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Is Berlin the new home for tech start-up business? [video] (bbc.co.uk)
123 points by jimmyjim on July 22, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 168 comments

I'm an NZ expat who has lived in Berlin for the last few years. While Berlin is cool, let me present a caveat...

I've enjoyed the music scene and cheap rent, but have experienced major culture shock. It is a very intense place, full of contradiction, i.e. extremely open-minded in some areas and absurdly conservate in others. Berlin alternatively challenges and reaffirms one's various values.

Sometimes it seems like the 'adults' have left the city and left the 'kids' in charge. At other times, it feels impossible to breathe without violating some ponderous rule. Many are sucked into what is called a 'Berlinquency' - an existence in which one is spoilt by the hedonism, looseness, and condusiveness to self-obsession this place affords.

The tech scene is ok. There are a lot of clones. Some great meetups, though. It all seems to be on the up. Watch this space. And visit for a month before deciding to move here.

Any examples of what is 'absurdly conservative'?

As a New Yorker who's lived in Berlin for four years, I can't think of much.

I've noticed on certain English-speaking forums that there's a tendency to exaggerate and obsess over incredibly minor cultural differences. Like jaywalking, which isn't even an issue in Berlin (people do it and nobody cares).

To be fair, that would also be a near-perfect expat description of California.

I'm a young developer living in Germany. Here's my perspective. Berlin is cheap, affordable, has an international culture (I'm an emmigrant) and pretty much something to offer to everyone, so the city itself just has a good attraction for young people.

I don't know why the startup scene has started booming here but just type in "web start-up" at indeed (http://www.indeed.de/Jobs?q=web+start-up&l=berlin) and you'll get 275 results. Plus the UK has cracked down on emmigration laws and Germany has opened them up, at least for engineers, etc. b/c of the "Fachkräftemangel" i.e. the fact that the Germans lack skilled laborers. So whereas before for Europeans and especially Eastern europeans the UK was #1 its now changing b/c Germany is closer and easier. Also Germany seems more open to Europeans period, the UK with Cameron is doing all it can to shun the rest of Europe. The only problem I see, is that you still need to know German to get around ( which no one studies in school), which for instance is why my brother hasn't come.

EDIT: I guess I exaggerated with the "no one studies in school" bit. My point is that english is the only language we are all pounded into learning regardless of whether or not we have an interest in languages or a talent for them, so we can at least function at some level with english. German, however, is not the lingua franca I think we can all agree on that. I'm quadlingual (if that's a word), but not all talented developers like languages as well and unfortunately whatever the germans say, you still need to know german if you want to assimilate in germany, get an apartment, go shopping, and live life.

I'd just like to add my experiences in Germany[1] as a techie:

- Almost no wifi. Coming from an area (outside of Germany) with abundant wifi at Cafes that came as a real shock to me.

- As the parent said, you can't rely on just English for the day to day life. For example, I had to resort to a translator for getting a cellular account and cellular internet going. Even at O2, T-Mobile and Vodafone (global brand names) there were no representatives with enough English proficiency to tell me what the different packages included. That was for regular (non prepaid) accounts.

For a prepaid sim card the situation was a little bit better (seller could understand English but not help me with cellular internet configuration, could explain it later to a German, so it wasn't because of lack of technical knowledge) but the automated phone service (that you need to use for selecting plans, add credit, etc.) was German only.

- The cellular reception at cities is good, but the cellular (and cellular internet) reception at the more rural areas (even 30 minutes away from the big cities) proved very sketchy to me.

Those are the problems that surprised me. There are definitely advantages (good public transport inside big cities, relatively cheap living on the east), but I have nothing to add to other posters on that front.

EDIT: another thing that surprised me is that internet tethering is disabled (with no other option) on prepaid sims and costs extra (if at all possible) for regular accounts, at least in all the venues I checked. Again, if you come from a country/carrier where it is like that you won't be surprised, but I was. Especially as I've known Germany as "the place pioneering in unlocked phones".

IMPORTANT EDIT2 about salaries: while cheaper, if you come to work as a local employee the salary as a programer might be lower. Be sure to check at http://www.payscale.com/research/DE/Country=Germany/Salary (my very anecdotal experience is that this website is relatively accurate) Take that into account as well when comparing living costs.

[1] The longest time I was there consecutively was 1 month, but the points still stand

"which no one studies in school"

In the Netherlands, German is compulsory in high school at the HAVO and VWO levels. Regrettably, I've pretty much forgotten all of it. That being said, the Dutch people are already half German.

"which no one studies in school"

In Denmark we can select German classes in both elementary and high school.

Same goes in Sweden. It's quite easy for us Scandinavians to learn German since our languages are closely related (all except Finnish are Germanic languages). In fact, its the same with English, which is also a Germanic language.

The difference with English is that the more sophisticated vocabulary is Romantic in origin, meaning that if an American wants to advance past a basic level of German proficiency, he'll have to spend a lot of time memorizing words.

Sure, here in Finland too, but who bothers at that age? Most people couldn't care less about "learning stuff that could be useful in future", and even less ever actually start thinking that taking optional classes could be benefitical. And even less of them think so at high school, let alone elementary school. So, in essence, no one studies German in school.

In Estonia, A-language is usually English and B-language mostly Russian. Partly because 'travel West, you speak English, travel East, you speak Russian' and many Russian-speaking people live in Estonia. For techies, English+Russian still is a much better combo because of all the literature available.

When I was young my attitude was similar but in my elementary school and high school two foreign languages were mandatory (English, German or Fench) so I didn't have any other choice. I live in Czech Republic.

At that age I couldn't care less but now that I'm thinking of doing a PhD in Germany (from what I've heard a very affordable country with many great life science labs) I'm very glad that I remember at least basics even that I haven't actually spoken German for six years.

I think that learning two major foreign languages should be mandatory. Almost everybody can learn one language quite well after +/- 10 years during childhood and to learn at least basics from the second one should not be that much of a problem too.

"I'm thinking of doing a PhD in Germany"

I'm not discouraging, but once you're considering a particular position, please try and talk to previous PhD students of your prospective supervisor. Germany has hardly any fully-funded PhD positions. Instead you typically get employed as staff and have to combine that with your PhD work. The problem is, often professors take on lots of PhD students to get more funding and end up having hardly any time. I've heard stories of a professor having 8 or so PhD students that still wait on him to read their thesis and give the go-ahead for their viva (PhD defense). I'm not saying this is the case everywhere, but it's something to be aware of. So try and find out beforehand.

Thanks a lot for advice. I have still more than a year ahead before I need to make a decision so there's enough time to ask around when I narrow my choices. I haven't even made my mind whether I want to get into neuroscience or stay in molecular/cell biology.

Sadly, the situation as you decribed is almost the same with PhD students in the lab where I currently work on my diploma thesis and in some around in the institute. Having seen what I've seen (troubles with disertations and giving the PhD defense go-ahead) that's definitely something I want to avoid.


I'm also from Finland and I used to study German at school, as did many others in my school. However it is hard language, and in Finland they mostly teach you writing/reading/grammar.

