Berlin survival kit

Slutwalk Berlin 2011. Image by: Gregor Fischer

In the last few days there was a lot of attention in Berlin media to Robert Coleman article published by The New York Times. He has shared his Australian band’s summer experience in Berlin. The band came here for recording an album, and got sucked in by parties and never-ending adventures. Read full story HERE

My comment to this is that it really depends on what money you come here with. If you have a stable income somewhere else, then you certainly do not worry about the rent, when the things will be done and  how many times a week you go out. Berlin seems cheap and cheerful.

I came to Berlin with almost no money, and had to look for a job the very first day. Most of my friends are artists, and seem to be quite productive, having exhibition openings, performances, and other cultural events organised. With very little money I get paid, Berlin makes me work twice harder.

When it comes to earning bread-money with music, you start working your ass off. I’ve heard before that music bands don’t last long in Berlin. Maybe it’s too much of a classical sex, drugs, rock’n’roll scenario? You feel extremely cool and free, get too loose and lose control? Let’s face the fact, once you run out of money and can’t pay the rent – you ask yourself a question: to be or not to be? Yes, to be a Berliner doesn’t mean you can be a doughnut

You need to learn how to survive in Berlin, just like you had to in NY in 80s (yeah, i got stuck there a little). Once you get it, you’re in! Peaches made her career living in Berlin, and now she seems to be more active than ever: releasing a film, singing in an opera, recording a video in support for Pussy Riot and hell knows what else.

But here is Berlin survival kit for you

Berlin is the city for  commoners. Even if you’re a hyp you’re down-to-earth. Even without a language you can survive in Berlin. Berlin is a poor city, but it compensates.

Vegetable battle between Berlin-Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain 2011. Image by: Gregor Fischer


Those two come first. There are still a few “house projects”, as they call them now, where you can live for about 150€ (more or less) per month, including the food, which you get for free( a) there is a deal with markets which once a week deliver expired food to your house  b) you do dumpster diving). You can also be a guest at one of their cooking evenings where a plate of vegetarian food costs 2€!

However, if you are lucky with a small room in Neukoelln, then the Turkish market on Tuesdays and Fridays on MayBachufer str. is the best place to go, fruits and vegetables which don’t look fresh anymore are given away for free. Just ask. And the 5kg of potatoes cost only 0,80 cents! BOLU – seems to be one of the cheapest Turkish stores, where watermelon comes to 0,39cents per kilo (wait for summer), a bunch of spinach 0,35 cents, pack of tomatoes 0,60 or less!

There is a group of nice pople, who once a month in Kreuzberg cook a huge dinner for anyone. It is usually on donation principle. I am not sure they have the name. But they organise it on Falckensteinstr.

Brotfabrik is the place to dig some yummy pastry out! Dive hard!

Last summer we got for free: ice cream (promotion on the streets), Wulle beer (Give Box), sandwiches (at open mic night). Never had any of those items for free before, at least not in this way anyway. My friend also got for free Berliner Kindl (promotion) and a pack of Lucky Strike (promotion). Of course, clothing comes for free too, mostly in Give Boxes. Fleamarket (Mauer Park on Sundays) is a good spot for hunting cheap stuff.

And it is true that beer in Berlin is cheaper than water. Today I have purchased a bottle of beer for 10 cents, and the water costs 15!!!

One of my favorite night places is Madame Claude (Check their events here), you pay for the entrance whatever you can between 1 and 6 euros, and Berliner costs €2,30!!!


YES, there are FREE German classes on Kopernickerstr. 10a, sponsored by EU. The organisation that runs them is called Arbeit Sofort. It does not matter how old you are, and where you come from. The only rule is: you have to work somewhere. They ask you to do an internship, but going through several courses I have realised that most of the people do normal jobs. There is a contract between your employer and the school, but there is nothing more involved. No complications whatsoever. And no, they do not have a homepage. Just pay them a visit between 9 and 12 in the morning.

There are also free German classes on Oranienstr, in Kreuzberg. Check their homepage for more infi:

Public art project in Berlin, Rozenthaler Platz, 2010. Image taken from:


Moved in to an empty apartment? No problem, just go outside and walk down the streets. You can get a nice collection of different chairs, vintage lamps, radios, sofas and other pretty items people leave on the streets for others. There is always eBay kleinanzeigen, ToyTownGermany forum, Expats Facebook page, Craigslist and other online heavens.

Berlin does not get rid of old things, they get reused from generation to generation. Berliners still run very old bikes and use 70s prams, this you WILL NOT see in Riga for example.


When summer hits the town, Berliners party outside. Day and night. If you’re completely broke – collect bottles! Go to exhibition openings, and get free alcohol! House parties is the honest way to go. A bottle of wine costs 1,69! Absolutely drinkable.

Flyer distribution, review writing, photography for blogs are the best alternatives to get to events for free.  You enjoy the show and you enjoy sharing it. And there is always someone basking in Kreuzberg. Music is really not a problem.


Image taken by: Alexander Rentsch

Why paying?  U-bahn controllers often wear a uniform  and they are easy to spot, when the s-bahn workers dress casual. If they catch a fake address abroad also works. Or grab a bicycle, and ride wherever you want; the cheapest one would cost you 30 euros and last at least a year. Just give it some love.


The most painful question, I guess. Most people work in shops, cafes, and bars when their German is not that good. And yes, many of them get paid under the table, that’s why the unemployment percentage in Berlin is really high. There are also plenty International companies running their business in Berlin (Berlin is the city of tech startups). I cannot give you a list, because there is no such, and it would be crazy long anyway.  But you can check:

Here is a list of websites, which I found useful: (jobs at startups) (jobs at startups) (jobs at startups) (create your work portfolio and let the employers find you)

and Craigslist, of course, but it is more of a trashcan really.

WOLOHO mailing list has been quite helpful too.

I should mention that lovely companies like: Spotify, SoundCloud, Ableton and many others have an office in Berlin too.

A VERY USEFUL LINK: “How to find a job in Berlin” @

And let’s not talk about Hartz 4.

  1. Mariyan Dyankov said:

    nice information 🙂

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