With its strong economy, low unemployment and excellent quality of life, Germany is attracting more and more foreigners. But before you pack your bags, let's take a moment to consider what really awaits you. To help you do so, we decided it was best to hear from someone who relocated to Germany.
Jemima Jordan came to Berlin from London in April 2014, seeking new challenges and adventures. Having previously worked in Marketing for a British charity, she made the unusual move to working in Client Services for a creative agency. Here she shares her personal insights into taking the decision to make the move as well as offering some insider advice for getting settled once you arrive.
A land of Currywürst and Kraftwerk, Lederhösen and lager, Berghain and Brezels - who wouldn’t want to move to this glorious place! The question is how, who, when and where? Well, as someone who has lived in Berlin for 4.5 years now, I can confirm it is not only possible, it’s revitalising, thrilling and well worth the effort.
It sounds really obvious, but I often have found people’s biggest stumbling block when it comes to moving abroad is themselves. People are always finding excuses or ways to procrastinate from the task at hand. The reality is that finding a job in Germany is the same as finding a job anywhere: you don’t need to live here to get started, you just need to put your head down and get on with it. Prepare your CV, make sure your Skype is updated and power out those cover letters. Don’t worry about the fact you are approaching employers from abroad - more and more people are moving to Germany, so employers are used to it and are nearly always prepared to do Skype interviews and even fly you over in some cases.
There are multiple websites you can head to online: tbd* is, of course, the best when it comes to social impact job postings, but if you are looking in other territories, there is taledo.com, moberries, berlinstartupjobs and angel.co. Notably, you will also find a lot of jobs in Berlin in start-ups, often run by young expats who have created very multicultural workspaces, so this could definitely be worth looking into, especially if you are coming from a tech, app, or performance marketing background. You can, and should, also look up companies and charities in Berlin and approach them directly. Even if they don’t have a vacancy at that moment, you never know when something might come up and reaching out independently shows a level of enthusiasm and proactivity that will surely get you noticed.
There is certainly something to be said for finding a job after moving here. I know a few people who have done this successfully, but it is important to be prepared for it to take some time financially and visa-wise, as well as emotionally. Resilience is important as the job market can be hard here, especially without speaking the language fluently, but with enthusiasm and a no-giving-up attitude, there is no reason why it isn’t possible. And why not sign up to an intensive German course once you’ve arrived, so that while you search for a job, you are learning and boosting your CV at the same time? (Skip ahead to the next chapter to find an overview of the best language courses.)
I personally made my way here via a contact I had who had himself moved here to run a company. I have to say I was surprised he was willing to offer me a job given that I was moving from a different job sector, but you would be surprised at how much an international mindset is coveted out here, so I would definitely suggest reaching out to anyone you might know (friends or friends-of-friends) who are out here. You never know what it might bring!
There are also other ways of networking in Germany. A nice website for finding both professional and personal networking events is meetup.com, where they have any number of meetups based around any number of topics from yoga to tech to social impact. It’s also great for meeting new, like-minded people who are often in a similar situation to you. Another way to establish some contacts while also gaining valuable experience that could contribute to your future career is volunteering in local not-for-profits: there are plenty of websites, such as GoVolunteer, Betterplace, Vostel and Idealist that have some fascinating opportunities to get involved with. Get experience while helping out and getting to know the community – what’s not to love?!
One of the things you are probably worrying about when planning to move here would be finding a home. Well, the good news is that there are tonnes of lovely and cheap places going, you just need to find them. I would recommend staying with a friend or getting a shorter-term Airbnb for a month so you can scout out the best neighbourhoods without the pressure of needing to move in within a few days. From there, there are plenty of websites such as WG Gesucht, Immoscout and Immowelt where most people/property agencies post their vacant spaces. It is undoubtedly easier to get a room in a shared place (and also a great way to meet people and not have to delve into the paperwork horrors of setting up gas, electric etc.), so I would recommend this as a first move. Then you can find your own place and find a home when you are a bit more settled.
An area that has to be covered in any article about moving to Germany is the dreaded Bürgeramt. This is sadly not an epic burger joint, but a ‘Citizens Office’, where you need to go to get your ‘Anmeldung’ or ‘registration paper’. It is only necessary if you are staying for over 4 months, and is something that every German citizen needs within 14 days of moving to a new home. It might be just a simple piece of paper, but it’s 100% necessary in Germany, for all sorts of things from getting your tax ID to opening a bank account! There are plenty of advice websites out there, but my personal advice on this topic would be to bring a friend who speaks fluent German if you don’t already. There is sometimes some reticence to speak in English in the Bürgeramt, so better to go prepared with a patient and willing friend.
It might seem like there’s a lot to consider and do when moving to Germany, but honestly, it was the best thing I ever did. As I write this and look back on my own experiences, I wonder how I did it all so easily. But the reality is that my memories of moving to such a wonderful country are only those of the excitement, adrenaline and just the general feeling of being alive that I experienced and still experience daily. I believe that we are incredibly lucky to be able to move around the world so easily, so as opposed to thinking of all of the reasons why not to do it, it’s time to just get on with it and live the new life that’s waiting for you! - Jemima Jordan