Refugees occupy Berlin’s Iconic Fernsehturm

(Main Picture: refugees welcome © seven resist on Flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

 Refugee and police forces clashed in late June after over a year of tenuous occupation of Oranienplatz and Ohlauer Straße by refugees from various countries. The occupants were removed from Gerhart-Hauptmann-Schule in Kreuzberg with over 900 police officers. An estimated 200-250 refugees had been living in the former school for 18 months in poor sanitary conditions. More than 200 refugees were relocated to other shelters in Charlottenburg and Spandau while between 40-80 refugees refused to leave the former school. Currently, a few refugees are still in the building, awaiting the police’s next move. Many of the refugees occupying the TV tower, came directly from the evicted Oranienplatz and Ohlauer Straße.

Movement and protests have sprang up all over Berlin in response to the eviction. The protesters from the TV released a statement stating,

“Everywhere we are turned away. Everyone has the same answer for us. Everyone refers us to the next person. No one listens to us. No one wants to be responsible for us refugees and the inhumane laws under which we live.”

TV tower occupation. Photo from Facebook
TV tower occupation. Photo from Facebook

The plight of refugees in Germany received attention in 2012 when Mohammad Rahsepar, an Iranian refugee, committed suicide in a detention camp in Würzburg, Southern Germany. After escaping from Iran, Rahsepar lived for seven months in a Gemeinschaftsunterkunft (‘communal accommodation’), with 400 other detainees. With Germany’s Residenzpflicht, or mandatory residence, refugees awaiting trial also cannot leave the area of the immigration authority. With the lack of self determination and isolation, refugees often feel there is no way out. 

Rahsepar’s suicide sparked outrage. In September 2012, 70 refugees from varying backgrounds marched from Bavaria to Berlin, holding demonstrations in various cities along the way. By the time the caravan had reached Berlin, they were welcomed with a solidarity march of over 6,000 participants. Many of the refugees ended up staying in Oranienplatz and Ohlauer Straße.

For now, the future of the refugees in unknown. To stay informed about the latest protests and information about the refugees, follow #ohlauer on Twitter.

Expat Advice for Finding a Job in Berlin

(Main Picture: Berlin vom Kollhoff-Tower © Sascha Kohlmann on Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

In my few months in Berlin, I have only met one person native to Berlin. The rest of the people packing the bars and parks are immigrants, or, if you want to sound hip, ex-pats. However, unless you just acquired a large inheritance or have been saving since you were 6, most ex pats need a job. With the wealth of foreigners in Berlin, there are several wonderful resources for the more naïve to learn how to survive in the big city.

Cheryl Howard, a Canadian expat and travel writer, puts her experience from her own job search to good use by writing post to help guide baby ex pats. Her story is quite a common one amongst the ex pat community Howard quit her job and sold everything she owned to start a new in Berlin.. Many people arrive here with no friends, no connections, and no clue how to be hip in the most hipster of cities. If that describes you, or if you just need some advice on how the Berlin job search looks, this post is for you. Lets take a look at Howard’s 12 tips for landing a job in Berlin.

Colorful Night in Berlin © Carmen Eisbär on Flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Colorful Night in Berlin © Carmen Eisbär on Flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

1)    Be realistic and Patient This is good advice for almost any situation in life. In this case, Howard is talking about the time and energy it takes to find a job in Berlin. She claims “ finding a job in Berlin is almost a job in itself”. Be prepared to put in time and effort to finding your ideal job. It usually does not happen overnight.

2)    Learn German Although it is pretty easy to get by in Berlin without German, learning it will give you more opportunities for work and fun in Berlin. One ride on the metro and you will see ads for several places to start learning German. The Volkshochshule is the cheapest version but there are many other private companies to choose from. Howard recommends Babylonia, Expath, and the Goethe Institute.

3)    Have Savings Unless you are sponsored by some generous benefactor, ex pats need savings to make it through the time they spend job hunting. Howard suggests having enough for 6 months or more.

