Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Welcome to Berlin

So, how do you move to Berlin? Well, first, you'll have to make sure that you can stay there long-term, legally. No problem if you are English or Irish; as an American, you'd need a visa if you are staying longer than three months, probably best would be a student visa (I have no idea, really — ask the German consulate). They used to see that relaxed, after 9-11, not so much.

Housing, not such a problem, there are plenty of people who rent out rooms, also, you can get a two-bedroom from 400 Euro on. Check the local papers, mainly Tip and Zitty, but also daily papers (Morgenpost, Tagesspiegel, Berliner Zeitung). All classifieds are online. There is also a thing called "Mitwohnzentrale" (actually, rather a half-dozen), they broker short-term rooms or apartments, maybe not a bad idea to check out a neighborhood before you make a long-term commitment or schlepp a lot of stuff up to a five-floor walk-up. Speaking of stuff, if you need cheap furniture, try Ikea, Ebay or "Zweite Hand". As a rule of thumb, second-hand Ikea furniture should not be more than 50 percent of the original price.

As neighborhoods go, I‘m assuming you want to live in a turn-of-the century borough. Charlottenburg is posh and a bit boring, but old grandeur, Moabit and Wedding are Turkish/working class with a more fancier part near the Landwehrkanal (not that much nightlife, though), Schöneberg and Kreuzberg are more leftwingish and have a better nightlife/restaurant scene; Friedrichshain even more, as has Prenzlauer Berg, which combines a West-Berlin nightlife and public schools without Turkish kids, so it has become pretty pricey, and is overrun by Birkenstock mothers buying organic food and pushing expensive strollers. Friedrichshain is more for students, but in Prenzlauer Berg public transportation is better. Mitte is not really residential, expect some boring new buildings. Then again, you could try to get a place at Stalinallee.

Job: That is a tough one in today's economy, also, you would probably need some sort of visa to be able to work as well. If you have someone in the US you can get commissions from by doing work on your computer, that is a fine loophole. Best, check out the Expat scene, solidly situated in Prenzlauer Berg. Try the Cafe First Gaudy at Gaudystraße 1, it's run by an Irish guy, and that's where English speakers meet. There are also University blackboards, and if you are an enrolled student, Universities (at least they used to when I was young) would get you a short-term, same-day job.

Also, don't try to cheat on subway fares, they always get you. And beware of bicyclists! And, most importantly, if bus drivers, or store clerks, or cocktail waitresses or just about anybody pushes you around or barks at you, don't take it personally. That's just how they are.

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