Guide to Berlin Part 3: Best of Pankow

Berlin Guide: Pankow

We are continuing our Archer Relocation series on areas of Berlin and the amazing female entrepreneurs who live and work here. Aussie expat, former Opera singer and managing director of Red Tape Translation, Kathleen Parker, gave us the lowdown on her neighbourhood: Pankow. 

Kathleen Parker


Kathleen Parker

Berlin Neighbourhood


How long have you lived in Berlin?

I’ve lived in Berlin for 10 years.

Why did you move here?

I came to Germany from Australia to sing! I had a previous career as an opera singer. I met my boyfriend (now my husband) one week after moving here. So, I stayed!

Did you have help moving here such as a relocator or translator?

My agent at the time found me an apartment and I arranged the visa myself. I came over on the Australian Working Holiday Visa which is for young people under thirty who want to experience the culture and work here.

Where did you sing in Germany?

I sang in Cologne, Berlin, (including the Deutsche Oper for a children’s opera), Potsdam, Wiesbaden, Schwerin, parts of Asia, and Australia. I stopped performing when I was pregnant with my second daughter. I had started Red Tape Translation by then and it was all too much to juggle, so I put the singing on hold. Life was much easier without the pressure and stress of performing, and the travel it involves.

Why did you start Red Tape Translation?

In 2012. It was meant to be a side project so I could clear my calendar for seven weeks, go and do a show, and have the business continue running in the background. But then Red Tape Translation became bigger, life happened, and it became my full-time job. It was becoming harder to travel with a family and the working conditions weren’t always great. It got to the point where I realised, I didn’t have to do this.  So I put performing on hold, and then Corona happened, and the whole world exploded anyway, and performing was just not an option for a few years after that.

Red Tape Translation Team

Can you tell us about your business?

Red Tape Translation helps expats move to Germany. I can help solve any problem with bureaucracy that involves dealing in German. People mostly use our coaching services for visa and permit information, figuring out the pension system, joining the Artists’ Social Insurance Scheme (Künstlersozialkasse – KSK) or dealing with the unemployment agency.

Around 90% of my clients are freelancers, lots of creatives, artists (singers, dancers, writers, poets), graphic designers, videographers and software developers.

I also specialise in legal translation and interpreting. We do certified translations,  legal translation and interpreting, for example contract interpreting at the notary’s office if someone buys an apartment. That’s a big job. We do a lot of this work at Red Tape Translation. Expats who buy property in Germany find this notary process very…unusual!

When you buy property in Germany, the contract is read aloud in its entirety. In German. And then if your German’s not up to scratch, the entire contract must be read out in English. This is a legal requirement for purchase of property. It’s a long process and it can be quite overwhelming if you’re not prepared for it. It’s incredibly useful (and usually mandatory!) to have a translator/interpreter there if you don’t speak German. It’s vital to ensure the buyer completely understands the intricacies of the legal process.

And this is where I think Archer Relocation and Red Tape Translation complement each other well. We can help your clients find the perfect health insurance for their needs. We also assist our clients with property searches, and then refer them to you when they need help with translation and interpreting at the notary.

Exactly! Yes, our businesses support each other very well! All of our clients require health insurance [health insurance is mandatory in Germany]. And we are discovering more and more of our Red Tape Translation clients are needing support at the notary. I enjoy this work so it’s great that its growing.

Did you speak German when you moved here?

I was at B1 (intermediate) level when I got here. I knew I was coming so I did some private study before I left. I also had to study German at university as part of my course. I sang mainly in German music, so I knew how to say lots of useless things like, “O serpent, thou pierce my heart!” but nothing practical like “How do you get to the U-Bahn?”

How long did it take you to become fluent in German?

When I got here, I met my (now) husband literally a week after stepping off the plane and, being ambitious, I asked if we could speak German from the get-go. I started my full-time job at the opera company – everybody spoke German. So it was a jump in the deep end in both the relationship and the job. I would say to feel completely fluent, it took two to three years. But that deep end dive was huge and it sped up my progress considerably. I’m now a member of the German Federal Association of Interpreters and Translators (BDÜ) and much of my working life involves a constant switch every day between German and English through the translation of documents and interpreting for non-German speakers.

Where in Berlin do you live? Part of the city? Former east/west?

My Kiez (area) is Niederschönhausen in the Pankow district. Pankow is in the north of former East Berlin.

Who do you live with? Apartment or House?

I live in an apartment with my husband and two young daughters.