4)    Work your way up Don’t let pride get in the way of your employment in Berlin. Taking an internship or an entry level position could lead to big employment opportunities further down the line.

5)    Multitask Embrace your inner dilettante and pursue several different work options at once. Again, taking on small jobs could lead to your dream career. I personally work as a babysitter, freelance writer, and tech blog intern and I am still looking for more opportunities!

6)    Apply at Start ups Berlin is the up and coming star of the start up scene. These companies are also more inclined to hire ex pats then more traditional German workplaces. Howard offers VentureVillage and Berlin Start-up Jobs as two resources to find jobs in the hip start up scene.

7)    Search Online Even if you are not in Berlin, search online to find fresh opportunities. Howard recommends the well-known search engines like Monster.de, Linken In, and Indeed.de. The more below the radar place to find online job postings include Berlin Expat Jobs, ExBerliner, Sugar High, and Somewhere.

U5 © Alexander Rentsch on Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
U5 © Alexander Rentsch on Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

8)    Freelance Meeting freelancers in Berlin is almost as easy as finding a currywurst. This is a great way to start if you want to start you own business or have location independent work such as writing, web developers, etc. I have personally found freelancing jobs easier to come by then more traditional 9-5 jobs.

9)    Special Visas Unless you want to go the illegal route, you will need a visa to work in Berlin. Most nationalities can stay in Berlin for 3 months on a tourist visa. If you are a most experienced professional and there in demand for your job not being met in Germany, you can apply for a 6 month visa that allows you to stay to look for a job. People from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Taiwan and Hong Kong and Canada can also apply for a working holiday visa. Unfortunately, American cannot (which was a big bummer for me). However, if you land a job, lots of times they will go through the visa process with you. Also look into student visa’s if you have the time and money.

10) Go Local Learning the local workplace customs can boost your chances of landing a job. Howard points out that Germans often include a photo and a date of birth on their resumes, something a bit odd for American and Canadians. Learning these nuances can help land you the perfect job.

11) Network Although it is painful for many, networking is a must to find work in Berlin. Howard talks about how she used Twitter to find an ex pat group partaking in a “Hamburger Tour of Berlin”. Through this club, she met someone who eventually hired her on as a project manager. I met a girl at a yoga class who introduced me to a friend who then hired me on as an intern. Don’t be shy and put yourself out there to find opportunities.

1 2) Be There Showing up one of the best ways to increase your odds of getting a job in Berlin. Being able to show a Berlin address boost your odds of getting hired. If you are sure Berlin is the city for you, track down some leads and then get your butt over here (with some savings of course). As you can see, you must do your homework if you want to live and work in Berlin. But as any ex pat can tell you, the juice is definitely worth the squeeze. Use these tips as a starting off point for landing your dream job in Berlin. Check out the original post here for more advice and links to other helpful tips for living in Berlin Good luck and happy hunting!

Open Mics in Berlin for (Almost) Everyday of the Week

(Main Picture: Open Mic © Bragg’s Untrained Eye on Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Berlin attracts creative types. You can hardly meet more than 3 people with out at least one of them identifying themselves as some kind of artist. This means lots of people looking to showcase their talents to a captive audience. Look no further than Berlin’s open mic scene. We have complied some of the best and quirkiest open mics around the city to get you some stage time, a networking platform to meet other artist, and maybe even a record deal. 

10942446393_d8156e30b1_z
Open Mic © Geoffrey Froment on Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Monday night at Arcanoa– Arcanoa may not be on every Berliner’s radar but it is a worth seeing at least once. This wacky bar features an old electric chair as well as a tiny, meandering stream running right through the main bar table. Sign up starts at 8:00 and the show starts shortly there afterword. This open mic features mainly German acts sprinkled with some expat bands as well. Come here to start honing your craft and testing the waters for other, larger open mics. 

