Updated: Mar 9
Berlin. A city which is home to all types of interesting and colourful characters. Although German people are known to be strict in how they like things done, (AKA insisting to wait for the green light before crossing the road, or for some reason closing a public transport window on a hot day), they are people who cherish their free time, social time and family time throughout the week and especially on the weekend.
This cultural norm is something that international citizens from other major cities, such as London or New York, just cannot seem to juggle. For this reason, Berlin can be a tempting move for many European and international immigrants who are looking for a better quality of life.
Once the decision to move country has been made, some people can become overwhelmed with planning. Checking blog post after blog post trying to get some sense of what the hell is happening in their soon to be home. Whilst other people pack a toothbrush, take a flight and never look back. As much as it's thrilling to be spontaneous, knowing the basics and having a rough plan can not only help with getting your ‘new in town’ life admin done, but also for mental sanity, especially when you’re moving solo!
As a team of people who have made the move to this glorious city, Co-Tasker has collated some time-saving tips, unmissable to-dos, and important things to think about when moving to Berlin.
1. Finding a Flat
People are flocking from all corners of the world to live in this beautiful city, however, with that comes ALOT of competition for finding available rooms and apartments. The best advice we can give you is to be quick! Sign up to all of the apps, filter your apartment preferences, join all of the Facebook housing groups, and be swift!
Once you’ve found a place, send a personal and friendly direct message that promotes yourself and why you would be a great flatmate/tenant e.g. respectful, clean, easy-going, friendly are usually excellent trigger words. Make sure your display picture is bright and positive (it always helps). If you have successfully painted an appealing picture of yourself and your situation, you will be invited to many house viewings. Go to them all!
Types of Viewings
There are two types of house viewings: One is where you’ll be invited to a viewing with the masses, these viewings are usually done via company/agency, and so expect half of Berlin to be there looking at the flat with you. The other type of viewing is done via a private owner. If you make a good impression, this type of viewing is more likely to get you the flat. Whereas, with a company viewing, your papers (aka your personal situation) needs to be exceptional!
Once you find your lovely new home, you will be required to pay the deposit and the first-months rent. If you’re unable to find this money urgently, do not fear, there is the option with some agencies to pay your deposit with 3-4 months financing. This is also possible with a private landlord, however it really depends on the situation between yourself and your new landlord.
Before you give your landlord your deposit make sure that they have a separate bank account to keep your money safe. You are entitled to request that they give you proof that your money is safe in a separate bank account.
As soon as you move into a flat in Germany you must go and get your anmeldung. This is a super important task, which it’s simply registering your residence at a specific address in Germany.
Why is it so important?
Because this piece of paper is your key for when you want to open a bank account, sign up for internet for your new home or to obtain a tax number to start getting paid!
In order to obtain your Anmeldung, there are certain documents that you need to fill out and get your landlord to sign before you make an appointment. Check out this amazing article by Settle in Berlin where they cover all the important documents you need when going to your local Bürgeramt (citizens' office).
No German? No Problem.
You should know that when you go to the Bürgeramt you are required to speak German. For those of you who don't speak good German yet, don’t worry, you can take someone with you to help translate! (If you don’t know of anyone yet who could help you, asking for help from a Native German speaker on Co-Tasker is a great option where you don't have to worry about bugging anyone).
A Short Term Post Fix
It’s hard to secure a long term apartment in Berlin, and so moving from one short term contract to another in the first year of moving here is something that everyone knows too well. Your letters and post are sent to your registered Anmeldung address. If you managed to get an Anmeldung in your first apartment, but cannot in the second, you can get your letters redirected. The Deutsche Post website offers a service where you can pay for 12 or 24 months to have your letters sent to your new address.
Of course, this isn't a permanent fix as anytime you want to get financing or let's say sign up for the dentist, they will want your current address where you have your Anmeldung, but it’s a good short term trick especially when you need to receive important letters in the first few months of moving.
Another tip is that if you cannot have your name on your mailbox for whatever reason, and you want things delivered to your house, simply write the following on your orders:
[Your Name] C/O [Name on Mailbox] (E.g. Jane Smith C/O Peter Griffin)
4. Bank account
In order to create a bank account in Berlin you need your ID, permit residence, anmeldung and of course some money that you would like to deposit. Some banks will require proof of income/employment and a SCHUFA (We’ll cover what this is in the next point).
