We are starting a new series: “Prepping for life & work in Germany”! People who want to live and work in Germany have to deal with many challenges: The German language, mentally preparing for a different culture and work environment, managing bureaucratic procedures concerning visas and work permits, and the long to-do list after arriving in Germany. That’s tough and can hardly be done without help and plenty of research. This series will introduce websites to you that help you prepare for and start your life in Germany!
Today’s first ever post for our series introduces the website Liveworkgermany.com to you which holds valuable information on various aspects of life and work in Germany written in a relaxed and clear style. In our interview, blogger James Meads tells us what his blog is about, what difficulties expats in Germany face, and he also shares some of his own expat-experiences in Germany.
Employland: James, thank you for taking the time and giving us an interview! Please introduce yourself and your website Liveworkgermany.com to our readers!
James Meads: Hi there (or “Gude” as we say in Hessen!), I’m James, I am 39 years old and come from Birmingham, UK. In my day job, I have 15 years’ experience working in corporate procurement.
I created the site LiveWorkGermany.com to help expats with all they need to know about cost of living, finding a job and an apartment, dealing with bureaucracy-related issues and settling into life in Germany, one of Europe’s most attractive and popular expat destinations.
LiveWorkGermany is also on Twitter and Facebook for anyone who would like to connect with us, and we also have a regular Email newsletter.
Employland: How did the idea for Liveworkgermany.com originate and do you run the blog on your own?
James Meads: I saw there was a gap on the web for an informal, light-hearted “how to” site explaining some of the nuances of life in Germany together with fact-based articles about how various aspects of the administrative and legal bureaucracy works here.
I’ve lived here long enough and speak German fluently so I figured I could help people with this advice.
One of the key differentiators is that I want the blog posts to be authentic. There is plenty of useful (but quite dry) factual information on German Federal government websites but not much in a narrative style. I wanted my content to be more personal.
LiveWorkGermany went live in November 2016 and has quickly grown in just over 6 months. I currently run the blog on my own with a little help from freelancers on the technical side, as well as the occasional guest blog post. I’m on the lookout for guest bloggers to help me though, especially on family-related content, so as I can concentrate on building the site as a business. I’m not married and don’t have kids so am definitely not the best person to write this kind of stuff!
Employland: Who are your readers?
James Meads: 80% of my readers are based in Germany but are overwhelmingly native or fluent English speakers. The remainder live primarily in the major English-speaking countries: the US, UK and India. The tail of the final 10% is made up of visitors from pretty much all over the world.
Employland: Can you give us an idea: What challenges do people face who (want to) live and work in Germany?
James Meads: It’s interesting you ask because I ran a couple of surveys recently on expat Facebook groups for cities across Germany asking the same question. By far the biggest challenge is the language, or more specifically, not being able to speak good enough German upon arrival. The most complex bureaucratic processes usually have to be dealt with during the first few weeks (Anmeldung, Ausländerbehörde, health insurance, signing an apartment rental contract, buying a car, getting an internet connection etc).
So whilst things like looking for work and finding somewhere to live are tough, the overwhelming reason why they are so difficult to successfully complete is not so much because they are different, but because newcomers for the most part cannot speak the language confidently enough to deal with potential issues or hurdles which may occur during the process
Employland: Why do expats come here, what makes it attractive to work in Germany?
James Meads: For work, Germany is an attractive destination for expats for two main reasons: Salaries are high in relation to the cost of living, and the job market is very buoyant at the moment. Obviously for EU citizens, we don’t have to worry about visa requirements or fulfil conditions of the immigration system to fill skills gaps, which is another significant factor.
Some of the other popular reasons are an attractive work-life balance, the stability of employment contracts and the opportunity to work with some world class companies and/or products.
The biggest downside is that taxation and social contributions are so high, especially if you’re single with no children. I seem to pay a lot into the system but get nothing in return.
Employland: And what draws expats to Germany when it comes to life in general?
James Meads: Clean, safe cities with relatively low crime and easy access to wonderful recreational opportunities. The best countryside is within easy reach of major metropolitan areas.
A more active lifestyle: People here definitely watch less TV and obsess less about consumerism and celebrity gossip.
Summer street festivals where everyone just has a good time and there is very rarely any trouble. In the UK there would be fights everywhere if you had the festivals like there are here!
Easy, cheap and convenient access to the rest of Europe by road, rail or air.
Employland: What are Germany’s peculiarities? Let’s take it with humour: What do you roll your eyes on at times?
James Meads: Well, the first one has to be still calling someone whom you have worked next to for 15 years Mr. or Mrs. Whatever.
The other one, which actually drives me crazy sometimes, is that for such a civilised country in so many ways, I struggle to understand why Germans seem incapable of waiting in line.
As an Englishman, I would also love to write to every café and hotel and tell them that tea water must be 100°C and that coffee cream is not milk!
Employland: I hope they read this and take it as advice! Last but not least: Let’s ask you for three tips for expats who want to live and work in Germany.
James Meads: Learn German. I know so many expats here who don’t. I just think it’s wrong to live in somebody else’s country and make no effort to learn the language or to give up at the first hurdle.
Accept that things here work differently than your home country. Some things will be better, some worse. But overall, approach your expat experience with a positive mindset and things will work out.
Be aware that Germany on the outside is a modern, successful economy but is also a country very set in its ways, where people are often suspicious and change tends to happen very gradually.
Employland: Thanks a lot for the insights, James.
Do you want to work in Germany? Find a job with us: Create your personal profile free-of-charge on www.employland.de. Employers in Germany search for and find candidates in our profiles and contact them. We also take care of the residence and work permit!
Also in our blog: After finding a job in Germany, finding an apartment appears at the top of your to-do list. Finding an apartment isn’t always easy, especially in Germany’s large cities. Often there is intense competition between dozens of apartment-seekers for one flat. We have six tips to make your apartment search less stressful and more successful. Also interesting: Darlan from Brazil came to Hamburg to pursue a job in a German E-commerce company. In his former posts, he described how he got this job and the steps he had to take in order to obtain a German work permit. In this guest commentary, Darlan tells us what he did after reaching Germany, how he found a place to live and made friends, and if he plans on staying in Germany forever.