Babysitting in Germany

It was not that long ago that the concept of babysitting (das Babysitten/Babysitting; Kinderhüten is the old-fashioned term) was little-known in the German-speaking world. When it did happen, it was usually Oma, a neighbor, or one of the older children watching over the kids for a while.

A big change came in the 1990s, with the arrival of online and local Kinderbetreuung (child-care) agencies in Germany, when the idea of hiring a non-family member to mind the kids became more common. Today it is possible to earn fairly good money in Germany as a paid sitter. Below I’ll be writing about German babysitting both from the perspective of expats hiring a babysitter, and getting a job as a sitter. But first we need to clarify the term “babysitting.” Continue reading

For All Expat Job Seekers: an Interview with Chris Pyak of Immigrant Spirit

Have you newly arrived in Germany with years of substantial professional experience hoping to continue doing what you are good at to find that it’s not so easy to do? Do you feel like there is more than one Mount Everest standing in your way to convert your professional training to a recognized credential here? Perhaps right after learning the German language, finding a job in Germany is one of the top challenges of expat life here.

I took a moment to interview Chris Pyak, Managing Director of Immigrant Spirit, a recruitment firm based in Düsseldorf which specializes in placing job candidates with an international background with employers in Germany. Chris offers his tips on what every job candidate, especially those with a non-German background can do to get hired.

Chris Pyak, MD of Immigrant Spirit  Photo credit:

Chris Pyak, MD of Immigrant Spirit
Photo credit: Moritz Trebien/Copyright: Immigrant Spirit GmbH

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Resist the Ramen: Financing your Student Life in Germany

So you’ve heard the good news: you can get your university degree for free in Germany. It almost seems too good to be true, an education from a highly-respected institution of higher learning, the opportunity to learn and grow without the stress of thousands of dollars in student debt awaiting you upon graduation. But while the terror of tuition no longer mars the pristine German university landscape, that doesn’t mean your study experience will be free; you still need to pony up for food, rent and recreation. Here are a few ways that you can cover your living expenses as a student in Germany.

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How I Became Fluent in German Fast

I’ve been meeting many more expats now that I am living in the heavily populated Rhineland/Ruhr region of Germany. These expats range from old timers/lifers to newbie/temporary assignees. As any expat can relate to, the newbies are grappling with learning the German language: some try private tutelage, others secure places at the local VHS, while others make the deep plunge for the Goethe Institut in Düsseldorf. Most of them ask me about my level of German and how I learned. I admit that it was a quick ascent to fluency for me, and I know that I was fortunate to not have problems with the German language as an expat woe. (I was instead confounded by the local Swabian dialect while living in Swabia.)

A glimpse of my German language text books. Photo credit: Jane Park

A glimpse of my German language text books. Photo credit: Jane Park

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Expat Tip: Want to Find Work in Germany? Have a Job.

There are some major cultural differences between German work culture and U.S. work culture, and many of them have been covered here on The German Way already (follow the link for the complete list!) From attitudes toward working mothers, or attitudes toward working women in general, to vacation time (ahh, 6 weeks is so civilized) and the Betriebsrat, newcomers to Germany have much to which they must adjust. One little secret I’d like to share with you today, however, isn’t one that gets mentioned in any expat guidebook: Germans like to hire employees who already have jobs. Continue reading

So you want to work in Germany: Do you have to learn German?

In short, the answer is: Jein. Last week Jane wrote about the latest news on the abolition of university fees in Germany. I’m not sure how quickly non-German wannabe students will be flocking over here, but it is certainly a good deal! In recent months, I have encountered a number of expats living in Germany, some of whom speak German and some of whom don’t. So the question is, do you absolutely HAVE to speak German fluently in order to live and work here?



Of course you don’t have to do anything. I know a number of people who have been living here for more than five years who really don’t speak much German. They are doing just fine. However, I think there are a number of factors to consider and questions to ask yourself before you take the plunge and move to Germany without speaking German.

  • How comfortable are you going through your daily life not understanding what is being said around you?
  • Are you okay with not being understood by everyone?
  • Do you have the confidence to get the information you need, and are you ready to have to fight for it?
  • If you are looking for work, do you have skills that no one else has? Skills that will get you hired even without German?

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Free College Degrees in Germany

Get ’em while they’re hot. If you are a German-related news junkie like we all are at the German Way, you might have seen your Facebook or Twitter feeds filled with headlines like these, “Free Tuition in Germany for All American Students” earlier this month.

While it is true, Americans along with all other non-Germans, can study in Germany tuition free, this isn’t actually new news. A sudden lifting of tuition for American students has not just occurred; it’s just that Lower Saxony, the last German federal state to have charged tuition, dropped their fees to create this attention-grabbing headline.

So if you are now wondering what the catch is, since there’s no free lunch, especially in a land that isn’t known for giving out smiles for free, you might be disappointed. There isn’t any real catch or hidden deal of indentured servitude, but an American considering taking up Germany on its offer for a free Bachelor’s should weigh the differences in outcome and expectations before making a decision.

Heidelberg University

The library at Heidelberg University was built in 1905. The Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg was founded in 1386, making it Germany’s oldest and one of the oldest universities in Europe. PHOTO: TBE/iStock/Thinkstock

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Fluent in Denglish

Denglish: If you are an expat in a German-speaking country, you’re probably pretty fluent at it. It’s the combination of the two languages of Deutsch and English, and your fluency doesn’t really depend on how good your German or English is. Or even how committed you are to improving your German. Or how disciplined you are speaking one language with your kids, if you have kids. The fact of the matter is is that you often might not be able to to think of the passendes Wort for whatever you are trying to say quickly enough. Then both languages start to collide into one another in your brain and maybe oddly enough a latent language that you might have once spoken or learned like your high school French unhelpfully pops into the mix, and then the easiest way to express yourself is to just use the German word you were just trying to übersetzen. Akin to what Hyde has written regarding the Death of the German Language, employing Denglish certainly doesn’t do your German any favors and leads to the deterioration of your English, encouraging a lazy linguist. Continue reading