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33 Pros and Cons of Living in Berlin as an Expat

If you’re looking to live in Germany, you’re probably considering living in Berlin – the capital city.

Berlin is a fun city, but it has its drawbacks. Some of them are obvious and some you might not expect.

After living in Berlin in 2017, I’ve experienced the pros and cons of the city, especially as someone who doesn’t speak any German.

If you’re wondering if Berlin is right for you, here are 33 pros and cons of living in Berlin to help you make your decision.

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Nina living in Berlin at a Christmas market smiling in front of a lit up Christmas tree

My Experience Living in Berlin as an English Speaking Expat

During my gap year post-undergrad and pre-law school (which, if you follow me, you know never happened because New Zealand called my name), I paused in Germany.

I hadn’t intended to, but a Workaway went awry and I needed somewhere to stay for a few months before I took off for warmer adventures in Spain and Morocco.

That’s how I accidentally ended up living in Berlin as an expat – knowing 0 German.

I got an apartment in Wedding about a month before Christmas – the first one that I would ever spend alone.

It was exciting half the time, and lonely the other half. While I loved visiting the Christmas markets, I then returned home to a quiet studio apartment where I had to force myself to get work done for my freelance clients.

I will say the loneliness worked in my favour and got me out there to explore the city and its surroundings.

I rarely spent more than a few hours in my apartment if I could avoid it. When I did, the loneliness would sink in and I’d get frustrated.

While I loved living in Berlin, I hadn’t expected it so I wasn’t prepared for the pause in my travels.

I definitely took that out on the city which offered me a warm and safe place to rest between adventures.

I’d definitely give it another chance with some actual planning to be stationary.

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Brandenburg gate in Berlin

33 Pros and Cons of Living in Berlin

Pro: Great Quality of Life

No matter what your priorities are, it’s tough to argue with the quality of life enjoyed by residents of Berlin.

The city offers an excellent healthcare system, a low crime rate, efficient public transportation, and a variety of cultural and recreational activities.

You’ll thrive in Berlin if you’re looking for an enjoyable lifestyle.

Although Germans are known for punctuality and being no-nonsense, don’t expect to be bored or working 24/7 while living in Berlin.

Con: High Taxes

If you thought the taxes in your home country were high, prepare to be surprised when you move to Germany.

The income tax rate in Berlin is 14.6%, and the sales tax (VAT) is 19%.

If you earn over 60,000 euros per year, your income tax rate will rise to over 40%!

There are also a number of other taxes that residents must pay, including a property tax, a capital gains tax, and a wealth tax.

All of these taxes can take a significant bite out of your budget, so be prepared for some sticker shock when you first arrive.

Berlin wall image of two men kissing

Pro: Diverse Society

Berlin is a cosmopolitan city with a diverse population.

Over 30% of residents are foreign-born, and there are over 180 different nationalities represented in the city.

You’ll find a wide variety of cultures, religions, and lifestyles in Berlin, which makes it an exciting place to live.

There is also a large LGBT+ community in Berlin, and the city has been at the forefront of the fight for LGBT+ rights.

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Con: High Unemployment

Berlin has a high unemployment rate, which can be tough to deal with if you’re looking for work.

The unemployment rate in Berlin is currently at 9.1%, which is much higher than the national average of 5.2%.

This can make it difficult to find a job in Berlin, especially if you don’t have the right skills or connections.

I recommend this platform to find jobs as a foreigner.

Yellow bahn train in Berlin

Pro: Efficient and Easy to Use Public Transport

Berlin’s public transportation system is one of the best in the world.

The city has an extensive network of buses, trains, and trams that make it easy to get around.

The transit system is also very efficient, which makes it a great option for getting around the city.

It’s genuinely the best public transport I’ve ever experienced around the world.

It’s clean, efficient, and so easy to use.

Con: Crowded City

Berlin is an incredibly crowded city.

As the capital city of Germany, Berlin is home to over 3.6 million people.

This makes the city feel crowded and congested, especially during rush hour.

If you’re not used to living in a big city, Berlin may be a bit too much for you.

Pro: Cheaper Cost of Living than Most Major European Cities

Berlin is a relatively affordable city to live in.

