"I am an expat mum (Dutch, married an American) living in Berlin and I have lots of experience traveling / touring as a family. My husband works for an international theater company called Blue Man Group and that has taken us many places. Every time you travel to a new place there is the fun of figuring out where you are and what there is for you and your child. Doing the research on the internet and chatting with locals has been my life for many years and it is crucial to finding meaningful connections. Since last year we are excited to call Berlin our home! We've spent quite a bit of time here in the last 10 years (as this is where the company is based in Europe) and the city with everything it has to offer feels right for us as a family. Even with the challenges of finding your way through the German system, the quality of life for families is great. Our 6 year old started school last year and I am happy to say that we are feeling right at home,"
What is your name, age, where do you live and how long have you lived in Berlin?
Arina Sargent, 37, living in Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin. I moved here in 2004 for the first time and left 1.5 year later, thinking I would never come back. But my husband’s job (theatre) took us back here many times and two years ago we decided to stay here and settle down when it was time for our son to start school.
Do you work, and if so what do you do?
I am a trained Montessori & yoga teacher and currently going through the ordeal of getting my papers recognized in Berlin.
What nationality are you and your partner?
Born in Copenhagen and raised in Amsterdam. My husband was born in Boston and grew up on the coast of California. I guess the moving was made part of our life at an early age.
How many children do you have and what are their names and ages?
We have one boy, Rowen Bloom 7, he has toured the globe with us until he had to start school. We found a bilingual school and feel so blessed to be part of its diverse community that it was a deciding factor into staying in Berlin.
How did you find the process of relocating to Berlin with your children (if relevant)?
We were touring with a theatre company and were used to moving around, but something kept pulling us back to Berlin once we were a family. We felt very comfortable here and it was relatively easy to get settled. Within little time we had a spot at a kindergarten and felt like we were part of local life.
How well integrated would you say you and your children are?
We are a flexible, positive and curious family. We speak reasonable German and like to read up on local happenings. Integrating into the Berlin lifestyle isn’t too difficult but I have to add that many of our friends have mixed nationality backgrounds as well, or have travelled a lot. Our son is well integrated, speaking the language without an accent, being part of a sports team and playing with the neighbour children in the courtyard. It took hard work and commitment at the beginning but it does pay off. As an expat you have to stop comparing constantly and try to integrate the best aspects of different worlds.
What language do you speak to your children?
I speak Dutch and my husband speaks (American) English. It helps that he speaks Dutch fluently as well so it doesn’t feel like he is missing parts of conversation. Now that my son is learning to read and write in German, we practice German at home as well. I still take classes so I can keep up with him!
How do you rate the amenities available for parents and children in Berlin?
There is so much available and it doesn’t have to be expensive or hard to find. In comparison to 10 years ago it is much easier to find people and information today. There are plenty of groups out there exchanging information and setting up playgroups, this really makes a huge difference.
Where you live, how good are facilities for children (shops, restaurants, activities etc)?
Prenzlauer Berg is known as the family friendly part of Berlin. It has changed massively over the last 10 years but mostly for the better. Housing has gotten harder to find around here, especially affordable housing. But the neighbourhood is lovely with many smaller shops, good kindergartens/ schools and visually beautiful with many playgrounds and parks.
What do you wish you had been told before you came to Berlin?
Don’t take their shortness/ directness personally.
What advice would you give for anyone thinking of relocating to Berlin?
Learn the language and find your community. Expect it to be hard work for at least a year. As a family it will be a challenge to start over in a new place, but the experience can be sweet and life changing. I think it has made us a very strong and pragmatic family.
What couldn´t you live without in Berlin?
I love our Sundays! Everything is closed and people slow down, eat brunch for hours and browse the flea markets or meet with friends.
What could you live without?!
The direct and unfriendly manner that seems to be part of life here. I have made up a ton of excuses for it being that way, but I miss a more relaxed and friendly way to communicate. I see it as a challenge to go out and tickle smiles out of others :-)