Expat Guide To Living In Berlin

Drawing of the city of Berlin

Few would consider Berlin a dream destination for starting a new life as an expat – but 115,000 Brits already live and work mostly in the German capital.

The weather is as drab as London or Manchester, while the Germans do not have much of a reputation as a fun race.

Saying that, Germany is Europe’s powerhouse economy and employers are always on the alert for new talent.

Salaries, working conditions and the work/life balance are good and match or exceed those in the UK while the cost of living is cheaper.

The cost of living in Berlin is ranked 20% cheaper than in London

Outside the capital, much of Germany comprises beautiful mountains, rivers and forests.

Around 115,000 Brits live and work in Germany, with most in and around the capital Berlin.

Visas And Residency For UK Expats In Berlin

Expats retiring to Germany or moving for work must tell the local registration office that they are in the country and intend to stay for more than 90 days. Should they move home after registering, they must tell the authorities.

Expats in Germany since before January 1, 2021, should update their residence permits by June 30, 2021 to protect their Brexit Withdrawal Agreement rights to live and work in Germany.

For expats moving to Germany, more information about entry requirements and applying for a residence permit are online.

For German citizens looking to get permanent residency in the UK, take a look at the Tier 1 Investor Visa as this may solve some problems.

Working In Berlin

Although little talked about, Berlin and Germany are one of the major European expat destinations for Brits.

As one of the top five major global economies, Germany offers similar career prospects to London, but often salted with a bit more salary, generous benefits

Employer demand is focussed on social media and online communities.

If you arrived in Germany after January, 1, 2021, you don’t have Withdrawal Agreement residence rights, so are likely to need a visa or residence permit before you can start work.

Cost Of Living in Berlin

You would need to spend around £3218 a month in Berlin to maintain the same standard of living that you can have with £4800 in London, according to Numbeo.

  • Prices in Berlin are 19% cheaper than in London (excluding rent)
  • Renting a home in Berlin is 33% less than in London
  • Eating out costs 30% less in Berlin than London
  • The weekly grocery shop is 12% cheaper in Berlin than London
  • Spending a pound in Berlin buys 7% more than spending a pound in London

Eating Out

Meal in an inexpensive restaurant1517.458.610     -42.68 %
3-course meal for 2, mid-range restaurant6069.7842.9950     -28.35 %
McMeal at McDonalds (or Equivalent Combo Meal)66.986.888     +14.64 %
Domestic Beer (0.5 litre draught)55.823.013.5     -39.81 %
Imported Beer (0.33 litre bottle)55.823.013.5     -39.81 %
Cappuccino (regular)2.923.392.492.89     -14.73 %
Coke/Pepsi (0.33 litre bottle)1.51.751.762.05     +17.18 %
Water (0.33 litre bottle)1.131.311.561.82     +38.50 %

Day-to-day groceries

Milk (regular), (1 litre)0.951.110.80.93     -15.83 %
Loaf of Fresh White Bread (500g)     +6.24 %
Rice (white), (1kg)1.431.661.581.84     +10.97 %
Eggs (regular) (12)2.212.571.962.28     -11.55 %
Local Cheese (1kg)6.767.869.4310.97     +39.64 %
Chicken Fillets (1kg)     -3.95 %
Beef Round (1kg) (or Equivalent Back Leg Red Meat)10.0711.7110.3912.09     +3.23 %
Apples (1kg)2.252.622.072.41     -8.15 %
Banana (1kg)     +18.20 %
Oranges (1kg)2.042.371.982.3     -2.96 %
Tomato (1kg)2.562.981.691.97     -33.91 %
Potato (1kg)1.21.391.21.4     +0.63 %
Onion (1kg)1.191.391.251.45     +4.86 %
Lettuce (1 head)0.780.910.971.13     +23.86 %
Water (1.5 litre bottle)0.8610.460.54     -46.10 %
Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range)89.35.166     -35.51 %
Domestic Beer (0.5 litre bottle)1.822.110.690.81     -61.88 %
Imported Beer (0.33 litre bottle)2.112.451.511.75     -28.58 %
Cigarettes 20 Pack (Marlboro)12.514.546.027     -51.85 %