Wow! Is that the kind of attitude you have over there? ... I feel bad for you, my neighbour :(

What kind of attitude, exactly?

This attitude: "who bothers at that age?"

Are you sincerely suggesting that even a handful of students choose their optonal classes by what they consider benefitical for them in the future, once they grow up? :) I've been working at an elementary school for some time now, and I can't emphasize enough how little the kids think about their future in terms of taking optional classes and such. Not a single student thinks that "Hmm, I'll take German now, because I believe I may need it in the future!". No. What they think is "Hmm, I've always been a big fan of Rammstein and German language so I want to learn it". I'd argue that only after people attend Universities and colleges at 18+, they really start thinking about their future and may actually plan their courses and classes based on what they'll (want to) do in the future.

Of course, when you think about this in the context of moving to Berlin after the rising startup scene, we're only interested in those who actually attend university, who care about their future, who study hard and so on. Such people probably start planning their future at younger age, aim for and dream about careers in the field even before other kids learn to understand what an actual career is. People with true ambitions are rare in general population, but not in the startup scene, I think this is something to be remembered.

Your attitude (and possibly the general attitude in Finland?) towards the children is kind of scary. If you think that "they don't care", they won't. Children are the best of mimics and will do and feel as the adults around them.

If you work at an elementary school, aren't you supposed (or even obligated) to teach them how important it is and that it does matter? Language is one of those things that are so easy to learn when you're a kid, so it shouldn't go to waste. Just don't give in to this miserable "they don't care" thing, because it's not them, it's you.

Why is it scary? Isn't it natural for children to not worry about their future too much at that age? It is important yes, and it is being emphasized to the kids. However, they aren't naturally interested in their future at that age, and you can't artificially try to make them become sincerely interested in it. There are exceptions, of course. There are kids at age of 8 who tell that they will become pilots, and want to learn French at age of 10. And there are kids who say at age of 13 that they will become translators, and will take optional English classes because of that. But the majority is not like that, and it is fine.

I think the natural curiosity and will to learn(for example by motivating the kids to study, making school and studying as fun as possible etc.) is far more important than planning your futre as a minor, let alone trying to aim for a career as a minor. I'm talking about whole classes of students from various backgrounds and performances, not just the top 5 % performers of which most will attend universities and achieve great things. I'd guess many HN'ers fell to the better half of the average performance at school, and as such might easily miss the other half who did not do so well.

It was very popular - I think students chose between french, german and spanish. And it was pretty much 33% for each language.

What "m/f" or "m/w" mean in these job postings?



i.e. We'll employ you regardless of your genitalia.

That's what I thought. Can employers in Germany actually choose to hire men or women for a position? And under what circumstances is that allowed or common?

The use of f/m or w/m results from the fact, that most of the job titles are gender specific, as are german nouns in general. An example: Programmierer is a male programmer, Programmiererin is a female programmer. So "Programmierer (w/m)" is a shortcut for "Programmierer oder Programmiererin"

Ahh, I see. I also noticed some postings that said “Programmierer(in) (m/w)”, which seemed redundant, so it kind of threw me off the trail. Thanks for the info!

"male/female", or "männlich/weiblich" respectively.

I am a foreigner who has been working as a developer or manager in the software sector in Germany for around 10 years. For a couple of years I have been trying to move towards self-employment, with some ups and downs, but I am making progress on a project together with my wife. Last year I had the chance to switch jobs and move elsewhere so I naturally targeted Berlin. I would like to keep working in a high-paying job while funding the startup that I work on in my free time. I noticed a few things:

There are a quite a few startup jobs, but they are low end, low paying. Many pay even less than what I started on 10 years ago. They are looking for those starting their first job I think. I get the feeling Berlin startups get a lot less funding that other startups. Even the non-startup jobs that require more experience seem to pay a lot less, and even with the slightly cheaper rent than other cities, I couldn't find any attractive options. The official work experience I have on my CV is more enterprisy stuff like .NET and lots of stuff startups care less about like Scrum, Kanban, management in general and agile software development. I do have experience with things like Ruby, Python and JavaScript, but even startup employers were only interested in what was on my CV.

Not complaining or anything, just trying to help get a feel on what I found while looking there last year.

I found a good job near Frankfurt, and who knows, maybe I will end up in Berlin later, but I feel I might not need to. Frankfurt has a startup scene (and a rich financial sector). So does Cologne where I used to live.

"The official work experience I have on my CV is more enterprisy stuff"

That already is your point. You are coming from an enterprise thinking and payment structure - Berlin is everything but Enterprise.

With your kind of payment expectations, they will simply expect you to step up the game, and that probably is at least CTO if not co founder. If you want to be your specialized dev, you need to be extra good to work around this area and _understand_ what startups are about.

Also, judging by your nickname here, your name still sounds German. If you are from A / CH by definition (and if not proven otherwise on your CV and through experiences) you are not automatically startup material. Don't get me wrong: it is just about different skillset and mentality and if you cannot provide proof that you are not tainted by that obstacle, you will have an even harder time getting a job in that environment.

I am not an enterprise thinker, but I have developed enterprise salary expectations. One of my current areas of interest is helping slow old large businesses be more effective by using e.g. Lean startup ideas.

To be honest though I am not a natural entrepreneur. Or at least I may have been while younger but I have become soft over the years. I only really started thinking about startups etc maybe 3 or 4 years ago and it's hard to break out of the comfortable employee lifestyle.

I am from an English speaking country with German ancestors, but I don't know if that background makes me more or less startup material. There seem to be roughly the same distribution if entrepreneurs here as in my home country.

But I am focused now on being founder rather than employee. Already CTO of a non-profit r&d team with my wife as CEO.

I think you're bringing up good points, which I would summarize this way:

The berlin startup scene is great for recent graduates as an employee, but if you're more experienced, then you want to be a founder.

Home for start-up business? Yes. For tech start-ups? I don't think so. I have yet to meet one engineer-driven tech start-up from Berlin. Most founders I met and know are some business guys with oh-so-clever ideas looking for just the right CTO guy to make their plan reality. And most German developers I know also never thought about working for a start-up. They happily flock to every large German company you may know. The previous start-up I worked for had more Spanish developers than German ones.

Have you met or spoken to the Soundcloud guys? I met a bunch of their engineers here in NYC a few months ago, and they were very cool to hang out with. Seemed like a pretty cool company to me.

Edit: they could be an outlier, of course.

Ableton? Native Instruments?

They're not startups.

How about Bitwig?

Same here in Argentina, the startup community is almost engineer-free (almost, there are exceptions) but yeah it's kinda difficult to find engineers because most here don't want to work at a startup that might last less than a year, so they go to big and established companies instead.

In our company, SponsorPay, we have a strong developer culture. The whole IT team is rock solid.

On the 'fake it,till you make it' path,Berlin seems to be right in the 'fake it' part.You guys write about low costs of living,however there are cheaper places in Eastern Europe with better tech talent availability overall.You mention the nightlife and a couple of the clubs are indeed world class,but I'd doubt it that you go there more than 5 times a year.The internet in Germany is borderline third world quality,in Bulgaria and Romania you get some of the fastest internet in the world for a fraction of the price you'd pay in Germany.The women are better than in the UK,but far from the best looking in the world.

