The first time I ever visited Berlin was in October of 2013. I was staying with a local friend who had plenty of room in her apartment to host me. Immediately, I was taken by how affordable everything was, how easy it was for me to survive speaking only English, and how wonderful the general vibe of the city is. It seemed to be full of expats working as digital nomads, teaching English, and studying abroad.
I decided to return and live here this summer, and now I’m convinced, Berlin is the perfect city for expats. Here’s why:
1) It’s affordable
I’m from Los Angeles where the rent is pretty steep. I dreamed of living in London, but there was no way to make that happen on my income as a digital nomad. I thought it was probably highly unlikely that I’d ever find a city in a Western country that I’d actually want to live in that was also affordable, until I came to Berlin.
Rent here can run as low as 300 Euros per month, and food such as falafel, Italian sandwiches, currywurst, pizza, and doner kebab can be purchased for as little as 1.50 to 6.50 for a meal, and 10 Euros on the higher end.
2) You don’t need a car
Public transportation in Berlin is fantastic, and available 24 hours per day. I just couldn’t get over that in the beginning - I never had to take a cab, anywhere! Moreover, it’s a very flat and bikeable city, so you can easily get around via bicycle if you wish. Many major roads are equipped with bike lanes, and the traffic isn’t too bad anyways. As far as big cities go, Berlin doesn’t feel crowded, which is wonderful.
3) The atmosphere is excellent
Berlin is a city that is full of expats and transplants from other parts of Germany. It attracts creative people because there’s always something going on musically, artistically, and culturally. The nightlife is famous for being excellent, it’s a great city for anyone looking to get into the art scene, as evidenced by the amazing graffiti art all around the city. Berlin plays host to all kinds of creative minds who are constantly contributing to make it a more vibrant, fun place to be.
4) You can actually get a visa
Part of the reason for the artistic atmosphere is the availability of artist and freelance visas. Almost every other country in the European Union requires that an American, for example, only spend 90 out of every 180 days in the EU before having to leave. In Germany, however, it is possible to apply for a visa that allows one to stay for years as long as the applicant can prove he/she has ample income and cash reserves.
5) You can learn German cheaply
While you can survive without issue in Berlin speaking only English, if you plan to stay in Germany for a while, you should try to learn some German. Luckily, courses are offered cheaply, and you can even find language exchange partners.
In conclusion, Berlin is an excellent place, if you can deal with the long and cold winters, to make a life for yourself as an expat. Whether you’re seeking a place to live as a digital nomad, work abroad, teach, or study, Berlin should be on your list. The affordability and artistic atmosphere make it a truly exceptional city.