Ryan: Take The U5
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Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Berlin, etc
I’m Ryan and I am a software developer based in Berlin. I make popular apps TripList and Station App for iOS. I have been living in Germany since about 2012 and moved to Berlin in March 2014.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started blogging just before I decided to move to Berlin. I thought it would be a fun way to remember the good and bad times that were sure to lie ahead.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I don’t think I have any specific favorite entries, I like them all equally well! However, I have recently started a project to visit every U-Bahn station in the Berlin subway system. I think that’s pretty fun and interesting!
Tell us about the ways your new life in Berlin differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
I had already been living in small town Germany for a few years before I decided to move to Berlin so I was already used to German customs and peculiarities. That certainly made it easier to adjust than if I had come straight from the USA.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Berlin? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
We had read many other expat blogs about moving to Berlin so we were well prepared for the logistics of the move. We came to Berlin a few months before we wanted to move to secure housing and had about 20 “packets” of information about us that we could hand to potential apartment owners. We felt this was necessary as my partner and I are both self-employed, which makes it harder to find a place. These packets included income information, Schufa letters, letters of recommendation, anything that could help us potentially get an apartment. After viewing and applying for 7 different apartments, we had no others to look at, we had exhausted all of them within our price range and preferred areas of town. Since we were only visiting Berlin for 6 days, we couldn’t schedule any apartment viewings outside of that time.
If I would do it again, I would have come to Berlin each month for 4 or 5 days until I found something to my liking. That way, a new inventory of apartments is available on each visit and you are more likely to come out with an apartment you like.
We ended up with a fantastic apartment in Friedrichshain and now that we have lived in the area for a while and also been all over Berlin, we know how lucky we were to get our place.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Most of the things that make me laugh in Germany are usually culture shock related:
- Having to build a kitchen into your new flat because the previous tenants took theirs.
- The left side of the escalator is for walking, the right side is for being lazy. You learn this quickly in Germany.
- When you walk into a Doctor’s office or other type of waiting room you say good morning/day to the others already there. It’s awkward and just weird. It’s seems like everyone does it but no one likes it.
- If it’s your birthday, YOU bring cake to the office to celebrate YOUR birthday. “Look at me, it’s my birthday, wish me happy birthday, here’s some cake!”. I find this appalling and hilarious at the same time! :)
Which tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Berlin?
- Visit the city a few times and stay in a couple of different areas of town. I can imagine that some people may take the first apartment they get offered and end up not liking Berlin (or any major city) as much as they potentially could. Berlin has so many different sides, you need to come and experience them before you decide where exactly you want to live.
- Don’t bring your VW T-4 van to Berlin, it will get stolen on the first night (Yes, it really happened!).
How is the expat community in Berlin? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
I’ve meet loads of people since I’ve moved here. If you put yourself out there and attend meet-ups or other gatherings, you should have no problems. I’m taking an intensive German language class so I immediately got 12 new friends from all over the world, which is pretty rad.
How would you summarize your expat life in Berlin in a single, catchy sentence?
Life in Berlin (as a self-employed expat) is hectic, nonstop work but fun and exciting at the same time.