Like Brexit, Donald Trump’s victory came as a seismic shock to just about everyone on the international stage. Also like Brexit, it left young, ambitious millennials considering whether the country they were born in really felt like home any more.
It’s easy to understand why youngsters in both countries feel this way. For one thing, millennials are the most liberal generation of the modern era. So when Trump was elected on promises of walls being built, immigrant numbers being capped and LGBTQI rights being squashed, they understandably felt more than a little queasy. Now, a few weeks into the presidency, any hope that Trump was merely pandering to his voter-base and would soften his rhetoric has been proved to be catastrophically misplaced
In both countries hate crimes rose after the vote, leading millennials to protest in droves. With all this going on, progressive millennials (and others) understandably feel disillusioned with their home country and are looking for a way out (the Canadian website for immigration went down shortly after the election thanks to the amount of traffic from the US).
After Brexit, we wrote that young, ambitious Brits should consider a move to Berlin. Others agreed with us.
Now, with President Elect Donald Trump being a sentence we actually have to write, we want to tell disillusioned Americans the same thing. Berlin is calling. Here are just some of the reasons why you should consider Berlin as your next home (especially if you’re a startup-loving millennial).
Silicon Allee is Buzzing
Berlin has long since been a popular choice for the young and creative, and as it matures into one of the world’s major startup hubs, it’s also fast becoming the city of choice for Europe’s tech crowds. The industry is set to produce over 100,000 jobs before 2020.
The city has become so popular with startups that it has been known for years as “Silicon Allee”, and the startup scene here is growing at a pace that outstrips other regions such as the UK, Sweden and France.
Startups are attracted by Berlin’s diverse talent pool, a wealth of tax incentives, accelerator programs and the fact that there are grants are widely available. Costs are also low (more on that later), and companies such as Soundcloud, Airbnb and Twitter are based here, meaning inspiration is all around.
There Are Plenty of Job Opportunities
Thanks to the pace with which Berlin is growing as a startup hub (see the above point), job opportunities in Berlin are relatively easy to come across for developers. Add on to that the 51,000 job vacancies for IT specialists in the whole of Germany and you can see why people are drawn here.
Berlin pages like Berlin Startup Jobs are inundated with positions for developers and can make your job hunt go smoothly, while developer recruiting platforms such as Honeypot.io are growing all the time.
As well as there being plenty of jobs around, a major appeal of the work in Germany (particularly Berlin) is the diversity of industries you could work in. JobSpotting points out that, while other startup hubs such as London tend to focus “chiefly on classic tech startups”, those hunting in Berlin can pick from fields such as “fashion, music, food, cars or real estate, to name but a few.”
Not only that, but people have a great deal of rights here that don’t exist in the States. Parents are entitled to 12 months parental leave. Employees have the right to 24 days paid vacation and there are at least 9 public holidays.
In the States? Zero days vacation, zero parental leave.
The Cost of Living is Low
The low cost of living in Germany’s capital city is one of its main draws. Tech and startup scenes in the US tend to be based in extremely expensive cities (I’m looking at you, San Francisco and New York), and in the rest of Europe’s popular startup cities living costs tend to be comparable. Look at London, for example.
In San Francisco, the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment is $3373 a month.
In Berlin, the average cost of a one-bedroom apartment is $635.
Let that sink in.
Tenants are protected, too. Stringent laws in Berlin give you the assurance that your rent price won’t skyrocket, and it’s not so easy to throw you out to make a profit like it is elsewhere.
Almost all other aspects of life keep your wallet happy. Lunch in a business area will cost around $7 (although you can find much, much cheaper than that) compared to New York’s $15, and supermarket shopping is on average 38% cheaper.
Of course, all this affordability means your wages will be lower, too. But, as Christian Hernandez succinctly points out, Berlin is “…a fun yet affordable place to live if you’re a young dev. Would you rather pay an arm and a leg in London or use the extra cash in Berlin?”
Berlin’s Tolerance and Openness
According to many, Trump’s election paints a particularly bleak future for minorities in the US. In stark contrast sits Merkel, who is fighting for liberal values and tolerance even as a wave of populist anger sweeps across Europe and the States.
In Berlin, these values find a particularly welcoming home.
With the fall of the wall in the 90s, Germany’s capital began embracing openness and togetherness with vigor. Years of separation within the city’s border left young people particularly with an appetite for unity and acceptance. Suddenly the divisions that were enforced upon citizens could be swept aside, and people could simply socialize with each other without fear. Artistic scenes showed up around the city, most famously in East Berlin’s many squats. This setting also proved fertile ground for the burgeoning electronic music scene, and many of Berlin’s most famous techno clubs today owe their existence to the free-spirited, creative youths of the early 90s who strived to create a culture that welcomed everyone: East or West, gay or straight, it simply didn’t matter.
