These sites saved our bacon when we got here
Since we are closing in on our one-year anniversary of calling Berlin home, I thought I’d share a list of essential websites for finding needed information. As someone who has lived outside my home country before, and also traveled pretty extensively – I thought I was prepared for the move, I did a ton of research beforehand. I was so wrong.
I was not ready.
If you are young and/or don’t need a permanent roof above your head while here, you can stop reading now. Berlin does have a largeish, itinerant subculture of people who hop from temp gigs housesitting and petsitting – with short stints couch surfing, sleeping rough or just staying out all night – while they live here.
If that’s not you, then you need some recon. Here are my recommendations for what to read before, during, and after your move to Berlin as an English-speaking immigrant.
Screenshot of the landing page. Founder Nicolas Bouliane says he has “made a career out of documenting German bureacracy.”
This is basically the bible for any non-German moving to Berlin. (and for a few Germans as well). Nicolas covers everything from applying for your visa, to opening a bank account (something you will need to do literally everything else), to explaining SCHUFA, to finding an apartment, to registering in your district and anything else you can think of. He has the info or he has the links to where to find the info.
To give just one example without going into too much detail, we got bad advice from the (non-Berlin-based) relocation agency hired by my husband’s employer. If he had followed their advice, and we had not done our own checking around, he would have been stuck waiting months for an appointment at the LEA, with an expired tourist visa, and unable to start work. Thanks to Nicolas, he applied for his work visa at the embassy in the U.S. before we moved and start work on arrival.
Jen and Yvonne are in Dusseldorf, not Berlin. But they still give great advice on living in Germany as a new immigrant. They run a popular YouTube channel, a website with extensive written guides, and a newsletter.
We learned a lot of good day-to-day things about Germany that, yes, also still apply in Berlin. For example, their videos on bike commuting and going grocery shopping were very helpful.
This YouTube channel is in German and targeted at German language learners (and is the flagship channel of the Easy Languages company). They do on-the-street interviews on a variety of topics. If don’t speak German, be aware that the German spoken is not really very “easy.” But their videos all have English subtittles available and provide a lot of cultural insight into Berlin and Germany, including Berlin history.
My husband likes to tell people that this YouTube comedian is why we decided to move to Berlin. While that is mostly an exaggeration (he already had a job offer when we started watching), the channel did help us feel that Berlin had a lot of the elements that we wanted in a place to live, and at the same time was somewhere completely different from anything we had experienced before.
He’s really exaggerating. (Mostly)
Founded in 2002 by three journalists from the UK, Romania, and France, ExBerliner is Germany’s largest English-language publication. They have a monthly print magazine, bi-weekly newsletters and a website that cover what’s happening and what to know about Berlin. In addition to the great features, I always check out the What to Do this Weekend column for concerts, events, art exhibits and more.
20 Percent Berlin is a Substack newsletter published by Andrew Bulkeley and Maurice Frank. The title refers to the 20 percent of Berlin’s residents who don’t have a German passport. The newsletter covers news, politics and city infrastructure in updates published twice a week.
Manuel Salmann (of Easy German fame) and co-host Jae Staten discuss their experiences moving to (and around) Berlin and give advice on maybe some less-typical Berlin topics – how to start dating, navigating a nude beach, surviving New Year’s Eve, as well as the typical fare of finding a place to live, getting a job, and enjoying the nightlife.
I would say these are my Top Five resources for new Berliners. I’m going to save my big list of Facebook groups, subReddits, and social media accounts for a follow up ‘Who to Follow’ post. Know of one I didn’t mention? Let me know in the comments and I will check them out.