It’s been a busy week for me. As mentioned in my last Food for thought, Chris has started his dream job in Berlin this week. However the last weekend before he started he was asked to work in Austria for the first week so I’ve been flat chat trying to organise Berlin rental viewings. I went to Berlin yesterday and saw four places.

I thought I would document a little bit about our challenges/experiences moving to Berlin as they happen. It might be of interest of helpful to anyone who is considering the same move. If you read anything about renting in Berlin, all you hear about is how difficult it is, especially for expats. It’s worth stressing that we are already living in Leipzig and have our apartment until the end of April though we/I will move as soon as we find a place and have everything finalised, keys in hand. We’ve been living in furnished rentals up until now, so we will have to buy bed and all the other furniture!

We are looking at Prenzlauer Berg, Neuköln, Tempelhof and Kreuzberg as potential places to live. I have made lots of enquiries yet most vacancies seem to be in P’berg.

Part of moving is making lots of enquiries (in Deutsch). Today I have made one phone call and received two. Doesn’t sound like much but it is a big deal when you are learning a language. I’ve finished A2 and yet to finish B1. I generally understand some of what people are saying, probably less than half to be honest. Of course context helps so you can get the gist. It’s worth mentioning this in case other people don’t speak much Deutsch. I have been learning for 6 months but we only did half an hour in this time on phone calls so they are still quite difficult for me. It’s harder to understand what someone is saying without visual cues, all you can do is pick out the words you know and make an estimated guess.  Ironic, I used to be a crisis counsellor volunteer supervisor so I was quite comfortable talking on the phone!

This is the car wash next to the bus station, I love the logo! 

I always get the bus to Berlin from Leipzig as it’s half the price of the train ticket although it takes twice as long (two hours). As an Australian, that kind of travel is nothing! I boarded the bus yesterday at 5:35am and read a bit then fell asleep. We had a rather eccentric bus driver who woke everyone up 15 minutes before our destination by singing on the speaker and saying something about health.  I arrived in Berlin about 7:45 ready to travel to my 9am appointment. I’m not completely au fait with Berlin so I needed a bit of travel time. I was pleased to be able to help a new visitor to Berlin with their train ticket :).

The first place was in Prenzlauer Berg. The second time we stayed in Berlin many years ago we stayed in this suburb. It’s a previously East German DDR suburb, but it’s pretty much unrecognisable given the plethora of bright cafes, shops and markets. This is a suburb for children, with loads of parks, children’s clothing shops and child care centres. I can understand how it makes some people’s teeth gnash with cries of gentrification, it really is lefty monied hippie meets hipster. To give a Melbourne (Australia) reference it’s more Fitzroy than Coburg. It’s monied so you’ll sit in a real seat not a milk crate whilst enjoying your craft beer/cafe and vegan cake.

The apartment was a good location, not too far from Mauer Park but sooo dark. All the light fitting had been ripped out (the thought of dealing with a sparky in Deutsch would be another challenge for me). Further, each of the rooms had the old coal heaters still installed (but presumably defunct) which I can’t help finding rather creepy. They are certainly nice from a retro view but I found them rather creepy to be honest. Doesn’t it make you think of WWII? Notably they were not featured in any of the photos on the real estate site…

As I’ve mentioned earlier, it is common in Deutschland to rent apartments without fitted kitchens. A kitchen may have anything from nothing except holes in the wall to an oven, sink, benches (if you are lucky). Several places (including this one) I saw had a lid on the stove tops which I thought a great space saving device although I assume it’s not meant as a permanent fixture. Some places have no light fittings or floor boards, the renter has to bring their own.

The second apartment was basically my dream apartment. Gorgeously light with brand new floor boards, large rooms and a little courtyard patio which would be perfect for a little kitty to sun itself. I miss Mr P terribly and can’t wait to get a fat lady cat from the animal shelter to love. The real estate staff person spoke English and she kindly gave me some advice for getting an apartment in Berlin. It was really appreciated, as i have mentioned previously, I am constantly blessed by the kindness of Deutsch people. (Every day I meet someone in my day to day life who makes me life as an expat better).

The next wohnung was actually a sublet via the Ebay classifieds but wasn’t advertised as such which was a bit annoying, so I won’t go into it too much. I got lost on the way and was very late which is annoying for all concerned but the tenant was gracious about it.

The fourth was in an up and coming Berlin area. Fifth floor walk up with a rather narrow staircase which would make moving hell.  Nice 3 room place (as in 2 bedrooms and a living room) although you’d struggle to fit a double bed in two of those rooms). Lovely big brand new kitchen.

I’ve since spoken the woman from the second property and she’s advised me to submit our CV’s and the last three pay slips (bit hard when you are self employed as they don’t exist) with our application. So far we’ve included:

  • Introduction letter (in Deutsch) detailing a little about us
  • Work contracts (I am doing a little contract editing work but not that much)
  • Bank statements
  • Photocopy of our passports
  • Photocopy of my Aufenthaltskarte (basically a residency card that gives me living and work rights)
  • Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung (Rent arrears freedom certificate. We’ve subletted since we came to Deutschland so we have a letter from landlord indicating we caused no damage and owe no money) I still don’t understand why Deutsch words are so long!

We are due to get SCHUFA credit reports (these basically verify that you have no debts). I tried to apply for ours online but have been unable to complete the forms online (keep getting an error notice) so I am visiting a Buro to get one tomorrow.

Chris is back from Zurich tomorrow so we are visiting three-four properties on Saturday before he flies off the Spain. We’ll keep you posted.

 Ping pong tables in one of the public spaces in Prenzlauer Berg.