Berlin, Europe, Expat Living, Germany

So I Moved To Berlin. The Back Story And Why.

March 18, 2012
Berlin.

I’ve been in Berlin for almost a year and have not yet managed to write about why I chose to give up my life in Canada in order to start all over again. I’ve typed dozens of drafts but none of them ever seemed fit for publishing.

Today, I end the suspense by telling you the backstory to my worst kept secret and the real reasons I moved to Berlin.

Berlin.

The Sabbatical

From the outside looking in, my life seemed like a good one. I was lucky enough to have wonderful friends, a nice apartment and a decent job that paid well. I kept busy by playing sports, taking classes and going to cool parties. I traveled a few times a year to exotic destinations like the Galapagos Islands or Rio de Janeiro. I was living the dream, right?

Sadly, no. What people didn’t know was that I was deeply unhappy. I hated my job. I stressed over the fact I didn’t have a boyfriend. I loathed myself for not being able to appreciate my so called good life. I cried myself to sleep many nights, regularly had anxiety attacks and suffered from insomnia that left me feeling drained more often than not.

The sabbatical was the perfect chance to figure out how to pull myself out of depression.

Just what did I do? I became a lady of leisure, a champion lady of leisure actually! I slept in, got drunk in the middle of the day, watched countless re-runs of the Golden Girls, took cooking classes and most importantly traveled. And once I started, I couldn’t stop.

Meeting My Big Love

A woman previously obsessed with South America, I finally decided to give Europe a chance.

Figuring there was no better place to start than Italy, I ended up having my best vacation to date. It was here that I felt free, happy and joyous for the very first time. I lost count of how many times I cried simply because it felt so surreal. The new feelings overwhelmed me.

Upon arriving home, I ate and drank Italian food and wine at every opportunity, enrolled in language classes and vowed that someday I’d move there. I took comfort in dreaming about what life abroad would be like …

Not wanting to stay away from my new found love for long, I returned to Europe again for Christmas to visit some new cities and countries. I got to know Munich, Prague, Bratislava, Budapest and Vienna. To be honest, I had low expectations for this trip and thought there was no way that my experience in Italy could ever be topped. To my surprise, this vacation turned out to be even better!

Europe Changed My Life

The trip was pivotal for a many reasons.

First, it solidified the fact that I loved the continent. The happiness of that first trip was repeated with the whirlwind tour through Central and Eastern Europe.

Second, I discovered there was more to Europe than Italy. I figured out that I’d be happy living almost anywhere and started thinking about Germany, France and even Spain.

Third, I felt a new and surprising confidence within myself that it was something that I could really do on my own.

Taking The Plunge

The new year arrived and so did a job. The adjustment back into being employed was not gentle and again I found myself feeling completely miserable. The honeymoon was over and I wondered what had really changed. Even though I still planned to move to Europe, I hadn’t taken any concrete actions to make my dreams a reality. I was stuck in a rut!

While in Cuba on vacation, I received a call from my landlord announcing that they were putting my loft up for sale and that public viewings would start the next day. I wasn’t happy with the news but realized it was a perfect opportunity. I decided then and there I’d move to Europe and change my life forever!

A few weeks later, I quit my job, gave my landlord notice and applied for a working holiday visa in Germany. Without it being approved, I began selling most of my earthly possessions, booking a one way flight to Berlin and securing a holiday apartment in Prenzlauer Berg.

Fortunately, everything fell into place and the visa was approved. I was ready to move to Berlin.

Berlin.

I’m Really Doing This

After I put the wheels into motion, everything happened really fast. I was so busy taking care of details, I barely had time to think about the enormity of what I was doing. Then one day, it suddenly hit me.

I was ending my way of life as I knew it and I had no idea what the future held. I didn’t have any real plans except to try and make my blog successful, get to know Berlin and see as much of Europe as I could. It was possible, I’d fail miserably and would have to come home although I had enough funds to last six months.

I was scared, exhilarated and stressed. Yet, I was OK with this!

The Long Kiss Goodbye

Saying my farewells was the single hardest thing I had to do before I left and it was not without many tears. I had to find my cat a new home and bid adieu to some of the best friends in the world and of course, my family.

It finally got to the point during my last week in Toronto where it was all getting to be too much and all I wanted to do was hop on the plane. Time was dragging by much too slowly and I was ready to start my life with a vengeance.

The Naysayers

Reactions to my big announcement were mixed. While most expressed their support and wished me well, others weren’t so kind. Some were jealous, worried and even thought I was crazy.

These were just some of the comments …

Are you experiencing a mid-life crisis?

You’re so naive. You’ll never succeed at travel writing.”

You need to grow up.”

Aren’t you taking the whole Eat, Pray, Love thing a little too far?

I’d do the same if I didn’t have a mortgage, spouse or children.

While some of the concern was certainly warranted, the narrow mindedness of some people shocked me. How can you not be thrilled for someone who wants to embark on a new adventure? I wondered, how could they not see it what I saw? The possibilities, the potential, the chance for happiness.

Berlin. Why Berlin?

As expected, everyone asked me why I was moving to Berlin. I’m still asked this question on a regular basis and find it a hard one to answer. I can’t really narrow it down to just one reason.

My answers vary but usually go something like this …

To travel more. I want to explore every nook and cranny of Europe!

A change in lifestyle. I needed to escape the corporate shackles of an office job to join the ranks of creatives in Berlin and try my hand at travel writing.”

It’s way cheaper to live in Berlin than Toronto. Once I get a job, I can start to save money.

To challenge myself and try something new. It’s a six month experiment to see I can succeed. If it doesn’t work, I’ll come home.”

“I feel happy when I’m in Europe. I want to see if I can make the feeling last.”

It’s not at all because I watched this amazing video.

More Questions

Of course, there are usually more questions …

Do you have a job in Berlin?” I didn’t have a job when I first arrived – read my guide about how to find a job in Berlin.

Do you speak German?” I didn’t know any German outside of bier, kindergarten, and scheisse but planned to take classes. I quickly become quite good at saying “Mein Deutsch ist nicht so gut.”

