If you’re looking to enjoy the European lifestyle without the hefty price tag that usually comes with it, Berlin may be your city. It remains stubbornly grounded in a unique set of principles, namely that people from all walks of life should be able to work and live freely.
That’s why Berlin has long been a draw for artists, creatives, families, and those looking to pursue alternative lifestyles. The interests of the community usually take precedence over the interests of profit, and those reverberations make Berlin an interesting and accommodating place to be an expat.
How do I get a visa to work in Berlin?
If you’re from the EU, Switzerland, or the European Economic Area (i.e., Iceland, Liechtenstein, etc.), all you need to do is book a plane ticket and show up. Your passport is enough to qualify you for any job that wants to hire you.
If you’re from Japan, Australia, the US, Israel, New Zealand, South Korea, or Canada, you can enter Germany without a visa. But if you want to take the next step and start work, you’ll need a work permit.
Other non-EU nationals need a visa just to enter Germany. And to obtain a work visa, you’ll need proof that a German company has offered you employment or a program of study has offered you a placement.
The terms of an employment visa will align with the length of your contract. For example, if you have a one-year employment contract, you’ll have to renew your visa after a year. You shouldn’t expect to start work until you have your work visa in hand.
Applying for a visa is a straightforward process. You register your address at the Burgeramt, and apply for health insurance and a bank account. Then you head to your local foreign registration office (Ausländerbehörde) and submit an application to interview for your permit. After your interview, a decision will be made on your visa.
What jobs are available for English speakers in Berlin?
In addition to the multiple universities, associations, and nonprofits in Berlin, there are thousands of companies across a wide variety of sectors. Berlin is known to be a tech startup hub with strong commercial and creative sectors. If your German isn’t close to fluent, look for jobs in the following areas:
- Digital Marketing. Because of the robust startup scene in Berlin, many tech companies and startups hire content writers and digital marketers with a firm grasp of the English language.
- Childcare. Learn German directly from native speakers while helping a family with school pickups, childcare, and homework help.
- Education. English teachers in Berlin usually need a professional certification, like TEFL. International schools and private programs are more likely to hire an expat than a public school.
- Tourism. Travel and tourism companies need English speakers to communicate with their clientele, who largely hail from English-speaking nations.
- Hospitality. Try your luck getting a job as a server, barback, or hostel staff in the city. Because of the large influx of tourists throughout the year, restaurants, bars, and hotels are always hiring.
What is the business culture of Berlin?
Germany is the largest European economy, so naturally Berlin is a thriving center for business. In recent decades, Berlin has developed a reputation as a creative and cultural center with lower rents, more bohemian lifestyles, and less stringent working conditions than other German cities.
Expats who prefer a more formal working culture might want to look into cities like Stuttgart, the automobile capital of Germany, or Frankfurt, the country’s financial hub. Look to Berlin for digital marketing agencies, media startups, or artist studio space. Plenty of writers and musicians are also carving their paths through the city.
Even though Berlin is known for its creativity and nightlife, German professional standards still apply at work. Expat observers often describe German organizations as being target-oriented, disciplined, bureaucratic, professional, plan-oriented, and authoritative. That means that foreigners may sometimes feel overwhelmed by the rules and regulations of German professional life.
Organizations tend to cohere around the task at hand. That means there's a direct, no-nonsense approach to communication. German business communications tend to be highly focused on process and procedure and moving from Point A to Point B.
It’s no surprise that punctuality is highly valued, as is professionalism. When in doubt, it’s best to separate your personal life from your professional life. Don't immediately assume that a business associate can be spoken to like a friend.
If you like communicating frankly and directly, and have a tolerance for hierarchy, rules, and processes, you will find that you fit in well with Berlin business culture.
Are there recruitment agencies or job boards in Berlin with work for English speakers?
Options for job seekers grow more plentiful if you have even a basic handle of the German language. But even if you don’t, you’re still likely to find casual work in a variety of places. There are a plethora of job boards for expats looking for work. Some of the most popular job boards for expats in Berlin are:
- Berliner Jobmarkt
- Berlin Startup Jobs
- Jobs in Berlin
- The Local
- Expat Job Seeker
- Xpat Jobs
- Startup Sucht
Where can I learn German?
No matter what type of language learner you are, you’ll find several courses and methods for learning German. There are about 220 million German speakers in the world and German is one of the main languages used in the EU for business transactions.
Immersion is the best way to become fluent, so if you’re ready, pack your bags and get yourself to Berlin! You’ll find plenty of English-speaking expats with whom to form a support network, and most Germans in big cities speak astoundingly good English.
To gamify your learning, look to apps like Memrise, Digital Dialects, Hello World, Babel, Mindsnacks, and HelloTalk.
Formal classes or tutoring are the most straightforward option for leveling up your speaking and comprehension skills. If you’re in Berlin, you’ll find a number of private tutors or group classes at one of Berlin’s many universities and educational institutions. You can also take online language lessons through a number of sites, both local to Berlin and beyond.
How can I network in German?
Once you arrive in Berlin, you’ll find plenty of expat camaraderie. From networking groups to meetups with shared interests, Berlin has something for everyone, and you won’t need to look too hard to find ways to meet like-minded people. If you’re looking for your crew in Berlin, check out some of the following websites:
- Berlin Events on Eventbrite
- Professional Meetups
- Creative City Berlin
- Berlin Events and Festivals
- Berlin Expats Facebook Group
- Artconnect Events
- Betahaus Berlin
- Berlin Startup Meetups