Ambulance in Berlin (file). Photo: Till Krech/flickr

How to: Find a Doctor Who Speaks English

#berliner

Classroom (file). Photo: Tulane Public Relations/flickr[source]CC BY 2.0

You might think that English is the official language of Germany as long as you only hang out around Rosenthaler Platz in Mitte. But just go slightly north, to Pankow, or a few miles south, to Neukölln, and you’ll find yourself in acute need of some basic German vocabulary.

How should you go about this predicament then? Well, there are a couple of ways, and all of them aren’t that unpleasant.

The fun way

Like all of your expat peers in Berlin, you’ll need to know at least what Wurst and Bier means. And there are some German lads out there that are keen to get some English going for themselves. Why not join forces and head to a Language Exchange? There are several weekly meetups in Berlin where you can practice German in a very informal way. You can find them on Meetup.com, Facebook Groups and other community sites, such as Toytown Germany. Usually these meetups are completely free, but the organizer might appreciate a donation of one or two euros.

The free way

If your schedule doesn’t allow excursions to a language meetup, then apps are your friend. Duolingo offers courses in German for English, Turkish, Spanish, French, Arabic, Russian, and Portuguese speakers. Competitor Memrise also has several German language courses. Deutsche Welle holds an interactive German course for English and Russian natives.
These courses should at least give you a quick start and prepare you for some common situations, and it won’t cost you a dime.

The hard way

If you’re up for it, and don’t mind paying a few hundred euros, there are several language schools that are happy to teach you German. Some of the more popular schools are VHS Mitte, BSI Berlin, GLS Berlin, Goethe Institut, Hartnackschule, Die Neue Schule, Sprachenatelier, Die Deutschule, and Friedländer-Schule.

This post has also been published with permission on Deutsch.nu.


The original version of this article was first published on 2012-02-12.

 
Berliner Bank (file). Photo: Thomas Quine/flickr[source]CC BY 2.0

If you’re going to live in Berlin, one of the first things you’ll need is a German bank account. We’ll explain how you get it.

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After a few days in Germany you realize that quite a few shops refuses to accept your Visa or American Express card. Sure, you can carry around a big pile of cash, but there is an alternative. As soon as you open a German bank account you’ll get a Girocard. This is the card that German shops like.

You’ll also need a German bank account to receive salary, and to pay your bills. A common practice in Germany is Lastschriftzahlung. This means, for example, that your phone company withdraws money for your monthly bill directly from your bank account.

Online banks

Which bank you should choose is up to you. Some of them charges a monthly fee to hold your account while others offers their services for free. Most of the online banks have free accounts. Comdirect is a popular bank where you’ll get both a Girocard and a Visa card for free. They also have an iPhone app where you can check your balance and transfer money. A newcomer is Number26, a completely mobile and digital bank.

Most banks require that you have registered with the authorities before you can open an account with them, but there are exceptions. One of them is DKB, Deutsche Kreditbank. They offer a service similar to Comdirect, with the important difference that you can sign up without a permanent address in Germany, you just use your address in your home country. You can even sign up prior to moving to Berlin, and have your cards and passwords sent to you by mail.

Traditional banks

If walking in to a bank in person is your thing, then you’ll have to choose a traditional bank. You will of course get an online bank as well … and you probably have to pay fee every month. There are a lot of banks to pick from, and some of the more popular include Berliner Sparkasse, Postbank, and Berliner Volksbank. When you choose it’s important to check that there is an office close to where you live or work, and where you can withdraw cash from ATMs (read more below).

Don’t forget…

When you’ve got your account and girocard you might think you’re good to go. But think twice before you withdraw money from an ATM. If the particular ATM is not affiliated with your bank, you might get charged a fee of up to 8 euros for a single withdrawal. That can be some expensive 20 euros… Check with your bank where you can get your cash safely.

A few German banks have their own iPhone apps, but if your bank’s not among them you can probably use the free app OutBank. There is a lite and a pro version, but if you just have one or two accounts you’re fine with the lite version.

This post has also been published with permission on Finanz.nu.


The original version of this article was first published on 2012-02-16.

 
Apartment building in Kreuzberg, Berlin. Photo: Berlinow

So, you’ve finally decided to stay in Berlin. Even though it might not be for good, you’re considering a more permanent living situation.

Rental apartments are the norm in Berlin. While some expats buy their apartments most of them, as the Germans, rent. Some even buy an apartment merely as an investment and then let it to someone else, whilst themselves renting another apartment to live in.

If you’re in Berlin all alone you might consider finding a WG (Wohnungsgemeinschaft), a collective of two or more people sharing an apartment. You might make new friends, or worse, enemies… It’s always easier to live with likeminded people. Shop around on the marketplace WG Gesucht, and while having a look at the vacant room, try to meet all of your flatmates to-be before signing a contract. Although most WGs work out very well, we’ve heard some horror stories.

