- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Berlin Guide (PDF)
Expats looking to climb the corporate ladder and land themselves an astronomical salary might want to look elsewhere than Berlin, and may be better off in 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 did little to dampen the spirits of Berliners though, and the city has beckoned a young, creative expat community interested in tapping into its culture of innovation, and living among its bohemian crowd. 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 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 more formal career path 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.
And, 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 jobs available in the city. 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. 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.
Work culture in Berlin
The work culture in Germany's capital is rather conservative. Expats will need to understand and incorporate elements of German business culture into their practices if they wish to be successful and make a good impression in the local workplace.
Business culture in Berlin and Germany in general is formal and efficiency in the workplace is paramount. Time is money – so being punctual is important. Once the meeting begins, Germans get straight down to business and there's little room for small talk.
Punctuality and appearance are important, so expats should dress well and arrive at meetings fully prepared and on time. It's best to avoid humour, especially at first, as it can be misconstrued. One should expect to be asked detailed questions and have facts and figures on hand to back up what is being presented.
Although most Germans speak English well, many prefer to speak their own language when it comes to business negotiations. Expats who don't speak German should consider hiring a translator for important meetings. Newcomers to Berlin will find that Germans are private and maintain a strict separation between their work and home life, so it will take some time to forge more personal relationships with colleagues.