21 phrases to help you get on in a German office

Working in a German office can be a tricky business, especially if you haven't quite mastered the language. The Local is here to help with some useful phrases to impress your colleagues.

21 phrases to help you get on in a German office
Photo: DPA

Bonding with colleagues

1) “Na?  “Alles fresh?” Hallöchen!” (Alright? How's it hanging? Hiya!)

Chirpy ways of greeting your co-workers – a step on from the more formal “Guten Morgen”.  

2) “Schönen Feierabend!” (Have a nice evening!)

Even if you're just heading home to do the laundry and stick something in the microwave, Germans still think it's time to party. Wishing your colleagues a “good party” is the standard German farewell after a day's work.

3) “Keine Sorge/ Kein Problem/ Nicht zu danken!” (“No problem/ you're welcome!”)

These earn you a lot of brownie points – even if you don't entirely mean what you say.

4) “Ich bin ein Teamplayer”

A good example of showing both cooperative spirit and wonderful command of “Büro-sprech” (office speak), with a bit of Denglisch too.

Food and drink

5) “Mahlzeit/einen Guten/Wohl bekomm's!” (Bon appetit!)

English is unusual in foregoing the pleasantries before a meal, but Germans take wishing someone 'Guten Appetit' to the extreme. You might well hear a friendly colleague wishing you “Mahlzeit!” as you tuck into your afternoon snack or a morning banana.

6) “Wie wär's mit einem Kaffee/Tee?” (Who wants a coffee/tea?)

This can be used as either an excuse for leaving a tedious meeting, or to ingratiate yourself with your co-workers.

Germans are always keen on coffee, but remember that offering tea could mean anything from green, strawberry and raspberry or the indeterminate “Kräutertee” (herb tea) – so if you want black tea with milk, be specific!

7) “Lass uns unbedingt einen Kaffee trinken gehen.” (Let’s go and grab a coffee.)

When the office gets too sticky, “working” over a cup of coffee can allow you to while away a few hours in a coffee house.


Tech troubles

8) “Auf geht's zur Telko!” (Time for the conference call!)

The weekly “Telko” (Telefonkonferenz) is a staple of German office life. Although, some Germans now call it “der Conference Call”.

9) “Können Sie mir bitte eine Mail schreiben?” (Can you send me an email?)

For all those who dread hearing the office phone ring, telling your colleagues to write you an email might help get around the foreign language nightmare of the phone call.

10) “Ich bin ohne Connectivity.” (I don't have any internet connection)

The standard excuse for being unproductive….

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11) “Ich kann dir das mal forwarden.” (I can forward it to you)

Like “Downloaden”, “Liken” and “checken”, these English words have simply been incorporated into office talk to replace their slightly more long-winded German equivalents. Simply take any English word, add “en” and you're good to go.

12) “Das Issue muss adressiert werden. (The issue must be addressed)

13) “Da haben wir noch Potenzial.” (We can still work with that)

Getting in a handful of English vocab gives you a certain status in the office and help you sound professional. These two phrases also allow you to avoid saying anything concrete.

14) “Ich setze das mal auf meine To-Do-Liste” (I'll put that on my to-do list)

As with many English words which have become firm favourites of German businesses – meeting, workshop, management – “To-Do-Liste” is a handy English-German hybrid, also because it makes it sound as if you have one.

Dealing with the boss

15) “Ja – das habe ich auf dem Schirm.” (Yes – I am working on it)

The best way of reassuring your boss that all is under control, or “im Griff”.

16) “Da warte ich noch auf Feedback.” (I'm still waiting for feedback)

A good way of passing the buck and sounding cooperative and, yes, like a “Teamplayer”.

17) “Habe ich eine Erhöhung verdient?” (Have I earned a pay rise?)

On the issue of pay, Germans do not beat around the bush. Sometimes asking outright might be the best way to get on in your career.

18) “Wir bleiben dran.” (We're on the case)

If in doubt, stick to general, unspecific promises. It sounds determined, but is vague enough to leave you some wiggle room.

READ MORE: Six top tips for job seekers in Germany

Office relationships

19) “Kümmerst du dich darum?” (Do you mind taking that on?)

Knowing how to delegate and share the work around helps you avoid full responsbility for anything. Framing it as a question allows you to stay on good terms with your German colleagues.

20) “Der leidet heute an ganz akuter Unlust.” (He's suffering from acute laziness)

Who says Germans don't do sarcastic humour? This is the perfect way of describing a colleague who's decided to “blau machen” – pull a sickie.

Speak to TK German health Insurance in English here!

21) “Wollen wir Du sagen?” (Shall we say “Du” to one another?)

If you're asking, make sure you time it right and read the situation. If a colleague is asking you, it's a sign you have been accepted as one of them.

The formalities have finally been dropped and you can now stop worrying about accidentally saying “du” instead of the formal “Sie” and appearing over-friendly.

READ MORE: Why young foreigners choose Germany

Frances Foley

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7 tips for how to survive as a freelancer in Germany

Taking the decision to go it alone and freelance in Germany can be a daunting prospect. But, if you do it right, it can be an exciting and liberating path. Here are some of our top tips on how to survive.

7 tips for how to survive as a freelancer in Germany

1. Get a tax advisor

The German tax system is complicated, even for Germans. All the associated paperwork uses the Amtsprache (authority language) which is more like legalese than ‘normal’ German, and mistakes when filling out tax forms can cause you, at best, a massive headache and, at worst, a costly fine. So it’s best that you employ someone who knows what they’re doing to help you out.