The cost of living in Berlin is about 20% lower than the cost of living in Paris, London, or Amsterdam.

This can be a great advantage for those looking to save money while living in Europe.

Con: Compulsory Health Insurance

All residents of Germany are required to have health insurance.

This means that you’ll need to purchase a health insurance policy, even if you already have coverage in your home country.

The cost of health insurance can be expensive, so be prepared to pay a significant amount each month for coverage.

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Pro: Free University Education

Berlin is home to a number of world-renowned universities, and many of them offer free tuition.

This is a great benefit for students looking to pursue their studies in Berlin.

Con: If you Speak German

However, it should be noted that most courses are taught in German, so you’ll need to be proficient in the language to take advantage of the free education.

There are cheap options for English universities so there are options even if you aren’t German-speaking.

You’ll want to pick up on some German while you’re there anyway.

Need help learning a new language? I recommend iTalki! I’ve tried ALL the apps, but iTalki is the only way I’ve managed to learn as much as living in the local country.

Nina smiling in front of the parliament building in Berlin while living there

Pro: Full of Expats

If you’re looking for a city that is full of expats, Berlin is the place for you.

Berlin is home to one of the largest expat populations in the world.

This makes it easy to find people who share your language and culture, and it can be a great way to make friends from all over the world.

👉 Want to make friends around the world? Join Meetups today for free!

Con: Hard to Make German Friends

On the other hand, if you’re looking to make German friends, Berlin can be a bit challenging.

The city is home to a large number of expats, and most Germans are not as interested in making friends with foreigners.

This can make it difficult to form lasting relationships with locals.

They’re known for sticking their nose up at expats and being very reserved.

You can definitely make friends eventually, but it will take many months to break through their defenses.

I managed to make friends by using Meetup groups.

Brown German bread cut into a giant quarter slice on brown paper

Pro: Delicious German (and International) Food

Berlin is home to some of the best food in the world.

The city has a vast array of restaurants serving up delicious German and international cuisine.

No matter what you’re in the mood for, you can find something to satisfy your appetite in Berlin.

Don’t forget to try the amazing German bread that you can get at any market across the country!

Con: Fewer Vegetarian Options

If you’re a vegetarian, Berlin can be a bit of a challenge.

The city is known for its delicious sausage and pork dishes, and many restaurants do not have many vegetarian options.

However, there are a few vegetarian-friendly restaurants in the city, so you should be able to find something to eat if you do your research.

Pro: Very Safe City

Berlin is a very safe city.

The crime rate in Berlin is much lower than the crime rate in other European cities, such as London or Paris.

This makes it a great place to live if you’re looking for peace of mind.

I felt very safe exploring Berlin as a single female.

I walked alone at night (because it was winter so “night” was VERY early in the afternoon) without any issues. I ate out alone and took public transportation without ever feeling worried for my safety.

Con: But Pickpockets

Like all major cities, there is petty crime.

The two biggest forms of crime are petty crime and bicycle theft.

Pickpockets are known to operate in busy areas, such as train stations and tourist attractions.

So, be aware of your surroundings and make sure to keep your belongings close to you.

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Pro: Filled with Creative Spirit

Berlin is a very creative city.

There are street art murals everywhere you look, and the city is home to a large number of artists, musicians, and other creatives.

This creative spirit makes Berlin a fun and exciting place to live.

As a writer, I loved the feeling of cafes where everyone was writing and crafting individually amongst the other artists.

Con: IT is the Biggest Industry

However, it should be noted that the biggest industry in Berlin is IT.

So, if you’re not interested in working in the tech industry, you may find it difficult to find a job in the city.

This is amazing for programmers, but for creatives and marketers like me, it can be harder to find a job this way.

I recommend this platform to find jobs as a foreigner.

Giant lit up Berlin sign on the highway at night

Pro: Fun Nightlife Scene

There are a large number of bars, clubs, and restaurants that are open late into the night.

This makes Berlin a great place to go out and have fun.

Even if you don’t drink alcohol, there are plenty of non-alcoholic options available, such as cafes and restaurants.

I still drank when I lived in Berlin and loved getting to go out and loved the parties.

