Brits in Berlin: Caroline
- Name: Caroline Stephenson
- Age: 31
- City of origin: Wales
Where are you working just now, and what is it that you do?
I am the founder of an online flower delivery service called Bloomage Daydream. As we’re still very new, I do a bit of everything, from maintaining the website and sourcing flowers at the wholesale market to delivering bouquets by bike around Berlin, responding to customer queries and marketing!
Why did you choose to move to Berlin?
I moved to Berlin back in 2013 to start a job at one of the city’s many start-ups. I made up my mind to move here based on the experience I’d had on one previous visit – it was basically love at first sight!
... it was basically love at first sight!
Why is Berlin the perfect location for your business?
Berlin has been the ideal launch city for Bloomage Daydream because we’re the only ones doing what we’re doing here.
There are lots of ‘traditional’ bricks and mortar flower shops and there are several flower-industry major players, but no one else is offering a fresh, natural bouquet delivery service that is based solely online and has an eye on sustainability.
We only deliver by bicycle – which is really manageable in a city the size of Berlin – we always use fresh, seasonal flowers and try and source European blooms wherever possible.
What changes do you expect in your industry, if any, due to Brexit?
I run a hyper-local business that doesn’t rely on any links to the UK – so from a day-to-day business perspective I shouldn’t be affected.
However, as there is still so much uncertainty about what Brexit really means, I do feel like my own position as an immigrant in Germany is not secure until there have been some concrete decisions made about free movement.
How would you compare Berlin to where you’re from?
I was living in London before moving over the Berlin, and while in many respects Berlin has far fewer career opportunities for an English speaker (with average German skills!) in other respects it gives people a greater freedom – it’s a very creative ‘chancer’ of a city, so if you have an idea, you have the possibility to really give it a go.
Everyone here has a project, an idea or a dream, and I really believe it’s because Berlin gives you the freedom, time and space to really think and develop those thoughts into tangible ideas.
What was it you found challenging about settling in, if anything?
There’s a lot of bureaucracy to get you head around! Nothing is straightforward – figuring out the multiple insurance requirements, tax returns, getting a VAT number…
But Berlin is a very transient city and there’s always someone who’s been through the headache before you, so there’s always a willing ‘expert’ to turn to when you need help!
And how did you overcome these challenges? Anyone or anything in particular helped?
When I was planning Bloomage Daydream I turned to a professional business coach for help. She told me my plans were very ambitious – I told her, on my high horse of self-belief, that I could do it – I’m still not sure who was right…
I also have many contacts and several friends who have set up and are managing businesses here, so I always have a network to turn to for advice.
But my tax advisor is probably my most valued contact – I can’t imagine how I could navigate the German tax return system without his help. When trying to launch a business here it’s important to remember you’re not an expert at everything. The law and tax system can be quite different here. When in doubt, pay someone to do it right to save yourself the headache that could come later!
What do you love about Berlin?
To me, Berlin’s most special quality is the freedom it offers – both physically and mentally. It’s a city full of green space and open streets, but it’s also full of open people with a desire for new experience. The quality of life really is better than anywhere I’ve lived before.
The quality of life really is better than anywhere I’ve lived before.
What advice would you give to other freshly arrived expats?
Don’t expect anything, or compare Berlin to where you come from, it’s a city that lives by its own very special rules – and that’s why we all love it!