Tag Archives: Teaching in Berlin

Berlin LO’G

My teaching hours have dropped rather dramatically recently. All of the groups that started in September or October came to a rather abrupt end in January. There also doesn’t seem to be much demand out there for English lessons at the moment.

All by myself...
All by myself…

While this is a little worrying, it is also part and parcel of being a freelancer, and instead of falling into a massive funk, I’ve been trying to find some more productive things to do in order to fill my current abundance of free time. (OK, there has been a little bit of funking and panicking, as well.)

One of these things was responding to an ad I saw on Craigslist, which was looking for writers for a new website called Berlin Logs, an online publication about, you guessed it, Berlin. After all, what better way to spend my free time than gallivanting around the city I love and then writing about it?

Writing in Berlin
Writing in Berlin

I got an email a couple of days later inviting me to a meet-up in a café, along with around ten other people who had responded to the ad. I arrived first (as usual) and met Daniyal, the man responsible for setting up the site. Tea was on the house which made me instantly warm to him.

Other people started arriving in dribs and drabs and soon we’d taken over most of the café. It was an interesting mix of people – Irish, English, American, Australian, German – all of whom were in Berlin for various reasons. Everyone introduced themselves and gave a little background information. (I talked about how it’s possible to almost get yourself lynched in Latvia.) Then Daniyal explained why we were all there.

Berlin Logs had actually started life as a German website but he couldn’t find enough German writers to keep it going – crazy Germans… So he’d decided to switch it to English. Good for me as I can write about four words in German and keep forgetting what the shortcut keys to the special characters are.

A lot of the current content had been translated from the original German site, but now we would have a team of English-speaking writers who would write about all sorts of topics, from the perspective of people who actually live here and really know the city – or are, at least, trying to get to know it. I thought it sounded like a great concept so I immediately committed to writing an article a week.

Me, hard at it.
Me, hard at it.

So far, it’s been absolutely wunderbar. It’s a fantastic excuse to go out and explore the city a little more and go to events that I otherwise might not have attended. This has led me to Grüne Woche (an international food and agricultural expo), a creepy abandoned water park, and the “could it be any more hipster?” Berlin Village Market.

New articles are going up every day and readership is growing. All of the writers have their own tone of voice and write about the things that interest them so I think it’s got a nice fresh feel. I, for one, am very happy to be part of it, and I’m hoping for great things in the future.

Below is an extract from my article on the derelict water park. To read all of it, just click on the link.

BLUB: From Rat Haven to Home-owner Heaven?


…As we walked along, Florian helpfully pointed out spots that would be useful for burying bodies, so very soon, we were both jumping at every cracked twig and crunch of broken glass. The silence was eerie, and the haze of falling snow didn’t do much to quell our giggly unease. However, the only sign of life we saw was a guy practising his BMX skills in a large derelict building, and he nervously scarpered when he saw us nervously peering at him through a hole in the wall. Although we didn’t see them, it was clear that some people had set up home in a couple of the smaller buildings. Opening a door and seeing a makeshift bed and some personal belongings felt like an invasion of privacy, so we quickly closed it again and moved on…

To read the full article, please click here.







English and Elvis

I’m happy to say that I’m finally feeling a bit more settled in Berlin, thanks to my new home and my two lovely German ladies. (And no, we don’t braid each other’s hair and have pillow fights, in case you were wondering.)

I’ve got my head around my work schedule and feel that I’m now in a position to talk a little about what it’s like to be an English teacher in Berlin.

I guess I should start by saying that if you’re looking for a safe bet, Berlin probably isn’t the place for you. Most schools hire on a freelance basis, and won’t interview people who don’t already live in Berlin. The only thing you can do, which is what I did, is find a list of English schools here and send your CV to ALL of them. Then cross your fingers and hope one or two reply, move to Berlin, cross your fingers again and hope that you get an interview.

I got two interviews (and two jobs) within around a week and a half. I now realise how insanely lucky I was after talking to another teacher who said that it took her four months to find any work at all. In short, it’s not for the faint-hearted.

Oh, and you'll definitely need one of these...
Oh, and you’ll definitely need one of these…

In addition, if you’re looking for a job where you go to a school, work five or six hours a day in the same building and go home again, you might want to rethink Berlin as your first choice. If you’re freelancing, you’ll likely be travelling to different companies to teach there. And as most companies want lessons either before or after normal working hours, you’ll probably have to get up at stupid o’clock to get to 8am lessons.

Of course, it can be a bit tiring, but seriously, who wouldn’t want to spend their days wandering around Berlin? I’ve got to see so much of the city this way and, every day, something new surprises or tickles me.

From the wonderful...
From the wonderful…
to the wonderfully historic...
to the wonderfully historic…
to the wonderfully weird.
to the wonderfully weird.

In short, Berlin is fantastic. And there are also some pretty impressive, double-take-inducing German moustaches roaming the streets. (Attached to men, of course. Berlin is crazy, but not that crazy.)

The school that I get the bulk of my hours from is fantastically well-run. The teachers are financially taken care of and support is always available. We even get paid for training, induction, and travel expenses. And, every now and then, the Director of Studies bakes…

A sausage roll! A rare sight indeed in Germany.
A sausage roll! A rare sight indeed in Germany.

And finally, ze German students… In my (admittedly still limited) experience, they’re great – warm, friendly, chuckly, open, smart, hard-working, and pleasingly self-aware. I recently had two students act out a telephone role play.


Me: Um, it was good, but maybe a little… direct?

Fritz: You mean too German? 

Me: Yes, that’s exactly what I mean.

So overall, it’s hard work, it’s stressful in the beginning, but if you’re really determined to move to Berlin, you’ll find a way to make it work eventually – and it will be worth it.

Still, all work and no play makes Linda a dull girl, so last night I had the honour of being invited to an English stand-up comedy night by Victoria over at The British Berliner. We met up for Happy Hour cocktails at the rather fabulous Bellini Lounge, and then to the main event at the Quatsch Comedy Club.

Free stuff :)
Free stuff 🙂

The star of the show, Daniel Sloss, is a young, up-and-coming Scottish comedian, and if you like no-holds-barred comedy, which made half an audience in Indianapolis stand up and leave the show, then he’s the guy for you. If you’re not easily offended and like penis jokes – as I do – then you’ll laugh your ass off.

The warm-up act, the very funny Jack Woodhead, joked, sang and played the piano in an outfit and make-up that would have had a Latvian woman squealing in envy (and a Latvian man squealing in fear and pushing himself up against a wall – not that he’d be in any danger, I’m sure. Jack looked like a discerning individual…)

We got chatting to both comedians over a couple of drinks after the show, but I had to pretend to be a sensible person and leave early(ish). 5.45am starts bring out the sensible in most people. At around midnight, as I was walking from the train to my flat, the strains of people singing roaring along to ‘Suspicious Minds’ drifted my way.

Naturally, I should have kept walking but curiosity got the better of me, and I found myself outside a cute little French bar called ‘Place Clichy’. The bar was heaving when I managed to push open the door.

“HOORAY!!!”, roared everyone.

“HOORAY!!!”, I roared back, with no real idea why. I went to the bar and got talking to a very merry German.

Heinz: Where are you from?

Me: Ireland.

Heinz: (roaring) SHE’S FROM IRELAND!!!

Everyone: HOORAY!!! 

And so, my new buddies and I shouted along to Elvis tunes, and drank €2 glasses of wine, until around 2am, when I really had to be sensible and go to bed.

Ah Berlin, there’s never a dull moment with you, is there?