The night we moved to Berlin we drove around in a snowstorm desperately trying to find a restaurant with a kitchen still open at 10pm on a Tuesday evening. Not knowing the neighbourhood, we dashed into the first warmly lit place we saw, hoping not to slip on the thick crusts of ice covering the pavement. What luck – it was a vegetarian restaurant, and they were still serving! My memory may be skewed by the simple relief of satiating my hunger on that bleak night, but the meal has stayed with me as some of the most delicious I have ever eaten. With both of us vegetarian, that the whole menu was meatless certainly helped. In due course, it became our favourite local restaurant; the surefire go to place when we had friends to stay. Such was the quality of the food and the subtlety of the flavours that we knew even the most committed meat-eaters would enjoy it. READ MORE »
Posts in category Miscellaneous
This blog has covered the topic of renting an apartment many times (in posts by Hyde and Chloe) and I have written a bit on the topic of home ownership. But where do you start if you are looking to buy property in Germany? The first stop for anyone interested in property is immobilienscout24.de – it is a website that compiles available properties from the entire country, and the search features are powerful enough for you to narrow down according to your exact criteria. Assuming that you read German and that your budget is big enough, this may be sufficient in helping you find a home.
For everyone else, it will take a larger investment of time than you might be used to in North America or England. Germany is not a country of property owners; most people here rent their accommodation long-term. For those who do own their homes, turnover is very low (Geoff wrote about this a while back, too). Germans tend to buy a house and then live in it for the rest of their lives, passing it on to their children. Houses in Germany are built for the long-term (as in everything they do, the Germans strive for perfect rather than sufficient) and the prices will reflect that. Starter homes for under €100k are unheard of, unless they are just being sold as a tear-down. Apartments can be bought in this price range, but are probably smaller than you might be hoping for. READ MORE »
The friends we left behind in London all had one thing in common – their desire to get themselves on the property ladder. Had we stayed I suspect we would have started hunting around for somewhere to buy in just the same way. It is simply what you do when you’re a young professional in the UK and if you don’t you worry you’re going to be left behind, you’ve not made it, that you’re destined to be one of those unsuccessful people who only ever rents a flat.
What a surprise then to move to Germany where being ‘only’ tenants instead of homeowners does not come with such class associations. That Germany has the lowest rate of homeownership in the EU has been written about elsewhere on this blog. What I am interested in here, is how this phenomenon effects the experience as an expat of first finding a flat to rent and then living in a rented flat in Germany in contrast to the experience in the UK. READ MORE »
Of all the things one can miss about a country after departure, the banking system probably shouldn’t be at the top of the list. For this ex-expat, however, it is actually one of the things I miss about Germany. The banking system there has arrived in the digital age, and North America is left in the dust.
For starters: put away the checkbook. Nobody in Germany has written a check in decades. When I arrived in 2000, checks were already obsolete. I was confused at the time: how do you pay individual people when you don’t have cash? The answer: bank transfers. In those dark ages of the internet, you paid others by filling out a paper Überweisung (transfer) slip, and giving it to your bank (possible via drop-box at most branches). READ MORE »
We toy sometimes with the idea of returning to the UK (by that we really mean London). For our careers and old friends and family, it can seem very tempting. Very tempting indeed, until we start talking about childcare. Berlin’s plentiful offering of affordable places for children to spend their time is almost unbeatable and it is one aspect, amongst many, which ties us firmly here for now.
Our children have attended KiTa (Kindertagesstätte - nursery school for pre-school children) since they were eighteen months old. They could have started younger – many children in Berlin are sent at 12 months from 9am to 4pm – but for us that seemed too soon. So we were slower: at first, it was only for a couple of hours each morning, and then progressively more, until we found a rhythm that works for them and for our working patterns: three days a week from 9am to 3pm and two days a week from 9am to 12.15pm. They could stay for longer but we are happy to have them at home as much as work allows. READ MORE »
It is very cold in Berlin; that sort of startlingly cold that seeps into your bones immediately on being outside and stays there for hours. This being my fourth winter in Berlin, I half-expected on that first frost glistening morning to be acclimatised – not so. For North Americans and many Continental Europeans, my complaints will fall on unsympathetic ears. It’s only minus 6C, they will say mockingly. But being a sensitive English rose, I find the cold makes going outside feel like an arctic mission rather than a free and easy, pleasurable way to break up the day, and this troubles me each year.