That person is called a Steuerberater (tax advisor) in Germany. They will help you register with the tax office, correspond with them and submit your tax declarations.

Be aware that, in Germany, different deadlines apply for tax returns depending on whether you employ an official tax advisor or not. If you are doing the tax return on your own, the deadline for submitting your annual tax return is earlier than if you use a tax advisor’s services. 

READ ALSO: What NOT to do when you’re freelancing in Germany

When looking for a tax advisor, a top tip is to use your network to get recommendations. Ideally, you want someone who will do more than just fill in the forms for you, but who will actually advise you on how best to manage your business finances so that you can make tax savings.

2. Keep your accounting in order

The better you keep your own accounts in order, the easier it will be for your tax advisor to compile your tax declarations and therefore the cheaper their services will be.

As a freelancer, there are a lot of costs you can deduct from your taxes – from train tickets, working materials, to meals out – so it’s best to keep hold of all your receipts and to keep them in good order.

2 euros and 50 cents lie on a receipt in a beer garden. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Peter Kneffel

In Germany, you’re obliged to keep hold of receipts for two years, in case of a tax inspection, so it’s a good idea to photocopy the type of machine-printed receipts you get from restaurants so that they stay legible for a long time.

There are also a few things to be aware of when writing your own invoices. Firstly, make sure that you include your tax number. This isn’t the 11-digit Steueridentifikationsnummer that everyone gets when registering in Germany, but the 10-digit Steuernummer you get from the Finanzamt after registering yourself as a freelancer. 

Most companies won’t pay you if you don’t have this on your invoices so make sure you include it.

You should also make sure that you number your invoices properly – ideally in ascending order so that you can easily keep track of them. You are not allowed to issue two invoices with the same number and if you do so and the finance office notices, you could face an inspection of your whole accounting system.

There are numerous great accounting software programmes you can use to help you, such as Lexoffice and Sevdesk and, even if you have to pay for them, the costs will be tax deductible!

3. Find out if you’re eligible for financial support

In Germany, there are several opportunities for freelancers to gain financial support and to cut their outgoings, and its worth finding out if you’re eligible for them.

If you’re claiming unemployment benefits under ALG 1 and are thinking about becoming a freelancer, the employment office offers a special type of financial support to help you to get your freelance business off the ground.

Called the Grundungszuschuss (“foundation grant”) the payment is a six-month grant equalling your monthly entitlement under ALG 1 plus €300 towards your insurance costs can be applied for those in receipt of this unemployment benefit.

READ ALSO: Will freelancers benefit from Germany’s €300 energy allowance?

If you are engaged in some form of artistic profession in Germany – which can include journalism to pottery – you may be entitled to membership to the Kunstlersozialkasse (artists’ social insurance).

Being a member of the KSK means you only have to pay half of your health insurance and pension contributions, and the KSK will pay the rest.

4. Work out how much you think you will earn

As with starting any business, you need to have some idea of your expected earnings from the outset.

If you’re just starting out as a freelancer, or have some freelance gigs on the side of an employment position, then it might be worth considering registering yourself as a Kleinunternehmer (“small business”).

As a Kleinunternehmer, you can currently earn up to €22.000 per year without having to charge VAT and having to submit only yearly tax declarations. 

An income tax declaration form lies on a table. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Hans-Jürgen Wiedl

Be aware that if you are registered as this kind of freelancer, you must include the following sentence in your invoices: ‘Gemäß § 19 UStG wird keine Umsatzsteuer berechnet’ which means ‘In accordance with Paragrah19 of the German VAT law, no VAT has been added to this invoice.’

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about your German tax return in 2022

If you think you will earn more than €22.000 per year, you will need to pay Umsatzsteuer (VAT) and will have to submit tax declarations in advance and more often. Depending on how much you earn, this could be every month or every quarter. 

5. Get your insurance in order

In Germany, it’s a legal requirement to have health insurance.

If you’ve just made the move from employment to being a freelancer and want to keep the same health insurer, you should get in contact with your health insurance provider straight away to tell them about your change of circumstances. They will ask you to re-register and to tell them your projected freelance earnings for the year, so they can amend your monthly fees.

If you don’t keep your health insurer provider updated, you could continue to be charged the higher rate that you had from your previous salary.

The insurance cards of the health insurance companies DAK, AOK, Barmer and Techniker-Krankenkasse TK lie with euro notes under a stethoscope. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Daniel Karmann

It’s not just health insurance you need to think about as a freelancer. It’s also wise to think about protecting yourself from any sort of claims that could arise as a result of any working mishaps. 

If, for example, you lose your laptop which contains confidential client information, you need to be protected against claims.

That’s why it’s good to have both Betriebshaftversicherung (business liability insurance) and Rechtschutzversicherung (legal protection insurance).

6. Plan your time wisely

All of these bureaucratic obligations take time. So it’s really important that you take account of that when planning your time. For example, planning half a day a week to deal with your invoices, filing, emails to clients, and conversations with authorities can be really beneficial when scheduling your working time. 

7. Grow your network

As a freelancer, networking is absolutely crucial to success. 

Keep an up-to-date profile on websites like LinkedIn and German equivalent XING and keep in contact with anyone you’ve ever worked with, no matter how brief the contact was. 

Having a network is not only about getting more clients, but also about building a support network in your field to exchange advice, tips and generally for your own enrichment. 

Participating in workshops related to your field, going to seminars, and meet-ups, can be great ways of broadening your network.