Jaroslav Plotnikov

QUESTIONS for Germany

Hi there, my name is Jaroslav, I’m self employed migration educator living in Berlin. After my first bookInterviews with IT-professionals from Russian speaking countries I got inspired to write a second book. On the screenshot you can see the mockup cover (it supports my motivation 🙂 ).

As an expert in the particular field you’re competent in a particular area, I guess? So if you can answer at least some questions, please send me your address in comments below (it will never appear – it’s just for my eyes) or per email at info@yarve.com The subject of your email can be something like “List of questions for Germany”. Feel free to use any email address (Gmail address however offers the most features). I’ll send you the access to my Google Docs.

Don’t worry about your English. Most of reader are not native speakers. They would be happy to read the explanations given in simple English.

Please keep in mind the target group: IT-Professionals, wishing to work and stay Germany for 1-2 years or for longer.

Occupation status: regular employee OR freelancer OR small business owner. 
Qualification:
  developers, analysts, testers, programmers, administrators, sales managers… The point is work experience in IT-branch.
Country of origin
:  Non-EU countries: India, Turkey, Russia, China. EU-countries: Italy, Spain, France, Austria, UK, Poland.

NOTE: The named countries deliver the highest skilled migration rates. Actually the book intended to be for any person from any countryhowever above all for citizens of non-EU countries.

LEGEND: unclear meaning / related to freelancer / these passages are not checked by English native and can be awkward*

*- feel free to make improvement suggestions to the awkward / poor / unclear / wrong formulations.


Table of contents:

 1. Country
Current Stats • Quick history as it affects current business environment • 2017-2018 zeitgeist • Near-future outlook • Relationship with other countries;

 2. Culture
Mindset • Europe • Collectivism vs Individualism • Local differences  • Personal attitudes towards foreigners • What to wear • Attitude towards time and promises • Common conversational references • How to blend in • When not to blend in • Recommended reading/watching;

 3. Life
Quality of life • Cost of living • Western standards vs local standards • Language / English proficiency • Safety • Immigration / Visa / Citizenship • Where to live (short-term and long-term) • Typical living arrangements • Transportation • Internet / Phone • Food •  Credit card? Cash? Check? • Availability of products/services • What’s not online • Differences in service standards • Expat community • Recommended resources

 4. Corporate culture
Business mindset • Understanding “German way” • Direct vs indirect communication • How to deal with direct communication and criticism;

 5. German Business world – how it built, how it works
Hierarchy • Who to speak with in organizations • Business attitudes towards foreigners • Signals of respect • How to build trust • Introductions • Business cards • Negotiation • Signaling success • Innovation vs status • Passing-through vs Full-time • Advantages to foreigners • Advantages to locals • Risks • Corruption;

 6. Government – its position to foreign professionals and entrepreneurs
General role of government • Who’s who: departments you need to know • What the government is emphasizing now • Incentives • Grants;

 7. Salaried Employment 
Ease of getting work permit • Job hunting • Interview and etiquette. Non-verbal communication • Salary and Bonus • Test period. Competition. Mobbing • Christmas bonus & other premiums • Social insurance & payroll deductions • Taxes & Tax refund • Rights, obligations, labor protection of employee. Trade unions • Share-out of available jobs;

 8. Money
Banking overview • Bank comparison • How to open an account • Online banking • Paying employees • Paying vendors • Getting a bank loan • Getting investors • What if they don’t pay?

 9. Freelance Setup
Ease of opening and maintaining freelance • Which professionals are required • Business name choice • Freelance business structure choice • Incorporating – steps, timeline, cost • Real estate • What your location says about your business • Permits • Finding orders and clients • Freelancer loans and Negotiating • Contracts • Lawyers • Accountants • Paying taxes • Ongoing requirements • Labor laws and Unions for IT-freelancers • Contracts • Recommended resources

10. Family
Right to family reunificationSpouseChildrenParents and other relatives

11. Permanent residence / citizenship
Quick overview of all possibilities to stay a long time in Germany (IT-branch) • Germany and EU – European Aufenthaltserlaubnis and Niederlassungserlaubnis • From a visitor until the citizen – the full chain • Basic stats.