Have you ever been to Berlin? ” No. Based on the advice of two girls I met in Cuba and a friend that had lived in the city previously, I chose to live in Berlin as opposed to Munich, Hamburg or Frankfurt. Although, they may be options in the future!

Are you moving there for a man?” Fuck, no! Although the idea of dating fashionable, well educated, multilingual men who watched movies with sub-titles was definitely appealing. Read my guide about how to make friends in Berlin.

“Do you hate Toronto? Are you running away from something?” I don’t hate Toronto.  It was just time for a new beginning. I’ll always consider it home!

Berlin.

The Verdict

Has it worked out? I’m pleased to say it all turned out rather well actually.

As expected, there have been ups and downs but moving to Berlin was simply the very best thing I ever did. It’s a crazy, wonderful, consistently surprising city and I never want to leave. My commitment is so deep that I’m now working on applying for permanent residency here!

Check out my new guide about what to do in Berlin for inspiration about how to best enjoy the city!

Shortly after my arrival, a fellow newly arrived expat remarked to me over beers “I don’t know whether you’re fucking brilliant or fucking crazy but you certainly have balls.

Now that I look back, I admit that I may have been somewhat crazy but I harbor no regrets.

I’m finally happy, really truly happy. Something I never really thought I’d be able to say with any conviction. The panic attacks are no more, the anxiety is gone and I wake up most days with a smile on my face!

Hear Me Speak

If you’d like to hear me speak more about why I moved to Berlin and what my time was like there, listen to my radio interview on KPAM Portland’s Azumano Travel Show.

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106 Comments

  • Reply So I Moved To Berlin. The Back Story And Why. | cherylhoward.com | Best1000 March 18, 2012 at 9:05 PM

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  • Reply Mel March 18, 2012 at 9:51 PM

    I am so proud of you for doing this! So many people stay in unhappy situations because they fear the unknown. You really conquered that fear and are living proof that it is possible to drop everything and go. Way to go girl!

    • Reply Cheryl Howard March 19, 2012 at 4:55 PM

      @Mel – Thank you! You and Jason were both very inspirational to me, especially after we met and you described your year abroad in new Zealand. 🙂

      • Reply Labi January 14, 2015 at 1:38 AM

        Hi

        I want to move to Germany, but I am confuse a bit, and scare to start all over again? How hard is to get work permit, and to find a job in Germany? I have some relatives in Germany, and they promise to me a job?
        Thanks

        • Reply Cheryl Howard January 14, 2015 at 4:47 AM

          Hi Labi –

          Being scared is normal for anyone! Yet, moving to Germany could be one of the best things you ever do. 🙂

          Read my post about how to find a job in Berlin – http://cherylhoward.com/2013/10/26/find-a-job-in-berlin/. Maybe that will help?

          Without knowing anything about you (where you’re from, where you want to go in Germany, your education, specialisation, job experience etc), it’s very hard for me to comment further.

          Best of luck in coming to Germany!

          Cheryl

  • Reply Turkey's For Life March 18, 2012 at 9:58 PM

    Glad you’ve found happiness in Berlin. We found our happiness here in Turkey (Fethiye) after being unhappy with our lives in the UK. Fethiye is a great base to travel from and a fantastic home to get back to after travel.
    Julia

    • Reply Cheryl Howard March 19, 2012 at 4:56 PM

      @Julia – This is exactly how I feel about Berlin. It’s so easy to get to almost any other place in Europe! And it really feels like home. And glad you found your happiness in Turkey! I always love reading about your adventures on your blog.

  • Reply Erin March 18, 2012 at 10:51 PM

    Great post!

  • Reply Jarmo @ ArcticNomad March 18, 2012 at 11:31 PM

    Good on you Cheryl for actually taking the leap; and also for getting the post written. It’s not easy to move to another country like that, but often it is worth it.

    And I am still going to get myself to Berlin one of these weekends 🙂

    • Reply Cheryl Howard March 19, 2012 at 4:58 PM

      @Erin – Thanks! 🙂

      @Jarmo – I’m very happy that my experiment did not turn out to be a failure. And yes, please get to Berlin soon so we can hang out!! Will you be coming to TBU?

  • Reply Jenna March 19, 2012 at 5:47 AM

    Thank you for sharing the back story! I loved reading this. I saw shades of myself in here from when I first realized I had to move to Europe and then the freedom and excitement I felt when living there. I came back to the U.S., and though I felt unsure for a long time if it was the right decision, it ended up being OK because I have ended up with a good life here. However, my other self still wants to live in Europe again, for the same reasons you mention. I can’t wait to explore every tiny part of that glorious continent! The fact that Berlin is still so affordable makes me think harder about it…

    • Reply Cheryl Howard March 19, 2012 at 4:59 PM

      @Jenna – Thank you for your comment. And nice to know someone else out there feels the same! Berlin is wonderful, but get here quickly as rents are going up fast. 😉

  • Reply Rob Hart March 19, 2012 at 9:44 AM

    Great post. I know it sounds formulamatic and cliché, but I believe you have to stir things up, scare yourself, burn some bridges, step outside your comfort zone, and work without a net to really grow.
    Good for you to realize that you were unfulfilled with your career and for having the honesty to admit you were miserable with your current life. Kudos for acting on the realizations in such a bold way.
    I love Germany, but I think Gorbachev and Reagan ruined Berlin as the handball and graffiti capital of Europe in 1989.

    • Reply Cheryl Howard March 19, 2012 at 5:00 PM

      @Rob – Thanks, I’m glad I made the move. I know not everyone needs to move abroad in order to find their happiness, but it certainly worked for me. And OMG Berlin is amazing! You need to give it another chance. 😉

  • Reply Andrea March 19, 2012 at 11:37 AM

    Fantastic story, I’m so glad you shared it. Life is short and we should all follow our dreams like you have done. I don’t understand why more people don’t give it a go. Most people are too scared to change their life and it does seem scary at first but I know that when I look back on my big move to Europe it wasn’t that hard at all even though it seemed tough at the time. Going through that was better than living a life of regret. You should write more personal posts! I personally would like to hear more about finding a job and apartment in Berlin. 😉

    • Reply Cheryl Howard March 19, 2012 at 5:06 PM

      @Andrea – Thanks so much for your comment. I don’t understand either … and I think you’re right in thinking that too many people let their fears control their life.

