Now that we’ve been here in Berlin a little over four weeks, we have really begun to compare the city we left with the city we moved to. To be honest, there is no real comparison between Frankfurt and Berlin, because they are just worlds apart. One is an amazing city full of culture, history and a world of people marching to their own tunes…and the other is not nearly as exciting and much more expensive but you can still have some fun if you look for it.
We lived in and around Frankfurt for 11 years. And we had some good times there. To many people, Frankfurt is a working city where lots of people commutes into during the day (usually to a bank) and then drives back out at night. The city of Frankfurt has over 660,000 inhabitants (but with 5.6 million in the metro-area), and on work days and Saturdays, the city’s population swells to well over one million. The city of Berlin has more than 3.5 million people and our little Keiz, Schöneberg, was recorded to have over 116,000 people in 2008 (versus Schöneck with 12,000).
So in the short time we’ve been here in Berlin, versus the years we were in Frankfurt, these are the observations I’ve made and the impressions I’ve gotten.
- Everyone wants to visit Berlin! By mid-September, we will have had more visitors here in Berlin than we had in Frankfurt for the entire last year. And although we no longer have a luxurious guest house to offer them, we do have a couch to crash on, a wide range of places to stay within 5 minutes walk (starting at €30/night) and an enormous list of things that we can do while they’re here. In fact, there’s so much to do, it’s almost hard to pinpoint what to do first with them! It’s a pretty major contrast from Frankfurt.
- There are TONS of tourists in Berlin — which is both good and bad. Sure, the tourists can be annoying and there’s not really much of an “off season” here — but they are part of the life force of this city that allows businesses to thrive (even if they do cause prices to be higher in some places). So if they stop to look at a map right in front of you, causing you to nearly collide with them, just remember that they are helping to keep things going — and that they won’t likey be visiting your favorite bars or restaurants past 9pm anyway (or at least that’s who it works here in Schöneberg.)
- The cost of living in Berlin is much lower than Frankfurt — although you definitely can spend a fortune living here if you want to. Average housing prices are 1/2 to 1/4 of prices in Frankfurt and food costs are up to 50% lower. Because Frankfurt thrives off people who make very good incomes and usually like throwing around their money, Frankfurt can be an extremely expensive city. The outskirts are less expensive but the commute might kill you.
- The storms here in Berlin move in FAST. It will go from sunny skies to pouring down rain in just a few minutes. But if you know what to watch for, you’ll be out of harm’s way, because the typical signs like the wind picking up, the leaves flipping over on the trees and the darkening skies give it away.Also, the storms start, it POURS for 5-30 minutes and then it’s over. Then sun comes back out and that’s the end. Granted the winter has not yet set in — but so far even the summer here has been nicer than most in Frankfurt. And the winters were so horrendous, the spring and fall somewhat okay and the summer hit or miss — so we’ll just keep hoping for the best.
- People in Berlin (or at least in our area) are super nice — which is not really what you expect from a big city. No, they usually don’t greet you on the street as you pass by, but they also don’t look offended if you do happen to say “good morning” to someone you see all the time. And there are some people that you manage to bump into often, despite the time of day, location or occasion.
- Unfortunately, bankers are all well-connected and informed –so everyone knows your business as it’s happening, wherever they happen to be in the world. Since Berlin has hardly any bankers at all, it’s a very nice contrast (especially for Stefan) to not know everyone you pass on the street. Sure it’s nice in your own little town where you live, but not when most people are just waiting for you to make a mistake so they can swoop in.
- Berlin is very international, and you hear nearly as much English on the street as you do German. I would even say that you here more English on the street than even in Frankfurt — and it’s definitely not all tourists. Some people have even approached Ayla/us speaking English from the get go, and I know they didn’t hear us talking beforehand but rather just spoke to her in their own native tongue.
- Customer service actually seems pretty important in Berlin. So far we have not had a single experience while shopping, dining or drinking that made us feel like never going back. In fact, I think there is probably so much competition here that the shops have to remain on their A-game or they’ll lose customer to some other shop down the street.
- Berlin never sleeps. Ever. Especially in Schöneberg. Every day of the week, when we go to bed (which is usually between 11pm and midnight) people are still up and hosting parties in their apartments or on their way somewhere. And since the bars don’t have a cut off time, you literally can party all day and night at some places. We are definitely too old for all that, but we’ve had a few nice evenings that lasted until 2 or 3 am lately. And all we had to do was walk home.
- Speaking of which — if we can’t walk there, we’re probably not going. People warned us that once you settle in a Kiez, you find yourself not ever wanting to leave. But it’s even worse than that. You start focusing your time on things within a 5 block radius, and in our case, there’s so much to experience, that we may never manage to get any further.
With that being said, we are quite happy in our new home right now and can’t think of anywhere in Europe that suits us better right now. Hopefully we survive what people have described as bitterly cold winters without becoming popsicles. I know that part of our hearts will always remain in Florida, which was also full of many good times and great people — not to mention outstanding weather. But since we’re still working on unpacking our boxes here and definitely enjoying ourselves, we’re not going to be focusing on Shipping & Removals to the USA from John Mason International, too much beach time or never-ending tans anytime soon.
How did you feel when you first moved to your new city? Where you in love with it? Overwhelmed by it or somewhere in between? Have you ever been to Berlin?