Brits in Berlin – Q&A: Amy Brandhorst, Black Label

After the UK’s Brexit decision in June we decided that rather than mourn and moan, we’d do something positive and run a campaign to ‘Adopt a Remainian’ – i.e. offer a young Brit the opportunity to work with us in Berlin for six months to compare lifestyles with London. We thought it would be interesting to explore living costs and the quality of rental accommodation, commute time and basic living expenses. We would ask the successful applicant to document their journey on a blog and video diary to inspire and inform others who are considering a move to Berlin.

So, a warm welcome to Amy Brandhorst, 22, a Leeds University graduate from Bromley, Kent. Amy has been with us for a month now and is enjoying her new role as part of the press team. We spoke to her about Brexit, co-working hotspots, finding your neighbourhood, and getting under the skin of the city…

You’ve been in the city proper for a few weeks now – does it feel different working here rather than visiting as a tourist?

So far it’s going good – I’m enjoying working for Black Label because the job is quite varied. Sometimes I’m researching and writing about areas but I’ve also been to see some of the new developments in the city, which I love as I get to see the modern architecture. Getting the U-Bahn to work every morning makes me feel like a legitimate citizen of Berlin, as I have a purpose to be here – along with paying my taxes and getting paid in Euros.

Where are you currently living and who with?

I’m currently living in the heart of Kreuzberg in a shared flat with three Germans and one English person.

Which neighbourhoods – ‘Kiez’ do you prefer?

I like Kreuzberg, Neukölln and Tempelhof because of their bohemian atmosphere – the streets are littered with bars, cafes and second hand shops that are always busy, yet they’re also relaxed and attract all kinds of people. Lichtenberg is cool as well because it has some remarkable East German brutalism and pockets of international communities that add zest to the neighbourhood, for example the huge Vietnamese → Dong Xuan market

What drew you to apply for our Adopt a Remainer campaign? What would you like to get out of it?

When I saw Black Label’s ‘Adopt a Remainian‘ campaign a few days after Brexit I thought: what a great idea, Brits need to know that there are opportunities for them outside of the UK. I have some experience in the property industry in London as well as a keen interest in the housing market and architecture, so the opportunity seemed perfect for me. I want to experience working in a new environment within a multicultural team, and I also want to learn about the Berlin property market at a time when investment is growing and things are getting exciting. And, of course, improve my German!

Did Brexit spur you on? How do you and your friends feel about it?

Yes, it certainly did. After studying for a year in Berlin a couple of years ago I was considering coming back here for a long time, then Brexit happened and the decision was made for me, because I didn’t know what could change in future in regards to the free movement. Most of my friends and I were genuinely shocked, angry and sad about the result – we’re not closed minded. We consider ourselves to be European.

Berlin is the number 1 city in Europe for freelancers according to recent news. Do you think it has a different mindset to other cities that drives and enables success?

It feels to me like it’s more about the moment, flux and renewal and what you can create to build a life for yourself – i.e. less focused on tradition, social class, money and which university you went to.
That’s pretty accurate – no one here cares about what university you went to, in fact the fixation with university league tables that you see in the UK just doesn’t exist here, and neither does an obsession with your social class. In Berlin the cost of living is cheap and there is less income inequality, so there is more opportunity for social mobility. People and employers value you for your talent and character and what you have the ability to create.

What do you think draws young people and creatives to Berlin? How does the lifestyle compare to London?

People are drawn towards Berlin because you don’t have to have a lot of money to have a great quality of life here, yet unfortunately in London this seems to be the case. Food is cheap both in the supermarket and in restaurants and bills / rent are much cheaper than other major European capitals, plus you can get much more for your money when you buy: whether it’s spacious rooms in an ‘Alt-bau’ (property built during the early 1900s) or a modern new build with under floor heating and a balcony, it’s probably the same price as a small shabby place on the outskirts of London! In terms of saving money, I can’t tell yet because I haven’t been here long enough. However, I’ve already been able to afford a weekend trip to Leipzig.

Where are you learning German?

I speak German with one of my housemates, which is a helpful little daily exercise, and at work I translate copy from Black Label’s German website. I’m also looking into doing a German course that has around 2-3 classes a week. But I must admit sometimes it’s hard to learn German here – everyone speaks English!

Any tips or must see attractions for newcomers to the city?

It may be an obvious one but → Tempelhofer Feld is great – it’s a disused airport that has been converted into a park. You can go there to relax during the day and have a BBQ, bike through it along the runways or go later to watch the sunset and have some beers. A tip is to read a little about an area before you visit it – it helps to visualise the history, whether it’s in the design of the buildings, shop windows, cuisine or culture. Not many newcomers will know that Berlin is surrounded by beautiful lakes, which are accessible via U/S-Bahn. And if you like Brutalist architecture, head to Lichtenberg!

Berlin is a vibrant, creative international city yet feels remarkably laid back in comparison to London. When you’re in a city it’s easy to become aconsumer of culture and not create anything of your own. Where do you go for quiet time to focus?

My flat is the perfect place – it’s a period building and my room has the original double doors leading into it, beautiful high ceilings with decorative features, big windows and exposed concrete walls. I can shut myself in there when I want some peace or open the windows and hear the life on the street below and the echo of the U-Bahn. There are also countless cafes all over the city where freelancers work every day, where you can buy good coffee and fresh food to keep you going. → St Oberholz in Mitte and → Tischendorf in Neukölln are ideal.

Best co-working spots in town?

The abundance of freelancers here means there are plenty of cafes with wifi across the city, so you’ll never be short of a space to work in. Betahaus in Kreuzberg is a spacious co-working space with layered decking to sit on and → The Agora Collective in Neukölln has a welcoming work space area with large tables and plenty of light.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m uploading blogs, area guides and anything Berlin-related to the Press section of www.blacklabel-properties.com. You can also check out our Instagram @blacklabelproperties, which I update daily.

Brits in Berlin is a new interview series where we talk to business owners, entrepreneurs and creatives who have made Berlin their home. If you’d like to take part or recommend someone for us to interview, please email nt@blacklabel-properties.com