Of course, we had snow in my childhood, but it was that mild, wet, English snow which stays only fleetingly on the ground for no more than a day or so – and falls biannually at most. Instead those English winters consisted of short, dark, grey days, smattered with chilly rain and the odd early morning frost. A woollen jacket and closed shoes were guaranteed to see you through winter’s mildest and chilliest moments. And though I do miss those days, for all my chilblains and chapped lips, these real Berlin winters have been an educational experience, making me both wiser, and in a funny way, possibly a more considerate mother. READ MORE »
Originating from the west coast of the US, Mexican food has long been a staple in my diet. On my first forays into Europe, I made a few optimistic attempts to find suitable restaurants to satisfy my cravings for chips with salsa, fish tacos, over-sized greasy burritos, and cheesy enchiladas. Just about every single attempt was a complete and utter failure, leaving me homesick and a bit sick in the stomach too.
The first time I tried Mexican across the Atlantic, it was in England. Mind, the English aren’t exactly known for their abundance of spicy food. The salsa was chunky ketchup, the chips oversalted, and the food was unseasoned and tasteless. I was miserable. READ MORE »
When it comes to new airports or new Apple Stores, Berlin is what the Germans call a “Katastrophe”!
Visible construction work on a new Apple Store on Berlin’s elegant shopping boulevard, the Kurfürstendamm, began in January 2011. Even before work began, several Apple blogs, both German and American, breathlessly announced the news: Berlin, the German capital, was at last going to get an official Apple Store! But with January 2013 only a week away, Berlin is still waiting for its first Apple Store to open.
On January 14, 2011, ifoAppleStore.com posted an article entitled Century-Old Building To House Berlin Apple Store. Complete with photos of the building, the article stated: “Almost 100 years after it was constructed along tree-lined Kurfürstendamm avenue in Berlin (Germany), the historic UFA Film-Bühne Wien cinema will regain some of its original glory when Apple opens a retail store inside the building by year’s end. According to the Kurfuerstendamm.de Web site, Apple has leased the building at #26 and is awaiting permit approvals to begin construction. The store will finally bring Apple to the capitol [sic] city, four years after the first Germany store opened in Munich.” READ MORE »
“It’s the Christmas Man,” my two-and-a-half-year-old son cheered, pointing to the large inflatable red-clad figure bobbing in the wind outside a men’s clothes shop. In these first unseasonably barmy days of early December, we were yet to talk about the intricacies of Christmas, beyond the odd explanation of holly-bedecked shop windows and the singing reindeer-head installed outside our local shopping centre. The name of the man who would bring presents had certainly not been discussed. So how did he know about Father Christmas, and what was this name the “Christmas Man”?
One of the joys of living in another country and having your children grow up in a bilingual environment spending half, if not more, of their time speaking a language that is not your own is that they are constantly learning things you could not possibly have taught them. The Christmas Man (I should mention at this point that Germans refer to Father Christmas as the Weihnachtsmann – it’s direct translation being, therefore, the Christmas Man) was just one example in a list of many, which includes animals, nursery rhymes, foods and songs. Mostly, these instances delight and intrigue me. My German is good enough to understand the meaning, whilst still being enriched with a whole new level of childhood vocabulary one cannot learn sitting down with a grammar book, or spending a year here as a carefree exchange student. And beyond the words, I am constantly fascinated by my (and all) children’s outstanding capacity to absorb and manipulate new information minute by minute. READ MORE »