Berlin Survival guide for interns and graduates
Berlin is such an amazing city, full of vibrant and wonderful people, attractions and a rich culture. Berlin is a great choice for an international internship, regardless of your industry, because it is well-suited for young professionals and students and you are sure to enjoy your time here!
Watch a video of Berlin to have your first insight about the city!
Berlin has had somewhat of a tumultuous history – especially most recently in the twentieth century. Berlin was the center for Nazi headquarters in WWII and it has seen some of the most horrendous acts ever seen in human history. There is no need for us to re-hash the Nazi’s history here, as it is a huge stain on our history and one we have all been taught and can never forget.
Berlin’s beginnings start right back in the 13th century, however, it did not fully develop until it became the capital of the then country, Prussia, in the 18th and 19th centuries. Berlin has since then been a major world city, a center for political, social, educational, and economical development.
During WWII, Berlin (like a lot of European cities) was basically destroyed. At the end of WWII in 1944, the city was divided into four zones under the London Protocol by the Allies and each section became controlled by either American, French, English or Soviet powers.
It was during this time that the famous Berlin Wall was erected by the Communist East German government – it virtually went up overnight on August 13th, 1961. It separated East and West Berlin and was built as a way to keep out the massive numbers of people fleeing from East Germany into West Germany.
The wall remained up and kept families apart right up until 1989 at the fall of the Wall. East and West Germany were reunited on 3rd October, 1990 after the fall of Communism in Europe. The German parliament voted to move the capital of Germany from Bonn back to Berlin in June, 1991.
10 reasons to choose Berlin
Perfect for history buffs
Or even those who aren’t interested in history! Entire university courses are taken on WWII and the history of Germany and Berlin. But even if history is not an interest of yours, you will still learn some fascinating (and horrible) facts about Berlin.
Monuments unlike anywhere else…
Yes, the monuments in Berlin are dedicated to similar events and influences like any other European city – however, the design of the monuments in Berlin are completely different to anything else you might have experienced. They have a way of being visually confronting and pulling audiences in and evoking emotion. For example, at the Holocaust Museum, there is something so confronting and emotive about standing in a courtyard of 2,711 pillars which are all a representation and tribute to the Jews killed in WWII.
Accepting of all lifestyles
Regardless of who you are or where you have come from, everyone in Berlin is very accepting. And because of this wonderful trait, you will see so many sub-cultures in plain sight going about their daily business. Local drinking establishments are usually dedicated to and brimming with indie, punk, folk, or hipster-styled people.
There is something to say about Berlin’s nightlife! If you enjoy going out with friends and dancing and socializing, then you are really going to be spoilt for choice here! You can never really plan or know where you will end up on a night out in Berlin – think of yourself as Alice and Berlin as Wonderland and that might give you an idea of the adventures you might find yourself on!
One minute you might be in a Hawaiian themed rave bar, the next a sophisticated cocktail lounge and then a rooftop DJ party at an art gallery! Do not forget that Berlin is the city that first gave the world techno music…
The selection of cuisines in Berlin is something to be mentioned. If you’re a foodie, then you’re going to love living in Berlin! You can literally find any meal you could possibly think of and Berliners love their food.
Art and Architecture
This is a big one – Berlin is such a visually appealing city because of all of its interesting buildings and scrawling graffiti and mural art everywhere. The city is a maze of colour, shapes and textures so have your camera ready at all times!
Embracing and Changing its Past
One does wonder how a city and a community of people move past massive trauma such as WWII; how they can pick themselves back up, repair their once magnificent city and move on with their lives. If there is anywhere in the world where this has been done almost perfectly, it is in Berlin.
Horrible and horrendous acts were committed within the city – and rather than just forgetting it ever happened (which would be greatly offensive to the Jewish population), Berliners and Germans have instead chosen to embrace, accept and apologise for the atrocities by paying homage to the communities and millions of people lost in the war. Evidence of this can be seen all over the city from street names, to free public galleries and museums, to murals and street art.
The Berlin Wall
The Berlin Wall has been a huge part of Berlin’s recent history. It was, and still is, a symbol for so much of Germany’s history and culture. Since the fall of the Wall in 1989, what replaced the divisiveness and exclusion the Wall had created, was an array of positive, emotive and colourful artistic expressions in the way of street art, exhibitions, and youth hang outs. The best place to see what's left of the Wall is Bernauer Strasse.
Unlike so many Western countries, German’s and Berliners are strict on retaining their privacy – especially from the Government. This is directly caused by the part their Government played in WWII and their will to never let such a thing ever happen again. This means that there are very few public surveillance cameras and security measures – how else do you think it got some of the greatest street art in the world!
