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Zoë & James: überlin

In our InterNations Recommended Blog section we let you take the spotlight! Expat life in general is, of course, a perfect breeding ground for great, user-generated reads, and life in Berlin makes no exception. Take your time and browse the great blogs showcased in this article!

Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Berlin, etc.

We are Zoë and James, two English expats living in Berlin. We’re both originally from the North of England, and moved to Berlin in late 2010, after paying our dues with a five-year stint in London.

When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?

We wrote our first blog post on the one-way flight from London to Berlin! We had already decided on the name and basic concept: an online diary about two expats’ exploration of a new city. But überlin has since grown into a celebration of all that is awesome about Berlin, and a valuable resource for people who want to follow our example and move here.

Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?

“You Know You’re A Berliner When…” is a checklist of the weird and wonderful signs that you’re “going native” in Berlin, which coined the term “Berlinergasms”. And our contributor Liv Hambrett nailed the überlin tone with her epic list “What I Know About Germans“, a tongue-in-cheek celebration of the quirks and qualities of our adopted countrymen. That post really struck a note with Germans, who shared it on blogs and even the social media profiles of national newspapers.

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?

Our life here is completely different, not least because when we became Berliners, we also became freelancers. We generally set our own hours, dedicate plenty of time to exploring Berlin, and experience a much better quality of life than when we were back in London, working all hours. Because Germany and England are pretty similar, we didn’t experience any culture shock, but we are constantly delighted by the little differences (again, see “What I Know About Germans“)!

Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Berlin? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?

You can’t ever be fully prepared for a life-changing experience like this, but we really landed on our feet. The only thing we would change about our decision to move to Berlin, is the time it took to make – we knew we wanted to live here as early as our first visit in 2006. The years we spent procrastinating and “preparing” would have been better spent just being here!

Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?

It pains us to think about it now, but after we moved out of our first sublet, we were quizzed about the whereabouts of a missing bowl made out of banana skins and a mouldy old bathmat. In fact, most of our subletting experiences – recorded here – were equal parts horrible and hilarious.

Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Berlin?

  • Learn as much German as you can before you arrive, but don’t expect it to make sense until you’re immersed in the city.
  • If you can, bring work with you. Germany is the only European country where unemployment in its capital is greater than the national average, and competition is fierce what jobs there are. You can make the move easier if you come with freelance work already arranged, like we did.
  • Do it! Don’t procrastinate, because there will never be a better time than now to start living your dream!

How is the expat community in Berlin? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?

Thriving! The hardest thing is finding Germans to practice our language skills on, or – even rarer – an actual Berliner.

How would you summarize your expat life in Berlin in a single, catchy sentence?

Expat life in Berlin is challenging, rewarding, eye-opening and never boring!

Sean Henderson

"The good thing about InterNations is that I got to know the expat community in Berlin as well as internationally minded locals."

Anna Maria Osario

"Through InterNations I met so many other Argentinean expats in Berlin, which made the transition period really easy for me."

Global Expat Guide