      I’ve had some tough moments in Germany as many things are much more difficult (ahem, language and cultural differences), but never anything I couldn’t handle. On most days, I enjoy the challenges. Going forward, I plan to try and do at least one personal post a week! Like my apartment hunting over the Internet was quite interesting and well, hilarious. 😉

  • Reply Andrea March 19, 2012 at 11:54 AM

    Europe has always been a really special place for us and I feel exhilarated that we’re moving there too so this is topical and I know how you feel! Thanks for openly sharing your story – it was good to learn more about you and your choice to move to Berlin, a favourite city of ours too. Good luck with your permanent residency application – I’ve been through that too and it’s a long road with a lot of paperwork but totally worth it since you’re so happy there! Look forward to seeing you again soon =)

    • Reply Cheryl Howard March 19, 2012 at 5:09 PM

      @Andrea – Thank you so much. I definitely need the luck … I already know it will be stressful but I’m going to try my best to remain optimistic and hope it will work out in the end. I hope you and John will be back in Berlin soon for some beer tasting and other such adventures! 😉

  • Reply AussieFrance March 19, 2012 at 12:09 PM

    Congratulations on taking the plunge! I did it 37 years ago but I was just out of university, still living at home, so I think it was much easier. A year ago, my 30-year old son decided to leave France and live in Australia. He finally moved there in October. I found it very courageous of him to follow his dream as he had to sell up everything before he went and start again in a country he hadn’t been to in 15 years! Difficult at first but now he’s really enjoying it. From what I’ve seen, Berlin is a city with great vitality, a young people’s city with many possibilities. I hope you’ll continue to be happy there.

    • Reply Cheryl Howard March 19, 2012 at 5:47 PM

      @AussieFrance – Thanks for sharing the story of you and your son. Soo cool knowing there are others following their dreams. Berlin is quite literally a playground for adults, a place you come to never grow up. Although I age in years, I can keep acting like a child here. 🙂

  • Reply Riayn March 19, 2012 at 12:10 PM

    So glad to meet someone else who moved to Germany on a whim and is loving life here. Best of luck!

  • Reply Dario March 19, 2012 at 1:01 PM

    Good for you! Great story (and thanks for sharing)!

    Ours is the culture of “the lesser of two evils”, and it’s very difficult to get ourselves to put our nose out of the comfort zone.

    Good luck for the future 🙂

    • Reply Cheryl Howard March 19, 2012 at 5:50 PM

      @Riayn – Thanks so much! So far, so good. 🙂

      @Dario – Thanks for your comment. It’s true …. and I’m glad I went for it!

  • Reply Ayngelina March 19, 2012 at 8:39 PM

    Cheryl so proud to know you online and to hear that you are happy now. Our lives are in reverse and now I am back in Toronto but I do hope we cross paths someday.

    • Reply Cheryl Howard March 19, 2012 at 8:53 PM

      @Ayngelina – Thank you! I do hope we meet as well. I’ll be home sometime this year for a visit and you never know, I may end up in Toronto permanently again someday as well. 🙂

  • Reply James March 19, 2012 at 5:28 PM

    GREAT post.

    It’s nice to hear someone else’s reasons, especially when they’re not the usual ones: money / techno / fuck whatever city I was previously living in.

    More long-form confessionals like this please!

    • Reply Cheryl Howard March 19, 2012 at 5:53 PM

      @James – Thank you so much!! To be honest, I really moved here for those satanic sex clubs. 😉

      And I love reading your blog A LOT. Reading about what you guys do makes me love Berlin even more.

      For sure, more confessionals coming. 🙂

      • Reply Adam March 21, 2012 at 9:49 PM

        satanic sex club confessions please!

        • Reply Cheryl Howard March 21, 2012 at 10:26 PM

          @Adam Anything for you! :p

  • Reply Nomadic Samuel March 20, 2012 at 1:08 PM

    Cheryl, it sounds like you’ve made the right decision. Often a major change in your life is often spurred by some intense moments of frustration. You need those moments (as frustrating as they are at the time) in order to make a life altering decision.

    • Reply Cheryl Howard March 20, 2012 at 7:11 PM

      @Samuel – Indeed I did. I feel pretty good about it … life is much more uncertain now but I find that it’s good more than anything.

  • Reply Carla March 20, 2012 at 8:35 PM

    You amaze me. Thanks for writing this 🙂

    • Reply Cheryl Howard March 21, 2012 at 11:09 AM

      @Carla – Thanks so much for saying this. 🙂

  • Reply Laurel March 21, 2012 at 12:18 PM

    Nice to hear the back story and Berlin certainly seems to agree with you! I think many of the naysayers were probably feeling stuck as well, but just didn’t have the courage that you did to make the big move.

    • Reply Cheryl Howard March 21, 2012 at 9:06 PM

      @Laurel – Thanks! Berlin is definitely very me. 🙂

  • Reply Samantha March 21, 2012 at 8:52 PM

    This story made my day. I’ve always been curious as to why you moved there but I figured you would share it eventually. Doing things for your own personal happiness is something I greatly admire and stand behind and I am so happy for you that it all worked out.

    • Reply Cheryl Howard March 22, 2012 at 6:17 PM

      @Samantha – Awww, that’s wonderful to hear! It took me a long time to be in the position to feel confident enough to try something as bold as moving overseas but I made the right move and am filled with no regrets. And the adventures I’m having now make it all worthwhile.

