Without a doubt, Berlin is a top contender for the crown of ‘most exciting city on the planet’. Boasting an undeniably artsy vibe, a very affordable lifestyle and an all-night party scene, there’s no better place to be for creative types the world over. So, if the German capital is the only place you want to be seen right now, follow our go-to guide to becoming a resident of The Grey City.
Finding a Job
Although Berlin might be known as the artsy hangout of dreamers and drifters, there are still a number of well-paying jobs to be found in the city. The main thing you need to remember here is that you’ll need to prove to your potential employer that you’re better suited to the job than anyone they’ll find in Germany. It might be scary to make the big move before you’ve secured yourself a job, but being right there in the city will no doubt help you to dive right into the search. Check out websites such as monster.de, indeed.de, Xpat Jobs, Venture Village and The Local, which will all have up-to-date listings to help you on your quest. Whether your CV is in English or German, it’s worth remembering that a typical Berlin CV will include a photograph of yourself as well as a date and place of birth. And as a final piece of advice: whatever you do, don’t be late for your interview!
Securing an Apartment
It might be scary to arrive in Berlin; laden down with suitcases and with no definite haus to call your own, but your apartment hunt will definitely be easier to conduct from within the city itself. If you want to search online, some of the best places to get started are immobilienscout24.de, wg-gesucht.de and studenten-wg.de.
Rising popularity means that Berlin isn’t as cheap as it was a few years ago, but you should easily be able to find an apartment in the city for at least half or two thirds of the price of a similar place in Paris or in London. Just be warned that you’ll be expected to pay two or even three months’ rent upfront before you move in.
Most rentals will involve you making an application to the Hausverwaltung, a property management group that takes care of your potential new building on behalf of your potential new landlord. All of your apartment dealings will go through them and you’ll be expected to provide copies of your passport, payslips, bank statements and a SCHUFA letter (a German company that runs background screenings of your financial information). So, if you need somewhere to stay whilst you’re gathering all of that together, there are some great deals to be had on hotels in Berlin with Expedia that won’t break the bank, giving you the time to find your dream apartment.
Learning the Rules and Regulations
If you’re from the EU, EEA or a Swiss national, then the good news is that you don’t need a visa to secure yourself a job in Berlin. However, if you plan to stay long-term, you’ll need to apply for a residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) – but you must already have your job offer before you apply.
If you’re from a country outside of these regulations, you’ll need to apply for both a residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) and a work permit (Arbeitserlaubnis). However, if you hold a recognised university degree and have sufficient funds to support you during your stay, you’ll be able to stay in Germany on a six months’ residence permit whilst you look for work. What’s more, if you undertook your degree at a German university, you can apply to stay for another 18 months after you graduate.
The single most important thing you need to do when you move to Berlin is this: set up your German bank account! Without one, it’ll be near impossible to rent an apartment, set up your bills or obtain an internet or mobile phone contract. Arrange an appointment at a German bank beforehand, all ready for your first day in Berlin in order to get the ball rolling as soon as possible.
Healthcare is a legal requirement across Germany, but don’t worry because that doesn’t mean that you always need to pay for it. If you earn less than €52,200, you are publically insured through a government-sponsored system known as the gesetzliche Krankenversicherung. However, you still need to enrol for this. If you’re self-employed or earn more than €52,200, you’ll need private Krankenversicherung – a good company to try is Allianz.
Unlike some European countries, Germany doesn’t have any specific tax systems in place for expats – meaning you simply pay the same as a German resident. Simple!
Exploring the language
When you find yourself struggling to get your tongue around the complexities of the German language, it may seem tempting to slam down your dictionary and give up on the cause completely. Of course, you can absolutely survive in Berlin without speaking any German at all – but this doesn’t mean that you should take the easy option! Limiting yourself to speaking English means that you’ll only skim the surface of living as a true Berliner and you’ll miss out of the everyday joys of German conversation and communication.
Learning German is sure to make you stand out from other expats on your job search, it’ll help you to negotiate with your new landlord and of course, it’ll be invaluable in entertaining friends over dinner without that lost-in-translation hassle. If you’d like a helping hand with learning the language, there are plenty of language schools in Berlin to choose from. Check out Volkshochschule, Babylonia, Expath and the Goethe Institute to get you started.
And there you have it, your very own guide to moving to Germany’s happening capital – what are you waiting for? Prost!
By Josie Sampson. Josie is a travel and lifestyle writer currently based in London. She loves coffee, cinema (especially French films!) and writing about her travel adventures.