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Tips for working in Germany

Boasting a strong economy, excellent work-life balance and great employment prospects, Germany is the ideal place to start a new job, with some of the best working conditions in Europe.


For those from the EU, EFTA and a few other European countries there is no need to obtain a visa to live and work in Germany. Different rules apply to nationals from Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, and the U.S. who won’t need to obtain a visa to enter the country but will need one to stay and work. For those from the remaining countries in the world, there are some visa options open, but you’ll need to apply in advance, before travelling to Germany. More information can be found in our guide to finding work in Germany. It’s also worth spending some time researching German Government sponsored website Make it in Germany.

Knowing the language

A working knowledge of German is a distinct advantage. While most businesspeople speak English, having a good grasp of the language is useful when applying for jobs, meeting new people in the workplace, and when carrying out day-to day-tasks such as travelling and shopping.

Paying taxes

The tax situation is similar to many other European countries. If you’re employed, your employer will make the calculations, deductions, and payments to the Government on your behalf. Any amendments along with possible over or underpayments are taken care of at the end of the financial year with a final tax return.

For those earning over the basic allowance (in 2016 this is €8,652 for a single person or €17,304 for those who are married or in a civil partnership,) the tax rate rises according to how much you earn. The scale goes from 14 to 42 percent, but the highest rate is at the very top end of the salary scale only. In addition to tax, your employer will make deductions to cover pension, health, nursing, unemployment, and the solidarity surcharge (introduced to support the cost of German reunification). By law, the employer also contributes a share towards your social security payments. 

Tax relief is available for those who are married or in a civil partnership, families with children, and single parents. It’s worth finding out whether your circumstances mean you fall within one of the six tax brackets so you pay the correct amount of tax.

The tax system can be complicated, particularly when filing a tax return and you should seek the advice of a qualified, English-speaking tax advisor to navigate you through the intricacies. An information sheet is available to download from the Make It Germany website with more information on employment and taxes.

Work-life balance

Workers in Germany tend to have an excellent work-life balance. The normal office working week runs from 8 am to 4 pm or 5 pm, Monday to Friday and although supermarkets are closed on a Sunday, restaurants and bars will be open all weekend. Sundays and Bank Holidays are considered non-work days.

There are nine nationwide public holidays in Germany with many other regional ones taking place throughout the year including Labour Day, Ascension Day, and Whit Monday which fall in the spring and German Unity Day on the 3rd of October.

German law entitles those who work a six-day week to a minimum of 24 days’ holiday a year and for those with a five-day week, 20 days. But it’s common for companies to grant higher entitlements, ranging from 25 to 30 days in a year.

Take the opportunity to talk about a general health and well-being check with our advisors before you head overseas. US citizens will not normally be covered for health care in Europe, and as Britain exits the EU, health care agreements are yet to be negotiated for those already in the country or moving to Germany before the exit becomes final.

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