  • Reply Adam March 21, 2012 at 9:50 PM

    Oh Cheryl!
    This was a wonderful post…. You’re amazing and this post of yours just reminded me of this so much. So glad we’ve gotten to know each other here — Berlin wouldn’t be the same without you!

    xoxo

    • Reply Cheryl Howard March 21, 2012 at 10:28 PM

      @Adam … You are sweet! Thank you. You have made Berlin so much more fun for me too. We need to hang out soon. 🙂

  • Reply fotoeins | Henry March 22, 2012 at 12:03 AM

    Cheryl,

    Thank you for being so open about the reasons why you moved to Berlin. Throughout the last decade, I’ve been to the Hauptstadt about a dozen times, and I never feel tired of the place. While Berlin is not the prettiest place on earth, I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s really difficult to get bored : there’s way too much to see and do in the various neighbourhoods. Your post is adding further inspiration and providing extra fuel to my motivation for making a short-term stay and ops-base in Berlin this fall.

    Thanks again for your post!

    • Reply Cheryl Howard March 22, 2012 at 9:02 AM

      @Henry – Glad you enjoyed the post and Berlin as well!

  • Reply Bob R March 22, 2012 at 11:45 AM

    You picked a GREAT city – in many ways Berlin is my favorite European capital. Always a pleasure to visit.

    • Reply Cheryl Howard March 22, 2012 at 6:12 PM

      @Bob – I agree. Berlin is somehow the perfect city for me right now. Not sure about when I want to “settle down” but right now it works.

  • Reply Tash March 23, 2012 at 10:33 AM

    This is really inspiring! Well done for just doing it…living the dream, rather than just thinking about it, which is what most people do!

    • Reply Cheryl Howard March 23, 2012 at 1:45 PM

      @Tash – Thank you. If I can inspire someone else someway/somehow, then well … amazing! What a great feeling. 😀

  • Reply Andrew March 23, 2012 at 6:33 PM

    The story sounds so familiar, especially the part with the panic attacks. I moved to Freiburg nearly 5 years ago mostly due to them. Since then, although I have had a few more, they are mostly gone, which is amazing. Even moving on to conquering other fears. But the basis of just moving with a 1-way ticket is similar. Though I did know German and the country first.

    “I feel happy when I’m in Europe. I want to see if I can make the feeling last.” is my favorite line. As to some of the naysayers that talk about “what if it doesn’t work out.” Somehow they seem so stuck in the way thigns have to work that they forget that life is changeable. If you don’t like/can’t stand a situation, change it.

    • Reply Cheryl Howard March 25, 2012 at 11:05 AM

      @Andrew – Thanks for your comments! So far it has worked out and I’m hoping it will continue this way. 🙂

  • Reply Sherry March 25, 2012 at 1:43 PM

    I find that the naysayers usually motivate me to do what I want to do even more. That’s the only way I can make them a positive part of the process. I’m so happy for you that you didn’t let them put you down and stop you from making your own choices and doing what you want for your own life. It takes a strong person with lots of courage to uproot not only to another city, but to another country in another continent. I am headed to Europe in the summer. Perhaps it might just change me, too.

    • Reply Cheryl Howard March 25, 2012 at 6:14 PM

      @Sherry – Yes, there is a certain satisfaction proving them wrong. And I usually find the naysayers are just projecting their own fears and bad experiences on to you. And you may just fall in love with Europe. 🙂

  • Reply Tonya - What's On My Plate April 1, 2012 at 4:03 PM

    LOVED reading your story! Seems like just yesterday we were on that walking tour together in Berlin. So happy this is working out for you.

    • Reply Cheryl Howard April 1, 2012 at 4:53 PM

      @Tonya – Thanks so much! Things are good here and I’m working on making them even better. I am so glad we got to hang out in Berlin too. 🙂

  • Reply Charlotte April 3, 2012 at 12:52 PM

    What a fun story! Good for you! I’m about to return to the States after visiting friends and traveling through Europe for 3 months. My week-long stay in Berlin was most definitely formative. Im going home to regroup, save some money and hit up a couple weddings, then planning on re-locating to Berlin in Jan/Feb 2013 🙂 Thank for the encouragement!! Great blog!

    • Reply Cheryl Howard April 3, 2012 at 1:53 PM

      @Charlotte – Thanks so much for reading my post! Glad you liked Berlin as well and I hope you will be quite happy here. 🙂

      Please let me know if you ever need se tips about Berlin.

  • Reply Tristan Cuschieri April 4, 2012 at 12:27 AM

    I’ve been meaning to just stop, sit down, and read this since you posted it in March.

    Having gotten to know you better over the last year, reading this makes me feel happier, myself. I’m so glad you’re enjoying your new life across the pond, and so glad you wake up with a smile on your face these days! Good on you, Cheryl.

    🙂

    • Reply Cheryl Howard April 4, 2012 at 11:53 AM

      @Tristan – Thanks for your very kind words! Glad my happiness is making others happy too. 🙂

  • Reply Stef April 18, 2012 at 9:13 AM

    human moves to new country. end of story. yawn

  • Reply Tom TheProf June 13, 2012 at 7:01 PM

    Cheryl,
    What an amazing journey you have had and are having! I taught you at Ryerson all those years ago (eBusiness), and I’m so happy to see you engaging with the world in such a positive way! Damn the naysayers – you have inspired me to visit Berlin, and Gdansk – shall be there June 25th – looking forward to enjoying the city you have come to love!
    Cheers,
    Tom S.

  • Reply SnookerInBerlin June 14, 2012 at 3:42 PM

    Wow, that is quite a story! I know a lot of people who have moved to Berlin for many different reasons. Your story isn’t so far off of most of them.
    I’m happy that you are enjoying this wonderful city and hope that it continues to be that way for you.

  • Reply Cheryl Howard June 16, 2012 at 9:19 PM

    @Tom – Sooo good to hear from you. And thanks for stopping by my blog and reading my story. Also, amazing, cool, awesome that you’ve decided to visit Berlin and Gdansk. Definitely drop me a line if you like and we can meet up! 🙂

    @SnookerinBerlin – Thanks so much for your kind words. I love Berlin and feel very at home there. In fact, this week while in Southern Germany, I found myself just wanting to get back to Berlin!

