Working in Berlin without speaking German

Info on international companies and other advice

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After a few recent visits, my sister has decided she'd quite like to give living and working in Berlin a go if possible, the problem is she doesn't speak German. So what are the chances were of her finding a job without the language...I live in Frankfurt and know it's not much of a problem down here, but was wondering what the situation is in Berlin?

Her CV is predominantly admin based, so ideally that kind of work if possible. She already speaks 2 other languages apart from English so I assume if a low level of German was required she would pick it up pretty quickly.

Any tips would be greatly appreciated! Or if you know companies that are predominantly English-speaking and don't require German, please let me know and I'll send details on to her.


She could Google international companies and see if they have offices in Berlin.
Thanks UrbanAngel,

She is doing that also, I guess I was really asking if you think it's a tough city to move to without the language? In Frankfurt for example it's really quite easy!

The answer to your question is a function of how international a City is and how many expats are living there as well.

Since Berlin isn't a Banking City nor particularly International City, I don't see your sister getting a job doing admin when she can't speak the language unless it's in special cases i.e. British Council or a firm requiring a 'native' speaker. But even with the latter one why would they require a native speaker as opposed to a native speaker who can speak german. The other problem she will have is that there is HIGH unemployment in Berlin - so lots more competition. So again why would they hire a non-speaking German living in the UK.

Therefore, the easiest way to find jobs in foreign lands is to move there and then find jobs like Waiter/ress, Bar work, teaching English, au pair, cleaning etc. whilst learning the language. Once there is more likely to happen by meeting the 'Right' people or just getting better at the language and how the job market functions (there are limits to the internet!!!).

Overall, In my opinion it is a bit of a myth that you can get office* based job in a foreign land unless 1. the job is technical so the technical abilities supersede the lack of language. 2. The Mother tongue is a function of normal daily business i.e. Banking, International Law firms etc. 3. You go thru some special programme EURASMUS/Rotary Club etc.

There is a huge difference between Frankfurt and Berlin. And having said that I've seen how many expats faired in Frankfurt when they realised their lack of German meant their carreers suffered or caused frustration in their normal daily business - but that is another topic.

Why doesn't she bunk with you whilst learning the language? - she could enrol on a daily course at the Volkhochschule

Good luck to your sister.

* Office based jobs - writing, reading and speaking the language to a professional level.
Hi Peas,

The language is going to be a barrier, no question. All of stanford’s points are valid. My impression is that there are very few opportunities here that do not require some german at least. There aren’t that many opportunities in general here in Berlin relative to the other larger cities in Germany.

Without something special to offer that compensates to the point of making her valuable to the employer despite her language gap, she’ll need some luck finding an “office job.? I don’t want to imply she doesn’t have something to offer, just that in general, admin skills are not always “rare? in the job market. If her other languages are needed by employers here (check companies here affiliated with or owned by companies in the countries where they speak those languages) then she could use that as a hook.

A good suggestion may be the “teaching english? route. It can be started relatively quickly, and I’ve met a few people who have done that, and as a perk, with some teaching jobs come a good deal on german lessons that can help with the eventual move to something else. And from what I understand, the fact that she speaks several languages likely indicates she will pick up german faster than normal – I’ve been told it’s something about the way the brain works.

Good luck to her!
In the company I work for. In Berlin.

We have about 10 people who can't speak German. Just english.

But that is of course is an exception.

Siemens, I think have a lot of people who don't Speak German.

But Admin ???
Have her try for a job at eBay. It's in the South of Berlin, but the office is mostly English speaking. If she's good in another language, she may be able to get a job.

(I just got transferred from stateside to here and they're paying for my German class!)

Absolutely no way, if you ask me. Don't feed the illusions of your sister. There are plenty of highly quilified people with the knowledge of more than one or two languages, who are unemployed in Berlin. After my bf lost his job in Berlin we were getting Sozialhilfe, believe me, there were people with PhD sitting in the same queue.

I know so many young people, who went to Berlin just because it was cool. So cool it is not. My bf is saying now that he would return to Berlin only if offered a job of Bundeskanzler.
'fraid I have to agree, although I don't like to post negative messages on this site, as so many people just pooh-pooh whatever you're trying to do.

I moved to Berlin from Munich earlier this year, and I do speak the language as well as some others. The jobs I interviewed for were all looking for German, and would have paid about 1/4 or what I could earn in Munich - if they took me on at all. I came back to Munich with my tail between my legs very fast and got work here and expensive adventure.

It depends really on what exactly your sister wants from life and the city, what her motivation is, etc. I would predict she has very little chance of getting admin work, ie qualified stuff. She may well get something low-paid, as has been suggested above. S o if she's in it to earn the language, see the city, do an O.E., fine. But as a career move, it's not likely to help her in any way, in fact it will probably make her chances of getting qualified work afterwards slimmer.
Ive been living and working in berlin for three months now for an english speaking only company, ive been approached by two others since been here. If your sister looks hard enough im sure she will find exactly what she is looking for.

Actually its not too difficult to find work in Berlin
A few shared service centres have moved and are still moving here. Reasons: labour is a bit cheaper and property rent even more so
I dont speak german and I work, I have lots of experience in accounting perhaps but there are lots of work available
Good luck
Hi Lanlea,

That's great news about there being lots of work available for non-German speaking English speakers here in Berlin. Would you mind providing some examples? And what is a 'shared service centre'?

Hi Himself

Shared service centres are companies formed to provide (in this case we are interested) admin, financial and Human Resources services. They serve an agreement contract with a company and they operate from one place. Their clients are located in the country where they are based as well as Europe and the rest of the world.
For instance Call centres are all in Scotland because everybody like scottish accent and they know how to provide customer services or India is coming very high on the list for IT services.
The Eastern countries are coming high on the list too but Berlin has the advantage of being quite central etc...
So now as English is more or less the business favourite language if you have any other language, then you have a job with for instance E-bay which is based here.
Why is german not necessarily essential: because all big companies are now to provide financial information in English so it follows that for external and internal purpose all documents, procedure etc... are to be in English.

Now is a good time for people who have 2 or better 3 languages because they are considered a rare commodity at least for now untill education catches up and start to request multiple languages as minimum entry for every job.
Hope that helps a bit

If anyone is looking for work and has native French language or is fluent, then get in touch.
The company I work for is looking for people (Admin ) or book-keepers even better
How do I srat looking for a job, where do I send my resume etc.
I am coming to live in Berlin with my girlfreind in April and to study, which means I can work 10 hours a week around lectures. Unfortunelty I can't move to another area of Germany becuase my Uni is in Berlin, but I desperetly need to find some owrk. My freind has got me a weekend gardening job for a few hours, but I really need to find somthing else, no matter how meanial it is, and after reading this I am more than a little worried. I have some degrees, commerce (accounting) ecnomics and some law from Australia, and 6 years experience as an economist, but no german as yet. I don't necessarily need a real job, but maybe my skills might help me out. Anyway, grateful for your thoughts on where I should satrt looking or appplying. Are there any places I can post my resume, or where I can look for jobs, or maybe even a way of finding companies in Berlin that could use my business or english skills?
Thanks in advance Marcus
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