 


 

1. Country

1.1 Current Stats

  • What is the size of Germany in square km? Brief geographic facts.
  • What is the total population of Germany? What are the top ethnic groups and religions as a percentage of population?
  • What are the economic statistics of Germany? Gross domestic product (GDP)? Average income per-person? National debt? Growth percentage of last two years?

1.2 Quick history as it affects current business environment 

  • Give a short modern history of Germany – just enough for basic conversational knowledge and context.
  • Give a short history of Germany since 01.01.2005 (“Immigration Law”, Aufenthaltsgesetz), focusing on aspects that would affect skilled migrants, small business owners and freelancers with immigrant background.
  • How has the recent history of the country affected people in terms of their living and business environment?

1.3 2017-2018 zeitgeist

  • Give an overview of the current 2017 political, societal, and economic condition of Germany, focusing on aspects that would affect skilled migrants,small business owners and freelancers with immigrant background.

1.4 Near-future outlook

  • What social changes in Germany seem very likely in the next five years?
  • What economic changes in Germany seem very likely in the next five years?
  • What political changes in Germany seem very likely in the next five years?

1.5 Relationship with other countries

  • What is Germany’s relationship with the Austria? Cooperative or competitive? Similarities or differences? What is the main trade between the two?
  • What is Germany’s relationship with Netherland? Cooperative or competitive? Similarities or differences? What is the main trade between the two?
  • What is Germany’s relationship with UK? Cooperative or competitive? Similarities or differences? What is the main trade between the two?
  • What is Germany’s relationship with the USA? Cooperative or competitive? Similarities or differences? What is the main trade between the two?

2. Culture

2.1. Mindset

  • Describe the mindset of most people in Germany. Progressive or conservative? Future-focused or present-focused? Work-focused or pleasure-focused? Optimistic or cautious? Pressing for change, or maintaining traditions? Strict or easy-going? Or, if the mindset is very divided between groups, please describe the divide. (Feel free to just share your personal opinion.)
  • What are some of the major internal conflicts that Germany is going through now? (Between political parties, age generations, demographics, ideologies, etc.) Summarize each side’s argument.
  • How would you describe the views of the general public about the government of Germany?
  • What are the 2-3 main taboo-topics, which you’d better avoid talking with Germans?

2.2 Europe

  • What basic cultural norms do you think foreigners should know about working with people in European countries in general?
  • What basic cultural norms do you think foreigners should know about working with people in Germany, as compared to European countries in general?
  • What are some of the most common mannerisms when meeting with people?
  • When people go out to eat or drink together, how is it decided who pays? (Describe business and personal situations separately.) 

2.3 Collectivism vs Individualism 

  • As compared to  Slavic/Oriental/Asian  collectivism, Germany is more of a community/group-focused or individuum-focused culture? Describe these differences from a local point of view.

2.4 Local differences

If you are not from one of those countries / regions, just ignore this question.

  • What are the cultural differences between people in Germany and Austria?
  • What are the cultural differences between people in Germany and France?
  • What are the cultural differences between people in Germany and India?
  • What are the cultural differences between people in Germany and Italy?
  • What are the cultural differences between people in Germany and the Netherland?
  • What are the cultural differences between people in Germany and Poland?
  • What are the cultural differences between people in Germany and Russia?
  • What are the cultural differences between people in Germany and Spain?
  • What are the cultural differences between people in Germany and Turkey?
  • What are the cultural differences between people in Germany and Great Britain?
  • What are the cultural differences between people in Germany and the USA?
  • What are the cultural differences between people in Germany and Canada?
  • What are the cultural differences between people in Germany and Australia?

 

2.5 Personal attitudes towards foreigners

  • How do people view foreign tourists in Germany?
  • What is the common opinion about foreign workers, coming to Germany to work? Is it a business or labour market threat? Is it a cultural threat?
  • What is the common opinion about skilled migrants, coming to Germany to work in the company as employee or freelancer or set up a business?
  • Which foreigners are generally most welcome? Which foreigners are generally least welcome?

2.6 What to wear

  • What is the most appropriate corporate/meeting clothing (as well in big company as in small one) for men in Germany? What would be considered too casual or disrespectful?
  • What is the most appropriate corporate/meeting clothing for women in Germany? What would be considered too casual or disrespectful?
  • How can you tell by their clothing that someone is high-status or low-status?

