My Personal Story About Why I Moved To Berlin

Why I Moved To Berlin - Cheryl Howard

My Personal Story About Why I Moved To Berlin – Estimated reading time: 17 minutes

I’d been living in Berlin for almost a year before I managed to write about why I chose to give up my life in Canada to start anew in the German capital. I’d moved here in June 2011 and months later, found myself without words and an ability to share my personal story. I’d typed dozens of blog post drafts but felt none of them ever seemed fit for publishing. I guess I needed more time to realize why I really moved here and what exactly it meant to me.

Finally, the day came when I ended the suspense by sharing why I moved to Berlin in the first place. Newsletter

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My Personal Story About Why I Moved To Berlin

Why I Moved To Berlin - Cheryl Howard Photo

Some people move to Berlin to be part of the city’s creative community, others to work at a startup, while some come for love, and many simply, for the hedonistic party and clubbing lifestyle.

My story’s much more different. I moved here never having visited the city, completely alone, without a job, and not knowing a word of German.

My “Happy Life” In Toronto Was Anything But Happy

Why I Love Berlin - Cheryl Howard

From the outside looking in, my life in Toronto seemed like a really good one. I was lucky enough to have several close friends, an amazing loft apartment, and a job that paid well. I kept busy by playing sports, taking classes, and going to cool parties. I traveled a few times a year and did awe inspiring things like cruise the Galapagos Islands and hike the Inca Trail in Peru.

What most people didn’t know was that I was deeply unhappy. I loathed my job. I was ashamed I didn’t have a boyfriend, never mind a husband or children. I felt guilty for not being able to appreciate what I had. To be honest, I didn’t feel deserving of that good life. I cried each day, regularly had full blown panic attacks, and suffered from ongoing insomnia. I was tired and drained all of time and even though I didn’t realize it yet, was experiencing a deep depression.

There Was A Slew Of Traumatic Events

Berlin Germany Cheryl Howard

I was in complete denial. A lot of traumatic things had transpired in the decade leading up to that time of my life.

I’d married an abusive man, only to get divorced a year and half later. It had been devastating, as he’d been unfaithful and never once showed any regret. I’d also been pregnant and when he found out, he forced me into having an unwanted abortion. When he left, he immediately moved in with his new girlfriend. Our parting was the best thing that ever happened me and my life immediately improved, but I never once took the time to process what damage the relationship had done to my well being.

Just a couple of years later, I found out my father broke his 20 years or so of sobriety. Things went downhill pretty fast from there and it got to the point, that every time the phone rang, I would collapse into a panicked state. The phone calls never meant anything good. He was either in the hospital from overdosing, getting picked up by the police for public drunkenness, and even arrested for driving under the influence. These events continued for quite a while until one weekend when I went home to visit him and my sister and I found him dead on the kitchen floor.

As if his death wasn’t enough, my siblings and I had to take care of my dad’s estate which involved a lot of work and stress. My sister and I took on the bulk of the responsibilities, a huge burden to say in the least. To make matters worse, no one could agree on anything and what followed was two years of arguments and disputes.

During that time, we also had to care for my elderly grandmother who was dying from Alzheimer’s. She ended up passing away just one year after my dad did. Even though it sounds wildy unbelievable, when we arrived at the cemetery for her burial, we discovered that they’d dug up the wrong grave site, my dad’s grave site! Trying to cover up their mistake, the grave diggers had carelessly tossed my dad’s cremated remains into the forest adjacent to the cemetery. My family and I had to comb through piles of dirt to find them and on the day we were supposed to bury my grandmother, we had to rebury my father as well.

So much insanity in such a short time would challenge the best of us, but I kept going by avoiding any and all opportunity to face the enormity of all of those life events by all means possible. I played sports, took classes, went to parties, threw myself into work just so I could keep busy and avoid checking myself into a mental hospital.

It Was Time For a Sabbatical

Berlin Germany Is An Amazing Place To Live

In 2005, I’d bought a house with the proceeds from my divorce. It was an investment property, as I purposely bought in a gentrified area so I could sell at a profit later on. Five years later, I did exactly that, leaving with a very handsome six figure amount. Around the time I sold my condominium, I was also laid off from work and scored a decent settlement package.

