'The work-life balance is fantastic'
In this week's My German Career Graham Polley from Ireland looks back on his six years in Frankfurt and explains how he managed to land a job without a word of German.
Where are you located and what do you do?
I have recently left Germany but before that I worked as a software engineer in Frankfurt, Germany's financial hub. While there, I worked primarily on financial market desktop software. My German wife and I lived just outside the city in a small town called Bergen-Enkheim.
What brought you to Germany and how long have you been here?
Like I mentioned, my wife is German. We met in 2006 while we were studying in Melbourne. After we finished our studies we decided to make the big move and settle in Germany for a while. After almost six fantastic years living here we just felt it was time to further our careers elsewhere, and decided to move back to Australia.
How did you land your job and do you have tips for anyone seeking similar work?
When we first arrived we were very unsure as to whether or not I would be able to find a job due to my lack of German. I had actually studied French at school so I didn't have a single word back then. Ironically, it was much easier for me to find a job than it was for my wife. Being a native English speaker was in no way a hindrance. On the contrary, it was definitely an advantage. Software engineering is so global now and working with international, distributed teams is the daily norm. German software companies love to employ native English speakers and they also love to practise their English on us.
My top tips would be to learn some basic German for your interview and throw it into the conversation whenever you can. The Germans really appreciate it when you make an effort with the language. Also, make yourself very familiar with the German interview process. There are rules (such as how to greet people) and they take this seriously - even with expats. Finally, be prepared to do some coding tests. Every interview I attended incorporated at least one.
Is it important for you to be able to speak German in your position?
No, but there is no excuse for someone living and working in a foreign country not to pick up the language. I was able to converse reasonably well after about three years and I still practise my German out here in Australia with every German that I am fortunate enough to meet.
What are the best and worst parts about working in Germany?
The best is the six-week holidays. That is just awesome. The work/life balance is fantastic. The worst is that the salary for software professionals is not as good as in the rest of the world. Of course, it is relative as the cost of living is lower here. However, even taking that into consideration, the pay for my line of work is only average in Germany.
Do you plan on returning?
I'm not sure. Although I absolutely loved my time in Germany, Australia was always a place where I wanted to settle down. It just ticks all the boxes for me in terms of quality of life. But convincing my German wife to stay might still take some work. However, in saying that, Germany holds a very special place in my heart and I'm very grateful to have lived there. So you never know.
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