Beer is a favourite in Berlin and if you like to go out drinking with friends, then get used to drinking an array of fabulous beer. Seriously, you will be spoilt for choice – and it is so cheap.
What to see
1. Museum Island – a UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site, it is home to five of Berlin’s most important museums: Pergamon Museum, Bode Museum, Neues Museum, Alte Nationalgalerie and Altes Museum.
2. Walk along the Berlin Wall – well, what is left of the Berlin Wall. There is a restored patch along the southern border of Wedding and Mitte.
3. Reichstag – home of the German parliament, it is an impressive building. It had been severely damaged in WWII but was restored after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
4. Mauerpark – you must visit here on a Sunday when the flea market is open. In summer, treat yourself to some outdoor entertainment at the Bearpit Karaoke.
5. The Hollocaust Museum – or the Denkmal für die Ermordeten Juden Europas – a must-do for anyone visiting Berlin.
6. The Brandenburg Gate – the Brandenburger Tor – is arguably one of the most iconic symbols in Berlin. Built in the 1700’s, it is of German classicism style and is extremely striking.
How to travel around in Berlin
Berlin is quite a large city and is nearly 900 km2! It is split into six distinct areas or neighbourhoods, each with their own supermarkets, restaurants and services. Connecting each of these areas is a fantastic public transport system made up of the U-Bahn (subway, underground), the S-Bahn (light rail), buses and trams. It can be a bit tricky navigating the public transport system at first due to its complexity, but you will be used to it in no time and will be getting around like a local within weeks!
Within each of the six neighbourhoods, it is very easy to walk or bike around and this is what a lot of locals do. Public transport systems will allow you to take your bike on with you. You will find walking most places within your neighbourhood the easiest and most enjoyable; Berlin has some amazing walkways and parks and boulevards – everyone gets lost in the city’s beauty!
There are always taxis and services such as Uber operating within the city as well.
Of all the European cities, Berlin is one of the cheapest. Whether it is accommodation, food, travel or activity costs, you will save yourself a lot of money compared to Paris or London!
Accommodation is going to be your biggest expense, so if you have already found rental or shared accommodation then you will only need around US$50 per day for the rest of your expenses, at the most.
1. I guess it is largely due to their awful and recent history – but German’s, and Berliner’s are particular sticklers for rules and transparency when it comes to all social and political situations :
- Drivers are polite on the roads and abide by the rules
- Pedestrians only cross the street when they are supposed to at the correct designated areas
- Customers line up in an orderly fashion and always wait their turn
This is a huge difference in cultural and social norms depending where in the world you are coming from!
2. There are a lot of holidays, public festivals and celebrations – German’s love a good reason to party and be social.
3. You need to carry cash – a lot of smaller establishments like bars, cafes and boutiques will not accept credit cards.
4. Recycle, recycle, recycle – everything. Bottles, plastic, paper, cardboard, metal. You will be judged for it by everybody, so get used to it!
Best areas to live in
Berlin has a lot of different neighbourhoods and it can be guaranteed that regardless of your lifestyle, you will find an area that suits you perfectly! That is what is so great about living in such a diverse and accepting city.
Here is the top 5 neighbourhoods in Berlin :
1. Mitte – is a historical part of the city, it is home to many of the tourist attractions and so it is where you will find a lot of businesses and foreigners. In saying this, it is also home to many companies and so you could quite potentially be working in this area in your internship!
2. Kreuzberg – is a hugely popular area for locals and immigrants alike. It was once home to an eclectic group of artists, migrants and musicians, however, these days it is one of the more expensive areas of Berlin.
3. Friedrichshain – remains one of the cheaper areas in Berlin, while still maintaining an interesting mix of cafes, restaurants and bars to attract interesting crowds.
4. Prenzlauer Berg – is an amazing beautiful area but it is more family orientated these days. Some describe this as a “yuppy” neighbourhood – so perfect for those of you who enjoy organic stores, cafes, yoga studios and galleries.
5. Schoeneberg – is a recent favourite amongst locals. This is largely due to the fact it is one of the last remaining areas that hasn’t been taken over by tourists. Here you will still get the typical, edgy, old-school Berlin vibe which everyone loves so much.
You will be able to find all of the usual luxuries in Berlin, but there are a few important items you must pack or purchase as soon as you arrive !
- Lightweight jacket – for all year round.
- Shopping bags – there are no plastic bags given in supermarkets or shopping outlets.
- Comfortable and warm shoes – you will need to be wearing them for hours at a time, potentially for days and weeks.
- Camera – you will need to document all of the Berlin sights!
Regardless how long you plan on spending in Berlin, it is guaranteed you are going to have a wonderful time on your internship! Berlin is an exciting place full of interesting and cultural people and you are sure to learn something new about the city, about the world and about yourself every day.
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