N26 is a bank most expats are in favour of, as there is very little paperwork required to set up an account and it takes 15 minutes to set up. Seeing as Berlin is a city that hasn't really caught up with paying with cards, cash is always needed! So, set up this card straight away to avoid international withdrawal fees. With N26 there's no awkward German bank visit, no proof of residence or Anmeldung needed to get set up. Yipee!
5. Schufa Score
Your debt paying back trustworthiness.
In Germany, your credit score is tracked and recorded by Germany’s biggest credit agency, Schufa Holding AG. Your Schufa is automatically created as soon as you register for your anmeldung, and it’s based on whether you’ve paid all your bills/debts on time and in full. As mentioned before, some banks may need this when opening an account, or when you ask for a loan. When finding an apartment in Germany some landlords will require your Schufa Score. It’s also checked when you want to buy something on credit. Your Schufa is kind of like your debt paying back trustworthiness!
How to Get Your Score
So when someone asks you for your Schufa score the easiest method is to order a Schufa Bonitätsauskunft directly from meineSCHUFA.de. This is the official, certified credit report that all landlords accept, which guarantees your privacy and security. When you’re on the website select the online download when you purchase your report; you’ll receive a confirmation email that allows you to download the PDF with a unique verification code.
(Ignore meineSCHUFA kompakt, plus and premium, as you won’t really need these services for the examples mentioned above.)
6. TV & Radio (Beitragsservice)
Do Not Ignore!
When moving to Berlin, you’ll receive a letter from the Beitragsservice von ARD, ZDF und Deutschlandradio. This is a bill for the tv and radio services in Germany. When you do your anmeldung you become automatically responsible for paying for the address that you’ve registered yourself in. For the love of God, do not ignore it!
Although you may or may not want to watch German TV or listen to German radio you still have to pay every month for it regardless. If you don’t understand the letters you’re receiving and Google Translate cannot save you, it’s always good to get the help of a native speaker to understand everything. There's nothing worse than receiving a bill and having no clue what it’s about… #cotaskit
Note: Also be careful when you stream or download anything online illegally. Germany really cracks down on this illegal activity, if you get caught you will receive a penalty which must be paid! Stick to Netflix people :D
7. Money problems.
One trick that many people don’t know in Germany is that when you receive a big nasty bill in the post that you might not be able to pay right now, not only can you delay paying it back but you can also pay it back in instalments. So, don’t be afraid to reach out to the company of whom you owe money, and ask them! Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but always worth a try if you’re struggling to pay.
8. Berlin Social Groups.
There are many groups on Facebook and on Meetup where newcomers and locals can meet and hang out. From Friday night drinks to language meetups, there's just about a group for everything. So get out there and socialise!
9. German Lessons
Another very important thing to do once you’ve settled down more in Berlin is to start taking German lessons. Yes, it’s very easy to get by in Berlin without German, especially if you don’t need it for work. But once you learn German not only will your life become easier, you’ll feel more connected to your surroundings and understand a lot more about the culture. These days we’re fortunate enough to have lots of resources, both on and offline, for learning German.
So get out there and start learning Deutsch! Thank us later!
10. Your Community
Berlin is known for one thing, community. Berlin is full of lovely people who want to help each other out. But at the moment there isn’t a safe place that connects the dots, that connects people who can offer help with the people who need it.
We want to connect people! Connect strangers with locals, locals with immigrants, and immigrants with neighbours, and it goes on. Once you are part of your Co-Tasker community you have a safe and easy place, where you can find help and earn money, not only in a quick manner, but flexible around your schedule.
Hooray! You can now download Co-Tasker on iOS and Android!
If you’re on the search for a job in Berlin, getting started can be tough, especially when the old German language is lacking! Earn money through Co-Tasker and help someone in your local area in your free time. Help them look after their plants whilst they’re away, help them move in, help them with cleaning their apartment. With new flexible tasks every day, use your skills to earn the money you need whilst you settle into and make Berlin your new home.
Share this article and it’s tips with other newcomers in Berlin, they’ll thank you for it :)