Moving to Berlin

So a few weeks ago I accepted a new job working in fintech in Berlin. I’ll be moving at the beginning of September, with Joshua Gladwin and my cat Sulu following a month later. I thought it might be helpful to write a bit about it, particularly for those who are considering escaping Brexit Britain before the shit hits the fan. (If any veterans of Berlin moving find any mistakes in this article, please let me know!)

Benefits of Berlin specifically

Berlin is one of the most (arguably *the* most) liberal cities in the world. There’s a gay bar geared towards a Muslim clientele, the clubs go on into the morning, it’s an extremely safe city and the rent… THE RENT… Londoners, if you need anymore inspiration to consider Berlin, just take a look at what your current rent can get you there. The rent for my very small and modest (but lovely) studio flat in Covent Garden fetches beautiful 2–3 bed penthouses in Berlin. For those of you on a more modest income, you can find a one-bed flat for €500pcm (I’ll explain the difference between Kaltmiete and Warmmiete later). Berlin enjoys the benefits, to an extent, of rent control.

With many European cities vying to overtake London in their respective industries, Berlin is certainly a candidate to become Europe’s tech hub. As Brits squabble about those awful EU migrants stimulating their economy, the city looks set to benefit from abolition of EU freedom of movement to London.

Then there are the benefits simply of being in Germany. Tenancy law is biased heavily towards the tenant — Germany has a renting culture, so it is immensely difficult to evict, unlike in the UK. Employment law is considerably better too. You are entitled to six weeks full sick pay, then health insurance covers 70%. The downside to these benefits is that the taxes are higher, but you gain so much on the living costs, it’s still a net gain.

Applying for a job

I would struggle to give any advice on jobs except to other developers, but if you can, do leave comments. For developers, Berlin has a vast array of businesses looking for coders and I’d recommend keeping an eye on StackOverflow Jobs, Glassdoor and LinkedIn.

With most of the jobs I applied for, the interview process was over Skype and was fairly typical: recruiter interview, technical interview, CTO interview, final CEO interview. One of the jobs did want me to fly in for the final interview but we never quite got to that stage before I received my current offer.

It’s important to remember that Berlin is a very English-speaking city — to the extent that Brits learning German occasionally complain that Germans in Berlin speak back to them in English! A lot of businesses in Berlin, despite being run and owned by Germans, opt to have English as their primary workplace language. This is understandable, as there are many many people from all over the world living in Berlin, and English (at least for now) is the common language. So don’t be put off by not speaking German, although I would advise learning when you get there, simply because it’s polite!

The move

Undoubtedly, moving countries is expensive and time consuming. We are lucky in that living in a tiny flat meant we have already thrown out a lot of stuff, so we are having our things (and cat) driven there from London in a hire car by a friend.

For those interested in moving a cat, there are a few things you need to be aware of. First of all, you need to get your EU pet passport sorted (which requires a rabies jab 21 days before you travel). Secondly, you need to consider how to get them there. Some airlines allow you to travel with your cat in the cabin under the seat in front of you (in a cat-carrier, obviously!). However, the cat-carrier must meet size specifications and the cat must be able to freely stand up and turn around. I didn’t do a full investigation as to which airlines offered this, but KLM was one. I am personally uncomfortable with my cat going into the hold (I get nervous with my bags, never mind my pet) but that is an option for you if the airline offers it. Just make sure to make arrangements in advance.

There are plenty of removal companies out there who will move your things. I was quoted £1,000 to £2,000 typically. There are aggregate sites that will pass your details on to white van companies but do be aware you’ll find your phone buzzing lots as they try to get your business before everybody else. One other option is to courier a lot of your stuff out to Berlin, if you have a place it can be delivered.

Finding accommodation

There’s an unfortunate Catch 22 situation when it comes to renting in Berlin — you need a Schufa (credit rating) to rent, and you generally need some renting history to get a Schufa. So a lot of people who move to Berlin first sublet for a few months whilst they find a permanent place. Subletting is commonplace and it’s generally above-board.

I’d recommend downloading the ImmoScout 24 app on Android or iOS. This is basically German RightMove and you get alerts whenever new properties meet your criteria.

I can’t really help on the subletting thing, because I’m very lucky to have a friend who already moved out there. I’m staying with him for the first month whilst I find a more permanent place. However, I found this a pretty informative guide.

As mentioned above, there’s kaltmiete (cold rent) and warmmiete (warm rent). Cold rent is what you and I would consider rent in the UK. Warm rent includes all the associated heating bills. I’ve been advised that a rule of thumb in picking flats is that the warm rent should not be more than a third of your monthly take-home salary.

That’s it for now!

I suspect I’ll be writing a lot more in detail over the coming weeks. If there are any questions, throw them in the comments!

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