What I'm trying to say with this point is,I don't really see the advantage of being in Berlin in the early stages of your business too,when you're just a 3 people shop,busting your asses all day to move things forward

Having written all that,I loved Berlin during my few months stay.

You're missing some big points with Berlin. Where to begin... germany has a great social health care system, the economy is booming, it has a world class educational system, relatively crime and corruption free AND compared to what you get it is cheap (maybe not as cheap as Romania, but the benefits outway the costs). If you want to get talented developers germany has something to offer them and their families.

Again,the points were about setting up a very early stage company in Berlin YOURSELF.It wasn't about finding employment.I've been robbed only in Western Europe,Berlin included and not even once have been victim of a crime in Eastern Europe for 18 years.So there you go :)

okay, but once you get beyond a 2 or 3 man team and want to attract experienced devs and expand or get investing Berlin has a lot. Its centrally located in Europe, you can jump to Warsaw, Paris, London, all quickly, plus the points I made above. I've never been to Romania so I don't know how international and networked the scene is there for comparison. You mention it being cheaper but its not all about being cheap though, the plus is in berlin its relatively inexpensive for the quality and connections you get.

Sorry, to hear you got robbed! I've only lived in countries with high corruption levels (in the gov't), so germany is kind of a breath of fresh air even though its not perfect - I doubt anywhere is.

>The internet in Germany is borderline third world quality

that may be true for rural Germany but I'm writing this from a 100 MBbit cable connection which costs me 40 EUR. You can also get 50 Mbit DSL for 35 EUR p.m. (both including a telephone flatrate)

For probably half the price in Romania and Bulgaria,you can get Gbit internet connection...not to mention that when you start out,you aren't forced with most providers to sign long ass contracts and on the next day your internet is up and running.If you ever have issues,they'll sort it out in hours.

Again,loved Berlin,it's just I always see some guys hyping it without being able to back up their points,so I'm calling their statements out.

And how many people need a gigabit internet connection at home or in the office?

Plus if you know you are not ready to move into something long term, then you simply move to a space where you can rent this.

In eastern berlin I have a DSL connection that cannot go beyond 6Mbit.. So there.

Do your homework before moving.

It is widely known that Telekom had problems with certain areas and that is why you make a "Verfügbarkeitsprüfung" before even looking further at renting something. ;)

>The women are better than in the UK,but far from the best looking in the world.

Woo, casual misogyny \o/

>The internet in Germany is borderline third world quality

Germany, the completely authentic sub-Saharan information drought experience...

>but I'd doubt it that you go there more than 5 times a year.

Culture's about more than clubbing.

>however there are cheaper places in Eastern Europe with better tech talent availability overall.

1 City vs. half a continent. Good comparison.

Germany, the completely authentic sub-Saharan information drought experience...

What's your sarcasm supposed to imply here? If the internet's not great, the internet's not great. Having recently gotten out of doing research in distributed systems I actually know the average German DSL rates. It's mixed. I'm sure that you would be on the low end if you lived in one of the older buildings with poor wiring.

Culture's about more than clubbing.

He didn't mention anything about culture, he was talking about nightlife. And if he cares mostly about clubbing, that's perfectly fine.

1 City vs. half a continent. Good comparison.

One city in Germany vs. a bunch of cities in Eastern Europe. It may be more useful if he gave an actual city to compare it with, like Budapest, but it's definitely a valid comparison.

I think the selling point here is ability to find tech talent and meet investors and prospective customers. For the moment money are in the UK, but all things considered they can move to Germany. And the action will follow along.

I'm an engineer who visited Berlin earlier this year and loved the city - it's like my home town of Melbourne, Australia which I love, but just MORE of it.

I already had the itch to leave my 9-5 and go somewhere for an adventure, so when I got home I set about working out what I'd need to do to head over there and how much capital I'd need for about 6-months self sustained living in Berlin (came out to about $15,000AUD, thanks to the current strong AUD).

I found out one of my close (engineer) friends was also looking to leave his job and do something interesting and exciting, so I've convinced him to come with me too. Succeed or fail, it really seems like we could be part of something exciting in Berlin! Any advice on dos and don't would be appreciated.

I've been back and forth from Berlin for a little while now. My company's home base is in NYC, but I sometimes work out of Berlin.

Even this year while I was there (Feb. - May), the startup scene is exploding. I liken it to the satisfaction of knowing of a great band before everyone else: there's no doubt that Berlin will be muttered in the same breath as the Valley, NYC and London. It's only a matter of time.

The German culture can be a bit harsh to outsiders, but the Berlin startup scene more than makes up for that. The folks there are very kind and always willing to entertain a good conversation.

I'm from Berlin, so I naturally enjoy the kind of hype that's being created since one or two years ago. However, I'd like to stress what someone in the video said: It's just budding and really not yet comparable to New York or London. There are quite a couple of cool start-ups here now, but still few with innovative breakthrough technology and also few large investors. But I see it coming, too.

I guess this will also become a self-fulfilling prophecy. For ten years people have been telling how cool Berlin is and a lot creative people were attracted. Now everyone's telling about the new tech start-up scene and that will attract even more talented people - hopefully also large investors.

Interesting times ahead!

I agree on that. I've moved to Berlin together with hype and there is only handfull of really successful startups. Berlin needs more internet millionaires and more transparency. By now, afaiks most of Berlin tech millionaires come from Rocket Internet and people that spawn out of RI have different mindset from what you can see in Valley. But, I'm pretty sure that new generation of Berlin entrepreneurs are on good path to change tech scene from ground up.

Berlin is a FANTASTIC city to bootstrap your project ...

reasons: 1. cheap cost of living, 2. availability of relatively well paid contract work, 3. A very supportive startup / creative community who are willing to share info and resources, 4. A very smart and creative demographic, 5. wonderful bars, clubs, and restaurants, 6. German people are actually a decent bunch :)

disadvantages: 1. over-strict regulations in dealing with Banking and Regulatory bodies (whatever you do, do NOT sign up for a postbank a/c), 2. Less than ideal weather.

Overall a win I think, which is why I continue to call Berlin my home.

> wonderful bars, clubs

They don't close. They. Do. Not. Close. As a nocturnal developer I could go out to a club, get back to my hostel at 2, write code for 2 hours and then go out again. Bliss.

So if someone wanted to relocate to Berlin to start a company, or to expand a team into europe, how would they go about that?

Where do people want to live? Where to locate offices? Where do you find good talent? What are the legal steps to do so? Any pitfalls to avoid? Others should feel free to jump on this.

Berlin is ramping up quickly. We get applications from all around the world. This is great and was much different just 12 Month ago. The hockey stick kicks in, now!

One comment on English: It is much easier than most non-english speaking cities and most international talent can manage the daily tasks within weeks.

check out foundfair.de and contact us in case you need help getting settled.

"Upload pitch" isn't working for me in Chrome. I think you can benefit by simply providing a link on top of page for the start-ups to apply.

