The pandemic has changed a lot of things in our life. I was lucky enough to not get affected physically during that time but it was not easy to stay strong mentally with all the news from your close circle and the whole world. Life seemed too short to try all the things you want to do and I quit my full-time job to focus on myself and my personal projects for a while.
It went pretty well with the whole 24 hours that you can spare for yourself but at one point it led to burnout too. I really did not want to look at my computer at all and I started to have severe stomach pains. I knew I needed something new to freshen my view on everything and I decided to give myself a chance for moving abroad which has been on my list to do at some point and it would also make other things going on in my life at the time a lot easier.
Moving abroad was something I tried a few years ago but it did not work at the time, now probably would have been a better time since I have enough seniority I felt. I filtered cities to Berlin and Amsterdam and got some offers in both eventually. I have been to both cities before and I have many friends in Amsterdam but for some reason, Berlin spoke to my soul more and I also liked my employer a lot. It is a digital health application for digestive issues, has lovely people, and is pretty flexible with remote working. The motives were already there for me after having painful times with my stomach and craving for flexibility since I feel more productive in that way. I also decided to keep the company I formed in Turkey on the side and I accepted their offer and started the relocation process.
These are the notes that I have taken along the way and they might be helpful for the ones who consider relocation to Germany/Berlin specifically.
Things to do before going to Berlin;
[✅] Find a job and get a signed contract.
I had an unlimited contract from my employer as a Senior Frontend Engineer.
For Blue Card eligibility, you should secure a salary of more than 56,400 euros/year gross if you are an engineer. (In 2022. This limit changes each year for different professions. You can check the latest amount from your local embassy.)
[✅] Apply for a national visa in the local embassy for Blue Card. It took around 10 days for me to receive the required visa which was valid for 6 months. It needs to be extended while arriving in Germany.
For Blue Card eligibility, you need to show a diploma that is seen as equivalent in Germany and proof of related professional experience if applicable. You can check your major and school eligibility from Anabin. For the school, you should see H+. For the major, you should see “entspricht” or “gleichwertig” which means equivalent.
[✅] (Optional) Decide on which neighborhood you want to live in.
In the beginning, you might not need to be that much picky since you will probably look for a short-term contract but still if you have a chance, why not look for a district that you likely love more? Go give this article a try about all you need to know about Berlin neighborhoods.
Cheaper/closer to the office alike options can also work as well. Who knows, maybe you will find it all in the first go. This step definitely helped me in finding the first apartment that I would likely enjoy while still not in Germany. I liked the neighborhood a lot after moving in/living for a while as well. I think it is really important to be able to have good first impressions of the city you will live in.
[✅] Apply for a rental apartment and get a signed contract. Confirm that you will get a Wohnungsgeberbestätigung**.
I was interested in furnished apartments. These services can be used;
*I found my apartment from crocodilian.de and finalized everything and got my contract in a few days. I have made my contract initially for 4 months with an option to extend for a year. Just to see if I want to settle in or switch to another apartment later. In the end, I really liked it when I arrived and used my option to extend my contract for a year.
It is not possible for me to extend my contract by more than one year since it is a short-term rental, still in touch with the landlord and maybe it would be possible somehow for some other months but I started to look for other options just to be on the safe side. Therefore I need to find a permanent apartment eventually and it is something quite challenging here looks like. Let’s see.
Rents in the listings from these services are often the warm rents which include additional costs such as electricity, heating, internet, etc. You can check listing details just to be sure about what is included and what is not. You can additionally confirm if the fee for radio/tv*** is included.
[✅] **Get Wohnungsgeberbestätigung (the document you will need to register in Berlin/Anmeldung) from the landlord. You will need it for the apartment registration appointment.
[✅] Get an appointment for Anmeldung (apartment registration). It is better to save a spot in advance since you are obliged to register your new address within 14 days of moving in. Sometimes it might be hard to find available spots for quite a long time. You can book an appointment online here.
[✅] (Optional) Have Haftpflichtversicherung (liability insurance). It is better to have this insurance, it is around 4 euros per month.
These services can be used;
I use Getsafe, it has a nice mobile app that I can be informed of immediately.
