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Working in Germany

Your guide to working as an expat in Germany

Want to work in Germany?

Germany has the largest GDP in Europe. Exports play an important role in its economy and there are few restrictions on foreign investment. The country’s wealth is driven by innovative industries and a disciplined and motivated workforce. The German economy gives qualified expats plenty of opportunities to develop their careers in a driving economic force. You can also get a firm foothold in European business thanks to Germany’s central location – it shares borders with 9 European countries, including other economic heavyweights such as Switzerland and France.

Business in Germany

Understanding the country’s business etiquette is key to your success here. There’s a strong separation between work and private life in Germany. To succeed, you have to keep up a high level of productivity at the office. German business dealings are defined by directness, which takes precedence over pleasantries.

The corporate environment is very formal. Outward displays of emotion and humour are inappropriate. Be prepared for criticism, and back up what you say in meetings with solid facts. Aim to be on time for everything. If you’re going to be late, let people know as soon as possible, and apologise profusely.

Businesses usually have a strict hierarchy. Decisions are made at the top, often after a rigorous process, and people are appointed to senior positions based on merit and experience. Women are treated equally in the workplace and hold a large number of senior positions in top companies.

Practical details

English is widely spoken in business, especially at the multinational level. Business hours are usually from 09:00 to 17:00, Monday to Friday, with a lunch break between 12:00 and 13:00. Both men and women dress formally and conservatively, especially in the banking and finance sectors. You’ll have much more freedom to wear what you want if you work in a creative industry such as fashion, art or advertising.

A handshake is the standard greeting in business circles. Always use ‘Herr’ for a man and ‘Frau’ for a woman (or a colleague’s title) followed by their surname. Giving gifts isn’t the norm, but a small token of flowers, wine or chocolate is appropriate if you’re invited to a colleague’s home.

Expat salaries in Germany

Expat salaries are generally high, especially if you work in an executive position.

Top tips for working in Germany

See what people responding to our Expat Explorer Survey think about living in Germany.

Always take every important document with you to each government authority. You never know what they might need. Preparation is key and saves time and hassle for everyone involved.

All Expat Explorer survey data and all tips (in quotation marks) are provided by HSBC.

All other content is provided by, Globe Media Ltd and was last updated in September 2021. HSBC accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of this information.

This information is purely for orientation and to inspire further research, it does not constitute advice and no liability is accepted to recipients acting independently on its contents. The views expressed are subject to change.

Always remember to ensure you're aware of and comply with any laws in your host country or country of origin that apply to gift giving and bribery.

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