What are your three favourite things about living in Berlin?
BikinBerlin Family Fahrrader Bicycle

We go cycling as a family. There are so many great tracks in Berlin and its surroundings. My littlest is not quite ready for big trips, but my eight-year-old…she’s already done a twenty kilometre cycle voluntarily – that was impressive and unexpected. We got to where we were going and we were going to turn around and come back and we said, “Do you want to go on the train, or do you want to ride?” and she said, “I want to ride!”



There’s somewhere green in Berlin within a few hundred metres of wherever you are. In my area, there is Schlosspark and Bürgerpark–there’s a jazz festival, a petting zoo, a sustainable Christmas market. The Botanischer Volkspark Blankenfelde-Pankow, too – every spring, we take our kids to pick loads of wild garlic and make vegetable lasagne. Other Berlin favourites are Tierpark, Volkspark Weinbergsweg (especially in Summer when the water play area is working), Volkspark Friedrichshain, and of course, Tempelhofer Feld.

You can be and do whatever!

You can be whatever you want to be, do whatever you want to do, and no-one cares in Berlin. No-one blinks! So if you want to find your people, find your thing, you can. It’s incredibly liberating.

What do you like most about your neighbourhood?
Multicultural Berlin

My neighbourhood is more multicultural than you’d expect. In our apartment building alone, there are residents from India, Vietnam, Portugal, Pakistan, Turkey, Jordan, Australia, Russia, the Republic of Korea, the Netherlands and Germany. Just to name a few. My daughter’s class at her local primary school is also very multicultural. Sure, Niederschönhausen has a long way to go before you could compare it to other multi-cultural parts of Berlin, but Pankow on the whole is becoming much more diverse than it ever used to be and I like that.


I like the public swimming pool here, Sommerbad Pankow. We spend a lot of time there in the summer. Apart from that, there are lakes within biking distance, like Weißensee, Oranke See and Plötzensee.


Near our house is an enormous park called Schlosspark and it completely changed our lives having it in our backyard, especially with little kids and especially during COVID.

Schlosspark Pankow

Is Pankow a good neighbourhood for kids?

Yes! It is the best area for kids! The number of young families that are already here means you have an instant community. In terms of bilingual schools there are two I’m aware of – Platanus and Klax. There are so many green areas, so many playgrounds, so many activities for kids.

How do you feel about your children growing up in Berlin?

I’m thrilled that we are living here. I think it’s a great place to grow up. Niederschönhausen has the right combination of suburban and city for me; you still feel connected to Berlin but it’s got that safer, suburban, green feel about it. My kids also have great schools and Kitas and they’re growing up bilingually.

What do you do for fun and exercise in your area?

We spend a lot of time in the park. We go on cycling trips as a family. And we go to the public pool a lot in summer.

There’s a great community centre for kids called Kulti Pankow. It’s a big old two-story villa with a pool table and an air hockey table, and it has games and books that go up to the ceiling. Upstairs they have computers for gaming and some serious art and pottery supplies. They have a little kitchen where they’ll do toasted sandwiches for sixty cents. And they ring a little bell when they’re ready. It’s so sweet!

There are loads of different classes for the kids, like programming, street dance, crafts, pottery etc. and plenty of events. It’s a really creative place for kids to hang out (preferred by all without parents in tow!).

What is your favourite restaurant in your neighbourhood?

It’s called Roji-Taste of Japan. It’s an excellent Japanese restaurant with very fancy food. More of an adults-only kind of place, I’d say.

What about going out as a family, what restaurants do your kids love? 

My favourite pizzeria is Pizzeria da Lionello. Their pizza is extraordinarily good. I know, everyone thinks they know the best pizza in Berlin–this is where I think it’s at!

In my opinion, SchillerBurger does the best burgers in the neighbourhood. There’s also a fantastic Vietnamese place called P-Fresh which would satisfy the most discerning Vietnamese and sushi cravings. And a new Pho place (Pho Bowl) has just popped up in Niederschönhausen that I can’t wait to try. But we also eat at home a lot because my husband really likes to cook!

Where can you find the best coffee in your neighbourhood?

My two favourite cafes in the area are this one [Stück vom Glück] and Milchmanns.

Stück vom Glück (Literally [a] Piece of Happiness) serves excellent coffee, and their cake is really good. If I’m catching up for coffee and cake with a friend, I’ll meet them here.

I love Milchmanns [Kaffee Haus] because I have a very personal connection to it – lots of happy and sad memories. So many significant life events have been experienced by my family in this café. Before we found our apartment in Niederschönhausen we would brainstorm about where we were going to live, worry and wonder about whether we could afford to stay in Berlin. Then once we found our apartment, we’d dream about what our new life was going to be like! We would go there every Sunday while our apartment building was being built. We’d walk the three kilometres from our old place to our future apartment, our baby would fall asleep on the way, and we would have a coffee and dream. We received shockingly sad news once, and we went to process it in that café. We were also there the day they closed due to Corona and the waitress cried. So many memories.

