John Sklute, a retired English professor from California, has lived just about everywhere—from sunny Spain to spacious Sweden. So when he says that Berlin has a special something, you know he’s done the legwork.
John’s love for Berlin started when he spent a summer there in 1994 and fell in love with a local. The relationship didn’t work out, but John’s passion for Berlin never waned. Which is why, on retirement over 15 years later, he decided to spend six months of the year there.
That six-month stay never ended. And now, three years later, John is still calling this artsy, vibrant German city home.
“I can’t imagine living in any other German city… I’m an opera fanatic, very seriously involved with it, and there are three opera companies in Berlin. Two are world-class and one is quite good. All of them are smaller. This coming season, I’m going to see 17 operas…and the best part is the prices. The German government subsidizes the arts. In San Francisco, I would pay $300 per seat. Here I pay €65…less than $100.”
Berlin is also very well connected and allows John to travel extensively. “If you want to fly anywhere, you can. I can be in Paris or Amsterdam in 1.5 hours, Rome in two. It’s easy to visit the places I want to visit.”
John also appreciates the affordable health care available in Germany: “I’m now at the stage in my life that I have to take care of health issues. Just a couple of weeks ago, I had a gallstone attack and they took an EKG and ultrasound. They gave me IV drugs to kill the pain and keep me hydrated. I had a nurse, a doctor…and, being American, I was frightened to death of the cost. But when I left that evening, they gave me a bill for €80. That’s about $100. I spent four hours in the emergency room and only paid $100.”
And health care isn’t the only thing that’s affordable in Berlin: “For a long time, I kept translating from euro to dollar and thinking ‘Oh my god, $6.50 for a little sandwich….’ But there came a point when I stopped converting and I realized that, at the end of the month, my bank account is pretty much where it’s always been. In other words, I maintain my lifestyle here at a similar cost.”
And that lifestyle is a pretty wonderful one, according to John. “Since I’ve moved here, my life has slowed down and opened up. I have more time. My daily life is wonderful. I don’t feel lonely, as I often did in the States. There’s always something here to occupy my attention. I’m always reading. Always writing. I see my friends once or twice a week. And my life is full.”
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