What's the international position on this? I am living/working in the UK startup scene and it seems to me Berlin could become europe early stage garage very soon. Personally i believe London might be still the place to be after P/M Fit (the place to be in europe…)

What's the US take on this ? Do people actually care outside of the german speaking areas and maybe Uk?

I'm a US citizen. My take is that if I was still single and not a parent, I would be in Berlin immediately. In some ways, it sounds better than Silicon Valley or New York. Transportation around SV doesn't sound like it's based on public transportation and housing prices are crazy. New York has great public transportation, especially with the addition of water taxies on the East River, but housing is out of control.

Learning German, if you're a native English speaker, is easy. Simple sentences in German can often sound like an oddly accented English. German is highly consistent, i.e. not a lot of exceptions to grammatical rules. You just have to get used to word order being different in some instances, e.g. verbs can appear at the end of sentence, and case endings. (Case endings are no big deal. Getting them wrong doesn't prevent the person listening from understanding you. Getting them right is the difference between a great speaker and a good one.) My experience in Germany around 1989 was that native Germans were more than happy to switch to English when I was stumped about how to say something in German. Learning the German language should not be a barrier.

For anyone thinking far enough ahead about being a parent, situating in Germany has other benefits. Germany has a better health care system and better public education. They are large costs/worries for any parent.

By the numbers, Germany's public education system is basically identical to that of the US (scoring 525 and 524, respectively).


What makes you believe it's education system is better? Or it's health care system, for that matter?

Your source fiddled with the PISA numbers for the USA to exclude all students of non-European descent. I'm not sure what s/he was trying to prove.

This post breaks results down by income segment and suggests that if you exclude poverty, the USA does indeed do great. Otherwise the USA as a whole is no better than average, maybe a little below average.


I have to say this agrees with my anecdotal experience of the USA. If you went to high school in Palo Alto, you might be having enriching experiences that even students in rich European countries can only dream about. Or you could be like the students some friends of mine tutored in North Carolina, who were not aware of what the Duke University buildings in their city were for.

I'm not actually knocking the USA. It faces social challenges that no other country faces, and often gets a bad rap from critics who've never even visited and think it's populated by sociopathic Randroids. But it is a country of enormous contrasts.

Your source fiddled with the PISA numbers for the USA to exclude all students of non-European descent. I'm not sure what s/he was trying to prove.

It's trying to prove that US schools are just as good at educating European Americans as German schools are at educating Europeans. (Sanandaji also excluded immigrants from the German numbers.)

I.e., any gaps in output between US and German schools are caused by gaps in the input, not the school system itself.

How are native Americans and African-Americans immigrants?

I said I wasn't sure what the author was trying to prove, but I do have a rather good guess.

(Sanandaji also excluded immigrants from the German numbers.)

I'll start with health care.

I'm referring to the overall system and its premise. The problem is that the system is based on employment and the government fills in for certain populations during unemployment.

There are 4 large problems in that simple statement.

One is that employers are even involved in shopping for health care. If I own a company that makes software for the education market, for example, why should I have to know or care about the nuances of health care plans? Why should I have to do periodic cost analyses of plans to see if my company should switch? My business is software. My concerns should be about developing a product, selling it, supporting it, and accurately reporting financials to the government. Health care is out of my expertise and out of scope.

The second issue is that employers are not required to offer health care. We don't see it so much in the IT industry, but health care plans are quite often not offered by employers or, if plans are offered, it's to full time employees only. Effectively, it leaves out people who work part-time out of necessity or choice.

The third issue is knowing when the government will cover you and when it won't. A multitude of programs exist to cover children, but not parents; or, cover children and mothers but not fathers; etc. In some instances, one plan covers you for a certain amount of time during unemployment but then you have to apply for a different plan after the first plan's coverage period expires. This is too complicated. People who don't deal with these issues routinely quite often don't know they're even eligible.

(Ironically, our fear of the government completely managing health care due to its bureaucracy is causing by far more bureaucracy.)

Finally, according to the WHO, the US ranks 37 in the world for system efficiency. I'm sure statistical methodology and data collection accuracy can be questioned. But, we're not talking about being 10 and we think we should be 3. We're 37 . I'm not willing to chalk up such a low ranking to those factors.

Many individual components of our system are really good, e.g. clinicians. The high skill positions we train, we train well. But the system overall is not a healthy one.

Most of your criticism is of a particular part of the American financial services sector, not of health care.

Finally, according to the WHO, the US ranks 37 in the world for system efficiency.

WHO rankings are predominantly a measurement of inequality of marginal costs of health care. The WHO's measurement is so flawed that one can make all sorts of pareto improvements (e.g., make 50% of the population live 10 years longer, while the other 50% lives only 1 year longer) and reduce one's rank.


My criticisms are about the health care system, emphasis on the "system" part. Having a large number of citizens without health care is a failure of the system.

The issue is a socio-political one. It's about the distribution of health care and who our culture deems worthy of receiving it.

"Most of your criticism is of a particular part of the American financial services sector, not of health care."

This seems to almost be a tangent. Please explain.

I don't know about an "international" position, but if I'll have to move from Italy for my startup (ie, to get funding) I would consider Berlin and London. Some time ago I would have only thought about London, but Berlin is much cheaper and I don't like UK's attitude towards Europe very much.

The US still Silicon Valley centric, with a growing interest in New York. But there's still a segment that likes to travel abroad. It comes up a lot in the "Where should I bootstrap my business" threads. Cheap rents, broadband access, English-speaking population, and a lot of young people make Berlin attractive.

If anyone's looking for a startup visa, I posted some information here: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4170466

Berlin is for me truly the only place I would live. Although it's not for everybody. And I would prefer not driving an expensive car at least in Neukölln or Kreuzberg areas. There are lots of other subcultures here.

It all sounds interesting and I've been meaning to drop my corporate job for some time now. So is there a Berlin startup news site (preferably in English) so I could get a feel what kind of startups are there?

EDIT: http://siliconallee.com/ seems to be the thing I was looing for, anything else?

You need to drop your corporate thinking first. I suggest you get into some projects to figure out if you are able to work in and with a startup. Note that I am saying that with a background of 15 years in corporate. ;)

Most of the startups are actually very busy doing stuff (as in they don't are yet at the point understanding what proper Communcation means sigh), but http://hascore.com/ has a good list of links.

I will be posting an overview posting asap with additional links.

Main reasons for Berlin are its young and creative culture, affordable prices (rents, food etc) and overall great quality of live. The city itself is not the prettiest though, but it has its charme :)

Ive been there a few times at pitch/startups events and always liked the locations and overall vibe.

The modern architecture in Berlin is really astounding. The city also has a lot of parks and green areas, which make it a pleasant place to live in. Not to mention perfect public transportation.

In the UK there is no consent among the investors where the action should go. I was quite surprised to learn than basically every credible accelerator has it's own view of where my start-up should be based.

Oxygen - Birmingham

Ignite100 - New Castle

Seedcamp - London

I get their desire to improve local culture but hey this is just ridiculous to ask me to settle somewhere because you gave me some money. Also, start-ups thrive in a tech-savvy areas only.

This all adds to the problem and Berlin has all the odds to become the answer.

