Working in Berlin
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Berlin is not the place for expats looking to climb the corporate ladder and land themselves a highly paid expat contract. For that type of work, expats are better off heading to Germany's automobile capital, Stuttgart, or the financial hub of Frankfurt.
That said, each year, both foreigners and Germans working in the creative industries flock to Berlin to establish themselves. It is also a popular destination for entrepreneurs looking to set up their own businesses, especially in technological fields.
Job market in Berlin
For many expats, finding work in Berlin is difficult. Year upon year, Germany's capital claims the highest unemployment rate of any city in the country. Previously a divided city, for many years Berlin was forced to put economic growth on hold in order to rehabilitate or eradicate inefficient East German businesses, and to integrate the separate infrastructures of the formerly spliced metropolis.
The economic funk has done little to dampen the spirits of Berliners though and, in fact, it seems to have only shifted the paradigm – poverty has become the unassuming aesthetic of many residents.
As a result, it has beckoned a young, creative expat community interested in working in Berlin to tap into its culture of innovation and to have access to a milieu of residents inspired by bohemian living. Studio space is cheap in the metropolis and collectives are abundant; thus artists, performers, writers and musicians will find plenty of opportunity to get involved and be inspired. That being said, there are also those who arrive jobless only to find themselves returning home after a short stint.
Despite Berlin's relatively high rates of poverty and unemployment, it ranks near the top of German cities when it comes to job creation. Thus, those with the skills and the drive have the potential to find a professional niche for themselves.
Expats who prefer a path paved by more formality should look into one of the many internet and media start-ups that have popped up in Berlin. The city has also taken steps to establish itself as a global competitor poised to attract high-tech, modern service companies and those in the processing industry.
Furthermore, with dozens of universities, colleges and polytechnics, as well as over 200 research institutes, Berlin also boasts job opportunities in research and development.
As a final alternative, English-speaking expats should consider teaching English or working part-time in the tourism and hospitality service industries, the city's largest source of employment. These professions pay little, but are often easier to come by than freelance work or a position in a more formal sector.
Finding a job in Berlin
Expats trying to find work in Berlin can start by using online sources for some useful insights into the types of job available in the city. However, those looking for work in niche industries will benefit from networking and making contacts with those already in their field in Berlin.
Speaking German is not a prerequisite for many jobs in Berlin, but some knowledge of the local language will certainly be beneficial to new arrivals hoping to pursue a successful career in the metropolis.
Expats moving to Berlin from outside the EU or newer EU-member states such as Bulgaria or Romania must ensure they have the necessary work permit for Germany so they can legally take up employment. Realistically speaking, without an EU passport or sought-after qualifications, expats are likely to struggle to find work in Berlin, more so than in any other German city.