As the capital of Germany and the largest city in the country, Berlin plays a pivotal role in the success of Germany as well as the entire European Union. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, no other city has seen more change and advancement than this great region, and the two Berlins have morphed into one cutting-edge location for culture, entertainment, architecture, and education.
Because of its innovative and high-energy atmosphere, Berlin has become a destination for gappers from all over the world, and offer opportunities that very few other locations can support.
It seems unfair that New York coined the nickname of “the city that never sleeps” as this truly describes Berlin. Residents of this city, particularly young people, are never bored, as there are more museums, restaurants, malls, pubs, and clubs than any normal person knows what to do with.
Beyond the typical attractions, Berlin also offers endless classes, internships, volunteer opportunities, and other educational experiences. Berlin’s vibrant charm makes it the perfect place for a gap year, as visitors are guaranteed to be challenged and ultimately flourish.
There are many different types of gap year programs available in the big city of Berlin, and gappers should have no problem finding one that fits their needs. Whether you speak German fluently or can only say “Prost!”, there are plenty of options for you.
When selecting a program, be sure to consider factors such as language level, dates and costs, extra experiences such as cultural excursions, and if it will be a homestay situation versus independent living.
Most people take a gap year in order to see the world and learn a language before starting college or a new career direction. Because of the popularity of language programs, there are many options available for those looking to learn as much German as they can while in Berlin. One of the most popular is CESA Languages - Gap Year Program in Berlin, which offers beginner classes up through practically fluent. For other language school options, check out these awesome German language programs.
Many gappers go abroad with a clear professional or educational direction in mind, and taking a gap year doesn’t have to mean they take time off from their goals. Whether you want to be a high profile business executive, an art curator, or a translator, consider picking a program that will let you intern somewhere.
A great option for gappers who want to learn outside of the classroom, culture or volunteer programs are also very popular. These are ideal if you want to be exposed to as much German as possible through interacting with locals in real-world situations. Europe Tour by GapForce is a solid option for those who want to go beyond just Berlin and experience as much of Europe as possible, as this program also takes students to Spain, France, Italy, and several other locations.
Au pair gigs in Berlin are hot commodities. Germans love having a reason for their children to learn as much English as possible, and there is no better way to accomplish this than by hiring a native English speaker to live in their home. In big cities like Berlin, au pair jobs are especially competitive but there are more options for job-seekers. For more information, check out our article on au pair jobs in Germany.
Need to Know
Health and Safety
Berlin is a very safe city. As long as visitors use common sense and do not attract attention to themselves, it is extremely unlikely that they will be targets for petty crime. Be sure to watch out for people shoving paper at you and asking you to sign something -- these are almost always pick-pocketers.
Germany in general is a very healthy country and no immunizations are required to enter. The standard of healthcare is high, especially in Berlin, where most doctors speak fluent English. Most Germans love being active so stay on the lookout for a gym or fitness classes to join (a great way to stay healthy and make new friends!).
Visas are not needed to enter Germany if you are staying for under 90 days. For a longer stay, gappers will need to obtain either a student visa or a work visa prior to leaving the US. For information on how to apply for a visa, please visit the German Missions website.
Culture and Etiquette
Germans hold themselves to very high standards, and more so in cities such as Berlin. They are punctual, very respectful of other people (especially those of authority), organized, and take great pride in their homes and heritage. With this said, Berlin is a huge city and its large immigrant population has given the city a very open, live-and-let-live attitude.
The two biggest areas of confusion for foreigners are in tipping and smoking. Generally speaking, tips are included in the bill, so simply round up to the nearest euro unless it was a large party. Germany has banned smoking in public places but in restaurants in bars it varies state to state.
Berlin is particularly lax on this, so take your cues from the other people around you. If you are conscientious about your behavior and have a good sense of humor about the culture shock process, you should have no problems!
Like most European cities, Berlin is not cheap to live in. However, it is on average much more affordable than other big cities such as London or Paris, especially for students. Gappers can expect to spend about $400 per month for rent in a house share situation, which is less expensive than the majority of other German cities.
Berlin has an excellent public transportation system that is also cheaper to use than most other German cities, and gappers will save further money by purchasing a travel pass instead of daily tickets (these travel passes are valid on all modes of transportation).
Also, always stay on the lookout for student discounts, as Europeans love spoiling their students. The majority of museums, theaters, and even bars will offer student discounts or “student nights”.
Even without a discount, the most upscale bars and clubs only cost $15-20 (but the majority are free). Unlike other European destinations, Berlin is a relatively easy city for gappers to stay within their budgets.
Contributed by Rebecca Murphy
Want to earn $10,000 towards your gap year?
US residents ages 14-25 are eligible to apply for our USA Gap Year Fairs Scholarship, due Apr 15th. Register for a gap year fair to learn about eligible programs!