Your own place

Have we scared you into getting your very own apartment? Well, even though Berlin has quite a few empty apartments and relatively low rents, it’s not always that painless to get that desired lease. As an expat, you’re often seen as a less reliable tenant than a German fellow. Therefore you should be very well prepared before arranging a Besichtigungstermin with a broker or landlord. Dressing up in a business suit, or at least some clean clothes, and having your papers in order might increase your chances in getting that crib considerably.

Getting it right

What documents to bring you might ask. The most important is a copy of your passport and, if you’re already registered with the authorities, your Meldebescheinigung. If you’re employed in Berlin you should bring copies of your last three salary slips (Gehaltsnachweis). If you’re currently not working or are self employed a recent bank statement showing some financial stability could do as well. You should also order a Schufa-Auskunft, a German credit report showing that you’re not having unpaid debts. Last but not least, most landlords want something with a very long name – Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung. This a document where your last landlord grant that you don’t have any outstanding rent debts. You can get this from your landlord, even if you’re currently subletting. If your last apartment was abroad you should have a corresponding document translated to German (some landlords will accept an English version).

Where should you look for that apartment then? The answer is almost always Immobilienscout24, this is the largest marketplace for renting or buying an apartment, house, office etcetera. Other websites are Immoworld, WG Gesucht, and Immowelt. Checking Facebook, the message board at the supermarket, and asking friends are of course also alternatives.

Caveats

There are some things you should be aware of when looking for an apartment. Taking over a lease from another tenant (becoming a so called Nachmieter) can be a good way to get that coveted apartment. The tenant might ask for an Abstand. This means you have to buy their newly installed kitchen, washing machine, or just a piece of furniture they like to leave behind. If you don’t wanna pay, they will of course choose another Nachmieter. Sometimes you get a really good deal on their washing machine, but you might also end up paying 500 euros for an old sofa you just wanna throw out.

There are scammers lurking around on Immobilienscout and other websites. You often spot them by a too good to be true offer. If you contact them, they will tell you that they are currently abroad and can send you the key to their apartment, so you can have a look yourself. Of course, they want you to transfer a key deposit via Paypal or Western Union… The key? It’ll never show up.

This post has also been published with permission on Wohnung.nu.


The original version of this article was first published on 2012-03-07.

 

How to: Find Great Coffee

 

Top 10 Coffee Bars in Berlin

The Best Coffee in Town

Our criteria for this list are as follows: Quality of coffee, Price, Service and Atmosphere. Several of the establishments on this list are pure coffee bars, but among them are also some cafés that are eager to serve the best coffee possible.

Have you found a coffee bar or café that deserves to be on our list? Tell us, or share in the comments.

Do you consider yourself a coffee connoisseur? Join our panel, and help us in our quest to find The Best Coffee in Berlin. Apply here

Follow this list on
A cappuccino from Double Eye in Schöneberg. Photo: Esbjörn Guwallius/Berlinow

Berlin is not synonymous with great coffee. Is it impossible to get a perfect espresso or cappuccino then? No, but the best places are hard to find – that’s why you need this list.

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Double Eye

Akazienstraße 22, 10823 BerlinFacebookFoursquare

1.Just a hole-in-the-wall with, almost always, a crowd of fans gathering on the sidewalk, queuing for coffee or already sipping on one. You’ll get a perfect cappuccino, milchkaffee, espresso, or one of Double Eye’s special creations for a fraction of what it would cost you to get some awful coffee at Starbucks (the American chain’s branch on Akazienstraße actually had to close due to the competition from this small coffee shop). A cappuccino, served with a complimentary biscuit, is 1,80 euro.

Coffee 5 stars Snacks 4 stars Overall 5 stars

(stay)Last tasted 10/2012

Godshot

Immanuelkirchstraße 32, 10405 BerlinFacebookFoursquare

2.At Godshot you’ll meet a barista who’s prepared to discuss coffee with you. That way you’ll always get exactly what you want in your cup. Three or four kinds of coffee beans to choose from. If you’re really into coffee, you can join one of Godshot’s barista courses.

Coffee 4.5 stars Overall 5 stars

(stay)Last tasted 10/2012

No Fire No Glory

Rykestraße 45, 10405 BerlinFacebookFoursquare

3.The coffee, the atmosphere and the staff – everything feels just right at this café (even the trees have the right height). Choose between coffee beans from Copenhagen’s Coffee Collective, or Berlin’s Bonanza Coffee Heroes. No Fire No Glory moved from Friedrichshain to Prenzlauer Berg last spring. Significantly more seats than before makes the new location even better. No Fire No Glory features a good selection of home made cakes and sandwiches.

Coffee 4 stars Snacks 4 stars Overall 5 stars

(up)Last tasted 10/2012

The Barn

Auguststraße 58, 10119 BerlinFacebookFoursquare

4.Organic and locally produced are the keywords in this small café/coffee shop, which could be taken right out of “Portlandia”. The coffee is top notch, with perfect temperature and just the right strength (Well, almost always). If you’re feeling hungry, The Barn has a good selection of sweets and sandwiches to choose among.

