How To Become an Expat in Germany

by Brea

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I’ve received many emails and questions regarding how to move to Germany and find work. This is a great question and I’m so happy that so many people want to explore the world and move overseas!

It’s absolutely possible and I cannot recommend living abroad enough. It will greatly expand your knowledge and understanding of the world. New places are exciting and intimidating, especially when you’re trying to move to a place where everyone speaks a different language. I may not have all the answers but I’ve picked up a few things over the years.

I should note that living in Germany is not always easy. In fact, there are many aspects of living here that took me a while to adjust to. There is no a/c here, even in restaurants, so when it’s 95 degrees outside you cannot get relief anywhere other than gas stations and grocery stores. Many apartments are not equipped for dryers, and if you can have one, they are really expensive and take about 2-3 hours to dry your clothes. Nothing is open on Sundays so most everyone is doing all their shopping and chores on Saturday, meaning crowds, especially in the larger cities. Customer service is virtually nonexistent, and then of course there is the language barrier.

But it’s not all bad, obviously. The pros outweigh the cons for many expats, myself included. I actually think it’s fun living in another culture where everything is strange and foreign to me. I enjoy the challenge.

A little bit on my story: I studied abroad in Italy for a summer in college and was immediately hooked on travel. And more specifically Europe. Ever since I returned I dreamt of finding a way to move back to Europe. I ended up in Germany with a little bit of luck. My husband had the chance to work overseas and once he mentioned that possibility I jumped on it. He can tell you I was quite literally jumping around the house in excitement. Just a few months later we boarded a plane and the rest is history!

How Do I Work in Germany if I don’t know German?

Many German companies will actually send employees to Germany and have them learn German on the job. In fact, that’s exactly how a friend of mine ended up in Germany. Her company, Bosch, needed positions filled at offices near Stuttgart and she volunteered to go.  Of course in order for this to happen you’ll have to be working for a German company first. Some of the big International companies include many car companies such as Mercedes (Stuttgart), BMW (Munich), Porsche, and Volkswagon and other companies such as Bosch. There are also many consulting and large international companies with a presence in Germany including Deloitte, Accenture, and Ernst and Young.

Good To Know: The International business language around the world is English. Many larger companies speak English at work and this may be helpful when looking for a job.

If there’s not a German company nearby and you’re anxious to move right away, many people opt to be au pairs, or nanny’s, in Germany. If you take this route you’ll have to take some classes in Germany (you don’t have to speak German). This is popular because these people usually live with the family so they aren’t left searching for an apartment. I’ve known many many people who have opted to do this and eventually find other work and stay.

Another area to look at is the U.S. government. With military bases all over the world, many of them are looking for civilians with a wide range of skills. This includes anything from a government position that helps with overseas operations to a cashier at the grocery store or a mechanic at the auto shop. There are more options than most people think and this could be a good place to look as well.

What Other Options Are Available?

Study at a University!

Have you thought about going back to school? Schools in Germany are very inexpensive! I’m talking about 200-500 Euros a semester for all your classes and books as well. I’m sure you’re thinking this is impossible because you have to know German, but you don’t, really! There are a lot of programs that are taught completely in English. Some of the easier degrees to find are engineering and business degrees. Just be sure to check that the school of your choice has degrees that will transfer back to the U.S. A quick Google search will pull up English Programs and schools in Europe.

Work At An Irish Pub

Many Irish Pubs hire native English speakers over Germans. If you enjoy working in the hospitality business then this could be a good option for you. A plus to doing this is that you will pick up German along the way, both out of necessity and everyday interaction with locals.

Large US Companies With Facilities Overseas

In addition to German companies hiring those speaking English, American companies have an overseas presence and might be hiring for positions. In most cases these are larger companies that do business Internationally. This ranges from food and restaurant companies such as Starbucks and Hard Rock Café, to technological companies such as HP. There are countless others that might be hiring in an area that interests you!

Hopefully this helps to show you that it’s possible to live abroad and be successful. Once you’re here you never know what possibilities will present themselves and either way you will definitely have a great adventure to talk about!

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1 comment

Alex September 17, 2013 - 7:20 pm

You don’t have to take German classes when you are an au pair, although I highly recommend learning the language 🙂

Working at an Irish Pub is something I also know lots about, but it does not really help you gain a working visa 🙂

Great advice though!


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