The eclectic bars and pub crawls create so many options to make new friends abroad.

Con: Full of Tourists

Berlin is a very popular tourist destination, which can be both good and bad.

The city is full of historical landmarks and museums, so there is always something to do.

However, this also means that the city is often crowded with tourists.

If you’re looking for a quiet place to live, Berlin may not be the right place for you.

I struggle with tourists and big tour groups after my first couple months living in a country.

I find them disruptive and it often takes away from the locals being able to go about their day.

I’m not a huge fan of living in a place that is constantly overrun by tourists, but I know some people love it!

Greenery of a park surrounding Mitte Berlin and the Berlin tower in the distance

Pro: Very Green City

Berlin is a very green city.

The city has a large number of parks and gardens, and many residents use public transportation or bicycles to get around.

This makes Berlin a great place to live if you’re environmentally conscious.

I loved how much greenery there was in the city and how easy it was to bike everywhere.

Even in winter (before the snow arrived), the parks were stunningly green and amazing to explore.

Con: Not Ideal Weather

The weather in Berlin is not ideal.

The city experiences a lot of rainfall and the winters are very cold.

So, if you’re looking for a place with sunny skies and warm temperatures, Berlin is probably not the right place for you.

I don’t mind rain and I actually love cold weather, so the weather didn’t bother me.

But I know some people who don’t like the weather in Berlin.

It’s definitely not the sunny Mediterranean climate of Italy. But it’s also not the freezing cold of Canadian winters.

Pro: Well-Built Buildings

Apartments and houses are often well-built in Berlin.

This is because the city experienced a lot of destruction during World War II, and the residents have since made an effort to rebuild the city in a way that is sustainable.

I loved living in an old building with high ceilings and big windows.

Many buildings are also newly built and offer modern amenities.

Con: Hard to Find Accommodations

It can be hard to find accommodations in Berlin.

This is because the city is popular and there is a high demand for housing.

If you’re looking for an apartment or house to rent, you’ll likely need to start your search early.

I had trouble finding a place to live in Berlin and I know many other people who did as well.

It’s definitely not impossible to find a place, but it can be difficult.

I found my apartment on Airbnb, but had to pay a premium for finding it furnished and last minute.

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Pro: Easy to Travel in Europe

Berlin is a great location for traveling in Europe.

The city has an international airport, and it’s easy to take a train or bus to other countries.

I loved being able to travel so easily from Berlin.

You are also on a great high-speed rail line that makes it so easy to go across Europe.

When you’re ready to move abroad, find the cheapest flights with this tool.

Con: Lower Wages than the US

The wages in Berlin are lower than the wages in the US.

This is because the cost of living is lower in Germany, and the minimum wage is also lower.

I worked freelance for US and Canadian companies when I lived in Berlin, so I never had to worry about the lower wages.

But it’s a common complaint of people living in this big city working comparable jobs for less pay than in the US or even the UK.

Museum Island architecture with a horse statue in front and the Berlin tower in the background

Pro: Historic City Full of Things to Do

As someone who loves historical landmarks and museums, I think Berlin is a great place to live. There is always something to do in the city.

Museum Island is one of the best spots to spend a weekend in Berlin. You could spend an entire day exploring all of the museums on the island and then walk around the city to see more of the historical landmarks.

Take this amazing tour to see more of what Berlin has to offer!

Con: You’ll Need to Learn German

If you want to get the most out of living in Berlin, you’ll need to learn German.

The city is full of German-speaking residents and not many people know English.

I started learning German when I moved to Berlin and I was very happy that I did.

It made it a lot easier to get around the city and to communicate with people.

Learning German can be difficult, but it’s definitely worth it if you want to live in Berlin.

Start slow. Learn how to say hello, thank you, cheers, goodbye. Then try to do your grocery shopping in German, or order your coffee.

Germans are very willing to help you learn if you stumble.

Need help learning a new language? I recommend iTalki! I’ve tried ALL the apps, but iTalki is the only way I’ve managed to learn as much as living in the local country.

Pro: Shops are Open Every Day for Long Hours

Unlike in small towns or other European countries, where shops close early on Sundays and sometimes even on Saturdays, the shops in Berlin are open every day for long hours.

