So, I heard you want a job in Germany… part 1

Edit: I wrote another post on how you can find a tech job in Europe and specially Berlin. If you think Berlin is for you I recommend you check it out!

Getting a job in Germany may be a great idea, specially if you are into the tech industry like me. It is not a hard thing to achieve, specially if you have some experience and an university degree. I have been working in Berlin as a web developer since April 2017 and I will share my experience working here so far. I have found some blog posts, articles and even videos about living in Germany, specially Berlin, but I felt it still lack some information. I will try to get more deeply into details about my personal experience here. Note that this post will be mostly related in working in IT sector and about my personal experience here.

About Germany

Germany is a great country to live, it provides a great quality of life, with a great social security, educational and health systems. Also the german economy is very strong, being nowadays the strongest economy in Europe and the fourth strongest economy in the world. Yet you may find some differences in public governance here specially if you are from more liberal countries, specially in America, like myself (I’m from Brazil).

The german government is very serious about social politics, providing quality health and education, as well as subsidizing public transport, among other things. But for that people pays a lot of taxes. Health insurance is collected from your salary, so as each person pays a different value, everybody get the same health services. This is a solidarity model that is present in every aspect of Germany politics. I won’t go into details about tax calculations, as you can calculate using this calculator:

But one thing to note is that if you are married and your partner does not have income in Germany, you pay less taxes, and if you also have children you pay even less. Choose the right tax category in the calculator above if you fit into those categories. Also your health insurance covers for your partner and children as well. Among other things, education is free in Germany, even universities. Some universities courses are even in english, focusing in the foreigner’s students.

Another thing to note is that in Germany, and overall in Europe, you will find that social and economical gap are much lower than in other countries. While in Brazil, as a skilled worker in tech, you can get paid 8 to 10 times what a regular blue collar worker is getting paid, in Germany you will probably will be earning 2 or 3 times what the regular worker is getting. While everybody is able to sustain a decent lifestyle and the smaller social and economical gap leads to less crimes and violence, my purchasing power is actually less than I had in Brazil. Germans living in big cities are often living in small apartments (30–50 square meters kitchenetes) and doesn’t own a car, instead rely on public transportation or ride a bike (like me!).

Taken that, Germans often value a lot quality of life more than economical success. Companies will not put pressure on your shoulders or give you unachievable goals. If you are staying late, your boss will even ask you why and tell you to go home. Germans believe that work is better done if it’s enjoyable, and I agree! Yet salaries in Germany are often a little lesser than in other countries, like UK, specially in Berlin (overall salaries in Hamburg, Munich and Frankfurt are often higher than in Berlin).

Still you will find people all over the world moving to Germany to work. I event have two colleagues from USA that chose Germany as their home. Germany government and labour policies are very open to foreigner’s, especially if you are a high skilled worker.

German Eficiency

Germans are often known and praised by their efficiency. As I have to agree that mostly things work better here, trains and people are often on time, this efficiency happens as a result to very strict rules and people following this rules strictly. That even means that German rules are even more important than social empathy. Germans are not confortable on bending the rules, as this would imply that their rules don’t work. So instead of applying a work around, the rules should be changed, but that would require following the protocols of rule changing. Even than, sometimes the German eficiency fails. We have several delayed constructions, like the Schönefeld airport in Berlin or the Elbphilarmonie in Hamburg (this was finally delivered with a 5 year delay and 10 times of budgeted costs).

So, don’t try to get smart here (take note brazilians!), things can get worse to you. But if you follow the rules, everything works just fine. Just be patient and follow all the required protocols. For example, in traffic people are very polite, drivers stops on each red light, and they very much respect pedestrians and cyclists. But if you try to cross the street in the red light, possibly you will get run over by a car, drivers won’t stop for you in this case. You can get also earn a ticket and get strange looks, specially if there are children around (don’t give a bad example!).

Every step you make in living in Germany is filled with bureaucracy, which you must follow step by step. For everything here, specially public services, you will need to make an appointment. The problem is that you can only get free appointments slots within one month ahead. Also there are often several forms that you must fill, sign and send the original forms by post. Digitalization is still not very trusted here. That also means that most places doesn’t accept credit or debit cards, most restaurants and cafes only operate on money. Another interesting thing in Germany is that people often have insurances for everything, as if you mess around you can end up having to pay huge amounts of money. So, get a liability and a residence insurance as soon as you arrive.

