Name, age, city of origin:
Temi, 28, London
Where are you working and what do you do?
I’m the lead designer at a start-up called Blinkist. We create an app for people who want to get the key insights from bestselling non-fiction books. I help design the overall experience of the product, from the way it looks to the way it works.
In my spare time, I usually take photos for my blog.
Why did you choose to move to Berlin?
I don’t think I really chose Berlin in the typical sense. I’d been at my job in London for 3 1/2 years and whilst I enjoyed working there, I felt like it was time to move on. This also coincided with feeling very restless about being in London; I was born and raised there and aside from university in Leeds, I’d pretty much lived in London my whole life. At 25, I had this huge urge to experience living outside of the UK. I’d started to read things online about being a designer in Berlin when I was applying for new jobs and my interest was piqued when someone told me they could really see me living here. So I decided at some point during my job search, why not Berlin? It was crazy for me at the time as I’d never visited nor did I know much about it but I went ahead and applied to a job that seemed perfect for me. Within 2 weeks after sending of the application, I visited Berlin for the first time just one day when I flew over an the on-site interview. By the next day I’d been given a job offer and I moved to Berlin about six weeks later.
Why is Berlin the perfect location for your business/project?
As a designer, it’s an easy city to be inspired by. Berlin’s design culture is rich across many fields and there’s a strong experience design community here too. In terms of working here, if you’re an experience designer, it’s an exciting place to be. There are a lot of start-ups and people doing interesting things. Finding a company that is doing something exciting, teaming up with like-minded people to start something new or just going it alone as a freelancer are all possibilities here.
When it comes to photography for me Berlin is a fascinating place to capture. Not only is there a lot of the history and landmarks Berlin is famous for; when you live here you get to see the quirkiness of the everyday; the abandoned candy dispensers that can be found on many streets, anti-establishment inspired graffiti and the uniqueness, sometimes subtle and sometimes obvious, in each neighbourhood.
What changes do you expect in your industry, if any, due to Brexit?
Honestly, none that I can perceive of right now. Perhaps things will change once Britain actually leaves the EU though.
How would you compare Berlin to where you’re from?
Something that I realised after about a year of living here was Berlin was a place I could simply live. Life didn’t really revolve around work or rushing from A to B. Berlin doesn’t have the same type of busyness and intensity that London can have. When I go back home, I notice that even in residential, non-touristy area, the streets can be full of people rushing around. That wasn’t something I noticed before but being in Berlin made it aware to me that it seems no matter where we Londoners are in London, we have this rush about us.
In Berlin it’s more laid-back here; even the morning hours when most people are heading to work can hardly be called rush hour. Although Berlin is more relaxed, it’s definitely not boring — there’s a ton going on all the time. Yet it feels like you can opt-in the excitement and the craziness but it’s easy to opt out again.
The feeling of having more physical space both in terms of where one lives but also with outside spaces being more open and less crowded is something that I feel has a real mental effect on you. When you don’t feel like you always need to rush and that you’re not boxed in, you’re free to take things at a pace that suits you.
Although things have got more expensive here, especially rent prices, even within the 3 years that I’ve lived here, the overall general cost of living is lower compared to London. I think this adds to the feeling that I can have a more well-rounded life here.
What was it you found challenging about settling in, if anything?
The biggest obstacle for me was the language. I moved here like many people do without knowing how to speak German. I spent the month before I came here learning basic German on Duolingo, which was a help in terms of knowing simple words.
And how did you overcome these challenges? Anyone or anything in particular helped?
Learning German, aside from being the respectful and smart thing to do is also empowering. It’s true that many people speak English and you can get by here without it but knowing that you don’t always need to rely on someone having English speaking skills can be a weight off your mind.
It used to be daunting for me to go through minor everyday situations that most of us take for granted like small-talk with a cabbie or asking where something is in the supermarket. It felt like little victories when I could do these things more effortlessly. My German now is by no means perfect but I can hold a conversation and express myself.
What do you love about Berlin?
That it’s easy to be myself here, how simple and reliable it is for me to get around the city just by bike, that it’s easy to escape to the park or the canal in the summer.
What advice would you give to other freshly arrived expats?
Try to take a few courses of German if you’re not speaking the language already. Even the basics can be a big help in your day-to-day life. Getting an apartment here or even a flat-share seems to get harder and harder with each passing year. I’d suggest trying to have a back-up option if your main plan falls through and just being very persistent in finding a place. And get a bike!
Anything else you’d like to share?