An expat in Berlin – my story

Who am I?

Hi! My name is Rianne, a Dutchie who lived in Berlin from 2012-2014, I moved there to work for Zalando (E-commerce company) with my (at that time) boyfriend. I moved there with next to no network, I knew just one girl, barely, who also worked for Zalando. I didn’t really speak German, perhaps knew a few basics, but I could get around since Dutch is pretty close.

Expat in Berlin

Why did I move?

Honestly? Just the adventure.. I wasn’t really ‘in love’ with Berlin before I moved there. (In fact, I hadn’t been there before my interview)I didn’t like the German language or culture. However that has really turned around. I am totally ‘in love’ with Berlin now and I go back every year at least once.

Job, Housing, and things you have to take care off?


How I get the job at Zalando was pretty ‘standard’, maybe also since the company wasn’t that popular/well known when I joined. I applied online, got invited for a phone interview, reached out to the girl who was working at Zalando to get some additional insights. Had the phone interview, got on a plane to Berlin, had a face2face interview, contract negotiations, got the job.

Pretty standard, although, flying to Berlin for the interview was a really big thing. I was super nervous and didn’t know my way around the city. I calmed myself down by telling myself that this was just an adventure and maybe the start of a big adventure. If I didn’t get the job, at least I had been to Berlin for an interview.


Finding a house was definitely a challenge, I didn’t know the city and I didn’t have any real friends there. My action plan at the time :

1) Find out which housing websites there are in Germany/Berlin this is:

  1. https://www.wg-gesucht.de/ ( I would say this is the best website)
  2. https://www.studenten-wg.de/ (for students)
  3. https://www.immowelt.de/

A WG is a Wohngemeinschaft, which is actually just shared living (living with housemates).

  1. Facebook pages: ‘Berlin Housing’ , Short-term accommodation Berlin: WG, Zwischenmiete, flat-share, Zimmerbörse’ & 'Berlin Apartments - Rent - Share & Sell flats & apartments in Berlin!' And 'Flats in Berlin ONLY LONG TERM' just search on Facebook for ‘Berlin housing’ and many pages pop-up.

2)Check out in which neighbourhood you want to live (eg. close to work, affordable area etc)

3) Go to Berlin and check out some apartments. For me this was easy, I went for a long weekend to Berlin and visited the different neighbourhoods, I had planned the visits in advance.

I think I was lucky, because after this weekend I found one apartment which suited (right price, close to work, big enough for two. If this wouldn’t have worked I would have sublet a room (alone) until I found another house and then my (back then) boyfriend would have come over).

Things you should know/watch out for:

  • Don’t download movies! Maybe not so relevant anymore with companies like Netflix. In Germany, authorities place a pixel on movies when you download them. They track you down via your internet provider and you have to pay a huge fine (mine was over €1500)
  • Sicknote after 3 days. When you are sick you have to go to the doctor to get a sick note. You kind of have to prove to your employer that you are really sick.
  • Bürgeramt (governments or municipal offices). You go here for your registration. If you don’t speak any German at all, take someone with you who does.

What about the Germans?

Since I am Dutch, this is also where I am referencing from. Of course, this is way different for someone from Asia for instance.

  • Germans are what they call ‘Punktlich’(punctual), meaning that they are very efficient always on time and are very dependable.
  • The Germans are definitely not as direct as the Dutch.
  • The Germans quite like hierarchy, workplaces are often a bit more formal than in The Netherlands.
  • They don’t really make jokes about sex (definitely not at work)
  • Brad Pitt is fluent in German 😉 The Germans 'dub' movies.
  • Some of the words they have are absolutely impressing… because they are so damn long!
  • There is pfand (deposit) on everything from plastic bottles to your cup in a club.
  • Don’t put beer bottles in the bin (leave them on top) for the homeless (to get the pfand)
  • The police is not so jokey as in the Netherlands. Want proof? Go to Kreuzberg on the 1st of May.
  • Germans love their ice-cream, even on Christmas-markets they have ice-cream. It is also fairly normal to go on a ice-cream date (as an adult)
  • Späti is the bomb! It is like a super small super market, sometimes you can just sit outside in front of it. Get a beer in the Späti and drink it outside, it can really be lots of fun!

What are the 5 best things about living in Berlin:


Clubbing in Berlin is just awesome, especially if you are into Techno. Believe me, if you are not yet a Techno fan. You will be after living in Berlin; I can give you a shortlist of the places I love to go ‘Sisyphos’, ‘Wilde Renate’, ‘Berghain’, ‘Kater Blau’ if you want to have a less crazy night ‘süß war gestern’. But new clubs are opening every month. The question I always get : “how do you get into Berghain?’. You often have to queue for hours and even then you still have the chance you get bounced. Here some advice:

  1. Dress simple (no heels, no big earrings, they want to let people in who are there to party, not to have a fashion show) - in general sneakers/boots, jeans and a t-shirt will do.
  2. Go in small groups, I would say a max of 3 and make sure it is never all guys. Are you with more than three? Split up and hope you all get in.
  3. Know who is playing/the name of the DJ.
  4. Speak in German in the queue, or don’t speak too much, don’t attract too much attention (eg. by loud behaviour). In general, they don’t like it if there are too many tourists.
  5. Since the queue is long, get a drink before so that you have a drink in the queue. Just make sure that you are not too drunk when you are facing the bouncer, they often check your eye’s.
  6. Try to go at random hours, I sometimes even went at 6 am and partied all day Sunday (you feel better the next day as well 😉


Well, I don’t think I have to tell you about the history of Germany/Berlin, my favourite tour is at the Berliner Unterwelten great tours underground (as the name suggests), really impressing! Also, the Stasi Prison, if you understand German. Take the tour in German, sometimes your tour guide is an ex-prisoner. The memorial at the Bernauer Strasse is also very impressive (and free). Impressive and depressive is the concentration camp of Sachsenhausen (outside Berlin), interesting to see and learn about the history… but believe me, after that you are really depressed and sad about what people can do to each other.

Sunday Brunch

Just the best! Unlimited food at the Sunday Brunches! Especially after a night clubbing eating as much (good!) food as you can! In general, you can do it all over Berlin, around the Simon-Dach-Strasse (Friedrichshain) you really have a lot of opportunities.


I love the Mauerpark (on Sundays), is a big flea market but in summer there is also the bearpit karaoke (starting around 3 pm)! You can buy great food/snacks at the Mauerpark and of course look for second-hand things like clothes and furniture and there is also a lot of handmade things you can buy like art. In the afternoon when the bearpit karaoke starts (and often there are other bands/performances further up in the park) it feels like a mini-festival <3!

Video: 'Crazies in Berlin'

Video: 'Bearpit Karaoke'

Haubentaucher & Badeschiff

I know I said 5, consider this a free-be,  Haubentaucher & Badeschiff are really a must go to in summer! It is like a big pool, Badeschiff is in the Spree and Haubentaucher and the RAW area! Nice, cool, relaxing and fun! Do I have to say more?

Video: Haubentaucher

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