ask überlin: Help me find an apartment!

by James Glazebrook

We answer our readers’ questions about moving to, and living in, Berlin. This time: “How do I find a short-term rental, furnished and with internet access? “

happy new year!

A quick question: A family friend is here for 3-6 months and is looking for a furnished apartment. Ideally it should be in Charlottenburg/Wilmersdorf/Schöneberg. I seem to remember that you guys went through a few furnished places. Did you get them through agencies or websites? What’s the best way in your experience?

The most important thing to her is that the apartment has internet…



Oh yes, we worked through quite a few furnished apartments when we first arrived! Four in as many months, to be exact. We split our time between sublets and holiday apartments, and it was pretty easy to find furnished places with wi-fi – we just made our lives harder by having high expectations and two cats in tow!

Subletting could be a good option, as these apartments are relatively hassle-free and can usually be secured with a small deposit. Plus, because they are someone’s home, they should be fully furnished and hooked up with the internet. (Although they also come with strings attached – see our Dummkopf’s Guide to Subletting to avoid potential pitfalls!) Start by looking at Craigslist – as long as you don’t pay out money sight-unseen, you should be pretty secure – or Airbnb, the smart, safe way to rent from real people.

Holiday apartments are usually clean and well-equipped, although it might be tough finding a place for longer than three months. We can’t remember who we booked through, but these two were in the mix (they just couldn’t accommodate our required dates or cats): Case a Berlino,  T&C Apartments.

If you still can’t find anything, hit the city’s Wohnungsmarkt websites. You’ll still find sublets here, alongside “proper rentals”. Furnished, hooked-up apartments are in the minority, but they can be found. Try to avoid agent’s adverts, as they charge extortionate fees far beyond those asked for by private owners. Here are some websites to try:


Good luck!

Our first sublet

Our first sublet had internet, furniture and space for all our shoes!

Got a question about life in Berlin or making the move here? Check out our quick guide to Moving to Berlin, or drop us an email and we’ll do our best to help!

If you have some advice to offer Vanessa, leave it as a comment below and we’ll make sure she gets it. Thanks!

Moving to Berlin

by James Glazebrook

Practical advice about moving to Berlin is something we’re always asked for, but it’s a subject we’ve skirted around in the past. We’ve broken down subletting in Berlin and given forth about creative migration, expat culture and gentrification (phew!), but none of that will help you decide whether to move to Berlin, or how to go about it. It’s not that we’re trying to stop the place filling up with other expats (honest!), it’s just that – eight months in – we still feel like newbies in a lot of ways. Regardless, we thought we’d share what we’ve learnt so far.

The best resource we’ve come across is this comprehensive guide to moving to Berlin on the now-defunct Berlin Memory Blog. It was last updated two years ago, but most of it still applies – the city isn’t changing half as fast as some of its residents fear. Use it as your starting point and we’ll bring it up to date and fill in a few gaps here.


The first thing to note is that rent isn’t as cheap as it was two years ago, at least in the desirable areas. Apartments in Kreuzberg fetch more than 7€ a square metre these days (closer to 10€) and our beloved Graefekiez is now just as expensive than Bergmannkiez. However, neighbouring Neukölln is still cheap(ish), and becoming more and more attractive as hip young people move in and open up bars, cafes, shops etc.

While rents everywhere remain a fraction of those found in other European capitals like Paris and London, your initial outlay may be considerably more. When you decide to rent an apartment of your own, don’t be surprised if you’re stung with hefty agent fees (typically 2.38 months’ “cold rent”), as well as a month’s rent in advance and another month as a deposit. Costs like this are easily avoided by subletting or  moving into a flatshare, which you probably will when you first arrive.

Cost of living hasn’t increased much since the Memory Blog guide was last updated – at least for essentials like kebaps, beer and Berghain entry – but one of the costs that could catch you out is health insurance. What you pay depends on how much you earn and what level of cover you need, but we reckon premiums will come out at about 15% of your earnings (if you have a job here, your employer will contribute towards this). Health insurance is mandatory, and if it takes you a while to sort it out, may be backdated to when you first registered as a citizen. If you’re only going to be here a short while, don’t bother; even if you plan to stay here long term, you could save some money by taking your time to register (but you didn’t hear that from us!).