About Berlin

Most tech jobs and startups in Germany are concentrated in Berlin, but still you can find tech companies in Hamburg, Munich and Frankfurt, as well as in other smaller cities. So if you are considering a tech job in Germany, most probably you will find one in Berlin.

Berlin is the capital and largest city in Germany. There is around 3.5 millions people living here. People are living spread all over the city, so you don’t have large concentration of people and jammed traffic. The city is filled with parks and green areas all over and there are beatiful canals where you can have a nice walk or even a boat trip. There are cozy cafes all over the city, specially in neighborhoods like Prenzlauer Berg (my favourite!), Mitte and Schönenberg, and the biergartens are very busy during summer.

About Berlin weather, the summer time is great! You actually can get around 25° C temperatures and sunny weather to enjoy a day in the park. You will often find people having barbecues and bare naked sunbathing in parks and lakes during summer. Days lasts for very long, getting dark after 9h30 PM. Summer weather lasts for around 2 to 3 months, than it’s back on being gray, cold and rainy. You will probably get more rain than snow in Berlin. And during winter you will get dark depressing days, getting dark as early as 4 PM, as oposite to the long days during summer.

Berlin is one of the most culturally active cities in the world. The city have 175 museums, 140 theaters, 300 cinemas, 4650 restaurants, around 900 bars and 190 night clubs. You will find a show or event in any day of the year, many of them as open air events in parks. During the 1st of May there is a massive party and events all over the city, specially in Kreuzberg area, characterized by leftist and social movements and manifestations. It’s a city that you can find anything to do, for any taste, at any time. You can’t ever get bored in Berlin.

Yet Berlin is not a regular european city. You can even hear germans saying that Berlin is not really Germany. Berlin is truly unique and has it’s own characteristics, but not everything is for the best. I myself find the city to be very dirty and sometimes even messy. There are a lot of constructions happening in old buildings, blocking the sidewalk, all over the city. The U-Bahn stations are in bad shape, although they work very well. You will find homeless people and often people begging for money inside the U-Bahn trains and stations. Also Berlin is in constant renovation, with a lot of constructions happening, specially in the Friedrichshain area. Note that the city was divided into two less than 30 years ago and the differences on east (soviet) and west (capitalist) Berlin are still notable.

Rent prices are rising at each day in Berlin. It is still cheaper than other cities in Europe like London and Paris, and even other german cities like Munich, but the super cheap rent prices days in Berlin are over now. You will be paying around € 600–800 monthly for a single room apartment.

One thing to note when searching for apartments in Berlin is that they count all rooms, not only bedrooms. So a 1 room apartment has only a single room (consider it a living room or bedroom), often with a kitchen inside too. A 2 room apartment has often a living room with a kitchen plus a bedroom. There are still some apartments with a separated kitchen. Another thing to note is that most buildings are old, but with a renovated apartment. The city is filled with old buildings with 5 floors at most, without elevators or automatic doors. Rarely there are new buildings, that count with elevators, mostly in Mitte, Litchenberg or Friedrichshain, but are overall more expensive. And pratically you won’t find buildings with a doorman, which is very common in Brazil. Also, if you are planning in owning a car, note that old buildings do not count with a garage, so you will have to rent a parking space in the street. Even new buildings with a garage, the parking space is rented separatelly, which costs around € 60 — 90.

Finding apartments in Berlin is also becoming harder everyday. You will have a lot of competition, it looks like getting a job. Often when visiting an apartment for rent, you will find 10–20 other people also visiting at the same time. I heard stories of lines with over 100 people to visit an apartment. You will have to provide work contracts, proof of income, and documents proving that you don’t have any unpaid debts (the so called SCHUFA). That’s why so many people often share apartments or rent rooms in other people apartments. This is possibly the best option you get when arriving, but note that these room rentals are often temporary, sometimes even less than a month.

Overall Berlin is a great city to live, but it has it’s problems too. It is an always changing city, culturally active, filled with green areas and much fun. Yet it is a big city, with a lot of people, and if you are seeking a more calm and settled atmosfere, maybe you won’t find it here in Berlin. Finally the city has a lot of immigrants and welcomes expats, with a lot of people speaking english at mostly any restaurant or shop.

Conclusion

This was my personal experience on working in Berlin so far. Many of my opinions reflect my personal taste and feeling about Germany and Berlin. If you want to know more details about my personal experience or any tips on how to get a job here, please connect with me in LinkedIn or Xing and send me a message there! I will be more than happy to help you out!

Edit: I wrote another post on how you can find a tech job in Europe and specially Berlin. If you think Berlin is for you I recommend you check it out!