Almost all accelerators do this. YC strongly encourages you to live in the Valley.

There is a difference when YC wants you to live in SV for YOUR success and other accelerators wanting you to live somewhere for THEIR benefit, right?

You should take a look at HackFWD http://hackfwd.com/

For them it doesn't matter where you are in Europe. However, their recruiting mechanism is referrer based.

"HackFwd takes 27% equity in exchange ..."

And it's pre-seed money. Thanks but no thanks.

I work at Seedcamp.

We don't force anyone to move their startup to London. We do suggest the new teams spend some time with us here, as it's valuable to them to be part of what is going on here - a lot of the teams come from eastern Europe where there is much less of a tech (and investment) scene. Being in London for some time enables them to take part in that, make the right connections, and then move back, here, or on - often to the US.

I believe incorporating in Germany is a lot more expensive than in the UK or Ireland though.

Yeah, but the UK, for all intents and purposes, is a 51st US state, in terms of legal and privacy concerns.

If you want to protect your startup's users, you should base your company in a country that won't extradite people on charges that aren't even applicable in said country. (O'Dwyer casus)

And where police won't sell you location and other assorted private data to the highest bidder. (NotW casus)

Wow, timing is everything. I had booked my ticket 2 days ago for Berlin. I am finishing up my time at StartupChile and heading to Berlin after being convinced by many at SUP, that Berlin has many things happening. I needed a high quality affordable city, that was startup friendly and supported my photography addiction. Berlin hopefully will allow me the time to focus and finish my two iOS games.

I'm also finishing StartupChile and 24pfilms is flat-sharing with us in Buenos Aires right now. We're returning to London for a while but Berlin is still on our list (nowhere else in Europe is on our list).

I would love to buy one of the 10,000 sq metre mills 5 mins taxi from Manchester's central Picadilly train station and turn it into startup accomodation. We're only 2 hours from London's Euston!! (So less than 3 hours from Shorditch)

Berlin however does seem to have the greatest multicultural vibe going for it for startups. It's pretty impressive, and I hope to sample it later in the year :)

How is life for non white people? I'm from latin-america.

It's really hard at least in Berlin.

why it's hard?

Berlin has the largest turkish population outside of instanbul. They have turkish restaurants everywhere and also grocery stores.

The population is ethnically very diverse, though of course, more middle eastern people than latin american ones.

Germans tend to be proper. So, drinking beer on the subway might be frowned upon, but nobody will comment. If you're obnoxious or noisy or otherwise being a jerk, germans will not be friendly to you. If you're polite, they don't care what you look like. If you've got a chip on your shoulder, you may mistake their coldness, which is really professionalism, for judgement, which it isn't.

thanks! I think I'm a bit less louder that my con-nationals

Any city has its pros and cons. I am currently an intern in a tech start-up in Paris, the city has many co-working spaces / incubators. The start-up scene is bigger every day, and yes you won't speak french 70% of the day.

Anyway just saying the document seems to be a nice post card from Berlin but the same things are happening everywhere.

Last year it was Paris (Wired.com): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rt2bHumqDFs

I enjoyed the time I spent in Berlin last year and I've considered going back there but this seems imprudent with the Euro on the verge of implosion.

I wouldn't worry too much about a crashing Euro. The exchange rates will most likely become more favourable for other currencies if that would happen. If you plan on staying there a longer period you might even see Germany reverting to Deutsche Mark, which should be even more favourable when exchanging back to your own currency once you leave considering that Germany itself has a very strong economy.

That's funny. ;)

Some Euro countries (Greece) might be on the verge of implosion, but there's no way the general currency could suffer any significant damage and Germany is the very reason for that.

The German economy is among the most powerful in the world and quite frankly you're more likely to experience an economic collapse in the US than in Germany. (Albeit that's pretty unlikely too, obviously. At least for now.)

Actually, an economic collapse in the US is one of the most likely things to occur during this century. If you can't see that coming you must be very naive.

The real risk is that a contagion effect could bring about the split up of the Eurozone, and in that case a new Deutsche Mark would make German export much less competitive (and Berlin much less cheap). It's not likely, but it's still a big risk.

There's no chance of the Euro zone falling apart. The worst thing that could happen is Greece exiting the Euro zone.

Which would rapidly approach equivalence to a New Deutschemark.

Germany has itself in the Euro trap just as strongly as the PIIGS. If they go under, how will Germany keep its currency down and where will it export to?

Seriously, Greece is a small and fairly unimportant part of the European economy.

The Euro collapsing is an apocalyptic scenario that requires quite a lot of things to go wrong. Much more than just Greece.

I agree that it would be an apocalyptic scenario and would require a lot of things to go wrong. But if every eurozone member only thinks about its immediate interests instead of working together and acting in a decisive manner, everything could really go wrong.

By definition the problems of greece are the problems of germany because they share the same currency. As greece is unable to pay its debts, the only ways to help it are inflationary. Monetary inflation is what drives down the value of currencies, and thus the value of the currency germany uses will be driven down at the same time.

We're in the process of experiencing an economic collapse in the USA, and in Europe right now, and have been since 2008. The thing is, these things start small and people don't understand them until they are well underway... just as people didn't think there was going to be a problem in 2008 back in 2001 when the cause of the collapse started.

Here's a shameless plug: Listen to the Radio Spaetkauf podcast if you want insights into life in Berlin from an international perspective. http://www.radiospaetkauf.com

Don't mean to threadjack, but I'd love to team up in Berlin with a biz cofounder. If you're looking for an early employee or technical cofounder, please email me: yctechmgr at gmail.com - tell me something about your startup.

We forward the "looking for co founder" from the Berlin startup group to the Jobs group:

'Berlin Startup Jobs' https://www.facebook.com/groups/395011077224173/

Does anyone know how the start-up scene in Berlin compares to that in Paris? They seem to be two of the biggest contenders for the SV of Europe.

I think Spain tried something similar with Barcelona that ended up fizzing out.

One of the things we still need to work on in Berlinis connecting people better. ;)

So some notes and links.

* Introductory notes

* Entry points / sites

* Finding out about events

* Getting a job

* Got links? Please provide

_________________ INTRODUCTORY NOTES _________________

Per se there are two different circles of startup folk in Germany. The german / Germany oriented ones, what I usually call "the victims of the language island" (everything in Germany is dubbed - movies, tv, books).

The second, more interesting level is the international mindset, the people who are mentally oriented toward silicon valley. Both group usually do not mingle and the following applies for that second group and explain part of the reason why Berlin is special.

This group has accepted english as their lingua franca and people come from all over the world, enjoying not only the benefits listed in the other comments, but the feeling of "being able to make it here". The absence of any enterprise like structure due to the past with the wall enables in many ways what Berlin is today.

There is of course an echo chamber effect for this group and once you connect, you run into the usual startups very quickly. ;)

_________________ ENTRY POINTS _________________

Your Nr 1. starting point for meeting people ;) English speaking Berlin startup group on Facebook with ~2400 members.


Follow that if you are interested in meeting people and or asking questions. Hint: Do not try to post stuff which is does not have the "Berlin and startup" relevant connection and do not try to sneak in a "but in theory this is about startups ...", I will delete the post and ban you permanently.

