Who are you, where are you from and how long have you lived in Berlin?
My name is Akira Sasaki from Japan. I’ve been living in Berlin for over 2.5 years.
Why did you choose to live in Berlin?
I came here to study for my master’s degree since the school was one of the tops in Europe. I also found the living cost in Berlin is much more affordable than the other major cities. I once visited the city before and I had a good impression about it, so that also contributed to my decision.
What do you do for a living?
I’m working for a payment consulting firm in Berlin.
Do you speak the main language that is spoken in Berlin? If not, what are the main difficulties that you faced while you first lived there?
Although Berliners can speak English generally, German still stands as the most important language of the city.
I don’t speak German well. It can be difficult when I try to make a booking over the phone with the doctors or the utility services. Also, when I am going through bureaucratic procedures such as an application of visa, things get difficult.
Do you like or hate the public transport in Berlin? Why so?
I’m quite satisfied with the public transport here but I think there is space for improvement. Some infrastructures are old and for that reason, trains, trams and buses have to stop sometimes. Fares are not cheap (2.8 euros for a single trip) and they cost more than the other cities in Germany.
Tell me 1 must-do thing in your Berlin.
Walk along the avenue running from Zoologischergarten to Alexander Platz, then you will cover pretty much of the historical attractions in Berlin. Then, go out to Kreuzberg, Neukolln or Freidrichshain for a night life. The scene is unique and it’s not too expensive to have a great night out!
Tell me 1 thing that you wish you had done but haven’t done so in Berlin.
Go to famous clubs like Berghain or KitKat.
What are your 2 most-loved neighborhoods in Berlin?
Prenzlauer berg is a nice neighbourhood for a Sunday brunch or a morning stroll. Freidrichscahin is good for drinks and parties.
Tell me your top 3 restaurants in Berlin.
Friedel Richter: A cool restaurant serving quality traditional Berlin foods. Blutwurst and some gibier foods are worth trying. It will set you off at ~60 euros for a meal for 2.
Volta: Another cool restaurant serving fusion dishes between Asian, European and American. Burgers are good but side dishes are also tempting. Plus, good beers. It costs around 40 euros for 2.
Safran: A nice Persian restaurant with great portions of meals. Arabic cuisines are something worth trying in Berlin. Try several different kebaps here. It costs around 30 euros for 2.
Your favourite bar in Berlin?
Mein Haus am See: A cool bar in a fashionable district. The interior is very unique and at the same time pretty cool. The crowd is pretty international but the ambience is more chilled than those bars in Friedrichshain or Kreuzberg.
What is the the cheapest and the best alcohol you can get in Berlin?
Beers serve for both. You can easily buy a bottle from a Spati (snack shop) and drink it on the way to a different place. The beer you drink in this way is called “Wegbier”.
Tell me 3 local specialties that you must get in major supermarkets in Berlin.
Berliner: A donut filled with jam.
Spreewald gherkins: Cucumber pickles made in Berlin.
Beliner Luft: A spirit made from mint. The alcohol level is around 17%.
Where do you normally shop for clothes?
Near Alexanderplatz or Kurfürstendamm.
Where do you normally shop for food?
Major supermarkets such Real, Rewe, Edeka or Turkish local markets.
How much do you spend for a month living in Berlin?
300 euros per month for a room. It’s located in the north of the city. Takes around 15 mins for me to get to the city center. I live in this house called Altbau which has a high ceiling, so it feels pretty spacious. Utility is included in the rent.
Groceries cost around 200 euros per month but having said that, I tend to cook a lot and I’m picky about the ingredients that I get. You can easily cut this cost down if you don’t mind the quality of the ingredients.
I pay around 60 euros per month for a transport pass.
When it is sunny, how do you spend your day?
I will go to a lake or a park. Have a dip in the water or just stroll around and check out flea markets always sounds like a good plan to me.
When it is rainy, how do you spend your day?
Perhaps I’ll visit a shopping arcade or museums. However, bear in mind that shopping arcades are not open on Sundays and on national holidays.
Let say you are taking a small trip over a long weekend, where would you go and what would you do?
Let say you are taking a small trip over a week-long holiday, where would you go and what would you do?
Maybe it’s not a small trip but I would go to Portugal for surfing or Slovenia for snowboarding.
PS from Aaron: I REALLY WANNA GO TO SLOVENIA LET’S GO TOGETHER AKIRA.
What souvenir would you buy for your family or friends from Berlin?
Berliner Luft, beers, Ritter Sports, Haribo, German breads and etc.
A habit that you have picked up while living in Berlin?
Drink a beer when you are moving from one place to another.
The biggest culture shock that you have seen in Berlin?
You see a lot of sexually explicit shops on the street. Also, you can find a hardcore LGBT culture.
If not Berlin, where then?
What advice would you give to someone who is planning to move to Berlin?
It is so easy to mingle with just expats. To me, it was difficult to find true Berliners. Although everything is navigable in English in this city, learning German will always help you more in terms of integrating and familiarising yourself with the city.
Your worst experience/ memory in Berlin?
My backpack was stolen while I was having a few drinks. I lost my laptop and iPad.
Your best experience/ memory in Berlin?
A karaoke night with a very random group of people.
Anything that you would like to add?
Summer is heaven but winter is hell here. And many people decide to leave as winter last almost 6 months. Also, rents are skyrocketing these days whereas salaries are stagnating. I’m not sure if the city can keep the same vibe in a middle to long term.