4 Ways To Reframe Moving To Berlin With Your Family

You’re satisfied with your life, your relationship is great, your kids are happy, and your partner drops a bombshell–they’ve had a magical job offer…in Berlin! You want to support them, of course you do. But your mind is spinning with questions, many, many questions. Possibly you are thinking about all the things you are giving up… but what about all the exciting things you are moving towards? Let’s explore a few of these and reframe them, so you can take full advantage of this exciting once-in-a-lifetime opportunity you’ve been given.

What’s a reframe?

A reframe is when we look at something we’re not happy about, then look again from a different perspective. Cloudy on your wedding day? At least it’s not raining. Your child didn’t top the class in Math? But they are happy, healthy, and learning… and able to go to school. Your partner wants to move your family to the other side of the world, and you’re freaking out? You have a unique opportunity for a whole set of adventures for you all.

It’s normal when presented with change to focus on all the things we might be missing out on. And it’s important before we spiral, to stop and consider the things we are gaining, the new people, new experiences, new skills such as learning another language, and the excitement of exploring new places.

Berlin is a big city with a diverse array of districts. If you like a bustling urban environment or a quieter, greener way of life you’ll find both here. There are amazing playgrounds, public swimming pools, and libraries throughout the city, as well as a myriad of shops and restaurants. Berlin is incredibly international and super kid-friendly. If you’re hoping to find a community of people with families just like yours, chances are good you’ll find it here in Berlin.

Schools and childcare in Berlin

Choosing a school for your child

If you have children, it’s important to consider whether your potential home is close to the school in which you wish to enrol your child.  This is because the public state school system in Germany requires you live in the area where you wish to enrol your child. Where you will live and where your children go to school are decisions which need to be made hand-in-hand.

Families with young children might want to consider the local state school (public school). Local Grundschule (grade school) is free and will give your child the chance to learn German in an immersive environment. By law, you must register with the Schulamt (school authority) for all school-age children (aged 6+), so do this as soon as possible when you arrive in Berlin.

Living close to your child’s school is also important for other reasons. A short walk or cycle to school is easier for you as a family. Your child will have school mates living nearby; important for building social connections. They will also have the opportunity to learn German through total immersion–the best way to learn any language.

Be aware that Berlin’s schools are very full. This means you may not be able to get into the school that is closest to your home. The city is required to find a place for all school-aged children but sometimes this might mean you have to travel 30 minutes to get to school. While your assigned school will be located within your district, it won’t necessarily be in your immediate neighbourhood.

If you are concerned that your child will miss out on too much learning as they develop their German language skills, or you only plan to be here for a short time, or you prefer your child continues their schooling in English, then you may choose to enrol them in a private or public bi-lingual or international school. This will also affect your neighbourhood choice.

Each private international, private bilingual and public bilingual school in Berlin has its own application process. There are specific steps to follow which we have outlined for you here: Moving to Berlin with a Family.

Advantages of these schools include your English-speaking child will be able to learn in an environment where his/her native language is spoken, the curriculum may be more in-line with what you are used to, and you may find it easier to communicate with the teachers. However you will need to pay for this tuition and your child will not learn German as quickly as they would in a state school.

For more information about the school systems in Berlin, look at our article How to choose and enrol in a school in Berlin.

Childcare and Kita in Berlin

Childcare in Berlin is hot topic amongst families with children aged three to six.  ‘Kita’, short for KInderTAgestätte, is the German form of daycare or nursery school.  The German system is one of the best in the world for subsidizing public childcare and Kita costs. However, there are not enough Kitas in Berlin to accommodate every child under the age of six.  This means that finding a Kita spot and childcare in Berlin can create a frustrating situation. If you can’t get a spot at your KITA of choice, be sure to get on a waiting list. And if you are offered a place for your child, do take the initial offer. As with housing, this is one area where you can’t afford to be too choosy. You can get on another waiting list and move your child to another KITA later on if they are not happy there.

Oher options for childcare include Tagesmutter (Day Mother) for children under 3. A Tagesmutter will accept anywhere between two and eight children at a time, and the childcare takes place at the Tagesmutter’s house.

You may like to also consider a Nanny or AuPair if you require regular childcare for a set number of hours per week. If you are freelancing, you might be interested in a growing business model based on co-working and childcare in Berlin.  You pay for workspace while your little one spends time in the on-site daycare.