2.7 Attitude towards time and promises

  • What is the Germany attitude towards punctuality? For example, if two people agreed on an 11:00 business meeting, what time range to arrive would be considered acceptable? What is considered late?
  • What is the Germans attitude towards promises? Are you expected to stick to your promise, no matter what? Or is it common to change your mind? If latter, which excuses are acceptable?

2.8 Common conversational references

  • What is a common Germany expression that a foreigner might not understand?

2.9 How to blend in

  • How can a foreigner blend in to Germany? What advice would you give foreigners on how not to stick out so much?
  • How can a foreigner become a part of the professional community (according to his profession/skills) in Germany? What is a good way to meet many people and make connections?

2.10 When not to blend in

  • Is it best for a foreigner IT-professional doing employed or freelance work in Germany to blend in? Or is there an advantage to not blending in?

2.11 Recommended reading/watching

  • What books, magazines, newspapers, or websites would you recommend a foreign IT-specialist to better understand Germany and its professional environment?

3. Life

3.1 Quality of life

  • Describe the general quality of life in Germany (Utilities, cleanliness, safety, amenities, physical comfort.) If very different in different areas, describe each separately.
  • Which parts of Germany have the nicest quality of life? Which parts have the worst? Describe each.

3.2 Cost of living

  • What is the average cost of rent for a 1-bedroom (unfurnished) apartment? What is the average cost for an unfurnished small house (or large apartment) for a 5-person family?
  • What would it cost per-month for one person to live a nice, but not luxurious, life in Germany? Include food, utilities, transportation. For freelancer / self-employed also include the basic insurances.
  • What length of time is a usual contract when renting an apartment or house? Give explanations about period of notice and damage deposit.

3.3 Western standards vs local standards

  • How does the general quality of life in Germany compare to America, Australia, or Europe? (Utilities, cleanliness, safety, amenities, physical comfort.)
  • What safety precautions would you recommend for a foreigner?

3.4 Language / English proficiency

  • Do most people in the cities of Germany speak English?
  • If someone came to Germany only speaking English, how difficult would it be to live and work?
  • Is it common for government official / police officer / employee in a bank, insurance company, department store not be able or not be wishing speaking English with “third world” foreigners?

3.5 Safety 

  • Which parts of Germany are safest? Which parts are unsafe? Describe each.
  • How do people in Germany deal with petty crimes like theft?
  • How can one generally distinguish friend from foe? Any signs to consider, or scams to beware of? For example you’re about to rent an apartment or buy a car.

3.6 Immigration / Visa / Citizenship

  • How can a non-EU citizen live and work in Germany for a few years? Do they need a work visa, investor visa, tourist visa, or something else?
  • How can someone get a visa to live in Germany long-term?
  • What are 2-4 visa types most appropriate for an IT-professional?

3.7 Where to live (short-term and long-term)

  • What are some apartments or housings in the urban areas that can be rented month-by-month, for short-term (say 3 month)? Give examples and prices.
  • Where should someone live to meet the most people from IT-environment (employers, colleagues)? What specific neighborhoods?
  • Where should someone live to be near to the action, but to be a little outside, in a neighborhood that’s better for children?
  • What are some places a foreigner should not stay, because of their lack of proximity, safety, or other reasons?

3.8 Typical living arrangements

  • What is a typical living arrangement in Germany? Do most of middle-class people live in houses or apartments?
  • Do families usually live together or close to parents, grandparents, kids, and siblings – or do they tend to live separately? How close are they in the daily life? 

3.9 Transportation

  • How do working people normally get around? (Car? Bus? Train? Taxi? Bicycle? Walk?)
  • What is the recommended transportation for someone coming to work in Germany? (Car? Bus? Train? Taxi? Rented car? Please describe options, prices, and recommendations.)

3.10 Internet / Phone

  • What are the most popular mobile phone/data providers in Germany? Which one would you recommend?
  • How much does it cost for a basic broadband (cable/fiber) internet connection in a home or office? Name speeds and prices.
  • How much does it cost for a mobile data plan (3G) for heavy internet use through a mobile phone? Describe the current best plans.

