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Berlin: City Guide for Software Developers

30 May 2022 , by Emiel Kempen

Berlin is ranked among the top startup hubs in Europe and pays some of the region’s best pre-tax salaries. If you’re thinking about relocating for work in the near future, this guide will tell you everything you need to know in order to decide if the German capital is the right fit.

Berlin's Tech Scene

Local lifestyle benefits

Compared to other European tech hubs like London, Dublin and Paris, living in Berlin offers you the benefit of the highest quality of life. It also affords you the second highest purchasing power among European capital cities, after Bern in Switzerland.

There’s a lot for you to do in your spare time: Culture rich, Berlin’s many museums are revered all over the world. There are also ample opportunities to socialise, thanks to a variety of unique cafés around every corner, as well as its highly active nightlife scene.

While nearly two thirds of Berliners are proficient in English which will make getting around easier, a lot of business in Germany is conducted in German, so it doesn’t hurt to learn the language.

Settling into life in a new country is going to take some time. There are a couple of things you can do in order to make integrating into Berlin life a little easier:

  • Many stores in the city still prefer cash over card payments. Carry some Euros in your wallet as a backup to avoid having to find an ATM.
  • The city has the perfect infrastructure to get around by bicycle. Consider renting or buying one to make getting to work or sightseeing as hassle-free as possible.
  • Always have a warm jacket and an umbrella handy. Berlin’s climate is cold, with a lot of rainfall even in the drier months. Average temperatures are as low as 0.5 °C in January, maxing out at around 20 °C in July.
  • Order a Currywurst, Berlin’s pride and joy, or a Döner as a rite of passage and the perfect icebreaker for when you’re first meeting someone new.

Working in Berlin

Berlin is home to a diverse working culture, spanning a mix of tech startups, SMEs and corporations. That means, there’s ample opportunity for you to find a work environment and company culture that allows you to thrive in your role.

Although in-office work days are still popular in Germany, many local companies have adapted their policies in recent years to allow employees to work from home. This is especially prevalent for developer roles.

Key industries for Berlin tech companies

Germany is home to over 900 000 software developers, establishing the largest dev community on the continent. The fast growing nature of tech startups in Berlin is creating new work opportunities across a variety of different focus areas you can explore:

  • eCommerce has been prioritised in the Berlin tech scene for a long time. The onset of COVID-19 — resulting in most brick and mortar businesses moving away from and needing solutions to facilitate online sales — has taken things to another level.
  • Food startups have also become prominent as a result of the pandemic, with many tech companies vying for their share of the global grocery and food takeaway delivery space.
  • Germany has traditionally had a relatively low-tech banking system. This has led to the creation of many new ventures in the Fintech space. The world’s first FinTech incubator, FinLeap was founded in Berlin back in 2014.
  • EdTech: The rise of online learning all over the world has spawned the likes of Babbel and other popular apps in Berlin, each of which is looking to tap into the growing e-Learning space.
  • Marketing solutions will always need a high level of developer support, especially as they tap into AdTech, eCommerce and data analytics all in one.

Securing a work visa for Germany

If you’re thinking about Berlin as an option for your next career move, you will need to go through the process of getting a work visa in order to make it a reality. The developer work permit/visa is called a Blue Card, which all non-EU citizens from the list of IND approved countries are eligible to apply for. The Blue Card is also required to work in any EU country.

Although your employer will need to be a part of the application process by issuing a formal work contract, unlike in many other countries, it’s possible to get the visa without a sponsor company. Blue card qualification also requires a university degree and a specific gross annual salary offer. If you don’t meet the minimum salary requirement, you could consider different visa options. Plan in advance, as processing time can be up to three months.

Working hours, leave and public holidays

Working hours in Germany range from 36 to 40 hours per week, including a lunch break of 30 minutes to an hour. Labour law caps the maximum working hours in any role to 60 hours a week. It is highly unlikely for companies in Berlin or elsewhere in Germany to pay extra for overtime. It is typically compensated with additional time off.

Full-time contracted employees in Germany are entitled to at least 20 days of paid leave per year. This excludes 18 public holidays across the calendar year.

Tax considerations in Germany

When you work in Germany, your tax is deducted from your payslip by your employer every month. As of 2022, the income tax brackets and subsequent payment percentages in the country are as follows:

  • Earnings of €9 984 or less per year: 0%
  • Earnings of €9 985 to €58 596 per year: 14% to 42%** (on a sliding scale)
  • Earnings of €58.597 to €277 825 per year: 42%
  • Earnings above €277 826 per year: 45%

You might also have to pay a solidarity surcharge or Solidaritätzuschlag, a 5.5% fee linked to total income and corporation tax amounts. This was first introduced in 1991 to assist with German reunification. As of January 2021, this no longer applies to single individuals with annual earnings of less than €61 700.

Berlin has one of the best tech scenes in all of Europe. If you want to become a part of it, you now have some of the most important information. The OfferZen team can help you land your dream job in the city. You’ll be an honorary Berliner before you know it. Good luck on the journey!

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