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Is There A Better Work / Life Balance in Germany? Is Punctuality Important?

publishedabout 1 month ago
3 min read

Hallo there Reader,

In our last newsletter, I highlighted three common myths about working in Germany and how I experienced some culture shock when I first moved here from Canada. If you missed it, you can go back and read it.

Today, I'll touch upon three more of those myths:

1) There's A Better Work / Life Balance Balance In Germany

Generally speaking, there's definitely a better work / life balance in Germany. Especially when you compare what your working conditions may have been like in other countries. For example, I recall times in Canada where I regularly worked well past midnight or even on weekends. I'd often not use all of my vacation, even though I had only 10-15 days per year. This type of manic addiction to work is much less common in Germany. 30 days of vacation is normal, as are flexible working hours. If you're sick, you're not expected to work and if you try working through an illness, don't be surprised if you receive a stern reprimand from your colleagues.

Despite this, it doesn't mean that everyone leaves the office en masse at 5:00 pm. At various companies I've worked at, it was also quite normal to see people working late. It's not that it was imposed on us by our managers, but many of us would choose to stay late to meet a deadline or finish off something and it didn't make sense to break the continuity of our work. This "choice" to work more is obviously a luxury and this work / life balance doesn't apply equally to all workplaces. There are also workers across the country, especially in certain lower paying jobs where the working conditions are terrible and work life balance is non existent.

2) Wages Are Lower In Germany Than My Country

Many people see that average wages for their profession in Germany are substantially lower than what they make at home, especially in countries like the US, Canada, Australia, etc. What's important to keep in mind is the many perks of living here that contribute to a better quality of life. Sick leave is generous, as is your annual leave, with many people getting at least 30 days of vacation. If you get laid off, companies offer decent severance packages. Health insurance covers things like prescriptions, surgeries, and more. I had a major operation last year and only had to pay €10 for each night in the hospital. Daycare and university are (generally) free or only involve a small, very affordable payment. You'll be based in central Europe where travel to other countries is easy and cheap. Think a weekend in Paris or a day at the Baltic Sea.

The cost of living here is also lower than in some other countries, but world events are certainly changing that with food and energy prices on an alarming and drastic rise. This isn't something that's expected to change in the short-term, so keep that in mind as you plan your move here.

Recommended reading: How Much Does It Cost To Move To Germany? Use Our Calculator!

3) Starting Work On Time Is The Norm And Punctuality Is A Must

When people picture working at German companies, they often think that all environments are the same. Everyone is serious, very formal, hard working, and strict. While surely some workplaces might actually be like this, you may be surprised to know that not all companies fit into the stereotypes depicted in many popular articles you might read or videos you may watch on the subject.

Some will say that everyone starts work really early and I can tell you 100%, this isn't always the case. Many people work flexible hours, where some start early or much later and some people even work reduced hours, like my colleague who went down from full-time to three days a week for family reasons. Companies will usually demand presence during certain core hours, while also remaining open to accommodating people's personal preferences.

The articles and videos tell will further tell you that meetings always start on time and that being late is a big "no-no". This too, is also not completely true. People are commonly often up to five minutes late for meetings, as they rush from one meeting to another and need time to grab a coffee or water, or attend to various personal needs. I've seen this to be true when I've worked in the office and when working remotely from home. As I'm often the organizer of meetings, I've made it a norm not to start meetings until at least five minutes has past. While everyone makes an effort to be on time, we're also gracious and understanding with one another in such situations.

What do you think about these common myths about working in Germany? Note, what I'm sharing here is based on my personal experience of living and working in German for 11 years. Other people's experiences may be different and I'd love to hear what you think. Hit reply if you want to share something or ask me questions, or even better, start a discussion in our Facebook group.

A friendly reminder that we're having a free online community event on Monday at 6:00 PM CET where you can ask me, founder of The Berlin Life, anything about living and working in Germany. ​You can also meet other Berlin job seekers and further connect with them! RSVP here.

Until next time,

Founder - The Berlin Life