Some people toil and struggle for years before finding work in a new city, others strike it lucky in the first few days after they arrive. Greg, a 26-year-old from Italy, was very much the latter. After quitting his job at a design studio in the Italian town of Ivrea, Greg thought long and hard about his next move in life, coming to the conclusion that languages would be his calling.
Booking a hostel and flight to Berlin and the night before leaving, Greg is now working as a receptionist in the same hostel he first arrived at called Jetpack Jumpdesk, surprising himself with the choice and ease of the search.
“Berlin is probably the coolest place in the world, but I’m not really looking for that.”
“My plan was to stay in the hostel for four or five days and then find an apartment and go from there, however that didn’t happen,” states Greg. As we chat outside on the hostel’s seating, Greg casually leans back in his chair with a cold beer in hand and goes on to say, “I thought it would be much easier to find an apartment.
“I met a lot of people who really struggled to find their own place. I got discouraged and didn’t look very hard, as these were people who tried and tried and they couldn’t find anything.”
Greg himself admits that he has no experience for job searching in Berlin, explaining that with good timing and simply asking the hostel management about vacancies, he stumbled upon being the hostel receptionist before he knew it.
“One day I spoke to the owner, Neil, about whether he knew of any hotels or hostels in Berlin that needed employees,” recounts Greg. “I wasn’t really asking him directly as such, but he actually said that maybe I could work here. I didn’t know at first and I said I’d think about it.”
But a few days later, Neil said that he was leaving to Poland for the weekend and that he’ll show me how to run the bookings page and manage the hostel. Then I could decide if I liked it and wanted to work here full-time. So I was the manager for two days and that was it.”
A steady job and a hostel to live in is all well and good, but Greg says that living in Berlin wasn’t exactly how he had envisioned it. With a dream of working as a translator or interpreter, the idea of moving to Germany was simply to learn the language, but as multinational a city that Berlin is, it’s sometimes easy to slip into English for convenience, to the detriment of the reason of coming here in the first place.
“I think it’s a useful language, both business and economics wise,” explains Greg. “Any German city was fine for me really, but most people told me Berlin was the best place in Europe right now. I’ve been here for just over two months and from this point on, my life has been developed mostly around this hostel.
“All the people I know and everything I’ve done is primarily from here. Although I’m saving money and I have a great boss, it’s not what I came here to do. My goal is just some feeling of accomplishment, which hasn’t come yet. My studio didn’t give me that but I want to find it soon.”
Rhythm of the Night
As for living in Berlin itself, a hub of culture, diversity and famous for its techno scene, there are limits to how much one can take before it starts to sound like dull rhetoric. Greg explains that he is starting to tire of all the eager and new Berliners clamouring to experience the might of German clubbing.
“Berlin is an amazing place and I’ve been a part of the clubbing myself, but I’m personally overwhelmed by the whole culture of the ‘Kreuzberg scene’, which is all about how cool a club is, which DJ is playing and of course discussing Berghain,” sighs Greg. “Maybe it’s because I work in a hostel and people are here mostly to party, but it’s annoying how much I hear about how cool Kreuzberg is.
“Berlin is probably the coolest place in the world, but I’m not really looking for that. I do get to meet all kinds of people doing this job and hang out with personalities that match mine perfectly.”
Nearing the end of our discussion, Greg looks away and thinks aloud that maybe Berlin is not the place to be to learn German. Despite enrolling in a night course, he confessed that the learning speed was too slow and not worth the €200 per month fee. In addition to trying out free online language courses, he joined a football team that only speaks German to immerse himself better into the language.
“Playing with the team is great because I have no other option besides German,” he says. “But if I’m to really pursue my path of becoming a translator or interpreter, I need to speak a third language extremely well. I think perhaps that moving to a smaller town in Germany may have to be my choice, which is a shame, but necessary.”
This article is part of our series “How to make it in Berlin”
Text: Joe Garland