Working in Berlin without speaking much German?

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Montmorency
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Working in Berlin without speaking much German?

Postby Montmorency » Mon Nov 16, 2015 5:07 pm

This is on behalf of someone else, and who is interested in working in Berlin.

While I realise that there are specialised forums for this sort of thing, I thought I'd try asking here anyway.

The person in question has a particular affinity to and liking of Berlin, without really much knowledge of the German language.
(She does know some Dutch). In principle she'd be up for learning German, but languages aren't her no. 1 priority, and realistically it would take her quite a long time to get up any proficiency. She has worked for an international company in the past in Amsterdam, and there the working language was English, and as is well known, one can "get by" quite well in the NL with English in general.

I know that's not the case in Germany, but nevertheless, there must be some similar "international" companies or organisations based there, whose working language might be English, and I wondered if anyone here had any particular knowledge (or even better, experience) of this field.
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Re: Working in Berlin without speaking much German?

Postby aabram » Thu Nov 19, 2015 7:59 am

I feel you left out the question. What is she asking exactly?

Are you asking whether it is possible or not? While I've not lived in Berlin (yet) I'd imagine it's not difficult at all. It's a capital after all and people can get by with just English in smaller countries with way smaller cities than Berlin.

There are English speaking positions available everywhere, albeit their range might be rather limited. If she's qualified professional - architect, programmer, analyst or something of a sort, then she probably can find a job. There is generally also demand for native speakers as proofreaders or editors. But if she has no specific education then she might have to take up job in call-center for example. Employers like Western Union are always looking for native speakers for various positions.
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Re: Working in Berlin without speaking much German?

Postby garyb » Thu Nov 19, 2015 10:26 am

I don't have first-hand experience, but Berlin is a place I've considered so I've done a bit of research and heard a lot of anecdotal stories about friends of friends, so I can't guarantee how accurate it is. But by all accounts there are many jobs you can do without knowing German, at least in the technology industry. I'm not sure about other industries. Obviously knowing German would open up your opportunities more, as you wouldn't be limited to these international companies, but it seems like even without it there are decent prospects.
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Re: Working in Berlin without speaking much German?

Postby Montmorency » Thu Nov 19, 2015 8:17 pm

Thanks for your views @aabram and @garyb.

Yes, the question was whether it was possible and how hard it was. Sorry if I didn't make it clear.

Since posting that I've had a look at some Berlin-based English language forums, and it's not an uncommon question, with a range of different answers ranging from "No - you need to be a competent German speaker", to "yes, sure, I've known several people get good jobs without knowing a word of German". Yes, it obviously must help a lot if one is in an in-demand profession, and probably the more high-tech it is, the more likely it is that the working language might be (or could be) English. Unfortunately, this person doesn't have those kind of skills, but more general admin-type skills, which seem to be the hardest to place in this situation, where a native speaking German with reasonable English will probably be a lot more employable than a native speaking English speaker with no German. Seems like it would be in her best interests to start learning German sooner rather than later if she is serious about this potential move.
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Re: Working in Berlin without speaking much German?

Postby aabram » Fri Nov 20, 2015 8:16 am

That sort of skillset is indeed far from ideal for moving to another country. Language would definitely help but admininstration generally also involves managing people and good grasp of the language is crucial.

On the other hand -- she doesn't have to be doing what she does right now. People change occupations all the time. I started in the office, where everyday presence was mandatory, then moved to do things more independently where we had weekly meetings for important things and now I'm in position where I can pretty much go everywhere and work from there provided that I have decent internet connection and desk to spread my stuff on. Right now my colleagues are two countries up from here and while it gives us grief on rare occasions we're doing just fine. I'm not saying that everybody can do it because it really depends on the profession, but there are options. In fact, not being tied down to her art studio, carpenter's shop or whatever else that she can't bring with her is a plus. If she's from EU then even better, she can go scouting at first or just to live for a while instead of making the move.
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Re: Working in Berlin without speaking much German?

Postby Brian » Fri Nov 20, 2015 9:52 am

Also, Berlin has high unemployment figures, so unless you have sought-after skills, it can be difficult for anyone to find a job there. But it is a cosmopolitan / tourist / high-tech city so there will be various opportunities for English speakers. Perhaps international schools or military bases would be a possibility?

Some positions require a mix of German and English and your friend will be disadvantaged in this respect. But you don't know until you try!

