What are the biggest challenges you are facing as an expat in Berlin?

Crying woman | biggest challenges you are facing as an expat

Warning: This post is negative, insensitive and might be offensive to someone. The author of BerlinAnswers website doesn’t support any of the statements and opinions.


(Emotionally, mentally or culturally) what are the biggest challenges you are facing as an expat in Berlin? Just the first thing that comes to your mind!


  • Remaining integrated with German society, culture, and language in the face of a pandemic.
  • My biggest source of anxiety has been about navigating healthcare. It’s very decentralized.
  • The bureaucracy! And the lack of simple solutions to everyday activities.
  • Germans being extremely rude, but when you confront them, they all say the same thing “I am just being honest”.
  • Access to the public healthcare system as a Non-EU national.
  • Language, parking and traffic penalties.
  • Yeah, healthcare. The rest works well for me if you ignore the broken bureaucracy.
  • A family reunion is extremely slow. I have been bringing my girlfriend since 2019, a lot of paperwork.
  • OBVIOUSLY the extreme all-pervasive left-wing obsession. There’s hardly anyone left within the ring that you could have a straight-up chat with (without having to listen to a considerable amount of pretentious nonsense). And communism?!?! Kids think that communism is somehow the antidote to capitalism gone haywire! That on its own tells you all there is to tell.
  • The outdated, inefficient systems. If I write an email to the Finanzamt, for example, why do I get a reply by post one week later?
  • Bureaucracy and bad (really bad) healthcare. All the rest, I can deal with, but feeling not taking well care of my health, and being in the hands of bad doctors and a bad system is scary to me, and one of the reasons sometimes I want to move out.
  • Lack of common cultural roots, of former participants in the educational system and culture, of upbringing in Germany.
  • Healthcare system for public insurance, me and my friend waited for two days in a big hospital 7 hours each day didn’t found a doctor, later we gave up hope, he recovered automatically.
  • Lacking broadband infrastructure, 2-year contracts (disappeared 15 years ago in many other countries), bureaucracy (lack of digital services, need for paper letters, physicals signatures, etc), dubbed TV content. This not what you asked, but all of those have a heavy emotional toll.
  • Schooling and child care.
  • Monogamy.
  • The fact that it is so hard to find a non-smoking bar! They pack ’em in like sardines, then close all the windows and doors; a coupla hundred chain-smokers in a closed, sweaty little room… You pretty much have to burn your clothes after a night out in Berlin! And then spend until mid-week coughing your lungs up. It’s a tough place for non-smokers to have a social life.
  • Actually, it may sound silly, but meeting people.
  • Racism — YT Europeans telling people of colour what is or isn’t racism. It’s a different, more covert, and deeply ingrained type of racism here.
  • Not being an expat, but an immigrant, brings the answer to your question to a whole new level: struggle with Visas, no state help whatsoever (100% rely on me working), uncertainty about the future (will I be able to stay?) and lack of pre-existing social and family networks.
  • The language barrier, and how much anxiety and confusion can cause trying to do simple life administration tasks. So many times when one’s whole life seems about to crash and burn because of one sentence you didn’t quite understand properly (that a native would have no problems with) or aspects of the bureaucracy that you’re just expected to know. Not to mention the utter lack of support for communicating as an international with the government. The system is… crushingly horrible to work with, the majority of the people and the culture is amazing and why I choose to live here.
  • As an immigrant, I always had a feeling that I need to try harder and do better than locals. Even after 15 years of living in Berlin, I have this feeling. I’ve graduated from Berlin and speak fluent German. But still, it feels like it is not enough. I also wanted to change my family name so I sound more German.
  • Ausländerbehörde. Bureaucracy, paperwork taking ages. And definitely contracts.
  • It might be just me, but in the first 2-3 years I was a little anxious to get letters in my name because I thought that another fine or some unknown to me request from a department of fresh air or jogging or seagulls just arrived.
  • For someone new to the city, in the current state, it’s very difficult to connect and find a new base of friends. This should get better once things ease up, but the current state doesn’t make living in Berlin a pleasure. Although I know it’s a great city to live in. Really sad to hear the issues on this thread.
  • The idea that racism doesn’t exist here. That I should be happy I get it ever so slightly here because the rest of Germany is worse. Also that my experiences with racism are almost always invalidated because of the aforementioned – which hasn’t been my experience when visiting other parts of Germany. An overtly racist society is much easier to navigate than this.
  • Customer Support (when you buy the product and ask if their support is in English, they say YES but in reality NO), if you try to explain them in broken German, they will simply hang up!
  • For some mystical reason, I have met German people on a couple of occasions that do not seem to realize their behaviour (in the case it is a racist one I mean). So I find this phenomenon really peculiar especially when the person honestly does not realize it! And that is really the tragicomical side of life in Berlin for me (because it is such an international city after all and still has this paradox). I am sure no one or maybe most of the people at least do not do it on purpose, it is though a pretty clear cut case of passive racism at the end. Never experienced something like this anywhere else, really weird indeed.
  • Foreigners harassing other foreigners in Berlin.
  • Taxes.
  • Nothing at all. Having moved to a country that offers better health care, better job opportunities, better life quality, better salaries, a country that when you lose your job will pay your rent and necessities, a country that, among all the cultural differences that might exist, it still tolerates our neglect of not learning their language after many years of being here (all of u know what I mean). Whining all over nothing at all really, although I was negative in the very beginning.

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Crying woman | biggest challenges you are facing as an expat
Photo by Malicki M Beser on Unsplash


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