Working in Germany 4

One of the phrases that I hear quite often is “work-life balance”. It seems to be of huge importance here (even compared to Canada), and taken quite seriously by everyone including the government.

Maybe its even stricker because I’m working in a more governmental, international company, but these are some of the things that have taken me for surprise since I’ve been here:

1. 35 hour work week – any overtime you have to take off as holidays as soon as possible afterwards.

2. Not allowed to work longer than 7pm (up until a couple months ago your security card would get blocked and you would have to get forms filled out by your boss to get it reinstated).

3. Must take a 45 min break every day if you are at the company more than 6 hours.

4. Many employees just take 6 hour days on Fridays and leave around 3 of 4pm during the rest of the week.

5. If you are sick, then you get a completely paid day off, no holidays used, no flextime taken. Paid in full by the company.

6. Every employee is completely covered by the German Healthcare system (whether a foreigner or a national) and pays for it with a fixed percentage every paycheck.

Beautiful town of Passau

Beautiful town of Passau in Bavaria I visited


Of course these socialist measures come at a bit of a price. Unfortunately even I, a poor student, have to pay 22% in taxes next to my income tax. Although I’ll be able to get back 12% (in 2 years) because I won’t be staying in Germany longer than 5 years.


While people seem to be quite focused at work, in general they are very laid back. It is interesting to see this other way of creating the much desired “work-life balance”. I don’t really know yet how I feel about that, there is definitely a competitive and driven atmosphere that I am missing from previous work experiences…

Passau was struck by the worst flood in over 500 years. An amazing surge of participation and help from the whole town saved it from the natural disaster!

Passau was struck by the worst flood in over 500 years. An amazing surge of participation and help from the whole town put itself back together after the natural disaster!

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4 thoughts on “Working in Germany

  • Gourav Khullar

    This is interesting. I know some fellows who are either from Germany or who have worked there for their PhDs or projects, and they tell me that certain institutes (specially in Physics for example) have a very intense and competitive environment. The work culture is result-centric in those places; but then again this might just be a specific case of a particular field or institute.

    • thealexanderharmsen Post author

      Interesting to see hear that! Of course I am just seeing one side. Maybe it has to do with being in the aerospace industry, or part of a huge company, or in a small town, or in a non-educational field. So many factors that play into it. Then again Physics in general is quite competitive and there people are not competing with other Germans – they are competing with other Physicists from all over the world!