What place do you think we picked? To help you out:
Our apartment priorities
- Price - I am tough about our budget.
- Neighborhood - prefer Friedrichshain, but fierce competition had us searching further afield. In addition, Ian works in Pankow so somewhere close to the school was a plus.
- Transportation - Berlin is big so a U-Bahn or S-Bahn station close to the house was mandatory.
- Length of sublet - We're straight up tired of moving so the longer the better.
- Internet & Amenities - We aren't fancy, but we need that internet. Especially for my job.
- Light & Airy - We like places that are light & bright and we don't have to look into our neighbors window. Balconies are my drug of choice.
- Accepts pets - At this point we are packing a bunny and a cat. I'd be happy to turn our home into an animal farm. Ian is resisting.
I wrote a bit about how the show is shot on EasyExpat. We had already found and moved into our apartment, and the show recreates the search in an attempt to show people what it's like to move abroad in different parts of the world. Shooting was Amazing. We had a great time with a fabulous crew, and it provided the opportunity for us to visit Seattle for the first time since we left for Berlin the second time.
However, there were some inaccuracies and some recent huff about the show being fake. So here is exactly how it went down for us, and a couple o clarifications.
Shooting the Show
We had just moved into our apartment on February 1st after many sublets and a one week temporary home. We loved our place, but felt like it was hardly ready to have people over - let alone film it. We had only been in it for 2.5 weeks! No matter - after pressure to confirm dates with the production company and a flurry of papers, the crew was on their way to our little flat.
We had heard the production company's real estate agent had trouble finding comparable apartments (they had even asked if we had any friends that wanted to use their flats). This was strange, as Berlin's real estate market is suffering from an influx of tons of people like us, but there are many apartments in our price range (it's just hard to actually land one). Luckily, the agent was able to locate 2 flats the day before. The reason this was a problem became clear the moment we met our agent. A character, he's an Englishman that moved to Berlin to make money in real estate. His company deals in high-end properties in the districts of Mitte and Prenzlauerberg. They seem to cater to businessmen that are setting up in the city temporarily and want something more economical than a hotel. We were not his kind of people.
LocationSeattle (and many cities), Berlin is made up of distinct neighborhoods (kiez) and we prefer the areas with an alternative vibe like Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg. In all of our moves, we have never even considered the center of the city, Mitte. I am sure it has positives like being close to attractions, but it is simply too full of stag party hordes, over-priced shops, and lacking in day-today necessities like grocery stores and Spätis. We've actually lived in gentrified Prenzlauerberg and Ian's arms are just not up to the constant helping with strollers that is required there. As I said, the agent's demographic and some of the voice over of the show was just wrong here.
(The Nile Guide has a helpful listing of neighborhoods to help you understand the different areas of the city. )
Our agent had found places, but they were well out of our price range even if we had liked them. To make the show work, they raised the price of our apartment. They said it was $1,000 euro a month, which is much higher than what we actually pay. This was my only real problem with the "fakeness" of the show.
What do you think of this shirt? They said no white.
Does my belly hang over too bad in this?
What the hell do I do with my hair/mustache/face?
It's not that we don't try to look good. We just aren't very good at it. And a penchant for clothes with "character"on both our parts has us looking like we're straight outta crazy town frequently.
This was further complicated by it being literally freezing everyday in Berlin. I had also not anticipated the mic. I had to leave off my trademark necklace and my choice of scarf made hiding the mic a delicate process. I tried to not touch it so poor Noel, the sound guy, didn't have to adjust every take and failed miserably. This resulted in some crazy looking scarf hair looks throughout the show.
Um...Berlin is the Biggest City in Germany
I have no idea how this got in, but the voice over says "Berlin is the second biggest city in Germany".
German Cities by population:
- Berlin 3,471,756
- Hamburg 1,770,629
- Munich 1,321,818
- Cologne 1,007,119
- Frankfurt am Main 664,838
They made a huge deal about the stairs in the apartment. 111 is definitely a lot of climbing. But we had never even considered it a problem. We could always afford a little exercise, and I am a sucker for the top floor. I assume they made it a big issue because there really isn't that much we don't like about our place. I did LOVE the title "111 Steps to Everything".
ScheduleTrue to form, I've already posted a bunch of pictures of the shooting, but left a few of the "behind the scenes" until now. Here they are, with a run down of our days.
|Ian prepares for his close up|
Night Before the ShootThe night before the shoot we were frantically cleaning and preparing. Trying to make the place looked lived in when we had just moved in was a challenge.
|Exhausted after cleaning|
First DayA camera man, (Eng) sound guy (Eng), director (Scott), and a fixer (German) all trooped up our kagillion stairs and breathlessly introduced themselves at 8:00 on a Friday. They quickly took stock of the place and began to prepare. Profis! They were going to shoot the final scenes first - where we have moved into the apartment.
|House Hunters International Shoot|
|All of our belongings in the stairway|
|Our Empty Flat|
The second day we looked at the "comparables". As discussed above, they were not exactly similar. We were fascinated by the process of shooting and spent a lot of time being excited about the rain shower and dishwasher, opening toilets and cabinets, and then long stretches of just being quiet while they filmed.
|Apartment #2 Berlin|
We shot B reel this day, which included some of our favorite Berlin places. We really liked our crew and enjoyed rolling around with them, chatting, and seeing our beautiful city from an outsider's eyes. Crazy how much of the shooting doesn't make the show. They estimated we had shot at least 9 hours just in Berlin... all to get cut down to a 22 minute show. And no, we can't have the extra film. We asked.
We wrapped up with a shot with friends at Tiergarten Quelle. They had to ask silly questions like "How many balconies does your apartment have?" It was fun. And sad. Shooting was practically over and we were heading back to real life. We gave our team a hug and thanked them profusely. They had made this once-in-a-lifetime experience extra magical.
(In an odd twist, we flew to the States via London the next day and flew with 2 of them, and so we said good-bye twice.)
One of the wonderful things about this opportunity was a $1,500 honorarium that was to be used to fly us home for the back story. We did just that with the money, returning home for the first time in a year in a half (plus a trip to NYC).Another wonderful team of Americans shot us here. They had actually shot an episode with a Seattle couple studying abroad in Australia recently.
Our first full day back, we re-created a going away party where we saw some of our best friends for the first time. Hello, good-bye indeed! We went to some of our favorite spots like the Ballard Locks, Bottleworks, and Pike Place Market. We found out our Seattle team had a star - the sound man had actually been on Three Sheets and appeared on screen frequently.
Like I said, the whole thing was magic. We are so lucky to have had this opportunity, and will be watching our episode until our gradkids are tired of the story. A special thanks for friends and family who participated, our producer Melissa, and the fabulous crew.
|Berlin crew: Noel (sound), Matt (camera) & Chris (director)|
|Seattle crew: Eric (sound), Nick (director), Matt (cameraman)|
We would love to hear what you thought of the show and answer any questions you may have, so please post in the comments. AND if you are interested in being on the show, they are casting now.