Tuesday night at Kugelbahn– Kugelbahn brings the American Western frontier to Wedding. On the first floor you’ll find a spacious bar with classic rock posters, longhorn skulls, a torn out ceiling with exposed pipelines, and a comfy patio in the back. Soundtracks will range from psychedelic 60’s rock ala the 13th Floor Elevators to Townes Van Zandt and Hank Williams. Go down below to the bottom floor on Tuesday for the open mic and you’ll find a stage decorated for a Loretta Lynn show and two lines of Kugelbahn (smaller sized bowling lanes) behind the mixing board. You’ll literary think you’re going to see Jeff Bridges re-enacting his bowling alley gig in Crazy Heart. Instead you’ll see some of Berlin’s best emerging and established talent rocking the stage. So grab a Pils, come down, put up your boots and relax. 

Local Berlin band VOLK
Local Berlin band VOLK

Thursday night at Kuss Kuss– With a lighting hue reminiscent of grandpa’s living room and a collection of board games rivaling Spielemax, Kuss Kuss is conveniently located near the Hermanstrasse stop on the Ring Bahn. It features an open stage (a bit less structured form of an open mic) every Thursday, typically hosted by one of Berlin’s local staple singer/songwriters. The “stage” is a narrow, raised corner-portion of the creaking wooden floor, festooned with guitars and mandolin (which an artist is free to borrow). A large piano stretches adjacent along, squishing performers closer together. About a meter separates the stage from the wood carved bleachers, making for a pleasantly intimate experience between performers and audience.  It’s an informal meet up, so if you want to play, show up about 20-30 minutes before 20:00. You can enjoy vegetarian kuchen and a fassbier beer as you wait/watch. 

Friday night at Dodos-Dodo is the sophisticated Herr/Frau’s open mic venue. Acts have to register online beforehand to get a slot, so you’ve got a better chance of seeing a bit more seasoned acts rather than jam secessionists, neophyte Elliot Smiths, or German Rap’s next Bushido. Dodo’s entrance inspires memories of Greenwich Village sub street level bars where Dylan might have begun cutting his teeth. A classy atmosphere awaits below with refined catacombs supported by crimson brick and eye-catching posters floating above comfy corner-booth seats. A slightly raised stage awaits at the back of the bar, and the MC does a great job of mixing the acts to stream the music throughout if the crowd exceeds the size of the stage room.

Open Mic at Madame Claudes
Open Mic at Madame Claudes

Sunday night at Madame Claudes– As a former brothel located near Gorlizter park, Madame Claudes exudes East Berlin cool. After entering into the dimly lit main room, take a look at the ceiling. Chair, tables, beer bottles and cigarette packages are all arranged to give the room an Alice in Wonderland like feel. Check out the upside down TV monitor to see when the open mic is starting in the even darker basement. After shuffling down and taking your seats on plastic buckets, the show begins around 9:00ish. Madame Claude’s open mic offers a wide range of acts, never excluding any time of music style. Come to see Berlin’s rap artist, jazz musicians, singer/songwriters, kazoo soloists, and more. 

First German Coffee Shop Might Open In Berlin!

An Hemp Activist Oliver Becker, founder of the first German Hemp Party, is planning to open a mobile coffee shop in Berlin on 21.06.2014. The project is to import Moroccan hashish in Germany and transform his van in a mobile coffeeshop . He plans to open his business in Görlitzer Park, a park in Kreuzberg district famous for being a top spot for selling drugs.

Screenshot-2014-05-28-15-02-04

If the authorities decide to stop Becker’s plans, he will go on hunger strike.

The only thing to do now is wait and see what happens on the 21st of June.

Here the FACEBOOK PAGE of the project.


News for Ampelmann… a Green for AmpelFrau?

(Main Picture: Ampelmädchen © gheeke on Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

If the Social Democratic Party gets its way, Ampelmann will be sharing crossing duties with an Ampel-lady. The group pushed for a motion on May 12th to include a “modern and self-confident” Ampelfrau to the streets of Berlin. “Women need to be more present in the appearances of our capital’s streets,” said Martina Matischok-Yesilcimen, the SPD district leader who signed the motion; “We’re a diverse city and that deserves to be seen.”

