Short Life in Berlin - An attempt to escape Matrix

This post is about my short experience in Berlin. Later, I will include some pictures.

Why is this post in English? I have realized that my English skills are really bad, so I have decided to write my blog in English in the future to practice. There may be many grammatical errors, but I think it’s a good first step to overcome the problem.

Why and How I Came Here

Due to Shanghai closing down the city and me being forbidden from leaving my apartment, I wanted to leave China. Also, something happened at work that made me very upset during that period. As a result, I started seeking another foreign opportunity.

I submitted my resume to AWS, Cloudflare, Apple, and Fastly, all with visa sponsorship requirements. Only AWS is located in Cambridge, while the others are all in the US and require an H1B visa. Consequently, I only received an interview chance from AWS. The interview itself was straightforward, with questions about search algorithms that even a first-year college student could solve. So, I passed the interview.

However, when I received the offer, the HR told me that there is no HC in Cambridge. Instead, there’s a similar team in Berlin, and I accepted it. After all, my purpose was to leave China. The visa cost me half a year.

The Offer

From a salary point of view, AWS offered me a bigger package, but it was slightly smaller after tax. Additionally, the expense would be higher, so I expected to earn less. Nonetheless, I accepted it since local companies usually offer a far smaller package.

The work is about the EC2 hypervisor, which I think should be fun. And it’s a core team in AWS. After I accepted the offer, I learned and wrote some experiments about it (which can be found at; the posts are in Chinese).

I was excited to experience life in another developed country, which is what I wanted. Everything seemed fine.

Come to Berlin

I flew for 15 hours to Berlin (just several days ago).

The weather is really bad. It is cold and wet, and it could rain anytime. I stayed at a hotel for the first two days, then I moved to a temporary apartment rented from a Chinese student. During the first few days, I walked around the city center and took many pictures.

I became friends with the guy who rented the apartment to me (in fact, it’s not his apartment, and he’s just in charge of giving me the keys, but it’s not important). When we went to the supermarket, the cashier charged our items to the previous customer, who was also a Chinese student. So, we became friends.

The food here is not suitable for me. I developed mouth ulcers after only three days. Shopping is expensive, and the shops only open for a short period, which does not include Sundays (only restaurants open).

There are very few public toilets here, and most of them are not free. I have to pay 1 EUR to use them, which makes me feel speechless. The government charges so much tax and does nothing except giving it out and making people who don’t want to work comfortable. City infrastructure, transportation, and communication should be supported by the government since they are good for all.

I was also anxious about renting a long-term apartment. There is a strange regulation that people must register their long-term address with the government (called anmelden). If they don’t, no blue card or bank account can be processed. However, not every apartment can anmelden. Renting an apartment is also strange. There may exist over 100 people willing to rent one apartment at the same time, and the landlord usually interviews them and chooses one. However, they don’t raise the price, so I have a lower chance of renting one even if I would like to pay more.

But these are not the worst things. The worst thing is I still feel lonely after 17:00, which is 24:00 in Shanghai. The night is too long, and I have to cook food by myself, but I don’t have that skill.

Go Back

I thinked about to go back.

The decision is hard to make. If staying here I can learn and see how EC2 works and able to make it better. I would have a good work-life balance with 28 days of annual leave and 8-hour workdays, which would allow me to travel around and develop some personal interest. However, the costs of staying here are loneliness and inconvenience.

I have never realized how convenient it is to live in Shanghai before, but I am starting to see it now. Shopping and services are easily accessible and affordable.

Furthermore, what is most important to me is that my girlfriend and cats are with me in Shanghai. I no longer have to cook for myself and can eat well every day. Having someone to talk to about everything is crucial to me. Just five days ago, I felt helpless when I had to carry heavy luggage and walk nearly 1km to the subway station in the rain.

The last day of my tenure at Bytedance and the first day of my onboarding process with Amazon are on the same day. If I were to decide to leave, I would have to cancel my resignation and the onboarding process. While I have high expectations for my AWS work experience, I may not have the opportunity to experience it.

I struggled for a very long time and were always regretted after making an decision. There would be very little chance to get AWS’s offer again if I come back to China; but me and my girlfriend would be seperated if I stay. She would not be able to find a good job here since big companies have all freezed hiring.

In the end, I have decided to go back. It is indeed a pity to give up the work opportunity of AWS and life experience of Berlin, but people with affections should not be hurt.

Thoughts on the Welfare State

When I stayed in berlin for a longer time, I gradually like this city, although it still has some problems mentioned above.

People here enjoy life, are polite and humble. In China people tend to be very competitive about everything; they are always nervous, fearing of falling into the lower class. People should be able to get similar returns with similar efforts. In the current situation of such high production efficiency, everyone should work life balance. Gap after a while I think this is what life is supposed to be.

Non-welfare states are more like slavery society comparing to welfare states. The social hierarchy is strict, and those at the bottom of the ladder have to make huge efforts to sustain their livelihoods, while those at the top can enjoy the benefits without much effort.We as the privileged few in China, indeed get a better life than in Germany. But we should know that this is not what we deserve.

However, there is no standard answer to the question of who and how much a welfare state should tax. Is Germany’s current state of affairs reasonable? I believe that the income values for each tax bracket should be increased to ensure that the middle-income population has stronger self-motivation, and that those who profit from capital should be taxed more.


It seems that moving to Berlin was a wrong decision.

  1. I overestimated my ability to live independently. If I had come here with my girlfriend, many problems would not have been an issue anymore.
  2. Germany is not a good destination in terms of cost. Taxes and expenses are too high here compared to Shanghai. Only a few cities are better than Shanghai in terms of living convenience and cost.
  3. Do I still have the idea of going to another country? Yes. People will always pursue a better life. But next time, I will consider more related issues including if it is really a better destination. Maybe I will travel around there first before seeking a job there. And I will go with my girlfriend. But there is no plan for that in the foreseeable future.

Other Facts

  1. There are many parks here, both small ones scattered throughout the community and larger ones.
  2. There is more gender equality, as I have seen many men out with their babies. Additionally, there are speeches about gender equality on March 8th.
  3. There is a good work-life balance, as people don’t usually work during their off-hours.
  4. Diversity. Various people can be encountered on the subway, such as someone playing a musical instrument.
  5. Uber is very expensive. In another words, maybe being a uber driver seems good here?
  6. People rarely use umbrellas when it rains; instead, they often wear hats.
  7. Good ecology. Birds are not afraid of people, and there are ducks in the ponds.
  8. Lots of demonstrations. The police will even clear the way for them and provide ambulances.

The Matrix

This word is known as a movie’s name. In the movie it refers to the frameworks which we are in. We are all in different matrixes constructed with country, language, human race, gender, etc.

We tend to take our current circumstances and state for granted. For example, man must work hard or he should be in poverty; people must compete, and the winner deserves a fairly high reward. But it’s not always true.

Jump out matrixes and we can see more, accept more, and also reflect on our existing ideas. Traveling and working abroad allow us to experience different cultures and ideas up close. Diversity is not just the political correct.

Every culture has flaws, but some of them are less toxic. Assimilation by society is not the only solution, and everyone deserves a peaceful life.