Victoria: The British Berliner
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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 a British girl from Manchester in the UK, living in Berlin with my German husband and our half British - half German son. I've been living in Berlin for yonks!
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I only started blogging in October, 2013 and because a few American scout mothers asked me where they could go skiing in Eastern Europe. I thought that if I wrote it down in a blog, they could all see it in one place!
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
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?
Berliners live pretty much outdoor. I love the alfresco lifestyle, the beaches, the lakes and the forests as I like river-side living and the fact that you can live enormously well on relatively little. The culture shock I had was with all the recycling, the short working hours, and the fact that “going out” really starts at 02:00! I also remember living in Kreuzberg when I first came and we had to carry coal up three flights of steps, we didn't have a sink, the bath tub was used as an interior decoration and you actually had to walk through my bedroom in order to get to the living room. So everyone did! On the other hand, my share of the rent was something like €18.00 per week!
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Berlin? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
Yes and No! I'd been flirting between England and Germany for a couple of years before I decided to make the move so I thought I knew Berlin but really, you can only know Berlin when you truly live in Berlin and just let go! I used to have insomnia and worried a lot about missing trains and doing things the right way but you know, I had to learn that public transport in Germany is pretty efficient and there would be another train in just a few minutes. Honest! Would I change some decisions? I wish I had been here sooner when, the Berlin Wall fell. That was real history in the making.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
My family and I participated in the Christopher Street Day Parade a couple of years ago and we were even on the truck. It was a great day full of dancing, posing for photos and generally having a very good time. At the end of the day, we were exhausted, my make-up was smeared, my hair in disarray and my high-heeled feet were killing me, so I took off my shoes and walked in barefoot to the first place that I saw – The Adlon Kempinski Hotel – they were great and didn't even blink.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Berlin?
- Learn German: It really does help as Berliners are too shy to speak English, so a few words help to break the ice and gain respect from the locals.
- Try to be as organised as you can with documentation as Germans are sticklers for paper trails. Keep all documents as you don't want to be caught out when they ask you for something that you had 10 years ago!
- Take advantage of everything the city has to offer: education, sport, leisure, art and culture. It’s all here so no need to stay at home worrying if you'll be bored or about the cost. You won't be. Berlin is a city full of life and passion and many things are at little or no cost.
How is the expat community in Berlin? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
The expats are great and are a growing number. Everyone is really nice and it's very easy to make friends as there are various hangouts. Expats also tend to support each other whilst trying to find either their niche or their career. However, don't forget to make friends with our German hosts. They want to know all about us!
How would you summarize your expat life in Berlin in a single, catchy sentence?
In Berlin, we're a member of the best-of-the-best: young, attractive, intelligent, ambitious, and creative people.