3.11 Food

  • What’s the typical cuisine of Germany? What an “average German” eat in the week? At week-end?
  • Is it easy to find asian / oriental food (restaurants or food stores)? Asian / oriental food in supermarkets?
  • What’s the etiquette of using your hands or utensils for eating? Any inappropriate manners that foreigners often have?

3.12 Credit card? Cash? Check?

  • How do most people pay for things? Cash? Credit card? Check? Something else?
  • What is the easiest way to get cash in Germany? How expensive is ATM-withdrawals? What are the best options?

3.13 Availability of products/services

  • What goods and services that people from Asia, Orient, Africa, South America are used to are not available in Germany?

3.14 What’s not online

  • What kinds of day-to-day necessary things people do online? (Meaning: not just fun/social, but like online banking, shopping, paying bills, using maps/location services, etc.)

3.15 Differences in service standards

  • What’s the difference in customer service between US/Canada/Australia/Europe and Germany? More service? Less service?
  • Which services might be unexpected or even astonished for someone from Asia/Orient/Africa/South America?

3.16 Expat community

  • Are there a lot of foreign expats in Germany?
  • Where do expats live in Germany?
  • Where do expats hang out in Germany?

3.17 Recommended resources

  • What are some good books that describe the life and culture of Germany?
  • What are some good internet resources that help describe life in Germany?

 

4. More culture

4.1 Business mindset

  • Summarize the business mindset of people in Germany. Ruthless? By-the-book? Improvisational? Considerate?
  • Are there any particular business types / branches that foreigners should not get involved in?

4.2 Understanding “German way”

  • Foreigners sometimes don’t understand the German concept of “justly (proper) behaviour”. How would you explain “German way of proper behaviour”?
  • How is “proper behaviour” (and dignity) a part of Germany corporate culture? Give examples.

4.3 Direct vs indirect communication

  • Give examples of direct (saying exactly what is meant) versus indirect (gestures, avoidance, vague language) communication style in Germany.
  • Is direct communication (saying exactly what is meant) considered rude?
  • How can someone understand the meaning behind communication messages, which are self-evident for native (but non-obvious for foreigners)? Any hints to help translate?

4.4 How to deal with direct communication and criticism

  • People used to very indirect communication find it hard to deal with “western” style of criticism. Give examples of some seemingly aggressive messages, which are meant not to attack but give an objective feedback or even improvement suggestion.

 

5. German Business world – how it built, how it works

5.1 Hierarchy

  • How important is hierarchy in business in Germany?
  • Is it disrespectful to deal the boss of your immediate superior?
  • Give an example of a business situation where the norms of hierarchy are not followed, (by a foreigner who doesn’t understand), and explain how they should be followed according to the norms of Germany.

5.2 Who to speak with in organizations

  • When a foreigner wants to work (as a regular employee or as a freelancer) with a Germany company, who should they contact? Go directly to the top? Start in the middle?
  • Are personal recommendations important in getting positions of employment (or getting project if you are freelancer) with new companies or can they be reached purely on a basis of your portfolio?

5.3 Business attitudes towards foreigners

  • What is the general attitude of employers in Germany towards foreigners coming to Germany to work in IT-branch? 
  • Skilled migrants from which countries are most welcome? (Skilled migrants in general and particularly IT-professionals.) Which foreigners are generally least welcome?

5.4 Signals of respect

  • What are some social etiquette actions that show respect for someone?
  • What are some social actions that would be taken as disrespectful?
  • How do people in Germany express anger? Do they usually stay quiet or express their feelings openly?
  • How do people view laughter in Germany? What kinds of jokes are not acceptable?

5.5 How to build trust

  • How can a foreigner (regular employee or freelancer/ small business owner willing do business in Germany) build trust with local businesses or people?
  • Is it important to make local friends in order to spread your service offers / business?

5.6 Introductions

  • What is the standard polite way of doing business introductions? (If someone asks you to introduce them to another business person you know.)

5.7 Business cards

  • How important are business cards (name cards) in Germany? Do most people have them?
  • What is the standard business card format in Germany? What information goes on it? Bi-lingual with one language on each side?
  • Are there proper manners for how to give your business card to someone, and how to receive someone’s card?

