Living and teaching in Berlin is a dream for many English-language teachers. Located in the center of Europe, the German capital is a vibrant city with amazing art, music, and nightlife, but relatively inexpensive compared to cities like London, Paris, or New York. Berlin is indeed wunderbar–which makes it a competitive place to try to set up shop as an English trainer, whether you teach kids, adults, or business English. If you’re considering moving to Berlin, here are some things to keep in mind when looking to land your first teaching job.
There are a lot of native speakers teaching English in Berlin…
For better or worse, Berlin is a destination for many native English speakers. This means that the market is very competitive, and language schools can have their pick of teachers. When you first arrive, expect to do a lot of cold-calling, emailing, and showing up at language schools with CV in hand. Be patient and make sure you have enough saved to see you through, because it can take weeks or months to land that first gig.
…Which means that speaking German will put you at an advantage
Even though Berliners have a reputation for speaking excellent English, there are still true adult beginners to be found. Excellent German skills are a huge help with these groups, and speaking German will generally help you as a job candidate. There are also some job opportunities only available to people who speak German as well as English, such as teaching in the Volkshochschulen.
Your teaching qualifications count
Because the market is so competitive, it helps to have at least a CELTA under your belt. Without that qualification, or a lot of experience, you’ll most likely have a hard time finding work. Luckily, it’s relatively easy to get a CELTA qualification, provided you are willing to invest four weeks and a bit of money. There are training centers in almost every country, so you should be able tick it off your list before actually moving to Berlin.
Teaching English in Berlin is NEVER a 9-to-5 job
Full-time staff positions are rare for English teachers over here, so most work freelance. This usually means irregular schedules and a lot of time on the U-Bahn. I like having my mornings free for other projects, and I don’t mind digging into a great novel on my commute, so, depending on your personality, you might see this as an advantage. For others, it might make you want to pull your hair out. Another option is to work from home and teach remotely.
The red tape is no joke
Every freelancer has at least one story of a bureaucratic nightmare. For me, it was a Kafkaesque series of letters, emails, and phone calls with the Finanzamt to get my tax number. Especially when you’re first starting out, keeping all your visa, health insurance, pension, and tax paperwork in order can sometimes feel like another part-time job.
Teaching English in Berlin isn’t an easy or particularly lucrative career choice, but if you love teaching, it can be really rewarding. I’ve worked with many kind, dedicated, interesting students, and I’ve found the community of teachers to be very welcoming and supportive. So if you do decide to take the plunge and come teach English in Berlin, we’ll raise a glass to you at the next ELTABB Stammtisch. Viel Glück!
If you are all fired up after reading this article and feel that you can’t wait to teach English in Berlin, take a look at Paul’s tips for freelance teachers and learn about his funny (and lucrative!) side gigs.