I've been sitting at this lovely cafe in Dalston, London for about an hour. I was pondering how to develop this article. You know, I'm in a tricky position. Two of my favourite cities fighting on the ring. And, as the appointed judge, I have to pick the winner. What makes it trickier is that I've just landed here, in London directly from Berlin.
Well, what I can surely say is that I have a super-fresh perspective on both capitals ?
So, after so much consideration, here is what I think (scroll down to the bottom if you have no time or can't resist to find out who’s the ultimate winner).
Let me say the truth. The weather is shit in both cities. There is no other way around it. Summers (real summers) don't exist in London except for those brief, unexpected, Brits-panicking heat waves. Winter is freezing cold in both cities. With the only difference that the wind is slightly warmer in London than the Artic Berlin one.
Let's talk about the snow. As cute as it is, it's also a pain in the...foot, especially if you commute by bike or public transports. In London it doesn't snow that often, but in Berlin, snow is expected every year. Inches, not just the fluffy white stuff in the sky.
On the other hand, London has the rain. Not every day, but sort of. Surely of all types: pouring, drizzle, cats and dogs, spitting, teeming down…
Money, Money, Money
Since I got back from my two-year trip around the world, I've constantly been thinking about moving to Berlin.
The perception is that you can live in a big, fancy flat in Prenzlauer Berg for pennies. While I was getting #berlinized in Berlin, I asked around if that was the case and the truth is that things have changed in the last 6/7 years. Thanks to gentrification, the EU flexibility for people to move around, the high quality of living, prices in Berlin have gone up. However, most people I spoke to, told me that they still find living in Berlin affordable, while I have exactly ZERO friends who think that London is affordable.
Another great think I've discovered in Berlin is that part-time work exists. I mean, it's not only an hard-to-get employers' kinda favour, but actually a positive trend that allows people to focus also on other things. May they be family, passion, education, travel or whatever.
London has higher average salaries that's for sure. However it also has a higher unemployment rate and a lower minimum wage. So, if it happens to be on the latter and having a rent to pay, it's going to be hard to get by. But, if you happen to get a good job, you can also see incredibly high paychecks. At the age of 24, I was earning far more than all my uni friends back home and even more than my dad and siblings.
There is no doubt that London is one of the best cities in the world for business. Business-friendly incentives along with schemes to foster entrepreneurship, have attracted the brightest people from around the world. However, Berlin is soon coming becoming a strong competitor on that field, with new businesses popping out all around town and digital hubs competing with the London ones. And after Britain leaves the EU, Berlin is likely to overtake London as the "startup capital of Europe".
Londoners VS Berliners
Londoners, at first, are very introvert. You'll never make eye contact with a Brit on the tube. Except if it's friday night when you might even get an unexpectd kiss by a drunk dude. But, once you get the Brits, they softned and they actually are quite funny and nice - deep down. It only takes ages to get there. I lived in London for about 7 years and I can count my London friends on two hands (the rest are expats like me).
In Berlin, instead, it seemed easier to meet new people and make new friends every time I went (7 in total).
I also found out that Berliners are so much more auto-ironic than Londoners. Watch this if you don't believe me: #soberlin
Quality of Life
As I wrote on this article, Berlin ranked number 5. Erm...London isn't on that list. Despite its relative poverty, Berlin just seems to be healthier than London. There are different causes: the not so huge population, the better transport system, the city size itself, the flexible employment status, less pollution. Quality of life surveys consistently put Berlin (and a whole host of other German cities) above the the British capital.
People in Berlin always praise the city's transport system. This does not happen in London. There, commuters are squashed in no air-conditioning cars every days along with other hundreds stressed, sweaty people. It is also much more affordable than the TFL. A yearly travel card can cost almost a third of your salary depending on where you live.
If you are a cycle rider, then both cities are bike-friendly, but I have to say that Berlin traffic looks less dangerous than London's busy streets.
Nature and Outdoors
Both cities feature a huge number of green space and outdoor activities.
One of the best things I love the most about London is that you are never too far from a park or a little patch of grass. In fact, London is 33 percent made of green space, whereas Berlin is only 14.4 percent.
In terms of lakes though, Berlin's Müggelsee, the city's largest lake, surely beat the crowded Hamstead Heath ponds.
Culture and Things to do
This is a tough one. London offers a vast range of high-quality museums and cultural attraction. Just to mention a few: the Tate, the British Museum, the National Gallery, London's Royal Opera House and the list is endless. Another plus is that the majority of the museums are free!
Berlin instead, while it has a fewer number of actual cultural sights, it's an open air musuem. Due to the recent history events and the WWII bombing, you can experience the culture of the city just by going around the city.
I've visited the Berlin Philarmonic during my recent trip there and I must say I was impressed by its unique beauty and impressive architecture. And the Berlin Philharmonic is probably the most celebrated orchestra in the world.
Both in London and Berlin, there is always something happening. Food or music festivals, markets, pop-up stores and much more. There are hundreds of nightclubs in Berlin and surely the nightlife is better than in London where most clubs and bars close very early.
All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin. And therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words ‘Ich bin ein Berliner!” – John F. Kennedy
All in all, I'm ready to give my verdict and state Berlin as the winner of this endless competition. I might have been influenced by my recent dive in the city with Visit Berlin, the fact that being an entrepreneur / self-employed I cannot longer afford London life or it might simply be the thought of how the Brexit is going to affect my life and business.
But, whether you are moving to Berlin or London, I think you are going to have an amazing time: both cities are incredible for expats, students and travellers.
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