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‘I moved to Berlin, and then the lockdown hit’: What life is like for newscomers in corona times

Moving alone to a new city can be exciting, daunting, and liberating at the same time. But add in a pandemic, and it is a whole new ball game. Here are the stories of three foreigners who recently moved to the capital.

'I moved to Berlin, and then the lockdown hit': What life is like for newscomers in corona times
Katrina Moody in Mauerpark in November. Photo courtesy of Moody.

While newcomers to Berlin look forward to exploring the endless museums and galleries, the world famous nightlife and the diverse food scene, what happens when you find yourself moving to Berlin in the midst of a global pandemic, and the second lockdown of the year?

This is the position Claire*, 27, found herself in, arriving in Berlin at the end of September. Before Berlin, she had been based for Hamburg for two months, and prior to that was living in Paris. While her job is currently based in the Harbour City, her office remains closed, and she used that as an opportunity to move to Berlin – a city that she was more intrigued by. 

“I arrived in Germany in July. Being in a new country and not being able to do the things I would normally do was hard,” said Claire, who's originally from the US.

“People weren’t having parties, there were no fitness classes, I wasn’t able to go to the office and socialize.”

READ ALSO: 'I never thought I'd settle in Germany': The foreigner who stayed years longer than planned

“I decided to move from Hamburg to Berlin, as I had heard a lot of good things about the city. The challenges that were there in Hamburg are still here in Berlin, but I do find it more laid back in certain aspects. And before the second lockdown I spent time visiting some galleries and museums and met some new people.”

Despite Claire initially feeling incredibly anxious about the second lockdown, she said that it has been better than expected, and she is navigating the city in a new way, discovering Berlin’s parks and open spaces: “I enjoy walking around the neighbourhood, peaking at the restaurant menus and noting down which places I can go to when things become open. I also like Mauerpark and listening to the music there.”

The unexpected positive of lockdown, Claire says, is that you bond more closely with the people that you have already met: “This can be an isolating and lonely time. I have been very reliant on the few contacts I have here and as a result we have formed deeper friendships.”

Socialising and meeting new people has also been key for Katrina Moody, 22, who moved to Berlin from Amsterdam in October after securing a job. She says the lockdown has completely altered the way she would typically meet people, and she has been forced to step out of her comfort zone. 

“I am approaching people more often now. Usually if I went to a fitness class, I wouldn’t talk to anybody, but when I first moved to Berlin, dance and fitness classes were the only kind of social interaction I had,” said Moody, who comes from Ireland.

“I have also used an app – Bumble BFF, and I have met a couple of girls from it, people have been quite open. And I love hanging out with my flat mates – that has made everything a lot easier.”

Moody at Tempelhof in Berlin in November. Photo: DPA

However, when Moody initially heard the news of the second lockdown, she said she did consider going home: ‘I panicked a lot, I was really nervous. My boyfriend was here at the time, and he left the day before lockdown. I thought I would just be alone and really bored. But after a few days, I saw it wasn’t too bad. I am still able to go into the office and spend time with my flatmates.”

“Even when you just go out for a walk or a run, it naturally feels more exciting than being in a different city, as it is still something new. Most people have not been able to experience anything new in the past year. So, it still feels like I have achieved something.”

But for those who are new to the city and live alone, it has brought more challenges.

Lisa Winkler, 26, moved to Berlin from Munich at the end of October, and experienced the city for one week before the lockdown hit.

READ ALSO: 10 mistakes everyone makes when they first arrive in Germany

Hearing rumours of a lockdown while still in Munich, she says she was unsure if she should make the move: “it is bad timing to move to a new city. I do not know a lot of people in Berlin, so initially I thought I would not be able to socialize at all, and I would be in the apartment by myself,” said Winkler, originally from Austria.

“But I wanted to come here and settle into the new job and meet my colleagues.”

“Since I can go into the office a couple of times a week, it is great to be able to socialize there. And when I am at home, I reach out to those who live near me to go for a walk or have a coffee break. People have been open as they know I am new to the city. But it can be lonely sometimes.”