5.8 Negotiation

  • Give some insight and advice about business negotiations / interview for a job in Germany.

5.9 Signaling success

  • How can you tell that a person is successful? Clothing? Manners? Neighborhood? Events? Friends?

5.10 Innovation vs status quo

  • Do you feel that business is Germany is attracted to innovation, or attracted to the status quo?

5.11 Passing-through vs Full-time

  • Is there a stigma against IT-professionals / foreign business owner and freelancer (in general and in IT branch in particular) that are just passing through Germany, looking for opportunities, versus skilled migrants who came to settle there?
  • What advantages do foreigners who live full-time in Germany have over those who stay for for a limited period or just visit?

5.12 Advantages to foreigners

  • What advantages do foreigners have (versus locals) when doing business / working as freelancer / working as full-time employee in Germany?

5.13 Advantages to locals

  • What advantages do local people have (versus foreigners) when doing business / working as freelancer / working as full-time employee in Germany?

5.14 Risks

  • What are the top risks of doing business / working as freelancer / working as full-time employee in Germany?

5.15 Corruption

  • How pervasive is corruption in business in Germany? Can you give some examples? (Change the details to protect people.)

6. Government

6.1 General role of government

  • How involved is the government in the dealings of small business? 
  • Is the government of Germany open to foreign businesses or restrictive?
  • How involved is the government in the inflow of skilled migrants?
  • Is the government of Germany open to non-european IT-professionals or restrictive?

6.2 Who’s who: departments you need to know

  • What government departments will a small business / freelancer probably need to interact with? Please describe each.
  • What are some government regulations that need to be considered by foreign businesses / freelancer?

6.3 What the government is emphasizing now

  • What sectors is the government emphasizing development now? Any current mission or push?
  • Do the government hires non-european employers (IT-professionals)? If yes does it provide any advantages for permanent residence / citizenship?  

6.4 Incentives

  • What government incentives are available to new or small businesses / freelancer now? 
  • Do many small businesses / freelancer use government incentives?

6.5 Grants

  • What government grants are available to new or small businesses / freelancer now?
  • Do many small businesses / freelancer use government grants?

 

7. Salaried Employment

7. Ease of getting work permit

  • What 2-4 visa type most eligible for work in Germany in IT-branch?
  • Where to obtain these visa? In the country of origin? In Germany? In third country? How much it cost?
  • What processes or documents are required for get hired as employee?
  • What are requirements to get a work permit?
  • When is permission of employment agency (Arbeitsagentur) needed?

 

7. Labor laws, Trade Unions, Firing

  • What days and hours do most people work? Monday-Friday 9am-5pm? Also Saturday?
  • What days and hours do most people in IT-branch work? Is it very common to work overtime? (Extra hours until late evening, or extra days per week?)
  • Give a summary of the most important labor laws in Germany – that aн foreign employee should know (in general and particularly in IT-branch).
  • Are there labor unions in Germany for IT-branch available?
  • What processes or documents are required for firing an employee? What is the statutory period of notice?

 

7. Finding Jobs

  • What is the best way to find perspective job offers?
  • What are upsides and downsides of employment in a body shopping company? *
  • What’s the best way to find exceptionally fair employers in Germany?

*-  employment agency or subcontractor, which “lends” IT-professionals in other companies.

7. Salary 

  • How to find out the average salary for my skills / level?
  • What is the average salary in Germany fora mildly skilled Java developer?
  • What is the average salary in Germany fora mildly skilled front-end and back-end developer?
  • What is the difference in salary between a “3rd world” IT-professional and a German one?
  • Is there any salary inequalities in Germany? Between men and women? Between Germans and foreigners?

 

7. Interview and etiquette. Non-verbal communication. Obvious things for European

 

7. Job offer and contract

  • What are typical regulations, which an IT-freelancer can assume in the contract by default?
  • What are the key aspects to be checked carefully in order to get a fair contract?
  • What are the typical circumstances which can cause the prematurely firing an employee?
  • What is the statutory period of notice?

