Farewell Blighty, hallo Berlin!

I've been meaning to write this post for about three months.

The thing is, every time I sit down to write about when and why I'm moving to Berlin, something urgent comes up, and this ends up on the back burner.

Which is stupid - one of the main reasons for getting this post online was to help me find work, establish a network before I arrived, and most importantly, find somewhere to more to live.

But now, three days after arriving in the Berlin, I'm finally getting it out the door, onto the interwebs.

Oh well, better late than never.

Why Berlin?

I was born in Australia, and came to London at 8 weeks old. I've lived in the capital pretty much my whole life, and it's been pretty good to me.

I've grown up in London, studied in London, and worked in London, and I've considered myself incredibly lucky to have done so.

I maintain that if Earth were to ever have a capital, it would be London.

That said, it would be nice to live in another large city, in another country for a decent chunk of time before I die, so I've been looking around at options over the last year or so.

So, I've been looking for a city that isn't London, that is:

  • Affordable, and ideally reachable without flying
  • Friendly to native English speakers, with limited experience in other languages
  • Home to a decent tech scene, for work and personal development
  • Home to enough history and culture to allow for a rich life outside of my little tech bubble

I considered Amsterdam, Paris, Barcelona (I even worked remotely from there for a couple of weeks while at AMEE in 2012), but Berlin was the city I kept coming back to.

Why? Well, lets see how it compares.

It's a £50 train ride away, and I can afford to live there

It's straightforward to travel from London to Berlin by train, and if you book early enough, it's pretty cheap too. You can travel from London to Berlin by train for about £50, leaving at 7am, and arriving at around 17:30 the same day - in fact this is how me and my girlfriend made it here.

Also compared to the eye-watering costs of living of London, Berlin feels almost comically cheap.

The same money I was spending to rent a 1-bed flat in Newington Green gets a comparatively palatial 3-4 bedroom apartment. I'm finding the price of food, and going out comparing favourably to my London life too.

You can get by while you learn the local language

This is a bit of a double edged sword, but after being Berlin a week in December, and being here a few days, I'm a) initially relieved at how little German I need to rely on to get by and b) worried if this means I'll ever attain any level of fluency.

That said, I am setting aside some time to learn German, which is turning out to be much more fun than I expected.

This largely down to Duolingo (see Shit Duolingo says to understand why) and the German For so far, and the highly amusing way German compound words can be formed, as outlined you can see in Rhabarberbarbara:


The tech scene is fantastic

In London, the tech scene is almost absurdly good - there's just so much happening, and so much of it is accessible.

In fact, this is largely how I found my feet in tech - through meeting people at hackdays, meetups, coworking spaces and suchlike, I found gainful employment in the city, in a way my 18-year-old self would have thought impossible.

In London, over the last few years, I was able to work on growing WP-London then Cleanweb London, into healthy communities in their own right.

Barely after being in Berlin for three days, it's been trivial to fill my calendar for the next month with similar events, and while working with a few volunteers to get Cleanweb Berlin off the ground, finding a venue has proved to be surprisingly straightforward.

Berlin is soaked in history

When I've been in Australia and America, the idea of ancient history being a mere two or three hundred years or so, has tickled me, after growing up in country where you can drink in pubs that have been serving beer longer than the United States has existed.

Berlin, by contrast, is almost overwhelmingly heavy with history. You can't walk streets without seeing constant reminders of the devastation of the World Wars, or the division of the city by the Berlin Wall, and there are myriad museums and galleries around the capital.

What now?

I had planned to find work freelancing with a few of the tech startups that I've been interested in while in London.

However, after letting clients and acquaintances know I'd be leaving in advance while back in the UK, I appear to be pretty much booked up for the forseeable future, so when I'm not working with London clients, from one of the many co-working spaces in town, I'll be concentrating my time in Berlin on growing the cleanweb community, and getting to know my new home town.

Wish me luck!

Me and my girlfriend both have friends in the city, and I'm currently staying in a room booked on Airbnb, for the rest of the month, while we find our feet. We're working our way through Jon Worth's guide for moving to Berlin as best as we can, now that we're already here.

If you know me and you live in Berlin, or you're coming to Berlin any time soon, let me know, the chances are it's been too long since I last saw you :)

Also, if you're feeling generous, I'd be very grateful if you can help me find somewhere to live.

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