So, you want to work in Berlin?

4 Tips for an Expat Survival Guide

Nov 04, 2015, 10:00 ET from glispa

BERLIN, Nov. 4, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Berlin is rapidly becoming known as continental Europe's key technology hub. The term "Silicon Allee" has become a popular nickname for Berlin's startup scene, which has grown explosively since 2008. Berlin is truly booming — it's a world class destination for culture, technology, art and entertainment. From recent grads to seasoned professionals, anyone can find opportunity in this vibrant and cosmopolitan landscape.

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Before 2008, Berlin was a very different place — at least for expats looking to build a career. When I arrived in 2001, international employment opportunities were mainly restricted to the few multinational organizations operating in Berlin. Since they were accustomed to employing native Germans, HR departments generally did little to welcome international staff. When I joined a large multinational, along with quite a few others, we were surprised that we received no help navigating the company or the city — or any assistance at all in acclimatizing to our new environment.

Fortunately, this has changed, as many small to mid-size startups now actively recruit staff from all over the world. These companies can offer you an express ticket to one of the most vibrant capital cities in Europe. (And yes, having been here over 14 years, I will openly proclaim it is the best, and I am backed in my opinion by any visitor I have welcomed to Berlin during that time.)

The coolest thing about Berlin is that there is a place for everyone. If you search Google for your topic of interest and the word "Berlin", you will find it's here.  Well, maybe that's not completely true. "Surfing with sharks" probably won't pop up in the results, but provided what you enjoy does not involve watersports in saltwater in Berlin, you will likely find it.

Curious about what it takes to come to Berlin, build a career and have fun? Here are our tips for expats looking to call this wonderful city their home:

1) First things first — find a job: Fortunately, you can find a job in Berlin with relative ease, even if you do not already live here. The startup scene constantly advertises jobs in English when they are looking for international talent. Most selection processes involve tests, and if you pass, a good company will help you relocate to take up your position. It's a good idea to focus your job search on companies that actively recruit employees from all over the world. Such companies will make an effort to assist you with the bureaucracy that accompanies international relocation. They will also have regular social activities to help you meet like-minded colleagues and acclimatize to living in Berlin.

2) Connect with like-minded people: Hosting regular, varied events and connecting with shared hobby and interest groups within a company certainly helps people settle into a new city. At glispa, we help our new international colleagues acclimatize through cultural events. We also offer free onsite German and English classes to all of our staff since learning the language is key to adapting to a new culture.

Our social events and hobby-related meetups, such as boat races and football leagues, are designed to help glispa 'family' members connect through their interests. Our employees enjoy regular team building events, and as a company we host fun competitions and company-wide celebrations. We also encourage staff of all tenures and functions to meet up in our lunch lottery. All these activities create a home away from home. But the most critical ingredient for success is working with the best and most talented group of people we can possibly find.

So be sure to pay close attention to the people you meet while going through the interview process. These are your future colleagues and, provided you choose your company well, they may also become your future friends. These people can make your experience in Berlin the experience of a lifetime. So be sure to choose wisely!

Apart from your fabulous new job, you will have most certainly been upended from wherever you were living before Berlin. If you have chosen your employer well, you will already have an existing pool of fantastic people waiting to get to know you. And if you have chosen to live in a flatshare, you'll have even more potential friends. Other ways of getting to know people and pursue your interests is to get online with groups like toytown and various Facebook groups. There are tons of exciting life experiences awaiting  new Berliners just like you!

3) Find your new home: If a company is prepared to relocate you, it's safe to say they will assist you in finding a home. However, even the best relocation assistance has a time limit, so you need to act fast. Well before you land in Berlin, be proactive about researching your housing options to ensure you're making a good choice and that you're not left with locations that don't meet your needs . You can already check out your lease online prior to arrival on sites like immobilienscout24, immonet and immowelt. Flatshares are also very popular in Berlin. They offer more flexibility than negotiating a lease directly with a landlord. Plus, having roommates is a great way to make friends. Popular sites for flatshares include WG Gesucht, WG Suche and Dreamflat.

4) Deal with the official stuff: Whenever you come to a new country, the official stuff can be a bit daunting. Unsurprisingly, in Germany, official paperwork is handled in German. So if you don't speak the language, you will need help. Luckily, thoughtful hiring companies are already prepared to assist you:

The first thing you absolutely have to get done is to get registered. Without being registered you won't be able to open a bank account and a whole host of other things, that will enable you to draw a salary leading to the crucial ability to acquire food and other basic necessities. Get it done quickly, you need to get registered to receive a German social security code, a tax code and health insurance.  Having a local address involving your name being on the doorbell is a prerequisite for this, hence find a home/address prior to getting registered.

You like it and want to stay — What's next?

You may have come to Berlin intending to stay maybe a year or two, and then find you can't bear to leave because it's so awesome. I planned to stay in Berlin for just 2 years — now, 14 years later, I'm still here. Ever-changing, Berlin today is not the city it was when I first moved here: it's always transforming and surprising me in new ways.

You will know if Berlin is for you within 6 months, and if you decide to stay, you will need to learn to speak German. It's important to connect and integrate with the local population, not just stay glued to your fellow expats. As with all international scenes, people come and go and if those are the only  social connections you have, you may frequently find yourself saying goodbye to friends. In contrast, connecting with Germans, with their language and their culture, will turn you into true Berliner. We hope to see you soon in this most amazing city!


SOURCE glispa