My Berlin Story So Far

Originally Published on LinkedIn

It's just about five months since I made the move to Berlin. It was a big decision for me to leave the comfort of my home in Ireland and frankly, I was terrified.

I was living in Westmeath before I upped sticks to move to Germany. I spent most of the previous nine years in glorious Galway, with a short stint in wonderful Wellington, New Zealand last summer.... or last winter if you're in the Southern Hemisphere...

No alt text provided for this image

(All joking aside New Zealand was an amazing experience and one I'll never forget. Shout out to everyone I met during my time there! )

We're not in Kansas anymore...

Berlin sometimes feels like another world! Different Culture, Different Language, Different Environment.

My first few weeks were tough. Things like figuring out the U-bahn, going grocery shopping or getting a haircut proved a bit more challenging than expected due to my lack of German (sorry Ms. Gallen!). Graffiti and Street Art were much more prevalent than in rural Ireland, while the view from my window changed from green fields full of cattle and sheep to streets packed with passionate people taking part in various protests and marches (not everyday of course but my first week there was like five 😂).

No alt text provided for this image

Once you get over that initial shock though, Berlin really comes alive. The creativity, chaos and culture exudes from every corner. You never know what you'll see and after a while nothing really surprises you.

The city and it's people are authentic and accepting, with space for everyone to be themselves. It's a melting pot of ideas, beliefs and talents.

Although I have to admit I haven't come around to Currywurst yet 😬

No alt text provided for this image

Return to an Office

I'm a pretty introverted guy by nature. I'm interested in people, and love listening and learning about their stories and passions, but it sometimes takes me a while to feel comfortable in a new environment. I had a slight worry that I wouldn't be able to go back to working in an office, or I'd have to change how I work to do so, having worked remotely for almost four years.

All my worries were quickly resolved. From day one, I found our Berlin team were welcoming and friendly. They were kind and helpful, especially with questions around apartments, things to do in the city or how to work the coffee machine!

No alt text provided for this image

The flexibility was still there. The trust is super high within the team, so starting later or leaving earlier to run errands or due to other commitments was possible.

Nobody is asking you to check in or out, or has a stopwatch counting your hours. As long as the work is getting done, you're given the freedom to find a schedule that works for you - whether that's taking time out in the middle of the day to do yoga, leaving early so you can pick your kids up from daycare or working from home because you have a package being delivered!

Always Be Learning

Be a Constant Learner is one of our core values at Shopify, and our Berlin office definitely lives up to it. I've found the environment really encourages you to lean in to learning new things.

The team are constantly attending (and speaking at) different conferences or meet-ups across Berlin, Germany and Europe as a whole. We've also organised and hosted multiple meet-ups at our office, as well as weekly German classes. Many people are even in the process of learning other languages too! 🌎 🌍 🌏 

While I'm still struggling at picking up a second language (to any useful proficiency at least) I have completed a Fire Safety and a First Aid course since arriving.

I know. I'm basically a superhero now.

No alt text provided for this image

Diverse Perspectives and Green Field Projects

One of the coolest things about the office is how diverse a team we have. People from over 30 different countries are all working together, sharing thoughts and opinions in the pursuit of helping entrepreneurs everywhere!

Outside of Berlin, our work requires collaboration with teams and colleagues across the world. My team and I work across multiple countries including Germany, Lithuania, Sweden, Ireland, Singapore, China and Canada. While this can be challenging, being able to learn from and collaborate with each other has been an amazing experience as we continue to build out our International teams.

Most of the projects we're working on are green field initiatives. It's all the excitement and newness of a start-up while having the benefits of being part of a big tech company too. Ownership and creativity are encouraged.

There is a truly European and International focus to the work we are carrying out and the fact we have such a wide range of experiences to help us shape and guide our efforts has been crucial.

To conclude...

Honestly, the move has been much more difficult than I had been expecting, but I can say it was and is one of the best decisions I have made. There is still a long way to go but with the team and the wider community in Berlin I'm excited to see what is going to happen!

Don't let fear stop you from doing what you want. As my friend Shia told me once..

No alt text provided for this image

Until next time, Auf Wiedersehen!

PS; If anyone is considering a move to Berlin, or has any questions on settling please shoot me a request! I'd love to connect and grab a coffee, although if you're looking for Currywurst recommendations I won't be super helpful!

PPS; Anybody in Berlin looking to pick up a new hobby, stay fit or just have a bit of craic pop Berlin GAA club a message. Great opportunity to learn some traditional Irish sports and meet some great people doing it!


  • There are no comments yet. Be the first one to post a comment on this article!

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published