Playgroups are another option, allowing you to meet and interact with other English-speaking parents. You could also join one of the numerous support groups for expats and their children. And if you’re wanting to workout, head for one of the many gyms around the city which offer childcare.

To learn more about the options available for you with childcare in Berlin, and some of the trusted services we recommend, look at our blog: Childcare in Berlin

Our relocation specialists can help you find a KITA space, and you can include it in one of our specially tailored relocation packages. Book a consultation with us to have all your childcare questions answered.

Helpful questions to ask as you choose your child’s school or KITA

How long do you intend to stay here? If it’s long-term, perhaps placing your child in a learning situation where they can learn German may be the best option for them. If you only plan to stay for a short while, allowing them to continue their learning in English may be the better option.

What is your child’s character? Are they social, open minded and adventurous? Then they may love diving into the fascinating experience of attending a German school. Are they shy and have a challenge socializing? Then they may find it difficult if they can’t communicate with their peers and teachers. Do remember that most children learn another language fairly quickly. Educators say that it takes around three months for a child to adjust in a school where a foreign language is spoken. It’s possible your child may amaze you with how quickly they settle in and begin speaking German… and maybe even teach you to speak it as well!

Does your child have special needs? Perhaps a private school would suit them better. Ensure you provide all of the appropriate reports and information from your child’s previous schools when enquiring about which school could best meet your child’s educational needs.

How old is your child? Public school is of course available for older children as well, but they may have a tougher time if they don’t speak German. Non-German-speaking families might want to consider a bilingual or international school for their older children in Berlin.

Your considerations of a Grundschule (grade school) child may need to be different to that of your teenager. You know your child best, so gather the information available and weigh up the pros and cons.

How to reframe finding schools in Berlin for your child

How could your child benefit from this adventure of moving to Berlin? They would have the unique opportunity of being exposed to another language and culture. They would potentially make friends with children from all around the world, connections which could last a lifetime, and help them in the future. They will develop resilience and flexibility, as well as valuable interpersonal (communicating with others) and intrapersonal (self-communication) skills.

After the initial ‘sorting out’ process as they are immersed in a new language, they will improve their mother-tongue. Learning a second language is proven to increase the vocabulary, grammar, reading and speaking skills of your native tongue.

Older children may have the chance to travel to other parts of Germany or Europe during school trips. And, whether you stay here or return home, they will have had a unique life changing opportunity which will stay with them forever.

Finding your new home

The Berlin housing market

You can find more information and all the documents you need to provide to your potential Vermeiter (Landlord) on our blog: How to find a Berlin Apartment  It outlines the main things you need to know about apartment hunting in Berlin. If you choose our relocation services, we will walk you through this step-by-step.

Once you know what you are looking for, and begin searching, you’ll find that many, many other people are also searching for a new home. This means that you may not have the luxury of turning down an apartment if you are offered one. Around 85% of Berliners rent their homes, and rents have risen 35% in the last five years. The Berlin housing market is currently filled with home seekers who are desperate for any home. So, if you are offered something that meets most of your criteria, our suggestion is that you take it. Another opportunity may not come along in your timeframe, and this creates added stress for you. Once you’re settled here, have a better grasp of the city, and are more familiar with the market, you can always move to another apartment.

Depending on your budget, you may need to compromise on the number of bedrooms (Schlafzimmer), extra dining (Essenzimmer) or living room (Wohnzimmer) or even the extra bathroom (Badezimmer) you’re used to. You might also be further from the city centre than you originally intended. We have seen clients turn down a fantastic apartment, because they were unable to reframe or budge on potentially unnecessary extras. This has created added stress to an already stressful time for them.

Many of our clients start in short term furnished accommodation (usually three months), giving them breathing space to settle in before finding a more permanent home. Remember, your first home in Berlin does not need to be your only home here.

You may need to be flexible

Berlin is an apartment-rich city and accommodation per square meter is expensive. Depending on what part of the world you are moving from, you may be used to a different living setup than what is normal here in Berlin.

You may need to compromise on some of the items on your wishlist, such as living size, having a garden, or even a gym, swimming pool, or the other extras you’re used to. One of our clients moved from Australia where she lived in a large beach-side resort complex, complete with gym, swimming pools, spa and sauna. Because she wanted to relocate to Berlin, she had to give up her apartment amenities, huge balcony (rare in Berlin), beach views (not possible), and guest bedroom, so she could live in a smaller, one bedroom apartment in the area of Berlin she loved.

