Sarah: Berlin For All The Family
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Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Berlin, etc.
I'm Sarah, a Brit who has been in Berlin since late 2007. I am mum to 2 boys and the creator of two Berlin-based blogs. I've been writing 'Working Berlin Mum' for over 3 years now and it has been really successful. I then thought it was time to use my experience of running a number of Berlin Expat-Family events and groups to create 'Berlin for all the Family', a useful resource for English speaking families in the city.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
Berlin for all the Family has been in my mind for over 4 years now. I had originally planned it as a major website but realized I just didn't have the time to build that up whilst running a business (I had my own jewelry business at the time) and raising a child. Over the years though people kept asking me to write down all the information I had collated in my head about having children in Berlin and so I finally went ahead and did it. It's received such an amazing response that I wish I did it years ago. Better late than never.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
The most popular entries on the site have been my translation of The Mutterpass (a medical record of pregnancy that every expectant mum in Berlin receives), my tips for indoor activities in Berlin for children and information on how to find a midwife in Berlin.
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?
When I first moved here I was part of the party crowd. I was in my mid-20's, single, had just moved from London to this fabulous, cheap city and I loved it. Over time I realized just how hard it was to get a job here and how hard it was to learn the language without taking a course. Whilst pregnant with my oldest son I learnt the language and that helped me integrate a little more. I love it here. A few months in to my new life in Berlin someone said something to me that still sticks to this day: ''in London you exist, in Berlin you live''.
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 wish I had saved a little bit more money before moving here. I had some promises of work that unfortunately didn't materialize and this left me in pretty hard times for a while. I would always emphasize to people considering moving here that whilst it is still a pretty cheap city to live in, there is a reason for that.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
Back in my second year of Berlin I remember being out at a bar with two American friends. They were both here on a pit-stop in their travels through Europe and so couldn't speak any German. I could hear two of the locals in the bar being rather nasty (in German) about us, obviously presuming that none of us could speak or understand what they were saying and so, after about an hour of listening to their remarks, I turned round to them and said that they should be a little less presumptuous that foreigners can't understand what they are saying. They were incredibly apologetic and we actually ended up drinking with them until the early hours of the morning. In English!
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Berlin?
- Be realistic about how much work it takes to learn German. A 2 hour evening course simply won't be enough. Be proactive and get yourself on to a intensive course and then keep speaking it. It is worth the effort.
- If you don't already have a job set up here or plan for work, make sure you have a good few months of money behind you before arriving just in case it is harder, then you think to find something.
- Move here in the spring and bring a warm jacket for the winter. Forget vanity, -20 leaves no time for it.
How is the expat community in Berlin? Did you have a hard time finding likeminded people or fellow expats?
The expat community here is thriving and I love it. I never thought I would be a major part of it, I thought I would just immerse myself into the German culture. Whilst I have German friends, my main friendship base is fellow expats. You spend time with those you most relate to and those people tend to be other expatriates facing similar issues and experiences.
How would you summarize your expat life in Berlin in a single, catchy sentence?
So much better than I could ever have imagined but oh so different too.