'Germans care about good work-life balance'
In the latest instalment of My German Career, The Local spoke with French corporate communications expert Sonia Sassi about mastering the language and the German work philosophy.
A self-proclaimed "European citizen", French national Sassi first encountered German culture during a university exchange year. Convinced that Germany was the place for her, she decided to make the move a year ago. Since then she has been living in Munich and working in the communications department of EADS. Despite admitting to imperfect German skills, she says she has not found language to be an obstacle while working in an international atmosphere.
Where are you located and what do you do?
I am French, currently living in Munich, and working in the Corporate Communications department of the multinational company EADS, a global leader in aerospace and defence.
What brought you to Germany and how long have you been here?
In my opinion, the Franco-German alliance serves as a motor for Europe and as I am a convinced European citizen I simply decided to spend some time there. I first arrived in Germany in January 2012 for an Erasmus exchange period in a small village lost in the middle of the Rheingau area. At the time I wanted to go to Germany to study in one of the best business schools in the country but I also chose Germany as I wanted to learn about the German language and culture.
I was curious about this country which even being very close to France remains so different in terms of cultures and habits. After my exchange, I realized that I loved living here and I started to look for a job. I had job opportunities in Hamburg and Munich and I chose the latter following my gut feeling. And I am glad I did!
How did you land your job and do you have tips for anyone seeking similar work?
I am under a very specific contract called V.I.E. - Volontariat International en Entreprise - in English “Corporate International Volunteer”. This is a French contract open to any citizen of the European Union focused on developing business in French companies abroad. It is also an amazing opportunity for a graduate to start his or her career abroad.
To apply to this kind of contract, it is quite easy: one just has to subscribe on the website www.civiweb.com and apply to the available job offers from the different French companies participating in this program. I would also advise people working in my field to call upon their personal and professional network, on some occasions word-of-mouth is the best way to find the most suitable position for your profile.
Is it important for you to be able to speak German in your position?
Actually, my level of German is still quite weak! I mean, I can get my point across, watch my favourite series on TV, but I would definitely not be able to work in the language. Most of the time, I work in French, English or Spanish. Thankfully it is kein Problem in my daily job: I am often in contact with communication agencies and they are all used to speaking in English. Sometimes I call the IT support and the person on the phone does not speak English, but they just pass the phone onto any of their colleagues able to communicate in a common language and we can keep on working!
What are the key differences practising your profession here and your home country?
The main difference I would say is the need for a defined structure. Everything needs to be prepared in detail beforehand and there is no room for improvisation. Once you understand that point, the work itself is roughly the same as in France.
What are the best and worst parts about working in Germany?
Working in Germany is great. Not only for the processes that I talked about before, which ease your daily work, but also because Germans really care about having a good work-life balance. They are really strict on that. For example, you cannot work more than 10 hours a day. The compensation and benefits system is also quite good and I am clearly earning more than the average salary of a graduate in France, especially with the current economic situation.
Do you plan on staying?
I really do like living in Germany, however I also love to travel and learn about other cultures. I already know that I want to see more of the world, and I think that my next destination will probably be somewhere in Latin America… No one knows what the future holds!
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