I get a lot of great questions every day and I love being able to share my knowledge and insights with people. But I also like being able to share them with you. So when I recently got the following question about our recent move to Berlin, I just knew I had to share it! If you have a question you’d like me to answer (about anything from Berlin to natural living to cooking to homesteading to… whatever, send it to tiffany at noordinaryhomestead.com!)
We came across your website a few months ago as we are contemplating a move to Berlin from our utopian-like village in Baden-Wuertemmburg, also living in a house that we restored over the past eight years. I am American and my wife is German; the kids identify with both cultures. We were surprised at the similarities between our two situations and we especially appreciated your comparison of Frankfurt with Berlin a few months back. We were wondering how your perspective has developed since then; it would be very interesting to hear an update on your overall impression / reflection on living in Berlin. We have been to Berlin a number of times and absolutely love it… but we also suspect that visiting there and living there are two entirely different experiences.
We thoroughly enjoy your blog. Thanks!
Thanks for reaching out to me!
It really does sound like quite a few similarities are present between our lives…funny how small the universe is some times.
Berlin is a really interesting city because it can be so many things to so many different types of people. I can honestly say that we love it here and I’ve never experienced having a city feel like “home” as quickly as Berlin did. Within a month of living here, it just seemed like we’d been here forever and it was quite easy for us to get acclimated. Perhaps we were already ready for the move away from the country life in many ways without being totally conscious of it. I can say that we had already been contemplating leaving the Frankfurt area for a few months, and were putting things in the works to make that happen. Granted, we thought we’d be moving to sunny Florida instead of Berlin, but we were embracing a move nonetheless.
Before we moved here, we had never spent any real time in Berlin. We visited once before we decided to move and really liked it but each area of the city (or Kiez) is very different and where you settle is likely were you will spend most of your time. It’s not because it’s so hard to get around the city (public transit here is great and most U-Bahn trains run about every 4 minutes) but because you’ll find everything you need in your immediate area and will mostly just travel out of the Kiez to visit friends or for a special occasion. We’re in the Schöneberg area, near Nollendorfplatz, which is extremely central and we love it. There are lots of restaurants and bars within walking distance, plenty of Kitas around for our daughter (now 4 years old), we are close to the Tiergarten and Zoo, this area of the city has lots of trees and green spots — so for us, it was just perfect. But it all depends on what you are looking for. And whatever it is that you want or need (from history to night life to kid-centric quiet spaces to hippie-friendly cafes) you can find it in Berlin and move in next door.
With kids, you will need to consider what school you want to put your kids in and whether it will be public or private. For many parents, putting their kids in a school like JFK in Dahlem is really important to get the American culture and schooling. Or you may just want to go with public schooling (although it seems like most of the expat parents we know put their kids in some sort of international school, whether public or private — and there may be costs associated with that.) Since we are just starting that process with our daughter, I can’t give much feedback as of yet, but I can direct you to another blogger here in Berlin who would likely be able to share more as her daughters are 7 and 9.
Another high selling point for Berlin is that it is a fairly inexpensive place to live but with a very high quality of life. Compared to New York City, it’s about 35% cheaper to live in Berlin…and based on a city like Frankfurt, it’s about 15% cheaper to live in Berlin. You can not only get bigger and nicer apartments in the heart of the city, but food is less expensive as a whole (both fresh and in restaurants) and Berliners seem to demand better quality of food than we found in Frankfurt. They focus more on local vendors and organic products, even at local independent fast food chains and kiosks, which to me is a very welcome adjustment. Plus there are far more independent retailers around here IMO when you’re deeper in the Kietz, versus finding a McDonald’s or Burger King around every corner.
If you enjoy Berlin during your visits here, I think you will continue to love the city if you move here. There’s a slight feeling of being a permanent tourist because there is always so much to see and do — and I think many of the locals don’t completely take advantage of all the city has to offer. But that’s probably because there is just so much to choose from and interests of all kinds are covered, from music to museums to history and beyond. And once you’ve been taking care of a home for several years and move here to an apartment (especially a rental), it’s almost like going on vacation or moving into a hotel. 😉 The biggest problem in Berlin so far, has been figuring out what not to do since there is so much going on at all times.0