  • Reply Sabrina-Ann June 26, 2012 at 7:35 AM

    Cheryl,
    Your story has inspired me so much and I wanted to say that yours and a few other blogs have inspired me to take the leap I have been needing and I am leaving for Mainz next month.

    • Reply Cheryl Howard June 26, 2012 at 12:58 PM

      @Sabrina-Ann – Thanks so much for your kind comment. Happy to hear you’ll be joining me in Deutschland. All the best with your journey and hope all your European dreams come true. 🙂

  • Reply Mario Maras July 20, 2012 at 10:58 PM

    Hi, Last year I was in Berlin for two weeks vacation and told myself that I want to spend one part of my life up there. One year have past, I’ve forgotten about my late feelings even though Berlin is still calling me silently. I chose to go again to Berlin next month for vacation and these feelings are becoming stronger and stronger. So, I started googling these kind of articles and found this. This is awesome story!!! And pretty much similar to mine. Living in a country where unemployment is very high, having boring corporate excellent paid job, have company car, company fuel, friends, family, decent apartment, I use every vacation for traveling and still, something is missing. Some 17 months ago when I came back from Prague with similar feelings, friend sent me this:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sh7Bjs4f55I
    People, please watch it!!! Now, I’m thinking in the same direction, quit my job, buy one way ticket to Berlin and what happens, happens. It’s more fun, no? 🙂 It’s true, it takes a lot of courage. At the end of a day when we looks ourselves into the mirror, most of us truly are pussies. This is fine example what all people should do. Here I would like to put quote from one of my favorite movies, Fight Club: “Fuck off with your sofa units and strine green stripe patterns. I say never be complete. I say stop being perfect. I say let’s evolve — let the chips fall where they may.” So, Cherly, highest accolades to you and keep living your dream 🙂
    Cheers from Croatia,
    Mario

    • Reply Cheryl Howard July 21, 2012 at 3:19 PM

      @Mario – Thanks for reading my story and thanks for sharing yours too. I hope you make it to Berlin and find the happiness you’re looking for. 🙂

  • Reply Casey E. Palmer September 16, 2012 at 12:41 PM

    Cheryl, this is one of those times where my sleeping schedule is totally off and I haven’t had the greatest night of sleep, so I apologize in advance if I ramble on a bit in my comment, but hey 🙂

    I’ve always known that you’ve blogged, but never really read. I’ve loved our infrequent chats here and there — but it never really got past that, did it?

    I read this post and was a bit mesmerized. To give a bit of context, I’ve been toiling away for the Provincial Government the last 5 years, and while it pays well, the roles I’ve held don’t really reflect what I’m really looking for in life. Sure, I get to spend a lot of my time on the side working on side projects and spending a lot of time with friends, my wife and building a name for myself, but I really feel what you mean when there’s that deep unhappiness or disconnectedness within that you can’t really seem to solve.

    I’ve never imagined living anywhere else other than Toronto — my travels have taken me to Montreal, Chicago, NYC, LA, Boston, the Carolinas, Ohio, London, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Madrid, Rome, Sicily, Crete, Athens, Ephesus, Mt. Kilimanjaro, the Serengeti, Nassau, Las Vegas… but nowhere’s ever felt like it was the place to be except Toronto.

    And even with that said, I recognize the perils of putting too much stock in Toronto and the way people go about things. Too much of the belief that Toronto is the centre of the universe. Too much entitlement. Too much value placed in the most ridiculous things.

    I suppose this post, right here, has helped me to look at what’s going on in my life and try to figure out what I really want to do next. What happens next in my life.

    And then I’ll just go from there 🙂

    Thanks for writing, Cheryl. I’ve added this to my RSS feed and hope to drop some words on you again sometime in the future. If I ever happen to go to Berlin, I hope we can meet and you can point me to where to take some awesome photos 🙂

    All the best,

    –case p.

  • Reply Cheryl Howard September 17, 2012 at 9:35 AM

    @Casey – well, thanks for taking the time to read through this entry. It’s not often that I’m so personal! It’s a post that’s seemed to resonate with many though and for that I’m glad.

    Toronto is a really great place (and I miss it dearly), but sometimes you need to shake things up. I wouldn’t recommend moving abroad as the answer to everyone’s problems, but I would recommend following your dreams (as cliched as that sounds) and finding what it is that makes you happy! For some people it’s a move to Europe, or maybe a change in career, or maybe volunteering their time or even a puppy!

    Hope you find what is you’re looking for … !! 🙂

  • Reply Bori September 19, 2012 at 12:29 PM

    Hi Cheryl,

    we’re basically Prenzlauer Berg neighbours but I just came across your site through instagram. I got goosebumps reading this post and could honestly identify with most of it (well, except that I moved here because of a guy – who became “ex” since then, and that Budapest-Berlin isn’t such a crazy distance). Anyway thanks for sharing and I’ll definitely keep up with the news about your journey! 🙂 All the very best,
    Bori

    • Reply Cheryl Howard September 20, 2012 at 3:17 PM

      @Bori – Thanks for taking the time to stop by my site, read the story and leave such a nice comment! 🙂

  • Reply Mikey October 28, 2012 at 1:02 PM

    I find it hard to believe that people are more likely to suggest failure rather than success before a big move. Happened to me before I moved to Bangkok and then Berlin. But hey, things have worked out just fine! enjoy your work! Mikey

    • Reply Cheryl Howard October 29, 2012 at 9:25 AM

      @Mikey – Thanks so much! Glad it also worked out for you. 🙂

  • Reply Michael Rubio November 8, 2012 at 8:58 PM

    Dear Cheryl,

    Inspiring. The first word that I could articulate from reading your amazing story was absolutely ‘Inspiring’. Thank you for sharing! I have a similar situation of despair with living in an amazing city and yet with a job I love… But somehow I have not found what makes me happy and desperately searching. Just 2 days ago I returned from my first trip to Europe. I knew that my trip would be life changing, but I had no idea of the shear impact. I fell in love with Berlin and find myself day dreaming of living in such an incredible utopia. I actually stumbled across your article google searching “tips for American moving to Berlin”. Thank you again for sharing your inspiring journey. It gives me hope and strength in know that it is possible! I too hope to have a similar tale to share when the time is right.

