are progressive from 0% to 45% marginal tax. As of 2015 there is no income tax if you make less than €8,354. Capital gains and dividend income is taxed at a flat 25% rate. There are also other surcharges on top of that, including church tax of 8-9% of your income tax contribution (only if you are a member of a recognized church), as well as a “solidarity surcharge” of 5.5% of your income, dividend and capital gains tax contributions. These surcharges are tax deductible.

In addition to the above, there are also social security contributions totalling around 40%, but about half is paid by the employer. These include pension, unemployment and health insurance, and a couple other things. They are also capped for salaries above certain levels, depending on where in Germany you live.

To learn more about taxes in Germany, visit PwC’s Worldwide Tax Summaries.

PS: none of the above is official legal advice - please speak to a professional if you’re not sure about anything!

Expat communities

The Berlin expat scene is huge. Here are some links to expat communities, forums etc:

Toytown Germany - online forum for expats in Germany

Ex-Berliner - an expat magazine in English

InterNations community for Berlin expats

Co-working spaces

Coworking spaces are great for meeting new people as well as getting your work done in peace while still getting out of the house. Here are a few sources where you can find listings of the coworking spaces in Berlin:

- StartUs ecosystem presents a database of coworking spaces in Berlin and is constantly growing.
- Überlin has created an interactive map with links to different coworking spaces.
- ProjektZukunft also presents a map of about 50 coworking spaces in Berlin.

As for individual coworking spaces, here are some that we have learned have a good community and large following:

Betahaus
St. Oberholz
Mobilesuite Berlin
co.up
creative|media|lab
Cafe Nest
Rainmaking Loft Berlin
Raumstation
Supermarkt

Want more? Have a look here for a full list of over 50 co-working spaces in Berlin.

Films, books & media about the city

Some movies and books about and playing in the city:

Movies:
Goodbye Lenin (2003)
The Bourne Supremacy (2004)
The Lives of Others (2005)
Berlin Calling (2008)
Berlin Alexander Platz (1980)
Wings of Desire (1987)

Books:
Goodbye to Berlin, by Christopher Isherwood
Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada
Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin
The Gift by Vladimir Nabokov
The Wall Jumper: A Berlin Story by Peter Schneider

Startup scene

Berlin’s general creativity, hip image, dynamic environment and open attitude means that it’s attractive for any kind of creative businesses - hence, the startup scene has really blown up in the recent years. So, if you’re in the startup business yourself, Berlin is definitely the place for you. If you want to find out how the startup scene in Berlin compares to other cities around the world, check out Berlin on Teleport Cities.

Building a network is important, and frequenting some cool and relevant events can help with creating new personal as well as professional relationships. There’s quite a large amount of startup events in Berlin every single day - here are some of the best sources for finding out about upcoming events:

- Berlin StartupDigest - a calendar that has links to regular meet-ups and events
- Gründermetropole-Berlin - a list of events
- Berlin Startups - a Facebook group with around 20.000 members
- Berlin Startup Events - a Facebook group where you find updates related to events, conferences, festivals and other meet-ups.
- Berlin Startup Grind organises regular events in Berlin.
- Startup-Berlin is an event and workshop database that aggregates Berlin based events from different sources.