Berlin at a Glance
Working in BerliniStockphoto
Business meetings in Berlin: maybe more formal than what you are used to.
Working in Berlin is a wise choice, as Berlin has a strong economy due to its weight in the international market and close ties with Eastern Europe. As a result, many people working in the German capital come from that area, and many companies of interest for expats are run by Eastern Europeans. The fastest growing economic sectors in Berlin are communications, the media, life sciences, mobility and services, energy technology, and green tech.
You should note that the great majority of the workforce in Berlin are employed in the service sector. Those who consider a career in the technology sector will be delighted to know that Berlin has become a leader in implementing new technology fields: The city has even set up a fund to encourage the linking of business with technology.
The new Adlershof also attracts many people who are interested in working in Berlin. It promotes the city’s image of being a “City of Science, Business, and Media”. Some 15,000 people call the Adlershof their office.
German Business Etiquette
Germans take their work very seriously, and you should not be surprised to find out that work and pleasure are two things not to be mixed. Germans in general are rather reserved and have a great respect for personal space. They do not overstep personal boundaries and would be rather insulted if you did so.
Depending on which country you come from, you may want to keep the following points in mind when working in Berlin with German colleagues:
- Be on time. Punctuality is of utmost importance for most people in Berlin’s business world.
- Be sure to address people in the formal German “Sie”-form and on a last-name basis only. If you neglect to do so, you are showing them disrespect and impertinence. If you do not know a German person very well, it is always wiser to address them formally until they offer you the informal “du”.
- Dress formally: suits and ties for men, pantsuits or skirt suits for women. Having a status symbol such as a watch or jewelry is not uncommon for businesspeople in Berlin.
- Be prepared. It is considered polite to inform yourself of the company and its background when holding a presentation in another company.
- Don’t get too personal. Germans often tend to keep their private life out of their professional one.
- Pay close attention to the pecking order, as many companies have a very strong hierarchical system which is difficult to surpass. For example, an employee working in Berlin without a managerial title will find it difficult to associate with a top manager.
Even when keeping these pointers in mind, starting a job in Berlin without deeper knowledge or awareness of the culture of your new surroundings can be quite a handful, and it is not uncommon to feel a bit overwhelmed in the beginning. Luckily, in an expat magnet of Berlin’s magnitude, you do not need to fear to be alone in your situation. Trainings in intercultural competence such as those offered by Cultics have helped many an expat make the transition into their new home as smooth as possible, and could be very useful for many newcomers and expats-to-be.
If you are contemplating working in Berlin but are not from a Schengen area or EU country, you need an employment visa and a residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis). For your work visa, you have to prove that you already have a job lined up before coming to Germany. In that case you only need to present a copy of your work agreement to the respective German mission and thus prove you’ll be working in Berlin.
However, the citizens of selected countries are allowed to enter Germany without an employment visa and look for work there during a limited period of several months, provided they have enough money to support themselves. Please ask the German embassy or consulate if this applies to you. Thus, you could even start working in Berlin without having to applying for an employment visa from abroad.