And the attitude continues today. Berlin is a haven for subcultures. The city’s open culture actively encourages people to express themselves in whatever way they deem fit and the sense of freedom you feel is something that often takes people aback when they first visit. The general rule here is that as long as you respect others, whatever you do is fine. It’s an attitude that’s reflected in the cafes and restaurants that punctuate the graffiti-laden streets, where artists and musicians gather through all hours of the day.
Indeed, in Berlin, even the public transport companies don’t care how weird you are. Just make sure you buy a ticket.
Culture, Nightlife, History, Lifestyle
Culturally speaking, Berlin is perhaps most famous right now for its world-beating nightlife and electronic music scene. So serious is the city about techno that it recently gave Berghain (the most infamous techno club in the world) status as a center of high culture.
It’s not all about the bass, either. The art and fashion scenes here are exploding, thanks in no small part to the low cost of living and the atmosphere of creativity. The wealth of galleries, pop-up exhibitions, restaurants, cafes and markets in Berlin make it an impossible city to exhaust, and art follows you everywhere in the form of graffiti.
History buffs can enjoy monuments throughout the city, incredible museums, and one of the most fascinating stories of any city in the world.
For night owls, as mentioned, Berlin is second to none. It’s a true 24-hour city, especially at weekends when the Ubahn runs 24 hours long, restaurants stay open until way beyond midnight, bars stay open until the last person leaves (which is usually around 10am) and Berlin’s biggest nightclubs stay open from Friday to Monday. Non-stop.
There’s even a bar in Kreuzberg that hasn’t closed in around 30 years.
Beat that, New York.
Low living costs (I know I keep mentioning it but come on, it’s really low) and an incredible public transport system mean you can also enjoy a relaxed style of life that other major cities don’t offer you. If you finish work and want to meet friends for a drink you can.
On top of all these things on offer, there’s the undeniable energy that permeates through the city and inspires all those who come. Creative, open and anarchic, Berlin is open to your interpretation and will in turn allow you to express yourself however you feel.
It’s (Relatively) Easy to Get a Visa
Like any immigration policy, Germany’s has its flaws. And like everything in Germany, the immigration policy has a load of mindless bureaucracy.
But, mind-numbing as the paper work may be, it’s still not as bad as the U.S.
The relatively relaxed visa process gives startups here an edge in attracting global talent. You’ll most likely notice this the minute you step through the door of a startup. Our students and teachers at SPICED, for example, come from Germany, the UK, the US, Iran, Italy, Syria, Brazil, France and more.
If you’re looking to move to Germany (and you really should), check out Travels of Adam’s excellent guide to navigating your move.
Germany is Still Giving Us Hope
The German government’s handling of the refugee crises was met with a considerable amount of criticism. Tensions are still rather frayed.
Nonetheless, the country’s approach to the situation left us proud, inspired and hopeful. Faced with a humanitarian crisis of untold proportions, Merkel didn’t quibble over quotas. While politicians elsewhere fanned the flames of fear in order to gain easy votes, Merkel was a strong and sometimes solitary voice in even the most difficult of times. “We will manage”, she famously said to the German people.
Germany welcomed more than 1 million refugees in 2015 and the number has only grown this year. This has, as mentioned, been met with considerable pushback, but it’s heartening to see the amount of people in the country determined to make it work. In Berlin, organizations like Pass The Crayon have been set up to give refugee children space to express themselves artistically. The former airport Templehof has been transformed into a shelter. Clothes banks are turning away clothes because locals are donating too many.
Add onto this Merkel’s response to Trump’s election: “Democracy, freedom, as well as respect for the rule of law and the dignity of the individual, regardless of their origin, skin colour, creed, gender, sexual orientation, or political views. On the basis of these values, I offer close cooperation to the future president of the United States of America, Donald Trump.”
Her tepid welcoming message displays her determination to defend the values many of us thought were established, immovable pillars of our society.
Berlin is a Gateway to Europe
Living, working or studying in Berlin is great and if you’re like most people, you’ll want to stay in the city as much as possible. But while you’re here, you may as well take advantage of Europe’s incredible travel options and Berlin’s great connections.
Prague, Budapest and Amsterdam are all close enough to go by train, while Europe’s cheap flight options allow you to go to London, Paris, Madrid, Copenhagen, Istanbul, Minsk or just about anywhere for under $100 (and sometimes for as little as $10).
That’s a lot of opportunity for travel.