Haxit, on year on

graffiti on the subway steps

One year has passed since I left Edinburgh to live in Germany. There were many reason why we decided to move to Berlin and not all of them had to do with the Tories and Brexit. Much has happened and it is time to take stock.

I absolutely enjoy living in Berlin. I love the architecture, the mixture of grand Gr├╝nderzeit buildings that survived the war and the various styles of post-war buildings. My soft spot for concrete architecture is well satisfied. I love taking public transport. The U-Bahn and S-Bahn system is great. Even better now that I have a Deutschland Ticket which allows me to take any local public transport throughout Germany. I enjoy seeing the industrial parts of Berlin, things are still being made here. We haven't made that much use of the cultural offerings yet. What we have seen is great. Although we had been spoiled in Scotland where you don't need to pay to visit most museums. I like the shops in Berlin. You can find a real shop to buy whatever you need. Most things that we want we can find locally. Non-everyday items can be found within a 30 minute walk. You can talk to real people that give you advice. We have joined a coop that sells us everyday things we would have normally bought in a supermarket. We have also joined a coop that will provide us with gas and electricity produced by their members.

Some things are absolutely ridiculous. The bureaucracy is endless and painfully slow. Phoning people is still the preferred way of getting things done. I did eventually sort out my income tax code. Over six months I attempted to contact the tax office to get them to fix my problems. Eventually, I asked a lawyer to sort it out for me. A friendly fax to the tax office and a phone call fixed my issues within half a day. You just need a bigger boot to kick arses. Also there is apparently a lack of skilled workers, and schemes to attract people from all over the world are being talked about. However, once a skilled worker is in Germany they have to jump through all sorts of hoops to get a residence permit and their qualifications accepted. All the while they are unable to earn money. Maybe the system is struggling to cope with all the migrants and refugees.

We did manage to find a lovely flat close to where we are currently staying. The flat is very similar in style, age and size to our old flat in Edinburgh. The big difference is that it does come with a cellar and a balcony. Buying a flat in Berlin was strangely easy. We decided to start looking when Rowan eventually got her residence permit and started a paid job. We had a look at a handful of flats that looked promising and were within our financial reach. Getting an appointment to view the flat was straight-forward. The one we liked best was busy with viewers. On the way home from the viewing we decided to go for it. I sent an email and asked whether we could get some money off. The next evening I got a reply saying that it was reserved for us and that we got a small discount. We then had to sort out the mortgage with our bank. Our bank people are super friendly and helpful. It is also really nice dealing with the same people we have known for many years now. The rest of the procedure was unsurprisingly bureaucratic and some bits very strange: The solicitor had to read out the entire contract to us and we got official copies of all the documents with actual seals. It took quite a while to get everything sorted and there was a lot of waiting for the various parties to do their stuff. We now have the keys and can start organising the work that needs to be done.

A complete contrast was talking to the removal company in Scotland that is storing our stuff. An email enquiring about the next steps was sufficient to get various responses and a phone call to sort out the details by the end of the day. We are very much looking forward to sorting out our own place with our own things. One year without is a long time.

Work is good. I am slowly getting my head around what needs to be done and how I fit in. We've been in a temporary office at the Campus Virchow Klinikum in Wedding until very recently. Very soon we will move into our new building near the Nordbahnhof in the very centre of Berlin. My colleagues are very nice but my team is small and I am very much looking forward to meeting more people at work. One thing I hadn't appreciated before is that Germans are really quite straight forward talking. There is none of the snark and sarcasm that I got used to but never really liked in the UK. Maybe people working in IT are particularly susceptible to in-jokes and cultural references. We shall see how the open plan office and the hot desking will go. Some things do not change. Earlier this year I was on strike again for the usual stuff: better pay and working conditions. However, the settlement was better than what we got in the UK for our effort. Last year I skipped the global climate strike but I fully intend to join this year.

Politics in Germany is somewhat saner than in the UK which is admittedly a rather low bar. There are however many problems. Social issues have been similarly ignored for far too long. The effects of climate change are much more present here. It has been very dry and the trees are noticeably suffering. Yet politicians ignore the problems and, even worse, some in the ruling coalition actively block necessary changes. Social tensions and misinformation lead to the rise of the far right AfD that can promise whatever they like with no intention (and ability) to keep those promises. In many ways the UK is just a few decades ahead of Germany (as so often). Many things that I enjoy so much here used to be similar in Scotland when I first got there in the nineties. German politicians should take the situation in the UK as a warning of how things might develop.

We realise that we are hugely privileged. We have secure jobs that allow us to live in a fabulous city. The sale of our flat in Edinburgh allowed us to buy a flat in Berlin which is a lot easier than finding a place to rent. However, we could not have managed this project without the support from our families. We do miss our friends and family in Scotland. Hopefully, we will manage to visit next year. We are looking forward to the next phase of this project: sorting our own place to live and establishing ourselves in Berlin.