As for the Berliners themselves, their English skills range wildly from near-zero to almost native like. Obviously young highly-educated people tend to be good at English but the overall language situation is nothing like Amsterdam.
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Montmorency
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Re: Working in Berlin without speaking much German?

Postby Montmorency » Sun Nov 22, 2015 12:25 am

aabram wrote:That sort of skillset is indeed far from ideal for moving to another country. Language would definitely help but admininstration generally also involves managing people and good grasp of the language is crucial.

On the other hand -- she doesn't have to be doing what she does right now. People change occupations all the time. I started in the office, where everyday presence was mandatory, then moved to do things more independently where we had weekly meetings for important things and now I'm in position where I can pretty much go everywhere and work from there provided that I have decent internet connection and desk to spread my stuff on. Right now my colleagues are two countries up from here and while it gives us grief on rare occasions we're doing just fine. I'm not saying that everybody can do it because it really depends on the profession, but there are options. In fact, not being tied down to her art studio, carpenter's shop or whatever else that she can't bring with her is a plus. If she's from EU then even better, she can go scouting at first or just to live for a while instead of making the move.


More good points to consider. Thanks @aabram.

Brian wrote:Also, Berlin has high unemployment figures, so unless you have sought-after skills, it can be difficult for anyone to find a job there. But it is a cosmopolitan / tourist / high-tech city so there will be various opportunities for English speakers. Perhaps international schools or military bases would be a possibility?

Some positions require a mix of German and English and your friend will be disadvantaged in this respect. But you don't know until you try!


Yes, quite. She needs to consider all possibilities and rule nothing out.

As for the Berliners themselves, their English skills range wildly from near-zero to almost native like.


Yes, I have experienced that myself.

Obviously young highly-educated people tend to be good at English but the overall language situation is nothing like Amsterdam.


I think she was generally aware of that, but I underlined it last time we spoke on the subject.
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Re: Working in Berlin without speaking much German?

Postby PeterBunzel » Wed Nov 25, 2015 10:35 am

Hey everybody, first posting over here!

Since I live in Berlin (and freelance as a German tutor) I worked with many people in a broad range of life situations. That experience has shown me that you definetly can live in Berlin without speaking much German. And you can work as well. I guess the best earning client I had so far was a freelance graphic designer. Others work for an airline.

But my conclusion is that I would not recommend it. Just because I think it´s important for one well being. Nobody I met so far was really cool with the feeling of not even being able to drop an emergency call for example. That´s bad for your confidence. So be honest to your friend and tell her that it would be better to learn the language. At least if she´s about to stay long term.

Have a nice day everybody!
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Brian
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Re: Working in Berlin without speaking much German?

Postby Brian » Wed Nov 25, 2015 2:37 pm

PeterBunzel wrote:
But my conclusion is that I would not recommend it. Just because I think it´s important for one well being. Nobody I met so far was really cool with the feeling of not even being able to drop an emergency call for example. That´s bad for your confidence. So be honest to your friend and tell her that it would be better to learn the language. At least if she´s about to stay long term.



Yes, I agree wholeheartedly with that.

Interesting how some people move to a foreign country and make no real effort to learn the language whereas others engage from day one. And all points in between of course. Some pick up basic survival skills and leave it at that.
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Montmorency
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Re: Working in Berlin without speaking much German?

Postby Montmorency » Wed Nov 25, 2015 10:24 pm

PeterBunzel wrote:Hey everybody, first posting over here!

Since I live in Berlin (and freelance as a German tutor) I worked with many people in a broad range of life situations. That experience has shown me that you definetly can live in Berlin without speaking much German. And you can work as well. I guess the best earning client I had so far was a freelance graphic designer. Others work for an airline.

But my conclusion is that I would not recommend it. Just because I think it´s important for one well being. Nobody I met so far was really cool with the feeling of not even being able to drop an emergency call for example. That´s bad for your confidence. So be honest to your friend and tell her that it would be better to learn the language. At least if she´s about to stay long term.

Have a nice day everybody!


Hi Peter,

Your reply is much appreciated. And I do agree with you really. It's not that she's not interested in languages. She certainly is at some level. I'm just afraid (on past experience), that she wouldn't be prepared to put the hours in. However, I will (gently) keep trying to persuade her of the need to do this. If the urge to move there is strong enough, hopefully that will provide the incentive.
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