[✅] Gather some sweets and little presents for your co-workers from your home country 🍬
[✅] It is time to go! Have a safe journey ✈️
Things to do after arriving in Berlin;
Willkommen! Now you have arrived in your new land.
[✅] Get a cell phone sim card. These services can be used;
I chose a pre-paid card from Telekom and bought it from a shopping store called REWE, then activated it. Since I am using my phone mostly for internet purposes and spending my time at home while working, I did not need a contract but anything could be chosen for different needs.
[✅] Apply for a bank account.
I chose N26 since they have a really nice digital interface supporting English. I am using it for quite a while and it works pretty well.
There is something called Girocard in Germany and looks like some places only accept this card. It can be received from any national bank and requires a little bit more paperwork. You might also need to have this additionally at some point but it was not required for me so far. Be also prepared to have cash with you all the time since some places do not accept anything but cash which is pretty common.
[✅] ***Be aware of the fee for radio/tv (18,36 €/month — in 2022 — if you register in Berlin.) Sometimes it might already be included in the warm rent, in this case, there is nothing to do from your side, but if it is not included you mandatorily pay this fee -even if you do not use- your broadcasting TV.
There are two ways of paying this fee. By paying manually or giving them the authorization to receive this payment automatically from your account, called direct debit. First, you need to register your address -if it is not- through rundfunkbeitrag.de and get an id — Beitragsnummer, or they will find you anyway after official address registration and send a notice to your mailbox.
I chose the direct debit option since I did not want to handle it manually. If you choose this option you need to send a signed approval for automatic payment to their address. They send you the form and an empty envelope. You just need to send it signed back, and it is settled. The payment will be made automatically each month/3 months/year etc. depending on your choice.
[✅] Go to Anmeldung appointment.
I was a little bit nervous in this step thinking about if I would have a problem and could not communicate in English, but the lady there was so nice and helpful, had no problem with talking in English and the process took 10 minutes or so. Fingers crossed for a smooth process if you gather the all required documents.
You would also want to be already there at the time of your appointment. My appointment was at 12:37 and I just saw my number exactly at 12:37. The punctuality.
[✅] (Optional) Start to learn German! 🇩🇪 With the fact that it will help you have a smoother experience in general and all the cultural benefits, it is also beneficial if you are a holder of a Blue Card that you can apply for permanent residency;
- after 21 months if you can provide B1 level German
- after 33 months if you can provide A1 level German
I liked using Duolingo so far and also there is this channel Learn German on Youtube that I recommend A1 lessons for beginners as a good starting point. I am also considering registering for a language class during winter. Now I can ask where the salt is in supermarkets and the people there are so kind to understand.
[✅] Apply for extending your residency and get your residency card (Blue Card) when the expiration date of your visa approaches.
I started this process around April, after 3 months I started to work since I initially had a visa that covers me for 6 months. We did it a bit earlier while sending all documents via post because it was not possible to book an appointment online due to the high density of applications. It took me to get an appointment date until late July. Eventually, I ran out of my initial visa but I was informed that I was legally allowed to stay and continue with my residency in Germany until the appointment date is provided. The only caveat was that if I would have needed to leave the country during that time, I would have not been able to enter Germany back.
After having the appointment in the immigration office, they said it can take 4–6 weeks to receive the residency card and it exactly took 6 weeks for me. I’m not kidding. The due date was Sep 1st when I calculated after the appointment day, and they just delivered it to my mailbox on Sep 1st. The punctuality.
When you apply for Blue Card, its initial validation is likely for 4 years if you have an unlimited contract. I also got 4 years of validation but with only one drawback that I could not think of at all, the card itself is only valid until my passport’s validation date. That means instead of 2026, I got 2024, so I need to renew it in 2 years. I think it is not a big deal since I also consider applying for permanent residency after some months but still if I would have known it, I would have probably renewed my passport already before coming here. Just a friendly reminder.
And that’s it! After having my residency card, all initial processes are completed for my relocation to Germany. It has been 8 months and I really like it here so much already and I could not be happier with my choice of Berlin. Maybe I can talk about this experience in another post. Until that time if you think of moving somewhere new, I will not say it will be easy or not overwhelm you some time to time while trying to adapt to everything, but this is a hell of an experience and you can enjoy each bit of it after settling in once.
As always, just enjoy the ride.