Sure, the apartments you’ve lined up to view may not be as big as the four-bedroom, two story house with pool and gardens you’re leaving. Know that you can reframe this and consider the benefits of the new lifestyle you are moving towards. Think about what is vital to you and your family–being close to your children’s schools, workplace and facilities such as playgrounds, restaurants, and family friendly activities may be more important than having an extra bedroom or bathroom, or even living space you may not even use.

How to reframe your accommodation choices

What do I really need? A comfortable, safe home with good heating, bedroom(s), bathroom, kitchen, living area, close to your child’s school and Kita, your workplace, public transport, and supermarkets.

What can I live without?  Can you live happily without a guest bedroom, extra bathroom, formal dining room, or even a city centre location? Yes, you can. Millions of Berliners do.

An elevator is a good example of something you may be able to live without. If you will be living on the ground or first floor, maybe you don’t need an elevator. However, if a potential apartment is on the fourth floor of an Alt-Bau (old build with high ceilings), and the thought of lugging your groceries and small child up all those flight of steps feels overwhelming, then perhaps an elevator is a must for you.

Trade-offs? You may need to trade something on your wish list to gain something you can’t live without. Perhaps you choose the fourth-floor apartment with elevator, over the larger living room, and decide to have your dining table double as a homework space. Thousands of kids around Berlin do the same. Perhaps the perfect apartment you’ve seen has only two bedrooms, and your two children are used to having their own rooms. Maybe they can get used to sharing. There are benefits to this. Again, in this apartment rich city, this is normal. Get back to basics; consider what you or your family really need and make your decision from a place of peace. and simplicity

Some of the more popular Berlin districts for families include: Mitte, Prenzlauer Berg, Friedrichshain, Weißensee, and Pankow (former East Berlin), as well as Kreuzberg, Schöneberg, Wilmersdorf, Wedding, Charlottenburg, Friedenau, Dahlem, and Zehlendorf (former West Berlin).

Are you wondering which Berlin district would be a good fit for your family? Our relocation specialists can help. Book a consultation here.

Getting around the city

Having a car in Berlin is not essential

Many Expats moving to Berlin are used to having one or more cars. This is often because they come from areas where you do need a car. Moving to Berlin creates a shift in thinking in regard to your transport.

Car parking is difficult to find and can be expensive. As in most European cities, apartment underground parking is rare due to many older apartments being built before the invention of cars. So, if you do have a car, you’ll potentially need to find street parking, which could involve lots of driving around your neighbourhood each day to find a free parking space. Other options include long-term carparks (expensive), or possibly renting a lock-up garage space near your home (rare but they do exist, and you could get lucky).

If you decide you do need a car, you will need to register this, as well as transfer your driving licence to a German one if you are not a member of the EU. For more information on this, read our article How to get your German Driver’s Licence.  When looking for accommodation, consider the availability of street parking.  In Berlin, you require a residence parking permit (Bewohnerparkausweis) to park in your neighbourhood. Archer Relocation services can assist you with the correct regsitrations for car, driver’s licence and parking.

Join the bicycle culture

Berlin has a huge bicycle culture. It’s common to see parents on a Fahrrahder (bicycle) with a child seat on the back, or a Kinderfahrradanhänger (bicycle wagon) filled with several children, baskets stocked with the day’s groceries or a picnic lunch. Many children ride or scooter to school; depending on their age they are accompanied by a parent. People cycle to work, restaurants, supermarkets and Biergartens. Whole families cycle to and through the many parks such as the Tiergarten or Gleisdreieck for a fun day out.

Is it important to you that your Berlin neighbourhood is close to your work? Even in a large city like Berlin with its excellent public transport systems, living close to your workplace is still a consideration. Consider your lifestyle. If you’re already into cycling, you may be familiar with the huge bicycle culture in Germany.  If cycling to and from work interests you, then consider this when choosing your new home. If you don’t enjoy long commutes, then keep this in mind when choosing a potential neighbourhood

Public transport in Berlin

The public transport system in Berlin is excellent. There are numerous S-Bahn (train) and U-Bahn (subway) servicing the city, and the trains run regularly and efficiently. They are safe, and many children catch public transport to school. You can also ride the bus or the Straβenbahn (tram). Most of the tram network is in the former East Berlin, as the tram lines in West Berlin were replaced by buses during the division of the city.