Looking for a job / employee / co founder does belong into the sister group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/395011077224173/)


General sites to read:





We also have a strong women in tech movement in Berlin:

http://berlingeekettes.com/ is both interview site and meetup; I run http://girlgeekdinner.de/ which will happen more frequently once I am relocated. ;)


Find a Co-Working spaces:


http://www.berlin-partner.de/?id=1243&L=1 is the official place from Berlin

to help people coming to Berlin, they are very helpful too with business needs

with a special attention to startups.

_________________ EVENTS _________________

Event listings as in "is there something happening ..."


Get the weekly Newsletter with new events:


Berlin tech user groups links:


Monthly radio show about Berlin Startups


Not very active but still: Berlin StartUp Employees


Meetup.com has tons of groups and meetups beyond startup land

http://www.meetup.com and then go Berlin

_________________ GETTING A JOB _________________

If you are looking for a job in Berlin, are a Berlin based startup looking for employees or for a co founder, this facebook group can be helful for you



Job boards with a special focus on Berlin startups:



http://siliconallee.com/madeinberlin (this is a list of some startups made in berlin + links to job pages if available.)

http://meetfounder.com/ (if you are looking for a co-founder)


Finding companies to work for

http://hascore.com/ limits itself to "Hascore is a job board focused on Product Development for the Berlin Startup Scene that provides relevant context for making better decisions" BUT because the way they list their jobs you can surf through it and find the links to lots of companies.


Listings mostly in German




_________________ Any additions? _________________

Happy to take that into the list

Also I am always looking for people to add to my

"English tweeting people from Berlin with startup affinity"




Berlin is amazing; lived there for a year.

Plus records produces in Berlin include: U2 (Achtung Baby), David Bowie (Low,Heroes, and Lodger) , and Depeche Mode (Construction Time Again).

feel free to drop me a mail if you want to know anything about working at soundcloud. i'm an engineer. rany@soundcloud.com

This seems interesting, but I have one question: what about taxes?

Any tax breaks for tech startups? what about employee/healthcare costs?

Almost no tax breaks for startups, and healthcare and employee taxes are regulated very closely to normal German laws. Shockingly, recently the govt seems to have decided that angel investors and even founders will not be eligible for certain tax breaks, and instead will be taxed on income tax level for capital gains.

And what level of taxation are we talking about?

Top 5 reasons why you should move to Berlin, now:

1. Lowest livings costs with highest quality of living. Stay in gorgeous, perfectly renovated apartments in pre-WWII residential buildings with high ceilings, right in the middle of the center and pay a fraction of costs of any other capital (even cheaper than any Eastern European capital). No need for a car—Berlin has one of the densest subway nets and wide streets make biking fun. In addition, Germany has an amazing social health care system including health, unemployment and pension (when working as an employee).

2. A vibrant and fast growing ecosystem of smart people. A vast number of new software talents, founders, software companies and VCs are moving to Berlin, every day (Twitter, Google, Soundcloud, Early Bird and many more).

3. People here are open-minded, outgoing, mix well and international—no need to learn German, everyone speaks English! Making new friends is a matter of days. Visit tons of networking and startup events, every week.

4. Easy work permissions—Europeans do not need any and can work from day one and the rest applies for the hassle-free Blue Card.

5. Berlin's night life is unmatched, huge and changing every day (plus ridiculously cheap). Berlin has got some of the most dazzling, naughty, and original clubs on the face of the Earth.

Now, the shameless plug: Berlin is calling and getting the new tech hub of Europe. If you are passionate about building great software, we’d love to talk with you. If you don't live in Berlin yet, we could help to fix that.

=> http://urge.io/jobs

"(even cheaper than any Eastern European capital)"

That may be true if you exclude Warsaw, Budapest, Prague, Bratislava, Bucharest, Sofia, Ljubljana, Zagreb, Belgrade, Sarajevo, Skopje, Riga, Talinn, Vilnius, Kiev, Bratislava and a few more: http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/rankings.jsp

Otherwise I agree with your 5 points. And Berlin is cheap in comparison with much of Western Europe.

I don't really know where they get their data and the overall picture might well be right but e.g. the rent index within Germany is quite dubious: In their list, Frankfurt and Cologne have a lower rent index than Berlin, whereas I think the map on immobilienscout24 looks a lot more believable[1]

I don't have original or better data but let's carefully say that from the anecdotes that reach me it would be useful to study what rent you would have to pay realistically (for an apartment and for office space) as a non-local coming to a given city. Specifically, as a start-up founder or engineer, you would most likely not want to live in the cheapest neighborhood, independent of if it's New York, Sofia, Warsaw, or Berlin.

tl;dr Most eastern European capitols might be a lot cheaper than Berlin but the linked data should not be trusted blindly.

[1] http://immobilienbewertung.immobilienscout24.de/karten/

"In addition, Germany has an amazing social health care system including health, unemployment and pension (when working as an employee)."

I am sorry but this is simply wrong. There are social health and pension systems but both of them suck and are horrible broken. If you are under 30 and not nearly dead you should do everything possible to get out of those and take care of your self with private insurances.

Many people in private insurance claim that it is at least equally broken, with some saying it is worse. And some of those people I'm speaking about are MDs themselves.

It is broken by German / first-worlds standards, of course, with people not having access to something similar laughing about these claims, if it was remotely funny.

Never get into private health insurance in germany. The problem is that once you are there, you cannot get back. Also, switching insurances gets almost impossible once you actually have a chronic condition. Public insurances have to accept you.

The other problem is that the prices are on a steady rise - the only easy way for private insurances to raise profits is taking it from their clients.

The way to go is public insurance with additional private extensions - it ensures that you can cancel your (sub)-contract without fearing about your general healcare plan.

"Never get into private health insurance in germany. The problem is that once you are there, you cannot get back. Also, switching insurances gets almost impossible once you actually have a chronic condition. Public insurances have to accept you."

There are ways - one example: just make sure you are employed and do not earn more than (roughly) 4500€ / m and tada: back.

"The other problem is that the prices are on a steady rise"

The same is true for the public insurance, beside they do not pay for the same services, medicaments,... as the private insurances. There are also better ways to prevent paying >600€/m when you are over 60. Just a matter of the right company / contract.

"The way to go is public insurance with additional private extensions - it ensures that you can cancel your (sub)-contract without fearing about your general healcare plan."

100% agree on this. If you are an employee.

//edit: not sure if this discussion fits here or if we, if there would be any interest, should use IRC or something else.

It's true that you are better of with the private insurances, but the health care system in Germany is still way better than the one in most other west european countries.

Not everyone speaks English. This might be true in the most touristy areas or in international corporations but it's definitely not the case in cafes, grocery stores etc. So if you move there be prepared to learn a bit of German,

For the most part everything else you mentioned is true. I'm not sure about the work permissions. Berlin is an awesome city overall.

A majority of startup folks I run into from Berlin do not speak any german at all. Many of them have been living there for a while, some for several years.

