Kyle's Blog
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It’s been a long time coming

If you read one of my earlier posts, you will be aware that I moved to Berlin. I’ve been here for pretty much a month now, and like any great transition, it’s had its highs and lows.

So I arrived late on 16th November at Berlin Schönefeld Airport, where I waited for Katja to come meet me (she landed at Tegel an hour before me and  therefore made her way to meet up with me). Naturally, we headed straight for what would be our home for the following two weeks. It’s a flat in the Neukölln region of Berlin, and it belongs to a very nice former lecturer of mine, whom some of you may know of. Anyway, the flat was in very good condition, and had everything we could want from a temporary place to stay.

Despite this, we couldn’t rest on our laurels, and soon had to intensify our search for a more permanent accommodation. In the first week we had a few viewings, some of which were potenitally good, but not ideal, where others were simply out of the question. For instance, one was just 2 rooms, a bathroom and a kitchen – absolutely no furniture, the walls were unpainted, and the floors needed replacing. It needed renovating, which wasn’t possible for us on our budget. Anyway, in the second week we had luck. Katja went and viewed a flat in Lichtenberg (in the former GDR part of Berlin), which was fully furnished (internet too) and not too expensive. It was only a Zwischenmiete (temporary renting)  though, but it will last until 30.05.10 at least with the possibility of an extension. We wasted no time in agreeing on it and signing the contract.

On  moving in it became apparent that the flat wasn’t quite as perfect as first thought, but it was nothing that couldn’t be improved with a couple of trips to Ikea and some elbow grease. Well, with the exception of the fridge (if you can call it that). Basically the fridge is a fridge-freezer combo, but the fridge compartment doesn’t work at all. However, the freezer is warm enough to act as a fridge and thus not cold enough to be a freezer, so we’re using that as our fridge and just not buying any frozen foods (not that we would buy much anyway). So the flat is now looking very presentable and homely thanks to our hard work.

Unsere Wohnung

Typical of Germany, the burocracy has been a challenge. It’s been a common theme since we’ve been here that authorities contradict one another. For example, within the first couple of days we went to the Ausländerbehörde (Foreign Authority) to find some clarity in the matters surrounding residency and work permits. We waited there for about an hour and they told both Katja and I, fully knowing that we were from Latvia and the UK respectively, that we would NOT require neither of these documents for we are EU citizens. However, a couple of weeks later, we got round to visiting the Agentur für Arbeit (Job Centre) where I had no problems. Katja on the other hand was told that because she was from Latvia, she would need a work permit. Therefore, she had to go back to the Foreign Authority and request a work permit, which can take up  to 2 months… She was also told she couldn’t even look for work in that time, but this was again contradicted by another branch of the Job Centre, who said she could  only look for specialist jobs (i.e. those that are relevant to her degree of study, and not jobs like waitress or cleaner). Luckily registering our address at the Bürgeramt (Citizen Centre) wasn’t so complicated, though I wouldn’t say it was smooth.

As far as work is concerned, it’s been more encouraging than it was for me in England, which is something. However, it’s not enough and although I’ve had a decent amount of interviews (and a trial day), none of them have amounted to anything for one reason or another. It was perhaps a mistake of mine to go for Praktika (internships) as many of these a very low-paid, if paid at all, which was the stumbling block in some of my interviews. Although we have nothing concrete employment-wise, I’m still confident that one of us can find a job before it becomes too late. I always have something on the go, like for instance an internet gaming company approached me yesterday about a position working in customer service where I would be the first point of contact for English-speaking customers. The job also involves some translation, which will be invaluable as it’s ultimately what I’d like to do as a career. More importantly, it pays! Fingers crossed it works out.

Aside from the burocracy, the flat hunting, and job searching, we have found a bit of time to enjoy this wonderful city we find ourselves in. I’ve never lived in a capital city. I mean, Southampton is the biggest town/city that I’ve lived in. In a city like Berlin, there is always something exciting going on, and often in many parts of the city. I mean, it’s Christmas time and Berlin’s tourist attractions are literally drowning in Weihnachtsmärkte (Christmas markets), which is great. Last night we went to one of the Christmas markets on Alexanderplatz inbetween the Fernsehturm (TV Tower) and the Rotes Rathaus (Red Townhall) to drink some Glühwein (Mulled wine) with the couple we are renting the flat from. They are also a multicultural couple like Katja and myself – an Egyptian called Ahmed and his Ukrainian girlfriend, who strangely enough is also called Katja… Anyway, it was nice despite the bitterly cold conditions. I think it was about -14°C!

Berlin Wall Memorial at Alexanderplatz with Christmas markets in the background

That brings me nicely onto the weather. The British do love talking about the weather and I’m not different. Actually the weather wasn’t so bad up until the last week or so. We had our first spot of snow last Saturday and things have just become colder and colder.

It’s Christmas in less than a week, and I’m expecting a Christmas distinctly different from the one I’m used to. It’s my first Christmas away from my family, so it will be strange. However, it will be nice for me and Katja to share Christmas together and will be very exciting to spend this festive period in such a city like Berlin. As I mentioned previously, there is always something going on here.

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