Junaid Shaikh (age 31)
finds it motivating to live where others come on vacation.
Where do you work?
I work as a high-voltage test field engineer at Siemens in Berlin. That sounds drier than it is. My job is quite varied. I spend barely 15% of my time conducting tests; I spend the rest of the time managing clients and working on research and development projects.
I simply wanted to work for Siemens. I got my Bachelor's degree in electrical engineering in India and my Master's in Darmstadt (Germany). Then I applied directly at Siemens in Frankfurt am Main for an internship. Thanks to my professor's recommendation, I managed to land a job at Siemens, but in Berlin. I was very happy about that. However, it's a really big jump from Darmstadt to Berlin.
Who or what helped you when you first arrived in Berlin?
It just so happened that my supervisor at the University of Darmstadt was from Berlin. She helped me a lot. I had no home, nothing really. She set it up so I could sublet for the first two months. The first thing we did was purchase a used bicycle. And then things took off. But my own motivation was at least as important as my supervisor. I pulled myself out of the apartment, got on my bike, and explored the city. It was the following idea that motivated me: "I am in a place where others come on vacation. So get out and about, Junaid! Time is too precious to spend in front of your PC or TV at home."
What do you love about Berlin?
The contrasts – this mix of different cultures, rich and poor people. When I look around in the subway here, the girl next to me is wearing a headscarf, the guy next to her is wearing skater clothes, and then there's another guy wearing a tie. This city is certainly not perfect, but it runs. And it runs very well. There's always something going on in Berlin. People are out and about everywhere you go. You can go out to eat or go shopping around the clock. Here I don't have to fill the fridge a week before Easter in a panic.
If you could give a new Berlin resident a tip, what would it be?
I have a few: Keep your mind open and give yourself time to digest all the new impressions – another region, different customs! When you first arrive here, the first week will be really great, like a honeymoon. And then most people panic because their everyday life catches up with them. Stay calm! You can't change that.
If you're from a sunny country, like India, consider the seasons before you pack! Don't pigeon-hole the people here! If you do, you're bound to get pigeon-holed yourself. There are huge cultural differences. Adjust to that in advance. If something isn't going so well, work on it. It's not all fun and games. Distract yourself from small mistakes – don't be afraid and don't overdo it. And very important: Learn the language, no matter how long you plan to stay here, and be patient with the German authorities!
I've always enjoyed exploring the city by bike – maybe that's also a tip for you!? And you should definitely go to the Karneval der Kulturen once. Very fascinating.
Henry van WagenbergRuby Developer