You will need German and or a translater when you talk to officials and you should get somebody with german knowledge before entering contracts, but by itself you will have an easy tiome getting around Berlin when you are in the startup relevant areas.

> A majority of startup folks I run into from Berlin do not speak any german at all. Many of them have been living there for a while, some for several years.

That is quite sad.

In one way it is, and they will run into problems if they need to deal with german burocrazy. ;)

But on the other side I find it encouraging that you can come to Berlin and different to many other cities of this world can live here without being forced to speak the language fluently first.

And if you speak and think in english all day, it becomes more problematic to get on board with the language around you.

Plus many 'normal' people do start speaking a bit of english and at least understand it.

Yes, it's cool that it's possible. I'm German, but I love English and I think everybody owes it to themselves to learn it. Also I love hearing people on the street talk English or Spanish etc. It makes me very happy to be here (moved here a few years ago, not even aware of the hype ^^). Berlin is the best, and part of that is that it's international and rather unlike other German cities :)

That said, if someone hasn't picked up a bit of German even after years, they're either extremely busy, or doing something wrong IMHO. On holidays, say in Spain, I always kind of disliked Germans sticking only to Germans, and speaking German all day. Surely you know what I mean? There's not having much time to learn the language, and there's being selfish that way.

I kind of feel the same way about this "it's a great, cheap place" stuff. This way it's not going to stay cheap, or cool, for long. It's already kind of suffered, if locals are to be believed. So let's leave it at least as nice as we found it? :)

The best thing about Berlin is the soul and the heart, not the commodities. I mean yeah, startups boom, but Tacheles is struggling - what's up with that? When in Rome, do as the Romans.. well then, if you move to Berlin, start learning German by listening to some Ton Steine Scherben :P

All of this wasn't meant as an attack. As a slight snark maybe. But not more, because generally, I'm super happy for people coming here and making it even better, I'd be a hypocrite otherwise. I'm just missing the voice of Berlin in all this. I mean that. Berlin is more funky, more beautiful and more clever than booms and VC give it credit for. To move to Berlin and not smell those particular roses strikes me as a tragedy.

Just as an observation, it is absolutely incredible how in just 25 years, the capital of one of the sternest and most ideological top-down communist states[1] has become a mecca for technology startups, the apotheosis of bottoms-up entrepreneurial capitalism.

The collapse of Communism and the Soviet Union was a critical factor in unleashing the internet wave of innovation that is still cresting today; though this occurred contemporaneously with the technological breakthroughs of the early 90s, the importance of the fall of the USSR in unleashing the web is not as widely appreciated as it was in the 90s.

[1] And that's saying something; see 'The Lives of Others'.

East Berlin was the capital of a communist state, but it was assimilated by West Berlin, one of the major cities of one of the most successful capitalist countries.

Lowest livings costs with highest quality of living. Stay in gorgeous, perfectly renovated apartments in pre-WWII residential buildings with high ceilings, right in the middle of the center and pay a fraction of costs of any other capital (even cheaper than any Eastern European capital).

Why is this true? Honest question, how can a great large Western European city cost a fraction of other, even Eastern European cities?

Was there a sudden glut of real estate recently? A lot of people suddenly leaving Berlin? But why would they leave if it so great? I am really puzzled by this.

Berlin's cheap because it's located in the middle of former East Germany, which has cheaper rents than West Germany. Also, most of the business centers are located elsewhere in West Germany. Frankfurt is the finance capital. Cologne is the media capital. Munich has a ton of large companies like Siemens, etc.

Berlin's cheap because it's located in the middle of former East Germany, which has cheaper rents than West Germany.

Right, but the original comment claims is cheaper even than most East European capitals, most of which were and still are in even worse economic shape than East Berlin.

The other claim is that it's actually a great city, but you say that other cities probably have more economic opportunity which does explain why Berlin might be so cheap.

Dude, get a history book.

World War II, the Berlin Wall. Remember the Wall only came down in 1990ish. There is still a huge swath cut thru the city where it used to be, without buildings. The former east german side has many old buildings built up in the prosperous pre-war era, that are now rather inexpensive.

In the past 20 years things have improved quite a bit in terms of renovation, but it takes time for population to build up again, and thus the costs are still low because there is abundant supply.

But a lack of buildings (due to the Wall) should mean rents are higher. Same for bombing destroying buildings, this results in fewer building on the market.

As to pre-war architecture, all of Europe, including Eastern Europe is full of it.

The only thing which might give me some insight is that you mention it takes time for the population to build back up?

So rents are cheap because Berlin is today still under populated?

But why is that? Or why are other formerly bombed out cities not also under populated? In Easter Europe there is still a lot of migration from the smaller cities and villages into the big cities. This may be why those are more expensive than Berlin. But that only begs the question why is Berlin specifically so slow to re-populate? Is it because other German large cities, even with higher rent, are more attractive? Which would explain why the rent there is higher?

What exactly is Urge.io creating?


That may have been a little harsh, but I couldn't resist.

How easy is it to get a blue card compared to the old way of getting a work visa for germany? Would you say this is something companies are not going to worry anymore when hiring?

Stay in gorgeous, perfectly renovated apartments in pre-WWII residential buildings with high ceilings

I'm not sure everyone feels that prewar residences are a good thing. For many of us, it's sort of a reminder of everything that, you know, happened.

Why? It's just a building. Let me just add that I'm from Poland, so I understand what you are trying to say.

Because in Germany it's a building that my own ancestors, relatives, or family friends may well have owned or inhabited before being forced out.

Putting the war behind us is a good thing. Getting cheaper housing prices because Berlin has never entirely gotten over the war... is not putting the war behind us. In fact, it's capitalizing today on the lingering effects of the war.

I'm German, and spent my teenage years in South Africa. That mostly means that kids at school called me Nazi (I doubt they meant it as badly as I took it) and then when the Berlin wall came down the whole apartheid thing got big in South Africa.

The upshot is that I had quite a chip on my shoulder in my 20's.

I outgrew that. So I'd suggest, if I may be so bold, not to stay stuck in a past you can't change. Don't miss out on what's there now (wherever "there" is for you). Right now Berlin is awesome. I'd be there if my partner didn't have the opportunity of a lifetime as an economist at the Bank of England.

Oh and if you're looking for well paid work in Berlin, brush up on WinRT and go knock on Nokia's door. That company is amazing. Well, the Berlin bunch are.

Don't miss out on what's there now (wherever "there" is for you).

You mean war profiteering of real-estate values? Honestly, you Germans would be much less creepy if you stopped trying to pretend WW2 and the Shoah never happened and everything is totally happy-shiny now. You certainly don't have to apologize anymore, but you could at least have the decency to act uncomfortable about marketing apartments that are available for low, low, low prices (/salesman voice) primarily because their former residents were killed in war and genocide. You're not supposed to personally feel guilty, but you're not supposed to feel upbeat about it, either.

But hey, I know how it feels being called a Nazi.

Dude that's pretty confrontational. I don't pretend it didn't happen. I didn't say so either. No German I know pretends it didn't happen.

HN is not a forum for prejudice.

