10 thoughts for 1 year in Berlin

So, I can tick the box entitled “one year ago I started a new chapter in Berlin”. Here are some thoughts and learnings acquired during the last year:

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Location: Berlin is the centre of the world. Oh well, Europe at least. Although the real airport might never be opened (?), it is relatively easy and cheap to fly anywhere in Europe, or connect with the transcontinental flights. I guess this year each month I did at least one weekend getaway abroad (little getaways to Poland and other German cities/sites included). I even went to one tip of the world: to Arctic, which was one of my dreams. It took me only 6 hours to get there though! But Berlin can be a little universe itself and it takes years to discover it fully.

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Events: Cutting-edge culture is here. Film festivals, concerts, music festivals and regular nights in some of the emblematic clubs. It’s also great for sports: cycling, surfing, climbing – even though sea and mountains are far away, all is accessible here. But it’s also the best place to be lazy and relax/unwind.

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Cultural life: Apart from clubs, Berlin offers great museums and has more classical offer, like going to a concert in Berliner Philharmoniker or numberless operas or theatres. I particularly enjoy the evenings out in the modern dance companies spaces, like Sophiensaale or Radialsystem V.

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Visitors: Friends still come and visit you, even if you don’t live at the beach (comparing to my previous life in Barcelona). It’s also pretty centric and easily connected, not to mention it takes me literally 2,5 hours to go to my home city in Poland.

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(Job) Opportunities: The start up scene scent is still there in your nostrils, and it is very common to support the local innitiatives and emerging products. Even though the job market is very dynamic, comparing to other German (European) cities, salaries are not amazing. For now the cheap life has been paying off enough, but seems that each year the frequency of using the G-word (‘gentrification’) in different contexts is rising.

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Language: German is not as vicious as they say it is. It took me one year to land somewhere near the B2 level, which means I can easily read the newspapers, understand most of the TV shows, sometimes even go to the cinema and most importantly have a conversation. I still don’t feel too comfortable talking to newly met people, especially if the music is loud, you know. In 2016 this should be OK-ish!

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Climate and nature: Winters are not as long as they say, and summers are amazing and hotter than anywhere else in the central Europe.

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Architecture: So once upon a time, it was all about the Post-War, post-industrial abandoned buildings both on the “East” and “West” side. Berlin is much more than that. There are few cities offering the rainbow on a block of flats’ facade, aren’t they?

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Cuisine: Monday – Vietnamese, Tuesday – Israeli, Wednesday – Spanish tapas, Thursday – Russian, Friday – Indian. Next week you can replace this selection with any other cuisine, and you will find the place to eat out within 1 km radius, I am pretty sure. Berlin is heaven for foodies, and it is still very cheap!

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Lifestyle – described as “whatever works”. Questioning the normality, creative mindset and open-mindedness is probably what I like most about living in Berlin. History of Berlin had it all: pain, tears and joy. When nothing is taken for granted, many things can happen… Like these urban gardens in the centre of the city, or the club opened on the commercial centre’s rooftop.

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Yes, Berlin is probably overrated, but it is still the best place in above-mentioned terms I’ve lived in so far (sorry, Barcelona, you are also awesome and I miss you badly!!!).

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Silicon Wadi vs. Silicon Allee

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Last week I returned from the conference Casual Connect which took place in the bustling city of Tel-Aviv. This is why I would like to share my impressions on its mobile start up scene and its day/night (or rather 24/7) lifestyle, which resonates so well with the Berlin state of mind.

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Tel-Aviv has no ancient history comparing to other places in Israel (except from the Old Town in Jaffa), and its architecture has been mostly inspired by modern creators, hence if you love Bauhaus – it is your dreamed destination.

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Tel-Aviv is weird and fascinating at the same time. It’s small enough to walk everywhere. Maybe that’s why the underground nor tram connection has not yet been built?

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It is indeed full of life, and full of one-of-its-kind districts: just like Berlin! (Or Barcelona. Or any emblematic city).

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I deliberately stayed in the left-wing, sort of dodgy area in between Florentine and Neve Tzedek (the oldest Jewish settlement in this area). While during the day I was hanging around the posh centre, where the conference took place.

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I met a lot of developers and designers who were very familiar with Berlin – and many of them expressed openly the will of relocating. Why would you do so if you live in the Mediterranean metropoly offering awesome quality of life, and most importantly: pleasant climate? Well, the answer is not that direct.

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Although Tel-Aviv has traditionally stayed untouched from the Middle East conflict, the tension has grown again during the past few weeks. Another reason is that for young talents it is not so easy to afford the living in Tel-Aviv. Prices are twice as higher as in, for instance, Berlin if you take rent, or eating out into account. The region offers though certain priviledges for the start up entrepreneurs, and recently set up its visa-waiver programme for acquiring foreign empoyees, especially in tech.

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As for the quality of life, and food especially, my life is no longer the same after visiting Israel. Fortunately, nearby my office in Berlin I can regularly eat out (cheaper!) traditional Israeli menu, but it is not the same under the grey, autumn skies. And me, having lived some 4 years in Barcelona, I’m a sucker for the sun!

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All in all, I was enchanted by the spontaneity of the night life and art scene. It felt like going around Potsdamer Platz in the times of first Tresor, which is a great metaphore for the hidden treasures.

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I am pretty sure it would require at least one more visit in Tel-Aviv to describe the whole picture and variety of it, this time I would only say that there is definitely one similarity among the start up hubs: the neverstopping buzz!

Home is where… ever!

Not easy to start all over again, but here I am: new job, new place, new friends, new city, new country and last, but not least: new language. Much as difficult the process of adjusting is, it is also extremely exciting. It’s been a month since I relocated, and I am happy to announce: I will be shortly moving in to a new flat! In Berlin, aka: Silicon Allee, the Silicon Valley of Europe.

My colleagues and local friends have been very supportive in the whole process of tedious searches, interviews and screenings (yes!) before getting myself to sign a tenancy agreement. Some of them – expats like myself, some of them – German but from another parts of the country went through exactly the same process a while ago. The Berliner community has been also helpful in terms of finding furniture for free or for bargain prices. So this piece of writing will probably start off for good as soon as I will unpack my last suitcase.

Berlin is not only about the history, culture and urban landscape. It is mostly about its people and their creativity/productivity even in a very casual, almost laidback context. Let me share its highlights as time moves along.