Ampelmann © Frank M. Rafik on Flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The Ampelmann made his début in 1969 in East Berlin. Created by Karl Peglau, a psychologist in the GDR’s transport services, the iconic (ironic?) lovable green civil servant of the oppressive regime was made to be more human like so people could identify and trust in him.

This tactic seemed to work even after the demise of the GDR. After the reunification of East and West Berlin, citizens fought to keep the Ampelmann instead of replacing him with a more standard shape. Some parts of western Berlin have even hired the Ampelmann to patrol their streets. Today, the Ampelmann is a symbol of Berlin and a testament to the city’s history. With six Ampelmann themed shops across the city, selling everything from Ampelmann t-shirts to Ampelmann noodles, he is also a huge tourist attraction. Perhaps an Ampelfrau would boost the Gruenemann’s already widespread appeal.

Cities in Germany have already starting introducing the Ampelfrau to the public. The east German town of Zwickau was the first to use the Ampelfrau in 2004 and other cities have followed suit such as Dresden and Fürstenwalde.

Ampelmädchen © Tobin on Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

However, the Berlin Ampelfrau will be different than her older counterparts. The SPD says the Berlin Ampelfrau will not have the ponytail and wide skirt like the other Ampelfrau in Germany. Instead, Berlin’s Ampelfrau will be more “modern”. No design, however, has been published to what this new Berlin-style Ampelfrau will look like. . Will this traffic Mädchen be sporting a Skrillix haircut and a Club Mate in hand, perhaps?

Germany’s immigration boom! 2nd place after USA.

(Main Picture:  German Immigration © marcmo on Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

In 2013, the Federal Statistacal Offices (Destatis) reported that 1,226,000 people arrived in Germany while 789,000 left, leading to a net increase of 437,000. With a 38% increase in immigration in 2012, Germany is experiencing unparalleled immigration influx. Thomas Liebig, an expert on international migration calls the new movement, “a boom – without any exaggeration….no other OECD country experienced such a rise”. 

In 2009, Germany ranked 8th as a migrant destination. Germany’s booming economy compared to the recessions many other EU countries experienced propelled Germany into the top spot for immigration.

The bulk of new migrants come from EU countries, totaling 727,000 people. Poland is the top country of origin with 189,000 migrants living in Germany. The addition of Bulgaria and Romania to the EU also bolstered immigration numbers.

Youth of the World © Torsten Schulz on Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Youth of the World © Torsten Schulz on Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Backlash

With this new spike in immigration, Germany makes moves to discourage migrants moving to Germany without work. A new draft proposal could give Germany the ability to deport foreigners, including EU citizens, within 3 months if they do not find a job. “The EU is not a social-welfare union” Angel Merkel reported to Passauer Neue Presse. “We do not want to pay Hartz IV (social welfare paymernts) to EU citizens who are residing in Germany solely for the purpose of looking for work,” she added.

The recent European Parliament elections echo this sentiment. In France, the anti-immigration party The Front Nation, took 25% of the votes. Denmark’s Danish People’s party took 27%, running on platform to curb EU benefits to foreigners and to tighten border control. Germany itself elected its first neo-Nazi member of the European Parliament.

However, there seems to be people who still embrace immigration as a means to keep the Germany economy booming. By 2050, a third of Germany’s population will be above the age of 65, according to government data. The population is expected to shrink a quarter as a result. With Germany’s aging and shrinking population, migrants will need to fill the gaps in the German economy.

Prominent politicians in Germany are also looking to create more tolerance to foreigners in Germany. President Joachim Gauck explains “… how bizarre it is that some people cling to the idea that there could be such a thing as a homogenous, closed, single-colored Germanyit’s not easy to grasp what it is to be German – and it keeps changing.”