    Sincerely,

    Michael

    • Reply Cheryl Howard November 12, 2012 at 6:15 PM

      @Michael – Blushing from your kind words! Thank you for reading. I hope you manage to find your way back to Europe and live out your dream. It’s not easy but it’s well worth it!

  • Reply Adam Silveston February 23, 2013 at 4:27 PM

    An amazing story Cheryl

    Truly Inspirational – Well Done to you!

    Adam

  • Reply Ron February 24, 2013 at 8:32 AM

    well, offcrse thats a great courage, i think you definitely need time to spare sometimes abroad and live completely diffrnt lifestyle, change around you can make/bring a big change in you as well,
    we all need to escape from the real life at some point in life but offcsre we do come back as well,,

    i think i m doing the same as i m coming to Canada and moving little further Up to the west BC(vancouver),
    Ron

  • Reply Natalie May 25, 2013 at 12:26 PM

    Amazing…I can identify! I go to prenzlauerberg all the time. I too live in Berlin!

    • Reply Cheryl Howard June 14, 2013 at 5:23 PM

      Natalie – Thanks for your comment! Now that I’m back home in Toronto, I miss Berlin dearly. Can’t wait to visit my old neighbourhood in August. 🙂

  • Reply Mario June 21, 2013 at 8:46 AM

    I read this blog after almost a year and it still strikes me 🙂

    I spent 2 and a half months living in Berlin and I´m coming back soon. Hope you enjoy your new life in Toronto! 😉

    Tschüß

    • Reply Cheryl Howard June 21, 2013 at 10:28 AM

      Mario – Thank you so much. And great news! I’ll be visiting Berlin in August and cannot wait.

  • Reply Angel Ariel July 30, 2013 at 5:42 AM

    Hello Cheryl.

    You are amazing! I stumbled upon your entry as I searched for tips about moving to Berlin. I'm going through a similar situation and will be moving to Berlin from Miami in about 6 weeks.

    Do you have any tips?

    Thanks and I hope you are well.

    • Reply Cheryl Howard July 31, 2013 at 9:01 PM

      Angel – Thank you for your kindness. So cool you’re moving to Berlin! As for tips, feel free to drop me an email with specific questions – it’s cheryl.howard@gmail.com. 🙂

  • Reply Jonathan Lin August 8, 2013 at 7:36 PM

    “Mein Deutsch ist nicht so gut” – I’ll remember that!

    I would like to go to Berlin at some point in my life. Is it true that they play techno all night there? Scandalous!!

    • Reply Cheryl Howard August 25, 2013 at 10:36 PM

      Jonathan – They don’t just play techno all night but they play it all weekend long! Most people move to Berlin just for the techno. 😛

  • Reply Blog francophone sur Berlin August 13, 2013 at 5:08 PM

    I didn’t get you’re were already back in Toronto in your article here: http://cherylhoward.com/2013/08/08/what-i-wish-someone-told-me-when-i-was-26
    Ok, so Berlin was a great experience. No wonder 🙂

    • Reply Cheryl Howard August 25, 2013 at 10:37 PM

      Blog Francophone – Berlin was one hell of an experience, that’s for sure! I’m dying to get back for good sometime later in life. 🙂

  • Reply Krishna October 21, 2013 at 11:30 PM

    Your story is inspiring and amazing good for you for talking a chance. I’m actually moving to Berlin next week from nyc. I met a Berliner in ny and two years of traveling back and forth we got married this past April in NYC and I decided to take the plunge and move to join him in Berlin.. I’m nervous and excited. His family and friends are totally supportive. Unfortunately I don’t have a job but I’m going to language school… I’m hoping that I can adjust to all the new changes… But like you I needed a change I met the love of my life and I’m ready to see where this new adventure will take me. Any advice ?

    • Reply Cheryl Howard October 22, 2013 at 11:48 AM

      Hi Krishna – Thanks for your note! Congrats on your recent marriage and pending move.

      My #1 advice is to continue with the language class until you become as fluent as possible.

      And when you’re ready to look for work, network as much as possible. Other expats tend to be very helpful in finding jobs for other English speakers. Try using Twitter, Meet-up.com, Internations and Facebook groups for this. Antoher good company to help you with a job search is expath.de who offer job workshops and personal career coaching.

      If you need more information, pls send me an email. 🙂

      Viel Glück und viel Spaß.

      Cheryl

  • Reply Bullmaj May March 6, 2014 at 4:29 PM

    Im doing the same too, Im leaving on Monday. Im a bit worried but I also feel awsome about it. Cheryl, would you have any recommendations regarding finding an apartment? I've paid one month for a hotel right now, and I dont know where to start hunting for my own place

    • Reply Cheryl Howard March 6, 2014 at 1:01 PM

      Hi Bullmaj,

      Enjoy your time in Berlin. I hope you’ll love it as much as I did. 🙂

      There are plenty of ways to find apartments in Berlin, depends on what you’re looking for – a shared flat, your own flat, long term or sublets etc.

      Try these to get started:
      1) http://www.wg-gesucht.de/wg-zimmer-in-Berlin.8.0.1.0.html
      2) http://berlin.en.craigslist.de/apa/
      3) http://www.immobilienscout24.de/wohnen/berlin,berlin/wohnungen.html

      Note finding an apartment in Berlin is almost a job in itself. The prices are rising and even worse, the number of holiday flats going up and the number of flats for residents going down. The competition to get an apartment is fierce (you may have to stand in line to view an apartment with 50 other people), so be prepared and have all your finances and paperwork in order.

      Expath.de can also help you with your apartment hunting.

      Hope this helps and best of luck!

