Teaching English in Germany
Begin Work Within a Week
Germany is a country starved for TEFL certified English trainers. And the demand for English promises only to increase. With a little advance planning, teachers can expect to begin work within a week or two of arrival in Germany.
Christina Peyser, an American who moved to Bremen in July 2001, sent out 30 letters from the U.S. to schools around Germany. She received nine positive responses-four of them outright job offers-and ended up with a full-time teaching position within a month.
"All in all, it wasn't too complicated or difficult," says Peyser. "The bureaucracy has been annoying but my school has helped out a lot with that." And, she added, none of the schools cared whether or not she spoke German. For most teachers it is enough just to log onto the German yellow pages, pick a city, and send out a batch of resumes.
Experienced teachers can demand up to DM60 or even higher, per hour, but the average is DM40 (approximately $20). Many schools also provide "travel money," compensating for the time it takes to get to lessons held in outlying companies. It is important to shop around and know what you are being offered before accepting a job.
And before pulling up roots and flying off to Germany, prepare yourself for a shock. Taxes in Germany can be brutal. From an income of DM3,000 per month the German government takes DM500 in taxes (17 percent). In addition, freelancers now have to pay into the German pension fund with a contribution of almost 20 percent. After factoring in health insurance and rent, there might not be much left over. Some teachers, however, can qualify for minimum taxes and exemption to pension contributions. (Trainerversorgung, www.trainerversorgung.de, offers advice on both.) In addition, private insurance companies offer cheap, comprehensive health insurance to foreigners who plan to live in Germany for no more than five years.
Another strategy, says Sue Morris, member and event organizer for the Munich English Language Teacher's Association (MELTA), is to find a company that hires teachers on a full-time basis. Teachers still only work about 25 hours a week but benefit from reduced health insurance, four weeks' paid vacation, and reduced pension payments. As teachers and schools become aware of the difficulties the new pension law imposes, wages will go up and demand for teachers will continue to rise.
Once in Germany the process of becoming legal is relatively simple. To get a residency permit you need to provide proof of work, proof of health insurance, and proof that you have made arrangements for paying into the pension fund. In addition, you have to provide a German address.
The best approach is to go to the local registration office (Meldungsstelle) as soon as you have written proof of a job offer. They will tell you what additional steps you need to take and will give you a temporary 3-month visa while you fulfill the requirements. For detailed, step-by-step instructions go to www.expatica.com and look under "Essentials."
Germany's central location makes it a great place from which to explore Europe, and its high living standard and friendly population make it a great country to live in.
"People here take education very seriously," says Sue Morris. "From an educator's and a traveler's standpoint, it really is a great place to be."