Stück vom Glück

How’s the grocery shopping in your part of Berlin?

There are heaps of supermarkets here. I mainly go to the REWE which is a five minute walk from home. But there’s everything: REWE Lidl, Penny, Edeka, Aldi,denn’s BioMarkt, they’re all within a five-minute walk.

Do you have any favourite shops in your neighbourhood?

There is a gift shop called Das Fachgeschäft (The Specialty Shop) in Niederschönhausen. You walk in and you are surrounded by beautiful things. It’s locally run and the woman who owns it curates everything very carefully. She works with local artists, featuring work from local toymakers, beautiful clothes, etc. It is the perfect gift shop and always a pleasure to peruse.

How do you travel around your area? Cycle? Walk? Public transport? Car?

I don’t have a car. I haven’t had one for thirteen years! I cycle to work. It takes me fifteen minutes. My husband works near Hauptbahnhof (Berlin Central Train Station) and he rides to work every day too (five kilometres). We ride in all weather, unless there’s black ice.

Anything else you want to tell us?

I just got the keys to my new office which very exciting and has very cool address: Berliner Strasse 69, Berlin. How cool is that?

I’m moving in slowly over the next few weeks, right now I’m making it a beautiful place to work. It’s an exciting next step for Red Tape .. and it’s in Pankow!

Do you have pets?

No. I’d like to one day. For now, looking after little people is enough work!

It feels like we’ve just had Christmas and now Easter is coming up. How do you celebrate in your home and workplace? What traditions do you follow?

German traditions with some Australian and Danish influences. For example, for Christmas we open presents on Christmas Eve, which is the German thing to do. We dance and sing around the Christmas Tree which is Danish (my husband’s mother is Danish). All the kids are like, ‘Ohhh, do we have to do this?’ but you just know, when they’re older they’ll make their own kids do it! We read Christmas books about Australia, Santa going to Australia in his board shorts on his surfboard, things like that.

I took both my daughters to Queensland, Australia one Christmas. I’d been fantasising about feeding my younger daughter a Bowen mango–I wanted to do that when she was a baby, but we never got the chance because of Corona. So when we got to Australia, she took one lick of a mango and said, ‘Nope!’ and my heart broke a little bit. But my eldest loves mango. Oh, I do miss having prawns and mango and avocado at Christmas.

What are 3 TIPS you’d give to someone just moving to Berlin?

I give my clients a checklist of documents–things you don’t know you’ll need but you probably will need. Pack important documents with you–the originals. That’s a very “nerdy” tip but I see it so often–I’ll ask someone, ‘Have you got your degree certificate?’ and they’ll say, ‘It’s framed in California on the wall of my parents’ place.’ Bring the originals with you when you move.


Make sure that wherever you land that you can register your address. Some landlords or people sub-letting will say, “Anmeldung (registration) is not possible”, and this will make your life difficult and you should run a mile. You absolutely must be able to register your address. This is your Anmeldung. It’s an official and VITAL part of your paperwork and you’ll need it to do just about anything else: visa, bank account, phone, schools, even getting a library card.

Make connections

Take advantage of all the communities and events for newcomers because that’s where you’ll meet people who’ll help you get everything done. And maybe you’ll also make new friends. And they’re mostly free. How do you find this information? Social media, mainly. There’s a great Facebook group called Berlin4Beginners. But whatever platform you use you’ll find events to help you. I hope to start running a few Red Tape events in 2023.

Networking for Expats

So where can people find out more about you and what you do?

Our website is a good place to start. You can join our newsletter–we publish original tips, articles, videos and more on life in Berlin for foreigners fortnightly and it’s free. Then, there’s social media: Facebook,  Insta, TikTok, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn.



Kathleen arrived in Germany from Queensland, Australia in 2009. Over the years, she has made and learned from just about every mistake it’s possible for a foreigner to make in Germany. Out and about, Kathleen noticed that everyone had a red tape horror story to share. She saw English speakers feeling discouraged and frustrated by the lack of help available in Germany. So Red Tape Translation was born in 2012.

As a qualified translator and interpreter, Kathleen specialises in real estate law, civil law contracts and of course, administrative law (the language of red tape!). She is recognised by clients and caseworkers as an expert in navigating German bureaucracy through interpreting, translation and expat coaching. Kathleen is a proud mama of two girls. She sometimes still moonlights as an opera singer.

Thank you so much for your time, Kathleen. This has been absolutely fascinating!

Photo credits: Kimberly Lauren Bryant, Delphine Kermorvant


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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