If you want to cycle around your new city, you don’t need to immediately buy a bike. There are bicycles and scooters available for rent all over the city. You might consider joining the bicycle culture and riding to work or school. Many people living in Berlin make use of these many services without needing a car. Taxis and Uber are also affordable options, especially for a fun night out.

If you need transport to move or pick up items such as furniture, or even explore beyond the city, you can easily rent a car for a few hours or a day. Carshare is an excellent option here.

How to reframe transport in Berlin

Do you really need a car? Can you manage with using public transport or joining the bicycle culture. Cycling could be a fun bonding opportunity for your family and a great way to explore your new home town. What do you usually do for travel and entertainment where you live now? Will this change when you move to Berlin?

Gather the information, weigh up the pros and cons and allow it to merge with your lifestyle. Know that your lifestyle may alter naturally as you move to a new place. Know this is okay. It’s part of the adventure of moving to a new city.

Making friends in Berlin

Maybe you’ve moved here knowing only a handful of people or…no-one? Perhaps your partner is working long hours and your children are out at Kita or school all day? Maybe you’ve left special friends back home and you miss them, and your time-zones don’t align? And you wander the streets of your new city, or sit in a cafe sipping your Doppelter Espresso, feeling alone and lonely?

We know this is difficult, and it’s also an opportunity to expand your world and make new friends, both German natives and others from all over the world.

You will naturally be focused on helping your family get settled, ensuring your partner is happy and your children are making friends. Yet it’s important for your mental health that you also make friends and have people to connect with. You need someone to share your experiences with, both positive and frustrating, and most importantly you need to have some fun. When you are happy, it will make you a more effective parent and partner. Here’s some ways you can make friends in your new city.

How to meet people

German Language classes are popular all over Germany. They are also an opportunity to meet other people like you who are new to the German language and culture. This could be a person who helps you improve your German, as well as becomes a new friend. Invite them for coffee after class and practice ordering in German.

Meetup groups are another option. Whether it’s an English-speaking yoga class, a German-speaking running group, or even a wine club, you can connect with like-minded souls. If you are working or freelancing, join a professional group to meet others in your industry. There are various meetup groups throughout your city which you can find by searching online.

Are you in a relationship but just want to meet new people? Some dating apps like Bumble also provide a ‘seeking friendship’ option. This makes it easy to make friends who speak your mother tongue and are also bilingual or multi-lingual.

Connect with other parents

If you want to meet other parents, consider joining an expat parenting group. There are plenty of them on Meetup. If you are at school drop-off or pick-up, say hello to other parents. Arrange co-playdates with your child’s friends, where you have coffee with their parents. Invite them for dinner. Open yourself to new friendships. And remember, if they are also expats, they are or have been in the same position as you. They will understand what you’re going through and may prove to be helpful as well as become a new friend.

How to reframe making friends in Berlin

Remember that moving to Berlin is a huge task and it’s okay if you don’t meet new people straight away. Be kind to yourself. Moving here makes you an adventurer, a traveller, and someone who has an amazing opportunity to meet new people from all around the world. You will meet people and you will make new friends. However, you may need to be pro-active about it. Take your time and do it at your pace.

When you move to a foreign country, it’s important for your mental health to speak your mother-tongue. You may dive into learning German, but remember it takes a lot of energy, focus and brain power. Moving is a huge adjustment on many levels and you may need times where you can relax and speak freely to someone, without having to dig into your brain for the German word. So, make a friend who speaks your language. If they also speak German, that’s great. They can help you learn if you want to. But communicate clearly if you need space to express your experiences in the language which is most familiar to you.

At Archer Relocation, we know moving to another country can be stressful, and even a little scary. It’s why we strive to make everything as easy as possible for our clients. You’ve put so much effort into creating your current life and now it’s changing. We understand the mind-whirling stress which can occur as you wonder if your expectations will match your new reality in Berlin. So, while you’re doing this, we also encourage you to keep in mind the positive skills, experiences, and adventures you, and your family will gain. It’s possible this move could be an exciting adventure and the best thing you ever did.


Archer Relocation has been providing relocation services to families, individuals and companies in Berlin since early 2015.  Managing Director, Emily Archer, founded the company desiring to use her first-hand experience as an expat to make the relocation process as smooth as possible for others moving to Berlin.  Read other useful information about moving to and living in Berlin, such as ‘How to Find a Berlin Apartment’, on our Berlin Blog.  

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