Berlin at a Glance
Berlin: International Schools & TransportiStockphoto
In Berlin, 15% of traffic takes place on bicycle lanes.
If you are planning on living in Berlin with your family or think of starting a family in Berlin, you should know the basics of the German school system. Also, familiarizing yourself with international schools in the area will make living in Berlin much easier.
As each federal state of Germany is responsible for its own education system, schools in Berlin may differ from those in other German cities. Children must attend school until grade ten. Around grade five, they are tested to see whether they are able to attend the Gymnasium (a type of secondary school with a very academic focus).The Gymnasium will continue on to grade twelve when students graduate with the Abitur (German high-school diploma).
If a student does not qualify for the Gymnasium, he or she will be sent to the integrierte Sekundarschule (comprehensive secondary school). Students attend this school until grade ten. Then they begin either vocational training, or they may go on to get their Abitur after all, via a so-called Berufliches Gymnasium. Only the Abitur allows you to study at university.
As Berlin is host to numerous embassies, there are many diplomats living in the city who send their children to private international schools. The John F. Kennedy School in Zehlendorf is among diplomats’ and expats’ first choice. It boasts a bicultural and bilingual (German and English) education system for students from kindergarten to high school.
The French Gymnasium in Berlin – founded in 1689 – is one of the oldest international schools in Germany. It offers bilingual studies in French and German. Both the Berlin International School and the Berlin British School are also well-known and quite popular among expats and diplomat families. There is limited admission and the schools may be expensive, so be sure to check the individual websites for more precise information.
Driving in Berlin can be stressful, and parking is rather difficult to come by. There are several large parking garages in Berlin, but these are often very expensive and tend to fill up fast. Most Berliner rely on public transportation to get them where they want.
Berlin has a very high-end public transportation system, with one of the largest underground and suburban rail networks in Germany. The Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG) manages buses, streetcars, underground lines, and suburban trains. The BVG attaches great importance to environmental awareness and is currently testing different methods for energy-efficient vehicles. Its buses, for example, are run on hydrogen motors to keep the Berlin air clean.
The BVG covers the entire metropolitan Berlin area, from Reinickendorf in the northwest to Treptow-Köpenick in the southeast, with suburban trains. Although locals like grumbling about late trains and understaffed lines, the Greater Berlin Area couldn’t do without its S-Bahn. Buses, streetcars and the underground can easily get you from one corner of downtown Berlin to the other.
It may surprise you to hear that about 15% of the total traffic in Berlin takes place on bicycle lanes. Berlin has a highly developed network of bike lanes, which is not only safe, but fairly quick, too. Locals save time and stress while exercising when riding through the city on their bikes.
There are also many hourly bike rental stations (city bikes) throughout the city: So if you need to get from A to B quickly and do not want to deal with traffic or the underground, you can hop on a bike for a small fee and leave it at the next bike station 30 minutes later!