It was the perfect chance to take a sabbatical and figure out what I really wanted from life. I could breathe and not worry about things for a while, perhaps finding the happiness that had always eluded me. I ended up taking nearly two years off of work and spent the time being a lady of leisure, a champion lady of leisure actually. I slept in, got day drunk, watched countless reruns of Golden Girls, took cooking classes, and most importantly traveled. And once I started, I couldn’t stop.

Meeting My Big (European) Love

Berlin Germany - Why Move Here

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 then I felt free, happy and joyous for the very first time ever in my life. I lost count of how many times I cried simply because it felt so surreal, to be there in a place I’d always dreamed of visiting and to feel happiness that I still didn’t feel I deserved. The new emotions overwhelmed me, but it became a high I started to chase.

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

Not wanting to stay away from my new found love for long, I returned to Europe again for Christmas to do a tour through Munich, Prague, Bratislava, Budapest,and Vienna. To be honest, I’d low expectations for the trip and thought there was no way that Italy experience could ever be topped. To my surprise, the Christmas tour turned out to be even better than I could’ve imagined. One cold snow filled night, as I walked across the Charles Bridge in Prague, I suddenly just knew. I was someday going to make that big move abroad to Europe. Not only did I want to do it, but more importantly, I knew I could do it.

Those trips were pivotal for a few reasons. First, it solidified the fact that I loved the continent. The happiness of that first trip was repeated with the second. Second, I discovered there was more to Europe than Italy and I knew I’d be happy living almost anywhere. I started thinking about Germany, France, and even Spain. Third, I felt a new and surprising confidence that it was something that I could really do on my own.

Taking The Plunge

Berlin Is Fun

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

Then while in Cuba on vacation three months later, I received a call from my landlord announcing that they were putting my loft up for sale and public viewings would start the very next day. At first I was deeply upset with the news but then realized this was the time and a perfect opportunity. I decided right then and there I’d move to Europe.

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 sold all of my possessions, booked a one way flight to Berlin, and secured a holiday apartment in Prenzlauer Berg. I was finally ready to move to Berlin.

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 what I was doing and 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 during my time. It was possible, I’d fail miserably and would have to come home. I had enough money to last about six months.

I was scared, exhilarated, and stressed but mostly, excited.

The Long Kiss Goodbye

Berlin Is For DJs

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 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.

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 (which I now realize I was).

These were just some of the comments – “Are you experiencing a midlife crisis?”, “You’re so naive. You’ll never succeed at travel writing. It’s not really a profession.”, “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 couldn’t they see what I saw? The possibilities, the potential, the chance for true happiness.

Why Berlin Of All Places?

Why I Moved To Berlin - Header

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 varied but went 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 wasn’t at all because I watched this amazing video.

Of course, there are usually more questions:

“Do you have a job in Berlin?” I didn’t have a job when I first arrived.

“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.

“Are you moving there for a man?” Nope. Although the idea of dating fashionable, well educated, multilingual men who watched movies with subtitles vs being a massive Toronto Maple Leafs fan was definitely appealing.

“Do you hate Toronto?” I didn’t hate Toronto. It was just time for a new beginning. I’ll always consider it home.

The Verdict On My Berlin Move

Berlin May Day Parties

Did it work out? Yes, and no. Shortly after my arrival, a fellow newly arrived Berliner remarked to me over late night 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 just that but I harbor absolutely no regrets.

I ended up staying in Berlin for 18 months. While there were plenty of ups and downs, moving to Berlin was one of the best decisions I’d ever made. Unfortunately, those downs caught up with up me with untenable work and relationship situations, so I took the very right decision to go back to Canada.

It was also another opportunity to make myself feel grounded myself again and take stock about what I wanted from life. It didn’t take me long to figure out that I missed Berlin a lot and I soon began plotting my way back. After two years in my Canadian home, I returned in November 2014 and have been here ever since.

And What Now?

Cheryl Howard Berlin Germany

A decade later in 2021, I sometimes still find myself astonished that I’ve been in Berlin for all of this time. I’ll admit that at times, the urge to go back to Canada has been strong, most especially at the beginning of the pandemic.