      Cheryl

  • Reply berliner mathematik June 10, 2014 at 8:14 AM

    I was living in Berlin since my birth, for 30 years and finally decided to give Eastern Europe a chance. I felt stressed by Berlin, kind of disappointed without being able to explain it. Now, living in another place I finally see that Berlin is a city of dreamers and dreams that convey the feeling to all visitors. As a student I made many international friends, many of them are still living here a couple of years later, and some applied and got already the German nationality. All say, from the first day they were here, they felt at home.

    The small city where I am living now, is different. Everything you do here is seen by people that know this person that knows this person that finally knows you. You are in a big theatre, never alone. Well, I rarely met people twice in Berlin, that was freedom too.

    There are also other differences, but to make it short: Berlin gives you a feeling of freedom, freedom brings happiness, being unbound, being in love with life, having inspiration, creativity…

    For non-Berliners: Try the city, give it 7 days of holidays, hang around, talk to people in restaurants and bars and you will see if the city is made for you.

    I am an Ex-Berliner now. I understand all the hype around Berlin, let’s see how long it will survive. Even “Berlin” is changing from day to day, I hope it will survive as it is in my experience.

    One guy told me once, Berlin ia a city of 1000 villages, you go around the corner and everything is different… how closer can physics be to life?

    • Reply Cheryl Howard June 15, 2014 at 1:17 PM

      Thanks so much for your comment and sharing your story. Berlin is a fantastic city for native Berliners and visitors like me – I’m not from there but I miss it every day since leaving. Can’t wait to visit again in 6 weeks. Also, caaaannn’t wait for the day I move back.

  • Reply Saar Grolleman October 28, 2014 at 4:31 PM

    i LOVE READING THIS! It’s so funny; I am from the Netherlands, but left about 4 years ago, also with the thought..’there has to be more to life..’ and after 1.5 years in Asia, i Fell in love and moved to Waterloo, Ontario. I’ve been in Canada ever since, though the relationship fell apart after 2 years – and studied holistic nutrition in Mississauga, then upgraded to Toronto (and spent the past two months in Montreal, which I adore). I visited Berlin two years ago, during the summer, and really loved it. I am thinking about moving there after my Canadian visa runs out (though I’d love to have PR in Canada!) Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna be browsing through all of your articles about Berlin! Auf wiedersehen!

    • Reply Cheryl Howard October 29, 2014 at 12:08 PM

      Hey Saar!

      Thanks so much for your nice comment and even more, thanks for reading. Funny how you kinda have an “opposite story” coming from Europe to Canada. 🙂

      If you need help with Berlin, please let me know.

      Cheryl

  • Reply Mani February 23, 2015 at 10:08 AM

    Cheryl,

    I just ran over your blog and I’m still shocked. I’ve been living in Canada for three years and half now. From Toronto, to Montreal, and now living in Calgary. I’m working as a construction project coordinator with a masters in Civil engineering.

    I was happy back in Montreal. I was in love with the city and the people. And since I moved to Calgary I feel unhappy. I don’t like my job (although it’s paying really well).

    My boyfriend is moving to London for a while and he keeps asking me to go with him. I first thought that he’s crazy. He told me that he will move to any city in Europe for me, but he won’t live a sad life in Canada. He is in love with Europe. And guess what? I’ve never been to Europe!

    How did you find the courage to do that? How did you overcome the language barrier? I’m a great risk taker, but even thinking of the move makes me nervous. I need to hear some of your experience.

    Cheers lucky girl!

    Mani

    • Reply Cheryl Howard February 23, 2015 at 11:04 AM

      Hi Mani –

      Thanks for your comment and reading my blog! Always happy to get feedback from others and learn their stories as well.

      You say that you’ve been in Canada for three years now. Just where are you from?

      After moving to Berlin for the first time and then coming home to Toronto again for two years, I missed Berlin so very much! I wasn’t happy until I moved back last year. So I can certainly relate to how you feel.

      Perhaps you should try a vacation in Europe and see how you like it there? I bet London would be a grand adventure and you wouldn’t have to worry about language issues.

      And in answer to your last questions, it’s all in my blog here – just take a look through the expat living archives.

      All the best and hope you make it to Europe. 🙂

      Cheryl

  • Reply Mani February 23, 2015 at 12:23 PM

    Wow that was quick!

    Yo’re a great inspiration Cheryl. Here’s a quick time frame of my recent life:

    1983 to 2008: Living in Iran, got my bachelors in mining engineering. Always wanted to study arts so I did some interior design, photography, Painting and movie editing just for pleasure.
    -2009: Trying to move to Perth, Australia. Got the visa, but couldn’t get out of the country because of my military service status. (All boys who are older than 18 must attend the service for 15 months unless they have a physical or mental problem or they have someone who depends on them, like disabled parent or children.)

    So I attended the military service for a year.

    December 2011: Moved to Canada (Toronto) just like that! I was a bit disappointed at first. The city didn’t meet my expectations. It was very nice, multicultural, but not something I expected it to be. I went to Montreal for a visit, fell in love with the city and started doing my masters there.

    August 2013: Finished my masters program, Started working after a few months. I realized that unemployment rate in Montreal is so high. Et mon francais n’est pas parfait! Most of my engineer ex-schoolmates moved to Alberta for better jobs, and they all were making twice as much as I was making in Montreal. I did some research, and bang…

    September 2014: Moved to Alberta with not much saving, couch surfing at a friend’s place whom I found on Facebook, looking for a job. After a month I landed on a job in my field which is paying twice as much as I was making back in Montreal. But I wasn’t happy. I can’t relate to the city. I can’t picture myself living the rest of my life here in Calgary. I learned my lesson: Money is not everything.

    I met this amazing guy here and he’s moving to Europe. And that’s why I started Googling and found you here.

    It’s definitely not a decision that I can make overnight, and I wasn’t open to it at first. But you don’t know how inspiring your blog is. And I really appreciate what you do here.

    • Reply Cheryl Howard February 24, 2015 at 4:09 PM

      Hi Mani – wow, that’s quite a story! I lived for four months in Calgary to finish university and I did not like it very much.

