An increasing number of expats and digital nomads are moving to Germany. This may have something to do with the fact that four of Germany’s major cities – Munich, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt and Berlin – are so great to live in that they’ve all made it into the top 20 in Mercer’s Quality of Living Index for the fifth year running. Offering a strong economy, political stability, personal freedom and efficient public services, it isn’t hard to see why German cities are so highly-regarded.
If you’re looking to relocate, it’s helpful to know that the typical German workplace offers a ‘transparent’ style of communication that makes it fairly easy for newcomers from other cultures to adapt. While speaking German will give you an advantage over other job applicants, English is widely spoken across the country and some offices do use it as their working language – like Trivago, who’s Dusseldorf head office employs staff from more than 60 countries around the world.
With the largest economy in Europe and a growing labour market, the chances are that whatever your industry, there’s a position in Germany for you.
Quality of Life
Rated by HSBC’s Expat Explorer survey as 4th best country in the world for overall expat experience and 5th for quality of family life, as well as making it into four of Mercer’s top 10 spots, it seems fair to say that the standards of living in Germany are appealingly high.
On average, German workers spend around 35 hours per week at work – 20% less time than the typical UK worker. German employees are also entitled to 20 days holiday per year on top of nine public holidays, and can share up to 14 months of paid parental leave with a partner, should they have a child. Compared to the USA, where paid holiday and parental leave don’t currently exist, this makes for a far healthier work-life balance.
Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich are also rated as having some of the best transport systems in the world, along with lower housings prices and rents than other European cities. The cost of rent in Berlin is generally lower than London, and while taxes in Germany are slightly higher than neighbouring countries, average salaries across all sectors are also some of the highest in the Europe.
For everything from fintech to engineering, Germany is seen as an attractive destination for seeking out opportunity. Home to Audi, VW, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, this country is one of the largest automotive manufacturers on the planet – but Germany’s top 10 exports also include pharmaceutical goods, electronics and even green energy innovations.
The job market in Germany is full of potential, as it’s estimated that for every three people who retire there are only two new people elsewhere starting their careers. Multinational companies from Hugo Boss to Haribo have headquarters in Germany, but there’s also a strong undercurrent of start-up culture and medium-sized businesses as well.
German banks and insurance firms are on the lookout for IT specialists and mathematicians to fill shortages, and jobseekers with recognised degrees in sciences and engineering, as well as IT and maths, will find themselves in high demand in the healthcare sector. Some of the highest earning jobs in the country go to engineers, physicians and IT specialists as well as the traditional top of the salary league table – investment bankers.
In addition to these, graduates in possession of TEFL certificates may also find it easier to secure a job, as the international working community means plenty of demand for English teachers.
Organising a Move
One thing to bear in mind when you’re planning a career move to Germany is that just because there may be great job opportunities, this doesn’t mean you can just walk in to a new life abroad without putting in a little effort. If you’re moving from another EU member state then you won’t need to organise a visa or residence permit, but expats coming in from outside the EU will need both.
If you’re doing your job hunting on arrival in Germany, it’s helpful to know that citizens from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, Israel, South Korea and the USA are all entitled to enter without a visa for their first three months. You should then apply for residence and a work permit before your three months runs out. If you already have a job lined up or you’re moving from elsewhere, you need to organise a relevant visa before departure.
Something else to consider when preparing for your big move is healthcare. The state-run healthcare system has a great reputation, and once you’re working you’ll be entitled to public health insurance which you make small contributions to through your monthly salary. During the time when you’re jobhunting, however, you’re legally required to have alternative international health insurance in place. To skip long waiting times in the public system, many people choose to keep using private health care, but either way it’s something you’ll need to have when you first arrive.
Working abroad as an expat in Germany helps you to build “career capital”, paving the way for future mobility with skills and perspectives that are independent of simply learning a new language, or travelling in free time. Whether you head for the growing media and technology scene in Berlin, the automotive industry in Munich or financial centre of Frankfurt, each city boasts a balanced way of life and high quality of living that’s hard to beat.