This was one of my favorite things about living in Berlin. I could go to the grocery store or the pharmacy any time I needed to.

Con: Lots of Rules and Regulations

Compared to other cities in Europe, Berlin has a lot of rules and regulations.

This can be frustrating for people who are used to more lax European cities.

But it’s also one of the things that makes Berlin a great city to live in.

The rules ensure that everyone is following the same guidelines and that the city runs smoothly.

Pro: Christmas Markets

One of my favorite things about living in Berlin during the holiday season was the Christmas markets.

There are Christmas markets all over the city and they are a lot of fun to visit.

You can buy hand-made Christmas decorations, eat delicious food, and drink warm glühwein.

I love this Christmas market tour!

Berliner man on the Berlin crosswalk. A man in profile with a fedora on.

Pro: The Berliner Man

This is a very small pro, but I loved it.

On the street signs in Old Berlin, the crosswalk symbol is different. It’s the Berliner Man, a caricature of a man walking in profile.

I thought it was fun to see the street signs around the city and it always made me feel like I was home.

Pro: Best Beer in Europe

I love beer.

It’s one of the things I miss most since stopping drinking and being diagnosed as celiac.

Berlin is the mecca of beer.

You can easily spend every night enjoying a beer at a beer hall across the city.

The beer is always fresh, the atmosphere is fun, and the people are friendly.

Check out this guided pub crawl!

Average Cost of Living in Berlin for an Expat

Rent: €800-1050

Utilities: €150-200

Food: €150-300

Transportation: €40-80

Entertainment: €100-200

The cost of living in Berlin is very affordable for expats.

Berlin tower above the busy downtown core of Mitte.

Best Neighbourhoods to Live in Berlin

Mitte: Mitte is the heart of Berlin. It’s where you’ll find all of the tourist attractions, as well as a lot of restaurants, bars, and cafes.

Friedrichshain: Friedrichshain is a fun neighbourhood to live in. It’s full of young people and there are always things to do.

Prenzlauer Berg: Prenzlauer Berg is a trendy neighbourhood with a lot of young families. It’s a great neighbourhood to live in if you want to be close to all the action.

Kreuzberg: Kreuzberg is an up-and-coming neighbourhood that is quickly becoming one of the most popular neighbourhoods in Berlin.

Wedding: Wedding is a great neighbourhood for families. It’s a bit more residential than some of the other neighbourhoods, but it’s still close to all the action.

Potsdam: Potsdam is a beautiful city that is just a short train ride away from Berlin. It’s the perfect place to live if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.

Wrap Up: Is Berlin a good place to live?

I loved living in Berlin as an expat. It’s a lovely place to live. The people are friendly, the city is beautiful, and there’s always something to do.

The cost of living is very affordable, and there are a lot of fun neighbourhoods to live in.

I would definitely recommend it as a great place to live for expats.

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FAQs Living in Berlin

Is Berlin safe to live in?

Berlin is a very safe city to live in. There is a low crime rate and the people are friendly.
I always felt safe going out as a solo female.

Is it expensive to live in Berlin?

The cost of living in Berlin is very affordable for expats. You can easily live on a budget of €1000-2000 per month.
It’s not hugely expensive, but the salaries are lower here.

What is it like to live in Berlin?

Living in Berlin is a lot of fun. There are always things to do and the people are friendly.
The cost of living is affordable, and there are a lot of great neighbourhoods to live in.
I would definitely recommend it as a great place to live for expats.

Average Rent in Berlin

The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Berlin is €800-1050 per month.
This varies depending on the neighbourhood you live in.
My rent in Wedding was closer to €1,500 because it was a furnished Airbnb with my utilities included.

Is Berlin a stressful city?

No, Berlin is not a stressful city. The people are friendly and there is always something to do.
The cost of living is affordable, which makes it a great place to live for expats.

Is Berlin a good place for foreigners?

Yes, Berlin is a great city for foreigners. The cost of living is affordable and there are a lot of fun neighbourhoods to live in.
The people are friendly and there is always something to do.

Is Berlin depressing?

No, I never found Berlin to be depressing. I was a little bit lonely being there at Christmas by myself, but I never felt depressed.

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