Berlin - K

The tax system is fairly complicated here, and largely depends on what you declare your employment status to be, so we’ll just repeat what all the forum threads we’ve read say: get a tax advisor! But even if you pay a lot in taxes, you should be thankful to be earning at all. While unemployment in Germany is currently at a 20-year low of 7%, Berlin routinely records double that (and the rate is especially high among young people). Things are looking up, as the creative industry booms and startups establish themselves here, but the best (and perhaps most obvious) advice we can give is: bring work with you when you move here. We know expats who do the typical Berliner thing of holding down a bunch of casual jobs, and some who’ve blagged benefits, but the only way of guaranteeing a “comfortable” living is with some overseas contracts.

As for the German language, what you’ll never fully appreciate until you move is here is that you really don’t need to speak German to get by. Most people speak English, and, for the most part, they love the practice. Of course, refusing to learn any German rather defeats the point of living abroad (and makes you a Bad Person), but you will learn much faster once you are living here. What worked for us was a few very basic classes in London supplemented with some CDs, followed up by a course at the Deutsch Akademie in Berlin (very cheap, very intensive, some great teachers). We plan to do a tandem language exchange, and perhaps some private classes, but this was a good start.


One final piece of (not so practical) advice: JUST DO IT! We procrastinated for about five years waiting for the “perfect time” to make the move, before realising that there’s no such thing. If you love the city or are just sick of the place in which you currently live (or, like us, both), you have nothing to lose by moving to Berlin. Even if it doesn’t work out in the long term, the city is a great place to live even temporarily – and you can go home knowing that you tried something truly extraordinary. See you in the Kiez!

So…. we hope that’s some help. If you have questions, corrections or other helpful advice to share, feel free to comment below or contact us via email or Twitter. We’d love it if this blog became a place for people to ask questions, and get answers, about moving to – and living in – Berlin.

The Dummkopf’s Guide to Subletting

by James Glazebrook

When you arrive in Berlin, chances are you’ll end up in a flatshare or a sublet. While we’ve no experience of the former, having too many things (and cats) to squeeze into a single room, we can impart some wisdom about the latter. On paper subletting is straightforward – you pays your money (bills included) and move into an apartment which is set up with everything you’ll need for your first few months in Berlin. In reality, it’s anything but simple.

Here are some tips to help you circumnavigate the surprisingly tricksy waters of subletting:




Berliners may be liberal compared to other Germans, but the fact that you are looking after their home means they expect you to take extra-special care of it. They might act all cool and “whatever” and “mi casa su casa” but they expect to find it exactly how they left it (if not cleaner). When the tenants of our first sublet returned, they grilled us on the whereabouts of a mouldy old bathmat, a bowl made out of banana skins (something I think we would remember seeing) and some missing coathangers. Because, in their minds, we moved in, used their stuff and put it back in all the wrong places. Cheeky, huh?


It’s not enough that Berlin is one of the greenest cities in Europe (with 2,500 public green spaces!); its residents are all about bringing the outside indoors. They all have plants, and they love those plants – even more than we love our cats, which is worrying. So when we asked one tenant what we could do with plants that may have been poisonous to our kitties, we should have known that the response “I don’t care” meant something like “leave them with my neighbours” not, say,”just throw them in the trash”. Oopsie!




So we’re probably sounding like nightmare guests right about now. This one’s my bad. Within our first month, I’d managed to drop a set of keys down those grates that are conveniently located in front of every door in Berlin. The set with the keys to the post box attached – so we had to replace that as well as trying to replace the keys. You should know: the chunky keys to the front door of your building, with the ID number on, are basically impossible to replace (I think the tenant has to submit an application to the building manager). So, as we were helpfully told at the latest handover, “if you’re going to lose a key, don’t lose this one” – as he handed it to us, attached to the rest of our single set of keys.


All Berliners are, to some degree, hippies. That’s why they live here and not, say, downtown Manhattan. That’s why they all have plants, and that’s why they need very little else. Pretty early on, we faced up to the fact that a dishwasher is a luxury, but here are just a few of the things we were amazed that people could live without: a kettle; a toaster; a can opener and, more importantly, a bottle opener; curtains; warm showers. We did, however, find plenty of dirty socks and underwear, and healthy chunks of hair clogging up the drain of that freezing cold shower. Nice.


The actual tenants of your sublet are going to be back before you know it. Even if it’s not plain sailing, chances are you’ll fall in love with your nice big (compared to London or New York) apartment, and your new life in it. Just bear in mind, you’ll probably burn through another four of these before you finally settle down, so don’t get attached!

PS for major LOLS from the tenant’s point of view, check out this great blog on Vice from someone whose neighbour sublet his Berlin apartment while he was away.