Germans in the UK

Germans in the UK is a series in which some of my German friends and contacts tell us about their experience of living and working in the UK.

I decided to start the series because a number of my customers want to know about life in the UK. Some of them want to live here. Whilst I can talk about some differences that I’ve noticed, I’m English, I’ve always lived here and I can’t comment on what it’s like to move to another country.

Therefore I interviewed some people who can give a first-hand report on moving to the UK from Germany.


1.How long have you been living in the UK?

I’ve been living here for 12 years already.

2. What are two important things that you did in terms of preparation before you left Germany?

I did not prepare much, the move wasn’t planned. I took English lessons long before I even considered moving, simply because I wanted to speak the language. However, before moving, I was trying to find a job and once I got my contract (which I didn’t actually sign), I decided it’s time to move.

3. How did you go about finding somewhere to live?

I always wanted to live somewhere else, not quite in the UK though, I was considering Paris as well as the US – I took part in the Green Card lottery several times.
I eventually met my boyfriend (now husband) who happened to live in the UK, the rest is history.

4. How did you go about making new friends and meeting new people when you got here?

Finding friends was and still is very difficult, this is where you experience the cultural differences which are not so obvious initially. I figured out I simple don’t have much in common with most people I’ve met so most social contacts are rather superficial – this includes people you meet and have drinks with in the tennis club for example.

5. What would you say is different here in terms of applying for jobs. Is there anything that surprised you?

From my experience, finding a job here is much easier than in Germany, less formal. Job search goes via head hunters who arrange everything for you. Salary talks are quite open. What impressed me most though is the fact that people look at the experiences of a candidate rather than their picture – probably because there isn’t any.

6. Do you know any good websites, books or other resources for people who want to improve their English?:

Reading books or news helps a little bit but to actually learn the language you need to talk talk talk to people – nobody cares about your accent or any errors you make initially.
You’d be surprised how much you don’t know. It was intimidating for me initially but helped a lot to pick up the spoken language you never learn at school.
(I took English lessons long before I moved so grammar was not an issue. I strongly recommend to familiarise yourself with the basics – Kirsty can help here – when you plan to apply for a job though).

7. What or who has helped you most in terms of developing your language skills?

My husband doesn’t speak German so I had no choice, this helped a lot.
You will make errors, try to make them only once as sometimes a simple phrase translated from German may have a completely different meaning in English (which may not always be polite – I learned it the hard way). If not sure, use a dictionary, I still use one – even after 12 years.

8. Have you noticed any big differences in terms of how people do business, what happens in business meetings or how colleagues relate to one another here?

I noticed that it is not uncommon here that people don’t greet each other while in Germany we shake hands with every colleague in the morning – it’s still a bit awkward not getting a reply when saying good morning…
Also, a lot of people here do not speak up in meetings for example, this must be a German thing.
People work long hours but don’t get much done, many people lack efficiency and prefer to discuss things rather than do things.

9. Is there anything that you wish someone had told you about life in the UK or anything that took time to get used to?

No, had I known what I know now I would have considered my move ;-) It is fun making your own experiences and as everyone is different, there are many things that I find annoying which other people like and vice versa.

10. What food or drinks do you miss most? What are the first things that you buy when you go back to Germany?

Spargel (white asparagus) – unknown in the UK
Crusty rolls (Brötchen) – they simply don’t taste the same here


Further articles in this series

If you would like to answer these questions as well or to view the other articles in this series, go to the main Germans in the UK page.

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Author: Kirsty Wolf

I am an English teacher and a language enthusiast who also speaks German and Romanian. I help motivated professionals to improve their English so that they can communicate confidently and authentically.

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