Facing up to learning German as a newly arrived expat professional

Facing up to learning German as a newly arrived expat professional

Facing up to learning German as a newly arrived expat professional

British expats heading to Europe seem to believe the English language is spoken fluently across all the EU member states.

English may well be the international language of commerce, air transportation and many other professional sectors, but if expats are heading to a new job in Germany they’re in for an unpleasant shock! The country is ranked with other major global economies, but its internationality screeches to a halt as regards its strong preference for its native tongue.

Unfortunately for those expats without linguistics as a major talent, the German language is essential for expat professionals hoping a new posting will be successful. Equally important is the fact that local authorities, the German taxman and most of the country’s other public service bureaucracies aren’t fluent in English, putting the responsibility for achieving clarity solely on the shoulders of international incomers.

For new expat arrivals hoping to make friends within the local community, it’s the same problem, as Germans as a whole don’t go to great lengths to acquire fluency in English, thus restricting expats to their own communities and their workplaces. Those working in academia or the tech sector are more likely to be able to get by without much German, but those hoping to integrate are out of luck as Germans prefer to keep their private and working lives separate.

Unfortunately, German is a complex language, is considered difficult to learn and will take effort and a great deal of time to master. In general, employers are supportive of those attempting to learn, with some either offering or financially supporting lessons for newly-arrived expats and their family members. One major benefit is that understanding the language gives an insight into German culture both in the workplace and in everyday life.

If you’ve arrived with a young family, you’ll possibly be frustrated when your kids pick the language up far faster than you, but this can be useful for getting to know the parents of their German friends. For single expats, much of Germany’s social life is found in sports or music clubs, church communities and other organised groups. Once you can communicate at a basic level, joining such groups can open a whole new world of friendship as well as making your days in the workplace far easier.

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