By LOUISE CARR, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist
Think you can handle the pace of vibrant, buzzing Berlin? Do you harbor a dream of soaking up the art, culture, design and music in Germany's capital? Berlin is a mix of glamour and down-to-earth functionality with a good line in top-class restaurants, clubs, bars and galleries. Scores of Americans wish they could call this open, tolerant city home. Are you one of them?
Berlin is a "cool" capital - at times a hedonistic one - but a city that retains a sense of history and has its feet firmly on the ground. Around every corner are reminders of the city's recent past - the Reichstag, Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie - but its current attractions include cabaret, contemporary art, top museums and grand opera houses.
So you want to move to Berlin. How much do you have to make in Berlin to afford a decent living? What do you need to spend on the essentials, like rent and food and utilities, as well as the little luxuries? Most of all, can you make your budget work in Berlin?
Berlin is a cheaper city to live in than some of its famous European fellows - Berlin comes in at number 78 out of a total of 300 cities in xpatulator.com's overall cost of living rank. Paris is higher at 21, and London is also more expensive at number 16.
The average annual salary of an industry and service sector employee in Berlin, according to the Statistical Offices of the Lδnder and the Federal Statistical Office, is $51,600 (37,404).
To break down the figures more by type of job, you have to go to other sources. PayScale, a leading provider of global employee compensation data, breaks the figures down a bit more. A company employee gets on average $57,329 (41,543), a college or university employees receives $43,915 (31,823), and a school worker $38,640 (28,000). In the media and IT industry, in which Berlin is strong, a graphic artist/ designer gets $36,514 (26,460), an IT project manager $67,339 (48,797) and a senior software engineer $69,553 (50,401).
What Should You Budget to Live in Berlin?
Rent: $900 (652)
Food: $350 (253)
Health: $74.50 (54)
Utilities: $207 (150)
Cell: $41 (30)
Transport: $102 (74)
Entertainment: $72 (51.84)
Gym: $69 (50)
Total: $1,815 - out of a $4,300 monthly salary
$900 (652) a month rent
Rent is reasonably cheap in Berlin compared to other European capitals so your money goes a lot further. A studio or one-bedroom apartment in a decent area costs around $500 a month in rent. A two-bedroom apartment, newly modernized with big rooms, in central Berlin will set you back around $830 to $1,000 a month. Four- to six-bedroom places go for up to $2,000.
Most rental agencies ask for two to three months' deposit (and often add an agency charge on top that can be up to two months' rent) so factor this into your first month's expenditure in the new city if you don't rent direct from the owner or administrator. Don't get too excited about the low rent - you'll likely need to buy furniture in order to live in your budget palace as most apartments in Berlin come unfurnished. Some terminology - "cold" rent doesn't include any other utilities and "warm" rent includes heating.
$1.38 (1) for a liter of milk
$4 (2.88) for 2 liters of Coca Cola
$4.93(3.55) for one pound of ground meat
$1.42 (1.02) for 1lb of bananas
$6 (4.32) for a whole chicken
$2.50 (1.80) for a loaf of bread
$1.14 (0.82) for 1lb of dry pasta
$2.49 (1.79) for 1lb of white rice
$1.23 (0.88) for a box of cereal
$0.42 (0.30)for a bottle of mineral water
Cooking your own meals at home in Berlin works out as relatively inexpensive. Expect to pay around $350 (253) for a monthly shop. Of course, your food bill depends on where you choose to push your cart. Berlin has many discount supermarkets such as Aldi, Netto and Plus as well as upscale delis and small stores selling delicious sausages, locally grown vegetables, fresh baked bread and deli snacks.
$11 (8) for a cinema ticket
$0.70 to $13.80 (0.50 to 10) for entrance to a museum
Berlin has a thriving nightlife and entertainment scene, meaning you won't be short on things to do. Your entertainment budget naturally depends on your tastes - upscale champagne clubs every night are harder on the budget than a weekly visit to the cinema. If you're economizing, many sights and museums are free to visit and you can find plenty of cheap things to see by looking into smaller galleries and taking up discount offers for theater. An average expenditure would be based on one cinema visit a week and two visits to an international museum a month, equaling $72.