Looking back, I can really see in the years following those traumatic events I discussed above, I took every possible action to avoid confronting my emotions. While I thought travelling around the world and moving to Berlin made me happy, I also realize that this was only furthering my escapist behaviour.

Following my move back here, I fell into bad habits like smoking and drinking, took up a partying lifestyle, and kept up with the excessive travel. My happiness was mostly superficial and even though there were plenty of fun-filled moments along the way, my unhappiness and depression only deepened, as time went by those cracks only became more open and exposed.

Then the pandemic came and I hit rock bottom, fast and hard. The lockdown, uncertainty surrounding my job, being so far away from home, and all alone was just too much. While I’m still not so ready to write about the whole experience, I can say that I was in really, really, really bad shape.

Thanks to support from plenty of cool people who spent time with me on video calls, understanding doctors, a sympathetic employer, and regular therapy, life looks much differently than it did one year ago. I’ve put absolutely everything into bettering my well being. I quit smoking, found a new job, and managed through tough events like losing my grandmother and cat in the same week. The panic attacks are no more, I’m off of antidepressants, I sleep through the night, and wake up many days with a smile on my face. My life is all the better with the recent arrival of a new rescue cat from Poland, who sports such a thick mustache that I named him after Burt Reynolds.

I (cautiously) say that I may be finally be feeling really truly happy. Something I never thought I’d be able to say with any conviction. While I have a lot of work ahead, I’m in a really good place and look forward to building a much healthier and happier life here in Berlin.

So that was a whole lot, right? It was definitely work on my part to be this open, not to mention update this story which I first wrote 8 years ago. But there you have it, my story about why I moved to Berlin and why, I’m still here.

Good To Know About Berlin

1) If you need somewhere to stay when you visit Berlin, check out your options on

2) Make your time in Berlin fun (even if you’re a local) and go on a guided tour.

3) If you’re visiting other parts of Germany, rent a car for an epic road trip through the country.

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Founder of Canadian in Berlin. Frequent traveller now at 43 countries and counting.


  1. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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 🙂

  4. 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…

  5. 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.

  6. 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. 😉

  7. 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 =)

  8. 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.

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

  10. @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. 🙂

  11. @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.

  12. @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?

  13. @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. 😉

  14. @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. 😉

  15. @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. 😉

  16. @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! 😉

  17. 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!

  18. @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. 🙂

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

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

  20. @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. 🙂

  21. 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 🙂

  22. 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.

  23. @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. 🙂

  24. 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.

  25. @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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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!


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

  30. 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!

  31. @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.

  32. @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.

  33. 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!

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

  35. 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.

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

  37. 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.

  38. @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. 🙂

  39. 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.

  40. @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. 🙂

  41. 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!

  42. @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.

  43. 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.


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

  45. 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!
    Tom S.

  46. 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.

  47. @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!

  48. 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.

  49. @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. 🙂

  50. 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:
    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,

  51. @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. 🙂

  52. 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.

  53. @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 … !! 🙂

  54. 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,

  55. 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

  56. 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.



  57. @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!

  58. 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),

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

  60. 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. 🙂

  61. 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! 😉


  62. 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.

  63. “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!!

  64. 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 ?

  65. 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,, Internations and Facebook groups for this. Antoher good company to help you with a job search is who offer job workshops and personal career coaching.

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

    Viel Glück und viel Spaß.


  66. 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:

    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. can also help you with your apartment hunting.

    Hope this helps and best of luck!


  67. 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

  68. 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?

  69. 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.

  70. 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!

  71. 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.


  72. 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 – 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!


  73. 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?

  74. 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. 🙂


  75. 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!


  76. 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.

  77. 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.

  78. 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!

  79. 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!


  80. 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!

  81. 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 🙂

  82. 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. 🙂


  83. 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?

  84. 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

    There is a really large expat community in Berlin. I’d suggest using 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:

    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.


  85. 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.

  86. What a superbly well-written article, I devoured it top to bottom! 🙂 Not exactly sure how I got to your page, but I’m glad I did. Well, I think I was looking for ways to meet North-Americans (CAN and US) for little family or just personal meet-ups for the sake of practicing English with my not-so-very natively speaking kiddo. Can you recommend something like that?

    Anyway, I like your style, so you have just upped your subscribors by one :). Welcome to the Mudderstadt 😀

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