But in other ways, Winkler says she has been positively surprised since arriving in Berlin, despite the lockdown: “The city has more nature than I expected, and I enjoy going to the food markets and the flea markets at the weekend. The city feels very diverse and international.”

This is something echoed by Claire. She shares that despite living in Berlin only for a few weeks before the lockdown, she caught a glimpse of what the city can be: 

“I can see the fabric of the city is creative and exciting. Right now, I am just getting a slither of what it could be. I am curious to see how things are when this is over.”

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LIVING IN GERMANY

REVEALED: The most commonly asked questions about Germans and Germany

Ever wondered what the world is asking about Germany and the Germans? We looked at Google’s most searched results to find out – and help clear some of these queries up.

Oktoberfest
Hasan Salihamidzic, the sports director of FC Bayern, arrives with his wife at Oktoberfest in full traditional dress. Photo: picture alliance/dpa |

According to popular searches, Germany is the go-to place for good coffee and bread (although only if you like the hard kind) and the place to avoid if what you’re looking for is good food, good internet connection and low taxes. Of course, this is subjective; some people will travel long stretches to get a fresh, hot pretzel or a juicy Bratwurst, while others will take a hard pass.

When it comes to the question on the bad Internet – there is some truth to this. Germany is known for being behind other rich nations when it comes to connectivity. And from personal experience, the internet connection can seem a little medieval. The incoming German coalition government has, however, vowed to improve internet connectivity as part of their plans to modernise the country.

There are also frequent questions on learning the German language, and people pointing out that it is hard and complicated. This is probably due to the long compound words and its extensive grammar rules, however, as both English and German are Germanic languages with similar words in common, it’s not impossible to learn as an English-speaker.

Here’s a look at some of those questions…

Why is German called Deutsch? Whereas ‘German’ comes from the Latin, ‘Deutsch’ instead derives itself from the Indo-European root “þeudō”, meaning “people”. This slowly became “Deutsch” as we know it today. It can be a bit confusing to English-speakers, who are right to think it sounds a little more like “Dutch”, however the two languages do have the same roots which may explain it.

And why is Germany so boring? Again, probably a generalisation, especially given that Germany has a landmass of over 350,000 km² with areas ranging from high rise, industrial cities to traditional old town villages and even mountain ranges, so you’re sure to find a place that doesn’t bore you to tears.

Perhaps it is a question that comes from the stereotype that Germans are obsessed with being strict about rules, organised and analytical. Or that they have no sense of humour – all of these things being not the most exciting traits. 

Either way, from my experience I can confirm that, even though there is truth to German society enjoying order and rules, the vast majority of people are not boring, and I’m sure if you come to Germany you’ll meet many interesting, funny and exciting people. 

READ ALSO: 12 mistakes foreigners make when moving to Germany

When it comes to the German weather, most people assume a cold and cloudy climate, however this isn’t entirely true. While the autumn and winter, especially in the north, come with grey skies and sub-zero temperatures, Germany can have some beautiful summers, with temperatures frequently rising above 30C in some places.

Unsurprisingly, the power and wealth of the German nation is mentioned – Germany is the largest economy in Europe after all, with a GDP of 3.8 trillion dollars. This could be due to strong industry sectors in the country, including vehicle constructions (I was a little surprised to find no questions posed on German cars), chemical and electrical industry and engineering. There are also many strong economic cities in Germany, most notably Munich, Frankfurt am Main and Hamburg.

READ ALSO: Eight unique words and phrases that tell us something about Germany

Smart and tall?

Why are Germans so tall? They are indeed taller than many other nations, with the average German measuring a good 172.87cm (or 5 feet 8.06 inches), however this may be a question better posed to the Dutch, who make up the tallest people in the world.

Why are Germans so smart? While this is again a generalisation – as individuals have different levels of intelligence in all countries – this question may stem from Germany’s free higher education system or their seemingly efficient work ethic. Plus there does seem to be some scientific research behind this question, with a study done in 2006 finding that Germans had the highest IQ in Europe.

So, while many of the questions posed about Germany and Germans on Google stem from stereotypes, we can confirm that some aren’t entirely made up. If you’re looking to debunk some frequently asked questions about France and the French, check out this article by our sister site HERE.

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