What to Know About Working in Germany

Worldify - Group working in Germany
Written by
Gabrielle Soria
Published on
April 29, 2023

Working abroad, especially working in Germany, is always an adventure. I truly believe that it will only help your career—no matter what position you take. But, like any aspect of living abroad, working in Germany comes with its own set of culture shock.

Once you've found a job in Germany, it's time to get ready for the shift into German work culture. I found that German work culture, in general, is quite different from anything in the States. But what I found more surprising were more the fundamental differences of work and process between the U.S. and Germany. From taxes to healthcare, here are the six things that surprised me most about working in Germany as an expat.

What to Know About Working in Germany

đź’° German taxes

First things first: German taxes are going to take a lot of your paycheck. This is a really important thing to factor in when you’re negotiating your contract, searching for an apartment, and planning your budgets. As soon as you get an offer letter, or as you are considering your proposed salary range, make sure you crunch your numbers in a wage calculator. This really excellent tool to help me estimate how much my actual take-home pay (Netto) would be, which in turn helped me be realistic about how much I could afford on rent and life.

đź“… No two weeks notice

As an American used to the classic “two weeks notice”, one of the thing that surprised me most as an expat working in Germany was the notice period. Most German contracts have a significant notice period. For my first job, the notice period was three months from the end of the month (so, if you quit on April 1, your last day would be the end of July). Other contracts can be even more prescriptive—i.e. three months from the end of the business quarter.

That would mean you could quit on April 1 (the start of Quarter 2) and not be available to your new job until October, because your notice period would start at the end of Q2 (so, June). (Exceptions can be made, of course, depending on circumstance) Your new job is likely to be accommodating of this, since it’s common practice. But if you’re taking a job “just to get in the door” or hop the pond, it’s good to keep in mind that it’s harder to leave a job in Germany.

“If you’re taking a job “just to get in the door” or hop the pond, it’s good to keep in mind that it’s harder to leave a job in Germany.”

🤝 The trial period

The exception to the “no two weeks notice” rule above is the Probezeit. Almost all German contracts have a trial period (Probezeit) built in. The trial period is designed to give both employer and employee a chance to determine if this is the right fit for both parties. During the Probezeit, your employer can terminate your contract at any time—and you can also quit at any time. 

It may also be more difficult to take vacation time during your Probezeit, so double-check with your employer before booking anything. If you have a holiday booked prior to accepting the contract, try to be transparent with your new employer, so that they can work with you around it. 

⏳ Contract lengths

It’s also common in Germany to do fixed-length contracts, rather than open-ended ones. Even if you’re hired for what seems like a perm-based position, your contract might only be good for a year. Make sure you pay attention to this, as your visa is tied to the length of your employment contract. While it can be the case that your employer will simply renew your contract at the end of the year, it could also be the case that your contract terminates. Have a backup plan in place just in case.

“Like any aspect of an expat experience, working abroad comes with its own set of culture shock.”

🏥 Healthcare is a given

Coming from America, having social healthcare has completely changed my life—and I don’t even go to the doctor that often! Health coverage (Krankenkasse) is paid out of your paycheck already, but you’ll need to sign up with a provider. The most common public providers are:

You can also opt for private insurance if your salary is large enough.

In Germany, you’re allowed up to three days off without needing a note from a doctor—any longer than that, and you’ll have to show your employer a reason.

🛂 Check your visa options

Different visas come with different benefits, and your HR department might not know those differences. An EU Blue Card, for example, is available to employees with “special skills”, a salary above a specific point, and/or a Master’s degree, and lets you apply for a settlement permit in 33 months rather than five years. Before you accept an offer, make sure you’re at least a little familiar with the visa options available to you—if you need help, just use the Human Support option from your Worldify dashboard.  🔵


Parts of this post were originally published on Up and Gone, and are used here with permission of its author.

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