"Stay in gorgeous, perfectly renovated apartments in pre-WWII residential buildings with high ceilings"

You don't see anything disturbing about that sentence? Nothing at all? No somewhat-disturbing suggestion that apartment renters today can happily reap the benefits of dispossession and war?

I don't see anything remotely disturbing about that sentence. On the other hand, I'm disturbed by how readily you condemn other people by something they never said.

I don't mean to be harsh, but if a building that existed at the same time as the war is enough to evoke unpleasant feelings for someone, perhaps Germany is not a great place for that person to be living in general.

Hence why I don't live in Germany. And it's not that the building existed at the time of the war, but that the war is yielding profits in easy real-estate today. What I'm uncomfortable with is war profiteering, done 70 years ex-post-facto.

We've been traveling with our startup for about 4 years. Berlin is by far the best city of all the ones we've visited, though Amsterdam is very close in terms of being a nice place to live.

Living on the eastern side of the wall, rents are cheap.

The main thing that keeps us from relocating there more permanently is the immigration issue, but it looks like this may be resolved, at least partially.

One thing though, you probably do want to learn German. While many germans speak english (even more so in the startup scene) a lot of germans don't, and day to day life involves a fair bit of basic german.

But, certainly worth the effort!

genuine question: if it's so great and the capital of a rich country, why is it so cheap? (e.g. what you mentioned about apartments in the city center.)

A lot of this has to do with Berlin's history. When the wall was still standing, west Berlin wasn't the most desirable place to live in Western Germany, it being basically an island in the communist east. So while cities in the West grew wealthy with industry Berlin was always the special case, not exactly a place for major industry to take root. It also became a haven for artists, musicians, intellectuals, homosexuals, anarchists, and other people not willing to take part in the mandatory military service that was required when you lived in the West (Berlin residents were exempt).

Real estate-wise Berlin has (or at least had until recently) a surplus of vacancies: both apartments and commercial buildings. This is partly due to fluctuations in population throughout its history, and steep declines in manufacturing and population during the wall years from their pre-WW2 heights. There were also huge swaths of prime central real estate throughout the city where the wall once stood, that was unusable until it came down.

What you end up with is a city that was originally planned and built for more people than live there, with vacant factories, warehouses, and office buildings from yesteryear that are readily and cheaply repurposed.

Berlin's population is growing these days though, and internationals, people from other parts of Europe, and other parts of Germany are flocking to the city. This means rent prices are on the rise, and vacancy is dropping. It's still way cheaper than any other major European city — for now.

Before the war, Berlin was a major industrial center, with big arms manufacturers and heavy industry. After the war, the Allies demolished much of the industry -- Siemens, for instance, moved to Munich. With the division of he city, many people moved away, leaving postwar Berlin with a loss of almost a third of its population. Since then, the city hasn't recovered its peak population, leaving many empty houses and low rents. In addition, the economy in Berlin has always been, and still is, very weak, and unemployment is high. All this helps to keep the cost of living low (even if, Berlin having become capital and sort of a hip place, it's higher now than it was 15 years ago).

I talked to the CEO of a Berlin-based crypto appliance company and he literally called the place "off-shore". Berlin is located in former East Germany, so it's totally separated from the rich former West German states where all the thriving export industry is. He told me they have practically no customers in their vicinity. They apparently can easily find staff, due to the attractiveness of the city and the various universities there, but all their customers are located in former West Germany or in other countries.

If you go to southern German states like Bayern, Baden-Württemberg or Hessen, cost of living is much higher in the larger cities there than in Berlin. That's because of the export industry which has been able to grow there for the last decades, and the resulting abundance of high paying jobs.

Because it has no huge financial sector unlike New York or London. Germany's Stock-Market is located in Frankfurt.

Also after reunification, East-Berlin was vastly unpopulated, people moving into the already modern West-Germany, while the former GDR was being restored. Nowadays there is hardly any differnece between East- and West-Berlin, but there is uninhabitated room. It is getting fewer though.

I'd say the roots of that still lie in the post war structures of Germany. You know, the division of Berlin, the GDR. That's still just 23 years ago. The city center was first bombed and then at the frontiers, so it was cheap - to put it simple. East Berlin was / is especially cheap. Prices have however been increasing quickly for some years now. Gentrification is a "problem" of many parts of Berlin. And it's still cheap in comparison to Munich or Hamburg, not to speak of London.

Anyone spent a winter in Berlin? It's incredibly cold. Traveling around the city on bicycle, train etc is great during the pleasant summer months but it's literally painful during the winter.

Judging by WeatherSpark's history and averages for Berlin, the winter temps basically hover around freezing at worst, while summers are very mild. That's a strictly better climate than New York, which has comparable winters, but hot, humid summers.

I live in a city that gets much colder than that in the winters, but still has plenty of bicyclists year round. It's all a matter of perspective.

Wikipedia lists the average lows during the winter as around freezing, which is not really that cold… Comparable to (actually slighter warm than) NYC winters, for example.

We were there in the winter of 2010, which was called "the coldest winter in berlin in a century" at the time. Walking around outside on the coldest days, it was rather cold, but not that bad at all.

Certainly getting around on the u-bahn was perfectly comfortable and the s-bahn was fine too.

Really didn't mind it much at all.

The capital used to be in Bonn. Berlin was separated by the Berlin Wall for about 45 years so it's still in the process of resurrection.

i can think of two reasons from the top of my head. first, when germany and berlin were separated for decades, the east was vastly neglected. after the wall came down, huge amounts of east germans moved to the west all over germany - thus leaving berlin sort of empty and with an abundancy of space and real estate. second, having been mostly isolated after ww2, german banks and heavy industry etc settled anywhere but in berlin. economically, this still hurts berlin today. culturally, this makes berlin more of a place for creatives and free minded people who create their own paths rather than corporate suits. i'm building a startup here and it's an amazing place to be!

Berlin has structural issues and capital / politics aren't creating many jobs. The spending power lies in the western / southern states of Germany, not north eastern states.

Be aware, however, that if you're black you can get killed in Berlin. Lots of Neo-Nazis in the city.

While Neo-Nazis are a problem that is not to be understated, getting killed is uncommon in Germany in general. The last matching statistics I could find were for 2003:

In Germany, the rate of successful murders is 1.0 per 100000 inhabitants: http://www.bka.de/nn_229340/SharedDocs/Downloads/DE/Publikat... ("vollendete Fälle")

The murder rate in the US is 5.7: http://www.census.gov/prod/2005pubs/06statab/law.pdf

The rate for Berlin is higher, but thats true for American cities as well. So, getting killed in Germany is much more unlikely than getting killed in the US in general.

Also, while any extremist murder is a horrible thing, the rates in Germany are low in general. There is an exhaustive list of right-extremists murders in germany on Wikipedia:


In 2012, there is no noted case, but that might be because those are still in court (This list only lists cases where the Judge determined the motivation to be extremist). Ignoring the number, you will find that if you really want to get killed by Nazis, going to Berlin is the worst plan, rates in other parts of Germany are much higher. There are admittedly places where I wouldn't go with black skin color because of fear of aggression, but Berlin and all larger towns are not among those.

utter rubbish. I know lots of black people who live happy lives in Berlin.


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