Continuing on with our series that discusses the main strengths of some popular expat cities, we arrive in Berlin, which is one of the hottest places for foreigners in the world right now. It’s a hard combination to beat, with housing prices far lower than nearly any other large European city, yet still all the advantages of those others, plus a few more.
1 – Berlin is one of the most exciting cities in the world right now
By now everyone had heard the buzz about Berlin. It’s where artists and entreprenuers and anyone who isn’t otherwise tied to another location is moving at the moment. Due partly to the other reasons mentioned below, Berlin is attracting young and interesting people from all over the globe, making it a great place to get involved with people who are doing new things.
It’s also relatively easy to get, say, a software or web business started there because rules aren’t quite as strict as they are in many other European cities where there is a mountain of paperwork to get through before you even begin.
2 – Berlin is quite cheap compared to other major European cities
Perhaps the single reason why Berlin is the hot place to be now for mobile artists and professionals is that it’s one of the cheapest major European cities in which to live. Due to the unusual situation where West Berlin was surrounded by communist East Germany for 40 years, all the biggest and most profitable German countries moved to West German in that era, and almost none of them have moved back since reunification.
Because of this, Berlin has massive amounts of available housing, and relatively few rich people competing for space. This means that most locals earn somewhat modest wages, and rents have to stay cheap. You can get a fairly nice apartment in Berlin for €500 per month with a decent location, or even less if you need to, while a similar place would cost at least twice if not three times that in London or Paris.
3 – You can get by on English only, and German is fairly easy to pick up
In the past decade Berlin has joined the ranks of Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and Stockholm (among others) where nearly everyone you’ll deal with in public speaks English to one degree or another. What’s more, many of them really like to practice it with native speakers, so in some ways you are helping people by having them speak in English. Once in a while you will find someone who doesn’t but there is always someone nearby who is bilingual to help.
You may also realize that English itself is a Germanic language so nearly half the words are very similar. Hello is halo. Bakery is backerei. Sunday is sontag, and so forth. For this reason you’ll be able to read most of the signs in Germany even without knowing (much) German, and this is a great help that you won’t appreciate until you’ve lived in, say, Thailand, where the alphabet itself just looks like squiggles.
4 – Berlin has pretty much everything
Many of us appreciate a small town atmosphere, and you get at least a bit of that in Berlin because it’s like a series of villages that are next to each other, rather than a concrete jungle like New York or Bangkok. But really you get all the advantages of a huge city because Berlin is a city of 3.5 million, including many foreigners, so you can find whatever you want.
There is an amazing array of international restaurants, often run by people from those countries, which actually isn’t as common in Europe as many people think. You can also get whatever clothes or gadgets or computer equipment you need, all at competitive prices.
5 – You can quickly and cheaply get to many great places from Berlin
There are many great expat cities around the world like Dubai or Auckland that have many of the advantages above, but some of them are also very isolated in the globe. Berlin, on the other hand, is a 1-hour cheap flight from nearly anywhere in Europe, and a fairly cheap flight to New York or even Asia.
With so many low-budget European airlines serving the Berlin airports, it’s only a matter of planning far enough in advance so you can get the cheap fares. And you can also take cheap trains to other fine cities like Krakow or Prague or Budapest. The only other cities that are this well connected are much more expensive in other ways.