Coffee 4 stars Snacks 4 stars Overall 4.5 stars

(down)Last tasted 08/2012

Five Elephant Coffee

Reichenberger Straße 101, 10999 BerlinFacebookFoursquare

5.On a leafy street, deep down in Kreuzberg, you’ll find this relaxed café and with an in-store coffee roaster. The coffee is superb, and you’ll kill for the cheese cake. If you like their coffee as much as we do, you can buy a bag of beans when you leave.

Coffee 4 stars Snacks 4 stars Overall 4 stars

(new)Last tasted 09/2012

Bonanza Coffee Heroes

Oderberger Straße 35, 10435 BerlinFacebookFoursquare

6.Prenzlauer Berg’s most popular coffee bar. Bonanza has, well deserved, a good reputation among urban tourist and locals. Their coffee drinks are always of high quality, even if they, like us all, can have a bad day. The enthusiasts that run Bonanza roast their own beans to perfection, and also supplies them to a few of the other coffee bars on our list.

Coffee 4 stars Snacks 2.5 stars Overall 3.5 stars

(stay)Last tasted 09/2012

Antipodes

Fehrbelliner Straße 5, 10119 BerlinFacebookFoursquare

7.Excellent Kiwi coffee, with organic beans from Kings & Queens coffee roasters in Berlin. Their flat white is strong enough to keep you going all day.

Coffee 4 stars Snacks 4 stars Overall 4 stars

(new)Last tasted 10/2012

Röststätte

Ackerstraße 173, 10115 BerlinFacebookFoursquare

8.When you’re done drooling over all the shiny, new espresso machines in the store, head for the café counter and order an espresso. Röststätte serves some of Mitte’s best coffee, roasted by hand in the combined store/café.

Coffee 4 stars Snacks 3.5 stars Overall 4 stars

(new)Last tasted 10/2012

Oslo Kaffebar

Eichendorfstrasse 13, 10115 BerlinFacebookFoursquare

9.Are you missing your Norwegian coffee? Do not despair. Kristiania Espresso might be gone, but Kristian is still making excellent espressos and cappuccinos at his new place, Oslo Kaffebar, just steps away from Nordbahnhof. In co-operation with Bonanza coffee roasters, the coffee bar has created a special roast – the Oslo Blend.

Coffee 4 stars Snacks 3 stars Overall 4 stars

(new)Last tasted 10/2012

Cafe CK

Marienburger Straße 49, 10405 BerlinFacebookFoursquare

10.Prepare yourself for a very strong cup of coffee. Cafe CK uses 20 grams of coffee (or more, if you want it even stronger) in every drink. You’ll probably need something on the side, we recommend the carrot cake. CK also has a branch in Voo Store in Kreuzberg’s Oranienstraße, but this review is for the café in Prenzlauer Berg. CK uses coffee beans from Bonanza.

Coffee 3.5 stars Snacks 4 stars Overall 3.5 stars

(down)Last tasted 07/2012

Up and Coming Coffee Bars

The following coffee bars serve quite good coffee, but doesn't make the cut for our list just yet.

Chapter One Mittenwalder Straße 30, 10961 Berlin

Passenger Espresso Oppelner Straße 45, 10997 Berlin

Goodies Warschauer Straße 69, 10243 Berlin

Giro d'Espresso Knobelsdorffstraße 47, 14059 Berlin

St Gaudy Café Gaudystraße 1, 10437 Berlin


The original version of this article was first published on 2010-10-18.

 
Ambulance in Berlin (file). Photo: Till Krech/flickr[source]CC BY 2.0

Maybe you don’t want to, but sometimes it might be necessary to see a physician. Wouldn’t it be great if he or she spoke your language?

We won’t give recommendations for specific physicians (that’s what the comments section are for), but we will point you in the right direction. Aerzte-Berlin.de might not look that appealing, but is a great source. Decide what kind of physician (Fachrichtung) you need to see, and in which district (Stadtbezirk) of Berlin. Then decide which language (Sprache) you want them to speak.

Another website where you can find physicians is the Kassenärztlichen Vereinigung Berlin. You cannot search for a language here, but you can be more specific in your search query. Arzt-Auskunft provides yet another way to find the right treatment for you. When you’ve found a physician at one of these sites, you can check on Aerzte-Berlin if they speak your language.

Hospitals in Berlin

If you’re searching for a hospital, the Berlin Hospital Directory is the place to go. Their website is available in English.

If you have public health insurance in one of the European Union’s 27 member states (or Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) you’ll have the same access to the public sector health care as German nationals. This means a visit to a physician will cost you 10 euros. If you need the see a physician again during the current quarter you just have to show the receipt from your last visit, and it won’t cost you a dime more. You should be able to show your European Health Insurance Card and your passport at the physician’s office.

 
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