On Berlin, Art & Building a Life in Land of Dreams

I am new to this city. It has been less than two months since me and my boyfriend squeezed all our belongings into a couple of suitcases, left our parents home to catch the dodgiest looking coach ever, that took us from Budapest to the land of dreams: Berlin.

After growing up in a small Hungarian town, I left home and went to study visual communication in Brighton, a unique seaside town in South England. It was a great environment for young people, but as the three year course was coming to an end, and questions such as ‘Where to go next?’ and ‘What do I want to do with my life, damn it’ became the main topic of our lunchtime conversations.

Leaving university was tough. But it was time to move on from my beloved England, and I knew where I wanted to go: Berlin.

Berlin, the land of affordable housing, well-paid employment, easy-going people, and cultural diversity, and most importantly, a buzzing hub for the up-coming artists and musicians from all over the world, and seemed just like an environment young arts graduates need to nourish their careers and take the first steps towards their dreams.
Encouraged by these positive thoughts, a few weeks and a quick home visit later, there we were, sitting on the Berlin-bound coach on a late summer evening on our way to our hopeful future.

New ideas and plain excitement kept my mind running all night throughout the journey. Our seats were uncomfortable and the radio did not shut up for a second but I felt lively and prepared to take all opportunities that Berlin offered its young creatives. I wanted to become its young creative too.

After our arrival, we had a few days to settle down in our temporary room in a WG by Frankfurter Allee. We spent a lot of time walking around the area, discovering and taking in the strange atmosphere of the city. However, I started feeling impatient, I missed working in a creative environment, and started searching for jobs in the areas of design, illustration and photography.  And that’s when reality started to set in.

First of all, there are definitely not as many job offers as one would think. After spending regularly 3-4 hours a day searching for desirable offers on Craigslist, Indeed, Jobspotting and the rest, it slowly dawned on me: finding a job in the creative industry in Berlin is by far the most difficult task anyone could face here without the right contacts. You will most likely have to send off hundreds of emails with a portfolio, application forms, regularly updated resumes and individual cover letters for every single position you are interested in. If you are lucky, they will send you a short answer, usually that they are sorry but your portfolio does not meet their requirements and standards, but even getting a reply is unusual.

I don’t speak German, but I have always heard that you can get away in Berlin as long as you have a good command of English and a friendly face. I was planning to learn German gradually, and rely on my English in the first few months with job applications as well as everyday situations. However, it became clear that 99% of the employers do want you to speak German; everyone else has to scrap for that 1%.

On top of everything, it is extremely difficult to find a permanent room or apartment to rent in the city, and if you do get invited to one of the overcrowded house viewings, you will have to compete with at least 20 other people who are equally as well-mannered and friendly as you, but they also have stable jobs and they hold all the legal papers and forms a landlord might need.

As a consequence of this, we are among those couples who have been moving from one WG to another, and it is still uncertain whether we are going to have a roof above our heads next month.

All in all, I have concluded that if you start your ‘real life’ in Berlin as a young artist without a secure job, accommodation or connections… Well, you are in for a challenge. I haven’t doubted for a second that all these obstacles, mental breakdowns and added pressure would not be worth it. Everything is moving forward eventually, slowly, but steadily. I have recently got a part-time job, met some great people I can now call friends and enrolled into a German integration course.

Berlin is amazing, the more time we have spent here, the more I notice.
Finding a job might be really tough, but you can work your way through it. It is mostly important to go out and meet people, make friends, have fun, enjoy this multicultural and diverse environment, and once you are feeling like you belong here, opportunities will come by themselves, just stay open to the world, and enjoy the freedom that Berlin offers to its people.

By Emma Strauss

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