If you are just about to move to Berlin, here are some tips that should help you get through those Germanic "ordnung" idiosyncrasies.
Unlike moving to Argentina, Spain, or even Austria, moving to Germany isn't really a make it up as you go along thing. The information contained in this article should help you do that.
If you want to have a good time, lots of interesting pubs, cool clubs, great restaurants, frequent and varied meet ups, and a constant stream of level 7 hipsters with some questionably placed facial tatoos walking by, then you should try these neighbourhoods.
- Prenzlauer Berg
Finding an apartment
Apartment hunting is a nightmare at the moment, because Berlin is the capital city of the only country in Europe that is currently not trying to water cannon young people off the streets to make way for, ironically enough, water meters!
Tip 1. Don't Use Craigslist Here is an example of the "Nigerian Price " style scams going on
I will want you to go to the nearest store near you and make the payment via western union to me.When you get there you tell them you want to send money via western union and they would give you a form to fill and then you fill my information below...I will be heading to DHL Office to arrange for the shipment of a package to you next day delivery. i will be sending to you(KEYS AND DOCUMENTS)
Tip 2. schufa
It is basically proof that you have an income that can support your rent. This means without a schufa you pay a premium on your rent as you are not "schufa'd ". Of course, only a German income counts, so it'll be a while before you have a schufa rating. Catch 22 stuff.
Tip 3. Start looking here, and if you are lucky you may get a place without too much trouble. Stay strong, and expect many to not even reply to your inquiry.
- Coming Home
Get Registered with the Bürgeramt ASAP
Once you have found a place the fun only gets better. First things first, you have to register with the Bürgeramt so that you are on the system as living in your new apartment. Once on the system you are almost a good German.
Each area or suburb has it's own Bürgeramt and you must register at your local one. They normally open from 08:00-13:00, and the queues are ridiculous. Get there early, I went there for 7:45am and was still the 50th or so in the queue.
Note: If need be you can register your address at a hostel or some other temporary abode.
Get Health Insurance ASAP
By German law everyone must have health insurance and your employers need some proof of it for your monthly tax deductions. Health insurance must be from a German health insurance company, or from a foreign one that passes a certain standard. You have 3 options:
- Private health insurance.
- Public health insurance.
- Foreign health insurance.
To make a very long and uninteresting story short. Unless you really really really like jumping through hoops to save a few euros. Call a public health insurance company and you will be sorted in a few days. Then you will be a more improved German.
Get Your Tax ID
When you register at the Bürgeramt you also get a tax ID. Your employer will need this. Of course, giving it to you then and there would save you time and be efficient. So, just to make sure there is none of that nonsense you are again faced with choices:
- You can wait approximately 6 weeks for it to arrive in the post, during which time you will be taxed at the maximum non-refundable rate.
- You can go and queue at the Finanzamt and get it.
Luckily for you the queues are not so big at the finanzamt, as it appears people are not as into registering to pay tax as they are into registering where their bills should arrive.
Once you take care that, you should be on the system. It's an enjoyable adventure and you'll also find that those working in that system are very happy, with big smiley faces, and lots of motivation to do a good job. You never feel like just another number in a giant pointless game of paper pushing pedantry!
You will now be registered, paying taxes, and insured. A proper German. You'll also probably be heavily drinking bier from glass bottle as you walk around town.
I'll continue updating this post as I go through all these processes.