Deep in the heart of Europe, Germany has much to offer the visitor and the prospective resident alike. Germany’s great wealth is clearly visible in its elegant big cities, whilst out of town you can expect to find fairy-tail castles, bucolic villages, and endless forests and mountain peaks. In either rural or urban settings fine wines, and famously excellent beer can be enjoyed along side a wealth of culture and history.
The official language is German, with no sub languages in use. English is widely spoken, particularly by younger people. The population of the country is a little over eighty-two million. It is a large country and climates range from the arid steppe to the peaks of the German Alps.
When contemplating working in Germany it is useful to remember that unification did not take place that long ago. Germany may be politically unified; however, at least in the English language domain, one is still dealing with two quite different cultures in East and West. In summary, openings in the East tend to call for fewer qualifications, and pay less well. In the West of the country, very good money can be earned teaching for language institutes and working as an English trainer in a corporation, but jobs are a little harder to come by, and the best jobs will go to those with the highest qualifications and the most relevant experience. Since the great bulk of opportunities is teaching English to business people, any previous experience working in a business environment should be underlined in your resume or CV.
Munich and Berlin are obviously a big draw and get many visitors. But the cities of the old East, such as Dresden should be thought about, since institutes and colleges do not require the same level of qualifications as those in the big cities of what was the West. It is important to remember that Germany is a country of very distinct regions. Do you prefer to spend your time skiing or water skiing? Forests or mountains. It’s a big country, with a great deal on offer.
Anyone wishing to teach in a state or private school must expect to have a degree, a Post-Graduate Certificate in Education and a TESOL qualification. Language academies are generally a little more relaxed, requiring just a degree and TESOL qualification. As with most teaching opportunities in Belgium, two-years’ language teaching experience is a requisite. And that’s not all. Most teaching posts of this description go to German-speaking foreigners. Despite the TESOL immersion in use, there is still sometimes an expectation that teachers will be able to explain the details in German, though we would discourage and indeed disagree with that approach! The less demanding route with this is to be a teaching assistant on an exchange program; however, in practice most of these go to native English speakers who are studying German.
With language institutes you can, in the main, expect to find yourself teaching people business or specialist English - computing or accounting, for example. Enthusiasm for learning English amongst the general population is high, hence a broad market exists and the motivation of those being taught is often very high.
Getting a Job
Opportunities for classroom assistants normally go to German language students. UK citizens can apply to the Language Assistants Team at the Education and Training Group, British Council, 10 Spring Gardens, London SW1A 2BN. Americans can apply to the Fulbright Program, administered by the Institute of International Education, 809 UN Plaza, New York, NY 10017-3580.
The Placement Office of the Federal Department has an overseas desk, and may be worth contacting: Zentralstelle fur Arbeitsvermittlung ZAV, Villemombler Strasse 76,53123 Bonn. In addition to this the German Yellow Pages is worth consulting. In most cities you will find an English Language Teachers Association, and in Munich this is particularly vigorous.
The on the spot, the time-honored route of making one’s way around institutes and presenting a resume or CV is a good idea. There is good money to be earned working for institutes, and within large companies as an instructor. There are also plenty of companies that sub-contract their services to large companies, and the teacher may find themselves servicing the needs of several companies. With these business-oriented positions pertinent professional experience is regarded highly, and should be emphasised in your application. In these often specialist environments, relevant experience is sometimes seen as more desirable than an appropriate TESOL qualification.
Visas and Regulations
Most state and private schools are not prepared to go through the difficult process of hiring native English-speaking teachers from outside of Europe. However, in some cases it is easier to place teachers from the US than from other countries, such as Australia and New Zealand. Non-EU citizens should check with the German consulate in their native country to look for language exchange programs, etc. Americans may wish to contact Interexchange (www.interexchange.org), of New York, who run an exchange programme. Nevertheless, Germany is one of the most non-EU-friendly countries in Europe, with many institutes not expressing a preference over EU or non-EU.
EU or non-EU, once you have an offer of a job or freelance work it is time to take on Germany’s Kafkaesque bureaucracy. You need to come armed with passport, a letter from your landlord in Germany, originals of your birth certificate, and any educational certificates. Step one is to grab a German friend to help you - few German civil servants speak English. Step 2 is to register your address at the Einwohnermeldeamt, or local registry. Step 3 is to apply for residency (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) at the local Landeseinwohneramt, or Land Office. At this stage you normally have to surrender your passport for six weeks. Rumour has it that if you want to really tough it out and wait around a lot, all this can be processed in a couple of days.
Most individuals working for institutes are self-employed, or ‘freelance’. Therefore, they are responsible for paying their own tax and social security. New arrivals are required to register with the police, organise a bank account into which their wages will be paid, and get a tax number from their local tax office.
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