 

7. Probation period. Competition. Mobbing.

  • Is the probation period in Germany usual? What is the standard time span for it?
  • What happens if the candidate doesn’t pass?
  • How many foreigners working in Germany as IT-professionals? From which countries?
  • Which countries have the best reputation of programmer’s qualification?
  • What are the attitude in German companies in general – more competitive or collaborative?
  • What are two crucial things to go down well with German colleagues? What is the best strategy to avoid / deal with mobbing?

 

Christmas bonus & other premiums

  • What are usual bonuses in Germany? Which of them can one expect? Which of them rather rare? Is it common to get shares in startups?

 

Social insurance & payroll deductions

 

Taxes & Tax refund

  • Which deductions do exist in Germany (relevant for IT branch)? Describe them and explain how they to be payed.
  • How can one know the difference between Brutto and Netto?
  • When are taxes to be payed?
  • Is there a tax refund in Germany? Describe how it works. Any forms to be filled? Any terms to be kept?
  • What are Brutto and Netto?
  • Is it appropriate to ask / negotiate about the salary in the interview? If yes, how to negotiate?

 

Rights, obligations, labor protection of employee. Trade unions

Share-out of available jobs

  • What is the

 

8. Money

8.1 Banking overview

  • Give an overview of the availability and quality of small-business banking in Germany.

8.2 Bank comparison

  • Compare the top three choices for small business banking in Germany. Funds required? Costs? Online access? Visa/Mastercard debit card given?

8.3 How to open an account

  • What requirements do the banks have for opening a business account?
  • Any additional requirements for a foreigner to open a business bank account?

8.4 Online banking

  • How much of banking can be done online? Outgoing payments? International wires?

8.5 Paying employees

  • What is the usual way for a business to pay employees in Germany? What payment method and how often?

8.6 Paying vendors

  • What is the usual way for a business to pay vendors in Germany? Bank transfer? Paper check? Visa/Mastercard?

8.7 Getting a bank loan

  • How can a small business get a bank loan in Germany?

8.8 Getting investors

  • How can a small business get investors in Germany?

8.9 What if they don’t pay?

  • What legal procedures should be followed to ensure that customers pay as promised?
  • If customers don’t pay, what methods are used to get them to pay?

 

9. Freelance Setup

9. Ease of opening and maintaining freelance

  • How does Germany rank on the “Ease of Doing Freelance” in IT-branch?
  • How many IT-professionals working as freelancer (part time / full time)?
  • What’s the hardest part and other downsides about freelance work in Germany?
  • What’s the easiest part and other upsides about freelance work in Germany?

9. Which professionals are required?

 

9. Business name choice

 

9. Freelance business structure choice

 

9. Incorporating – steps, timeline, cost

 

9. Real estate

 

9. What your location says about your business

 

9. Permits

 

9. Finding orders and clients *

*-  client here is the person/company who hires you. Other category is the (end) customer – the company who needs the end product / service.
**- employment agency or subcontractor, which “lend” IT-professionals on other companies for a certain period.

9. Freelancer loans and Negotiating

 

9. Contracts

 

9. Lawyers

 

9. Accountants

 

9. Paying taxes

 

 9. Ongoing requirements

 

9. Labor laws and Unions for IT-freelancers

 

9. Recommended resources

 

10. Family

Right to family reunification

Spouse

Children

Parents and other relatives

 

11. Permanent residence

Quick overview of all possibilities to stay a long time in Germany (IT-branch)

  • What are the Government philosophy regarding regulated migration?
  • What are the basic requirements to get a German permanent residence?
  • What are the basic requirements to get a European permanent residence?

Subsequent immigration of family members

  • Who are the family members? The spouse, children, siblings, parents?
  • Is the working permits for spouse possible? Any restrictions like certain jobs, certain salary level? Is self employment for the spouse allowed?

Germany and EU – European Aufenthaltserlaubnis and Niederlassungserlaubnis
From a visitor until the citizen – the full chain.
Basic stats.


Terms:

Aufenthaltstitel befristet/unbefristet, Niederlassungserlaubnis, Visum, Bluecard


 

Any additional question-suggestions are very welcome! If you can answer at least some of the questions above, feel free  send me your address in comments below (it will never appear – it’s just for my eyes) or per email at yafalin@gmail.com – Thanks in advance for sharing your thoughts, ideas, experience with your fellow programmers !

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