A Beginner’s Guide to Dodgy Mini-Jobs in Berlin

A truly wonderful thing happened this week - I was fired. It’s an odd and ambivalent sensation, smiling like an idiot on the U-Bahn home from your work place, from now on seemingly referred to solely as a place-place, after being told it was best I left the company. The reason I was overjoyed was the result of relief.

Being a newcomer to Berlin comes with a set of daunting criteria most must adhere to, or fall victim to, before they settle into the city. First, there’s the attempted learning of the German language. Thankfully, this is overcome quite easily as Berliners are incredibly well versed in English, and by the fact that Anglophones are incredulously ill-equipped at learning even the simplest of phrases not pertaining to the procurement of beverages.  

The second notch upon the bedpost of losing your Berlinnocence (oh dear, sincere apologies for that) is finding a place, or at least a mattress, to call your own. This is a struggle that knows no bounds, or dignity. Facebook groups offer an insight into the melting pot of internationals grovelling for the chance to pay 500 euros for a 10m/sq room share in Xberg.

Having fumbled my way through these initial pit-stops with relative success, I set about completing stage three: taking a mini-job out of desperation. Money is necessary and unavoidable, like child birth, or the inevitability of death. In order to pay rent, there comes a point when facing your bank account surpasses your concern at facing the mirror, and you do what you need to do. In my case, I took a job as a tour guide on a motorised contraption that I had very little confidence in operating.

The prospect of earning a cool twenty euro a day, despite long hours and minimal breaks was too good to pass up. Food is pleasant, after all. What was unexpected and unnerving was everything else. These devices were designed to do away with what the inventor apparently deemed to be an inconvenience of the human condition, namely, walking. Somewhat inevitably, they failed miserably as the vehicles of the obese future he envisioned, now solely operating within the domain of tourism.

Our company had a knock-off equivalent of the original product, but it worked just as well … until it didn’t. This brings us to the unpleasantness that goes hand in hand with mini-jobs. When you’re working on the fringes of legality, and general working welfare guidelines, things occur that may leave a sour aftertaste. In my case, these were the scenes of terror etched onto the faces of those unsuspecting tourists who fell, or witnessed falling. Only one ambulance was ever needed on one of my tours, and I honestly believe it was his own doing that he fell, but this did nothing to quench the feeling of guilt which arose upon seeing him reel in agony on the pavement. At any moment, I knew a battery could die, and fling a body a fair distance before I could manage to utter a tidbit of information about the famous statue now impaling my client.

Before I was let go, I had a run in with the police. They informed me that I had committed two offences: taking a child on a tour, and going through a park on what was essentially a road vehicle. Both of which I assumed were fine as training was not the most intensive component of my short-lived career. Effectively, we were told to just go, get people, and do tours. The rest was on us. When I was warned I may be held solely responsible for these sanctions, I became a little peeved. After a nice bout of cursing the company, my employer, and myself for getting into this situation, it became clear to my boss I was not entirely suited to the role of tour guide. I was paid – kind of - and told it was for the best that I leave. Upon hearing these words, happiness rose within me, and the guilt finally subsided. I could now pay my rent, and knock off another notch. Only ten more until Berghain.

By Conor Kilkelly

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