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Life Abroad: Berlin

Berlin holds a well-deserved ranking as one of the world’s great cities. Berlin offers something for everyone, whether they are visiting or looking to migrate, including a rich history, a strong arts and culture scene, great nightlife, and incredibly varied restaurants.

Some Interesting Facts About Berlin

  • Berlin’s shopping street, Kurfürstendamm, is world famous. There are no houses numbered 1 through to 10 on the street.
  • The city has more bridges than Venice. There is also 180km of waterways which allow visitors to tour the city by kayak or on boat tours.
  • Berlin is 9 times larger than Paris.
  • There are 180 museums in Berlin. Five are located on an island.
  • Considering Berlin’s cultural heritage it is not surprising that Berlin is the only city in the world with three active opera houses.
  • The longest surviving section of the Berlin Wall has been turned into an open-air gallery. It is the largest in the world.
  • Almost 44% of Berlin is woods, rivers, recreational areas, and parks.
  • There is an abandoned amusement park that has become a bit of a tourist attraction. A Christmas market is held under the Ferris wheel every December, and tourists have posted more than 10,000 pictures from the park on Instagram.
  • Some of the trees in Tegel Forest are 900 years old.

Banking in Berlin

The banking sector in Germany has a very long history. Berenberg Bank has been owned by the same family since it was founded in 1590.   German banks have a reputation of offering a wide range of services and of being very efficient.

There are three types of banks in Germany:

  • Private banks
  • Cooperative Banks
  • Public Savings Banks

To the customer there is actually little difference between the different types of banks, so choosing a bank for your account can be based on the services needed and convenience.  Online only banks are also fairly popular in Germany.

Most banks have at least one representative available that speaks English.

Documentation

The documentation needed to open an account is fairly straightforward. You will need to provide:

  • Your passport
  • Your registration confirmation (which is obtained at the German Post)

Some banks will require that you provide an employer pay statement and your work permit. It is not unusual for some banks to ask you to provide your annual income. Some banks have strict income requirements to open an account.

To a degree Germany remains a cash-based economy. However bank debit cards, known as EC-Karte, is widely accepted and used. Almost all banks offer an EC-Karte, but it is important that you check before opening your account.

Banks in Berlin

  • Deutsche Bank
  • Postbank
  • Unicredit Bank AG
  • Commerzbank
  • Dresdner Bank
  • Volksbanken und Raiffeisenbanken
  • Sparda-Bank
  • Sparkasse
  • DKB – Deutsche Kredit Bank (online only)
  • Berliner Bank
  • Citibank

Restaurants

Like any world-class city Berlin has restaurants to suit any taste and budget.

  1. Regardless of your particular taste in food, it is considered mandatory that all visitors sample a Pfannkuchen, basically a jelly-filled donut. Pfannkuchen are called “Berliners” in the rest of Germany.
  2. You will also find Döner Kebab stands than in any city in the world. One popular rumour is that the Döner was actually first served in Berlin in the 1970s.
  3. If you want to try one of the top restaurants in Berlin, if not the world, make reservations at Les Solistes, the latest effort from Michelin starred chef Pierre Gagnaire.   The tasting menu for seven courses will cost you almost €200, but is well worth it.
  4. Max und Moritz is a great place to experience traditional Old World German cuisine, which they have been serving for over 100 years.
  5. For something over-the-top and one of the more interesting restaurants in Berlin try White Trash Fast Food, which is a restaurant, tattoo parlour, cinema, and music hall. The exterior is all Chinese, the food is not.  Instead you will find lots of incredible burgers, hearty soups, and sandwiches, most with decidedly non-PC names.

Of course Germany is famous for its beer and nightlife. You will find a wide choice of both with the added benefit of Berlin not having set closing times for bars or clubs.

Where to Stay

Where you choose to stay in Berlin depends on your particular interests and style.   Here are four of the most popular.

  1. Charlottenburg on the west side is seen as the “sophisticated” area with lots of museums, high-end shopping, theatres, and fine dining.
  2. Friedrichshain is uniquely Berlin. It is the home to hipsters and squatters, boisterous bars, boutiques, and chic cafes. Every structure basically serves as a canvas for the area’s artists.
  3. Kreuzberg has been the home of Berlin’s counter-culture for generations. You’ll find a large LGBTQ population, punks and bohemians. The cafes, shops, and clubs reflect the tastes and lifestyles of the area.
  4. Mitte is one of Berlin’s more famous neighbourhoods, and is home to the Brandenburg Gate and other heritage sites. The areas cafes, shops, and galleries are decidedly upscale and chic as are the apartments in the area.
2016-11-16

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