Two Weeks of German-American Efficiency

As of today, we’ve been on the ground in Berlin for exactly 2 weeks.  It can only be described as a non-stop whirlwind of activity and getting things done with our four girls in tow: some important milestones we’ve reached:

  • We are officially registered as residents of Berlin!
  • We decided on a great school for Josephine and Emilia, and they are enrolled for next year, school ID’s and all.
  • We signed a lease for an apartment in the popular neighborhood of Wilmersdorf after several tours of different places and making application in an extremely competitive rental market.
  • Lillian and Audrey have applied to an international school, but we’re still awaiting the official word on their admission.
  • We’ve obtained yearly passes for the BVG (public transportation, which I have to mention is easily the most comprehensive and efficient system I’ve ever experienced in a city this size)
  • We have mobile phone service and new phone numbers for the 3 phones we brought with us.  Unlocking US iPhones ourselves actually did work!
  • We’ve ordered cable and internet for the new home
  • We bought a bike for Lillian from an eBay classified ad
  • And yesterday we secured library cards for everyone at a library that is practically next door to our new home: a huge bonus for the girls whom my wife often refers to as Leseratten (reading rats).

All this and and we’ve managed to explore a good chunk of Berlin by foot, by boat, U-Bahn, bus, and tram.  In fact we haven’t covered an inch by taxi or rental car, which we’ll hardly need in this city.  Once our container arrives with our bikes we’ll be able to expand our urban conquests even further.  Here’s a photo of what we’ve covered so far, all on foot.

Our first two weeks on foot (yellow highlights)

Our first two weeks on foot (yellow highlights)

It has been a surprisingly efficient experience because bureaucracy is ofter the first thought that comes to mind when people think about what it might take to set up a new life in Germany.  Having read many expat blogs before setting off, I was expecting much more resistance and an unsettling need for proper stamps, seals, notarized documentation and endless appointments to be able to get things done.

Of course I have the advantage of my wife who is both charming and fluent in German (not to mention a real do-er when it comes to exploring a city and getting us oriented as Berliners).  But even Vivian has been surprised by how straightforward the process has been.

As we begin week 3 of our move to Berlin, I feel like we’ve seen almost as much of the Berlin as we could have if we had come solely as tourists.  And at this rate, we might know Berlin better than many locals within the year.

Today President Obama is visiting Germany and will give a speech at the Brandenburg Gate.  I’d like to be able to say that we are among the 4,000 invited guests who will be able to see him speak (especially since we’ve just come from Chicago), but that’s OK…we’ve got a lot of other things to do and people to see in our new city.

Highlights from our first 2 weeks…

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One response to “Two Weeks of German-American Efficiency

  1. Darn it, i just wrote a long reply and it erased it! I’ll try again. Thank you for giving us a comprehensive update on your travels. I’ve been wondering and worrying about you guys. It looks like my prayers for smooth passage are being heard! Post pics of your new digs when you can.

    I mentioned to Viv last year when Berlin attempt #1 happened that Walter Connelly lives in Berlin and teaches at the JFK International IB High School. Last year he was hoping you’d contact him. He’s been in the city 6 years now, is married and has a couple of little boys. I’m not sure where the school is or where he lives, but hopefully you can track him down through the Liggett connection, phone book or school.

    All the best to you guys. As always, I think of your family and dear wife often and wish you good things.

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