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Joseph: The Needle

In our InterNations Recommended Blog section we let you take the spotlight! Expat life in general is, of course, a perfect breeding ground for great, user-generated reads, and life in Berlin makes no exception. Take your time and browse the great blogs showcased in this article!

Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Berlin, etc.

I am a Canadian historian and writer who came to Berlin first during the summers from the 90s then moved here full time in 2008. 

When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?

As a historian, every time I walked down the street, the history of the city jumped out at me. I wanted to create a platform for documenting the city's places and stories. This soon turned, quite to my surprise, into a very popular blog examining many aspects of Berlin life. 

Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?

My blog post comparing Berlin to Paris was very popular with readers, and my moving to Berlin page is perhaps the most popular on the web.

Tell us about the ways your new life in Berlin differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?

Berlin is more exciting, dynamic and creative than my experiences of Canadian cities. I didn't have trouble getting used to this: I jumped right in! But I'm still trying to catch up on sleep. 

Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Berlin? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?

I would have come with more realistic expectations about how difficult it is to enter the rental market here. Berlin is touted as the land of cheap and easy rents: that's no longer true. 

Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us? 

There are certain things I cannot get used to in Germany: I continue to jaywalk, to stand too close to people, to gesticulate, to be extroverted and sometimes a little unruly. But what I love about Berlin is that the city is full of Germans who feel exactly the same way, and that's why they've left Frankfurt or a small town in the East to be among the other rule-breakers. They've joined plenty of expats in a wonderful international mix in neighbourhoods like Kreuzberg and Neukölln. 

Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Berlin? 

  • I wouldn't come here without a job offer, or already being gainfully self-employed;
  • I would do tons of research on finding a good rental apartment, and plan on subletting for many months in advance before finding it;
  • And finally, I would make sure that apartment is in a 'kiez', or a hub of activity, in the city. Like London, Berlin is a city of neighbourhoods, and you want to be in one you like. 

How is the expat community in Berlin? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?

Berlin has an exciting and friendly expat community, and I didn't find it at all difficult to meet people. A couple tips though: you generally meet friends through other friends here, and it's easier in some neighbourhoods compared to others. Younger and not-quite-so-young-anymore expats (broadly speaking, under 50) tend to live in Kreuzberg, Mitte, Prenzlauer Berg, East Schoeneberg, with even younger expats in places like Neukölln and Friedrichshain. Neighbourhoods farther West (Charlottenburg, for example) are older and not as friendly. 

How would you summarize your expat life in Berlin in a single, catchy sentence?

Berlin is definitely Europe's most exciting capital---the trick is getting your work done in a place that keeps you so distracted.

Sean Henderson

"The good thing about InterNations is that I got to know the expat community in Berlin as well as internationally minded locals."

Anna Maria Osario

"Through InterNations I met so many other Argentinean expats in Berlin, which made the transition period really easy for me."

Global Expat Guide