Berlin is the capital and largest city of Germany. While not as prosperous financially as some cities of the former West Germany, which developed entirely outside of the Iron Curtain, the spirit of rebellion and cultural richness which has risen from Berlin’s tumultuous history make it a truly fascinating and exciting place to work abroad. If you are looking to work in a relatively affordable European city where there is no shortage of intrigue and entertainment, then landing a job in Berlin could be the adventure of a lifetime.
Finding a job in Berlin can be competitive for foreigners, but a step in the right direction is making an effort to learn the German language. Many Germans speak English as a second language, but German is the language of business, and to find real success in most fields you should be at least conversational. Learning to speak with locals beyond the workplace will also unlock a whole side of Berlin that you could not otherwise tap into.
There are some jobs in Berlin that do not require you to speak German. Many work abroad programs help foreigners organize temporary employment in Berlin, and the easiest positions to come by are in education and childcare. Teaching English and becoming an au pair are both great ways to pick up some cash while living and working in Berlin for one or two years. Working in Berlin will no doubt be a fun and rewarding experience associating with locals in an interactive setting.
For those interested in finding full-time employment in Germany, Berlin is gaining a reputation as a great city for start ups, and indeed is already quite influential in cutting edge industries such as technology, engineering, and pharmaceuticals. There are many prestigious international businesses and research institutions in Berlin which seek to hire foreign employees, so if you have the qualifications then this can be a very fruitful point of entry into the job market.
History breathes life into the streets of Berlin. From the Brandenburg Gate to the Holocaust Memorial to the the graffiti-ridden remains of the Berlin Wall, the city brandishes its checkered past as a reminder of the dark days behind it and the brighter future to come. There is still a very distinguishable difference between the feel of East and West Berlin, most noticeably in the architecture and level of infrastructural development, but in the decades since the Wall was torn down this gap has gradually been bridged. What you will find today is a very modern city with leading global institutions and a hodgepodge of unique countercultural influences.
The whole city is connected very well by a dense network of underground metros and above ground rail systems, making travel within Berlin and across Germany efficient and easily affordable. Take advantage of the transportation system to explore as much of this city as possible while working in Berlin – the city will never cease to surprise you with newly discovered cultural treasures. From museums to parks to opera houses to sporting venues, and with a large variety of festivals running year round, it is impossible to run out of exciting things to do as an expat in Berlin.
Obviously salaries will vary depending on the job you find in Berlin. If you are moving to start a permanent career abroad, then you will likely receive greater compensation than if you are working in Berlin only temporarily as part of a working holiday program. Many jobs in Germany offer great benefits to employees (i.e. extended paid vacation), and temporary programs will often compensate workers with some combination of meals and housing.
More good news is that Berlin is a fairly affordable city to live in, especially by European standards. Since it remained divided during the communist era, one half of the city did not develop nearly as rapidly and in a way Berlin is still playing catch up. Costs of living in Berlin are by no means dirt cheap, but you will manage to save a lot more money than if you were working abroad in other leading European cities, such as Paris or London.
The big decision is whether to live in East or West Berlin. Real estate in East Berlin is certainly cheaper, and there is a fun counterculture vibe in this part of the city that makes it an interesting place to live. West Berlin is more developed and more expensive, however still quite affordable if you wish to live in a more luxurious location. You might have the best luck renting out a single room in a larger flat when you first move to Berlin, and then take time to survey the city to feel out which location suits you best.
You will need a work visa endorsed by your employer to work abroad in Berlin (unless you are a citizen of the EU, in which case labor laws permit you to work in other European countries more fluidly). You can also apply for a special visa, which will allow you to move to Berlin before you find a job, which might be a better option for those not working in Berlin through an employment program. Different visa policies apply to different countries. For more specific details about Germany’s visa policy toward your home country, consult GoAbroad’s Embassy Directory.
Working abroad in Berlin will be the adventure of a lifetime and expose you to life in one of Europe’s most exciting and historically important cities. Germans are a very hardworking and industrious people, and it will be a rewarding challenge to find success in Berlin whatever your field of interest. You will be hard-pressed to find a more enriching modern city to live as an expat than Berlin – now get out there and start applying for jobs!