Getting around

One-way Ticket (Local Transport)     -10.18 %
Monthly Pass (Regular Price)156.83182.469.6481     -55.59 %
Taxi Start (Normal Tariff)33.493.353.9     +11.78 %
Taxi 1km (Normal Tariff)1.71.981.722     +1.15 %
Taxi 1hour Waiting (Normal Tariff)28.833.528.3733     -1.48 %
Gasoline (1 litre)     -4.25 %
Volkswagen Golf 1.4 90 KW Trendline or equivalent23018267701918222310     -16.66 %
Toyota Corolla Sedan 1.6l 97kW Comfort or equivalent23012267632173925284     -5.53 %


Utilities (Monthly)
Basic (Electricity, Heating, Cooling, Water, Garbage) for 85m2 Apartment176.95205.8187.76218.37     +6.11 %
1 min. of Prepaid Mobile Tariff Local (No Discounts or Plans)     -33.95 %
Internet (60 Mbps or More, Unlimited Data, Cable/ADSL)31.7736.9528.2732.88     -11.00 %
Sports And Leisure
Fitness Club, Monthly Fee for 1 Adult44.8552.1627.231.63     -39.35 %
Tennis Court Rent (1 Hour on Weekend)10.412.115.9118.5     +52.95 %
Cinema, 1 Seat1416.288.610     -38.58 %
Childcare (Monthly)
Full day private preschool for 1 child1420.041651.5794.88110.35     -93.32 %
International Primary School for 1 child1507.6921042.197329.898525     -59.49 %
Clothing And Shoes
1 Pair of Jeans (Levis 501 Or Similar)59.9769.7569.2180.5     +15.41 %
1 Summer Dress in a Chain Store (Zara, H&M, …)2933.7325.9930.23     -10.37 %
1 Pair of Nike Running Shoes (Mid-Range)71.382.9368.0279.11     -4.61 %
1 Pair of Men Leather Business Shoes81.5494.8393.42108.65     +14.57 %

Healthcare In Berlin

Expats must sign up with a government-approved health insurer (Krankenkasse) to access medical treatment in Berlin. This is different from private medical cover, which is also available.

Guidance from the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office explains the options and how to go about accessing healthcare in Germany for British expats.

Renting Or Buying A Home In Berlin

Expats can buy a home in Germany without any restriction – but if they intend to live there for more than 90 days at a time, they will need a residence permit.

Finding a property may be more arduous than buying.

Few homes display for sale signs and the two largest property portals:

Both in German. Luxury home finder Bellevue.de is in English as well as German but only shows expensive homes.

As a result, local newspapers are still a go-to place for finding property for sale.

Nevertheless, homes are cheaper to rent and buy in Berlin than London.

This rundown of property data offers key information for renters, buyers and investors:

Below are links to other country specific expat guides:

Property price to income ratio:   13.54   9.88
Mortgage as percentage of income:   86.46%   58.81%
Gross rental yield (City centre):   3.36%   3.40%
Gross rental yield (Suburban):   4.75%   3.70%
Monthly rent£Euro£Euro
Apartment (1 bedroom) in city centre1661.731932.67798.73928.96-0.5193
Apartment (1 bedroom) in suburbs1254.561459.11572.58665.93-0.5436
Apartment (3 bedrooms) in city centre3257.143788.211591.281850.73-0.5115
Apartment (3 bedrooms) in suburbs2074.42412.621066.71240.62-0.4858
Cost of buying an apartment
Price per square metre (City centre)11230.7813061.925364.366239-0.5224
Price per square metre (Suburbs)5546.326450.633429.343988.48-0.3817
Salaries and mortgage rates
Average monthly salary after tax3096.623601.522225.132587.93-0.2814
20-year fixed rate mortgage rate0.02540.0179-0.2959

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