      All the best to you and whatever you decide to do. Just think if you move to Europe and love it … ? Perhaps you could try finding out. If it didn’t work out, you could always return to Canada or go somewhere else. 🙂

      And thank you for your kind words. That’s the purpose of this blog – to help or inspire others.

  • Reply Sabrina April 20, 2015 at 5:43 PM

    Hello!

    I was wondering if you could give me a few tips. Next year I plan to pack up and move to Berlin. I need to start a new life and this is something that I have to do for myself. What was the process of applying for the visa like? Is there a limitation to a working visa (in terms of how long you can stay)? Also, how difficult is it to apply for permanent residency there?

    Thank you so much!
    Sabrina.

    • Reply Cheryl Howard April 21, 2015 at 8:50 AM

      Hiya Sabrina – Great decision to come to Berlin! It’s the best city on the planet. 😉

      Without knowing you or your situation, it’s rather difficult for me to give you advice about which type of visa to apply for. There are different options – working holiday visa, free lancing visa, job search visa or a working visa which require having a company sponsor you. I suggest researching each option and figuring out which one is best for you!

      Permanent residency also depends on a number of things like how well you speak the language, which visa you have, how long you’ve lived here and more. So again, a difficult question to answer without knowing your situation.

      Hope this helps and best of luck!

      Cheryl

  • Reply Patricia Myers July 31, 2015 at 9:45 AM

    Interesting story! I think that Berlin is amazing town. I was there a few times and this town is full of different cultures and interesting adventures. Great town!

    • Reply Cheryl Howard July 31, 2015 at 12:18 PM

      Thanks so much for your comment and reading! Berlin is a wonderful city.

  • Reply Clarie Andon September 17, 2015 at 9:50 AM

    I totally understand these feelings in you at the beginning, it’s the same reason why I started traveling and moving from place to place. My first moving to Europe was to Barcelona and I lived there for almost two years, it was magical. Berlin enchanted me in a different way and there I found my husband. We are now living in Bordeaux, France with our two-year-old girl, and are planning our moving to Finland for the end of the year. We don’t have an exact plan for changing countries, it depends of the job we find and if we like the place enough. This time my husband’s company is international and they decided he’ll be more useful in the Finnish office, so that was perfect for us and he doesn’t have to search for a new job. So we keep traveling 🙂

    • Reply Cheryl Howard September 17, 2015 at 1:29 PM

      Hey Clarie –

      Thanks for your comment. Sounds like you guys have lived in some cool places. Would be cool if you end up moving to Berlin sometime. 🙂

      Cheryl

  • Reply Jenny November 11, 2015 at 2:12 PM

    Cheryl,
    I just found your blog today as my husband and I await the news of when we will move to Berlin (with Siemens). I have wanderlust flowing in my veins and have lived in Europe twice in my life (5-6 yrs old, 20 years old) but both under the care of parents or school. This will be a first as a spouse and mother of a 4 year old. I have had a solid career for 20 years in healthcare marketing and am thrilled/terrified at the thought of dropping everything to pursue this dream. My goal will be to learn as much German as I can in the 6 months before we even leave (I used to be fluent in French), and I’m certain we will settle in just fine- my husband is an American who is fluent in German. What words of advice do you have for someone who is nervous at the idea of having no job set up, and just being a supportive wife/mom in a foreign land? What are some structured options for things to occupy my time?

    • Reply Cheryl Howard November 12, 2015 at 5:37 AM

      Hey Jenny,

      Congrats! That’s such exciting news for you and your family. 🙂 🙂

      Learning German is a certainly a good start. I’m not sure where you’re from, but I’d suggest the Goethe Institute. They have locations around the world and offer high-quality study programs. I studied with them in Toronto for 6 months and had a really good experience.

      If you wish to further pursue your career of healthcare marketing, there are lots of medtech companies here. However, as I don’t work in the field myself, I’m not sure how easy of an industry it is to enter without being a native German speaker or if there are a lot of jobs are available. For more specific job hunting tips, try expat.de.

      There is a really large expat community in Berlin. I’d suggest using meetup.com to meet others – they have daily events – everything from running groups, to photography walks, to yoga classes, even meetups with others moms for playground dates etc.

      I’d also suggest checking out this blog: http://www.berlinforallthefamily.com/.

      All the best! If you want to meet up once you’re here in Berlin, definitely drop me a line and we can get together for coffee.

      Cheryl

  • Reply Stephanie Cristobo January 11, 2016 at 1:07 AM

    Hi Cheryl!

    Reading your blog was like reading myself. I'm 30 years old, have a good family, lots of friends, a job that paid well but I didn't like, I moved out of my parents house just to find out if "living alone was the experience I always wanted" but no… since I was 18 years old all I thought about was moving abroad. I'm from Uruguay and live in Montevideo. It's a very small country, not so open-minded, with a high rate of old people and very little professional options. My eyes were always abroad. I've always been a very structured person who thought that the only way to move abroad was by having a good job and everything planned.
    Last year, when I realized that my job and my new life living by myself were not enough to feel complete, I decided to take a chance, and to embark into a new experience in 2016.
    I decided to move to Berlin. I enrolled in a 6 month intensive german course (I've already taken german lessons here in Uruguay and achieved an advance A2 level), two weeks ago I quit my job and in March I'll hop on a plane, leave everything behind and really try to be happy.
    I'm scared, excited, nervous, I cry a little bit every night, everyday I question myself if I'm doing the right thing, but I think I am. Unless I try it, I'll never know.
    I've never been to Berlin, but on 2011 I visited Frankfurt, Bonn and Cologne and I was fascinated. I've always been amazed with the german culture and german people.

    The reactions were exact the same as your family's and your friends', but the consensus was "you really have got balls and I admire your spirit".

    I don't know if you are still in Berlin, but I really hope to catch up with some of your events.
    Thank you for sharing your experience.
    Stephanie

    • Reply Cheryl Howard January 11, 2016 at 7:49 AM

      Thanks for your comment Stephanie and thanks for reading. Best of luck with your move, and definitely get in touch when you’re here in Berlin. 🙂

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