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Working in Germany and in one of the world's largest, most stable and flourishing economies is an enticing prospect for many expats. Immigration policies have tried to curb unskilled immigrants entering the country to protect local labour, but there are opportunities for qualified expats in industries with skills shortages.
Those moving to Germany from outside the EU will need to ensure that they are eligible for a work permit for Germany.
Job market in Germany
The German IT and tech industries are enormous and in desperate need of skilled employees, and policy is shaped to attract qualified personnel. There are also opportunities for expats working in biology, chemistry, physics, engineering and high-tech science fields.
Salaries in Germany are some of the highest in the world, and expats with degrees in sought-after fields can expect to earn well.
When negotiating their employment packages, expats will need to remember that they'll be discussing their salary as a gross amount. Taxes in Germany are high and depending on their salary, expats can have as much as 50 percent deducted from their monthly earnings. Many employers will lure expats by offering incentives such as performance bonuses, salary reviews and contributions towards private health insurance policies.
The German labour market is highly regulated and, as a result, employees have lots of protection and benefits. All workers in Germany are entitled to holidays, paid sick days, maternity/paternity leave and the option of working part time.
Finding a job in Germany
Most expats who move to Germany are transferred from the overseas offices of international companies.
Those who are looking to move to Germany without a job in hand will need to get to grips with some of the nuances of the German job market. When applying for a job in Germany, expats will have to provide a comprehensive CV (Lebenslauf) that documents their entire education and professional career in reverse chronological order.
They'll also have to attach written recommendations from previous employers and copies of degrees and awards. It's best to include these with the original application rather than waiting for them to be requested, as may be the case elsewhere.
German employers want a complete picture of prospective employees and omitting any important details could negatively impact an expat's chances of success, especially if the other applicants are German.
Many expats enlist a recruitment agency when looking for a job in Germany. They can help find out about jobs in specific fields and advise candidates on which documents to include for a particular application. They're also well equipped to advise expats about what they should expect in terms of salaries and benefits.
Online job portals are also a good source of information. Once in Munich, expats can consult the job listings in local newspapers for information on vacancies. Company websites also regularly list vacancies.
Work culture in Germany
Business culture in Germany in general is formal and efficiency in the workplace is paramount. Time is money – so being punctual is important. Once the meeting begins, Germans get straight down to business and there's little room for small talk.
Punctuality and appearance are important, so expats should dress well and arrive at meetings fully prepared and on time. It's best to avoid humour, especially at first, as it can be misconstrued. One should expect to be asked detailed questions and have facts and figures on hand to back up what is being presented.
Although most Germans speak English well, many prefer to speak their own language when it comes to business negotiations. Expats who don't speak German should consider hiring a translator for important meetings. Newcomers to Munich will find that Germans are private and maintain a strict separation between their work and home life, so it will take some time to forge more personal relationships with colleagues.
►See Work Permits for Germany for more on legally working in the country.
"Ravensburg (like most of Germany) has a very very low unemployment rate. But there are still plenty of jobs for expats with degrees in the science (and engineering, I believe). As a scientist, I know that I could find employment because it is a specialized job and there are plenty of positions for it. This also makes it easier for me to get a visa because Germany wants people with these degrees."
For more on Marisa's experiences as an American expat in Germany, read our interview with her.
Are you an expat living in Germany?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Germany. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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