There is something to be said about moving abroad. It’s not the easiest. It is, though, completely possible (and still exciting!) as long as you are prepared. Besides the basic prep and the last minute tasks before you leave your home country, there is still a few things that need to be tackled once you arrive in your new home.
Lucky for me, I have a wonderful friend here in Germany that came up to help out and hang out for my first weekend in Berlin! Some of the ‘first week abroad’ tips might only apply to Germany, so if you’re going somewhere else, you will need to do some of your own research for your new country.
The Bureaucratic Stuff
Besides applying for the visa back home, there were a few things I needed to do once I arrived in Berlin.
Go to the Bürgeramt to register
Without registering as living in Berlin, I can’t do anything. As the Bürgeramt is booked up months in advance, try to book an appointment as far in advance as you can. You can go to any office (there is about 40). I went to one that was out past the airport, but it was the fastest to get into. You will need a copy of your passport, visa, a registration form “Anmeldung”, a letter from your landlord saying you are living there (or rental agreement), and Wohnungsgeberbestätigung ( a signed form from your landlord). The forms are available on the Service Berlin- Bürgeramt website.
*Also ask for your tax number! (Steuernummer)
As the office personnel mainly speak German, you will need to either speak German yourself or bring someone with you that can do it. My officer spoke a bit of English to me, but primarily spoke with my friend.
Once my registration was complete, I went over to the Foreigner’s Office to finish my visa. If you are coming from Canada, more than likely your visa will only be valid for three months. To finish off the rest of the year, I had to go the Office. If your visa is already valid for the year, you could skip this step. It’s worth noting that if you are coming from Canada, the Canadian office will say that your documents have already been sent to the Ausländerbehörde. I didn’t fully trust that so I re-did the forms and ended up having to re-submit the forms to the office. So still bring the filled out required forms and picture just in case!
Book an appointment once you know you are going to have your registration documents from the Bürgeramt. I had to bring in proof of my registration, my working contract, and passport.
It’s mandatory in Germany. Either see if your work offers health insurance or look for your own.
The Fun and Practical Stuff
Now that the necessities were out of the way, I could focus on the practical and fun tasks.
If you’re in Berlin, a public transit pass is worth buying. Instead of paying every time you want to get on a bus or train, you can opt for a monthly pass. This gives unlimited rides on the S-Bahn, U-Bahn, and the buses. Better yet, if you sign up for the year, the cost per month is reduced even more. You will need a bank account set up though if you are doing the yearly pass. Otherwise, just buy the monthly pass from the Information desk.
Find a grocery store- this is pretty important since you are going to want to eat at some point! There are discount grocers and more expensive grocers. Just walk around and you will find them. Also, bring your own bags. They do have bags available if you need them, but they will cost you.
Get a local number- you can buy a pre-paid Sim card and just do top ups whenever you need or you can sign up for a contract. Compared to Canada, the monthly cost of a cell phone plan is quite a bit cheaper here. You will need to provide your banking information to sign up.
And lastly, find a local watering hole. We made it our mission this past weekend to find a place where I could go for an after-work drink, a meal, a date, etc. It’s not a bad idea to become friends with the bartender!