Negotiating salary and benefits in Germany

Hello everyone,

Better job prospects in Germany can most certainly be an incentive to leave your country of origin. Securing a contract with the right salary and benefits for you can be crucial to make your move successful.

Is salary and benefits negotiation regarded as common practice in Germany? If yes, how should you go about negotiating your package (during the hiring process, on a monthly/yearly basis...)?

What do you expect to be included in terms of benefits in your package? Which benefits do you deem necessary in Germany?

Is tax on the salary of an expat applicable in Germany or do you have to turn to tax bodies in your country of origin to pay your taxes?

Do the exchange rates of currencies impact your salary as an expat?

Looking back, are there some changes you would have made during the negotiation of your salary and benefits package?

Thank you for sharing your experience,


During the hiring process, salary (and some benefits, see below) can be negotiated somewhat, but don't expect a great change (single digit percentages only).
If you are unsure of your market value, say so and ask for a first offer by the company. It will not be far off what you are worth to them - companies do not usually take advantage of your ignorance!
All salaries are quoted before taxes and other deductions, no German employer would agree on a fixed after-tax amount! Also, everything is in Euro and no allowance for exchange rate fluctuations will be given - that's regarded your own private matter.
Reimbursement of moving cost (even for an international move) is usually granted, as is other relocation assistance incl. rental agent costs.
A company car that can also be used privately is a possibility for managers and anybody who needs to travel frequently within Germany and neighbouring countries - but familiarize yourself with the taxation rules for this: Even a car given to you for free will cost and might turn out more expensive than a second hand one paid for by yourself!
Less common, but not unheard of for expats, are home trips or subsidies for international school fees.
Everything else is difficult to non-existent. In particular, you should not ask for changes to annual leave allocation (which is anyway very generous in Germany), health or other insurance cost, etc. - you will receive the (company or legal) standard here.
Housing allowances or company-provided housing are also very uncommon.
Tax-wise, you will be treated same as a German. Because taxation rules are complicated, written in German  and often counter-intuitive (plus doing things wrongly, even unintentionally, can be a criminal offense), you should engage a German tax adviser to deal with these matters for you. Many Germans do likewise!

My experience has been that they are not very open to negotiation.  If they really need you, if you are in a job category that has employee shortages in Germany, then you're in a better position.  You can then negotiate slightly, possibly get them to pay for a free transport ticket, and/or a slightly higher salary.

The concept of "win-win" is not the negotiation ideal for most Germans.  Rather, they only see their own viewpoint and will often not budge from their position, which they perceive as correct or appropriate. Sometimes they do take advantage of a foreigner's lack of knowledge of aspects of the German system, but generally not.  But, you generally have to ask for information, it's not often volunteered, as the onus is on you to find out.

I've also found that foreigners are not always as well-respected by Germans as other potential German employees, and they sometimes see foreign workers as a "cheaper commodity".  I know somebody who works in HR for a large well-known German company.  He said that his experience is that Germans are definitely looked at first, and only if they cannot find a suitable German candidate, will they consider a foreigner.  Creativity is often not recognized, or given as much value, as perceived perfection in the working environment.  If you're in a creative industry, it can be frustrating. 

Since Germans hate being wrong, I have, on more than one occasion, been told that my choice of words or linguistic constructions were incorrect!  My German is at an almost native level, and I make a living from writing, as well as linguistic services. Dealing with this kind of attitude from superiors whose English is far from perfect can be very difficult and frustrating.

As beppi mentioned, you can negotiate somewhat during the hiring and contract negotiation process. Usually, companies want you to state your salary expectations, so it helps to do your research here and to not be afraid to ask for what you're worth. When my husband got his first job, he was a bit modest in this, and he found out later that his colleague with less experience and who started at the same time (it was his first job, but he'd done an apprenticeship alongside his degree and a work placement afterwards) got paid a higher salary than he did simply because he'd asked for it (ps my husband is not an expat...he's just really modest). Salaries are very rarely posted in job ads here, so you'll have to go by statistics and asking around. If you really can't figure it out, then you'll have to ask the company to make you an offer.

You can renegotiate your salary whenever your contract is up. If you're on an unlimited contract, you can bring it up once every year or so.

As beppi mentioned, negotiations are mostly open for salary, transport, and relocation costs. I also wouldn't negotiate leave policies (we have legal minimums and your holiday time is usually pretty generous to begin with), but you can maybe also negotiate on things like whether you have set working hours or flexitime.

As for being open to negotiation, it really depends on the sector. In tech, they are *definitely* open to negotiation and you should be prepared to get involved in the process. In Berlin, they need more people in tech than they have, so they have a lot of wiggle room for what they're willing to offer you. By contrast, in the arts (my field lol), you take what you get and are just happy you have a job.

Hi Bhavna,

Germany is nice country to work but strict, payouts are also good but depends on your experience and Industry.
Regarding negotiation: Yes you can do it as they are very direct and nothing hidden
Tax: depends on your Tax class
Good Salary : In hand starting from 3500 and above is good to start
Job safety : It depends on company but 99% safe

Hello, '

Previously,  I have not so good experience with salary negotiation with in Germany.
I am an expat came to Germany for seeking an employment.
I had an interview with a company and it went quite good. They were happy with my experience and skills I had. Then they released a draft contract for just having a look over for German laws and regulations. I read it with great interest and happy to know new things of German work culture.
And I was bit unhappy with the remuneration provided in the draft contract.
I contacted them with uncertainty about it. Then they didn't come back to me about their decision it's nearly a month now this thing happened to me.

I nearly feel bad, that if I wouldn't have asked for a salary negotiation. Maybe I would have the job and joined the company in this month mid.

Does anyone have the same kind of experience, please do share and did you happen to overcome it or anyone can help me with some of your suggestions. ?

How you start any salary negotiations can make a big difference, and a tactful approach is needed (which, of course, is a matter of cultural sensitivities and difficult for a foreigner).
It is always best to let the other side give an offer, rather than asking for a specific salary number (i.e. "I assume the salary figure in the draft contract is just a placeholder, as we have not yet discussed the actual number. What is your best offer in this respect?" is better than "The salary offered in the draft contract is below my expectations. Could it be raised to XXX?").
But in your case, after a month, it is legitimate to contact them again and ask when the expected final contract would arrive. At least you deserve a proper reply. (In Germany, no answer does NOT automatically mean "No" and being slightly pushy towards your goals can be seen as positive!)

I am sorry you had to go through this experience.  As I mentioned earlier, often foreign workers are seen as a "cheaper resource".  Often, communication is either lacking or very impersonal. My advice would be to contact them and ask whether you are still being considered and that you are flexible on remuneration. (If you want to leverage some upper hand, and are willing to walk away, perhapss tell them that you have another offer and need to make a decision).  If you really want the job, ask for feedback and say you will consider the current offer. However, you should NOT be ignored.  They are not obliged by law to give you feedback, but it is a very good idea to follow up and ask for feedback.  They may be looking for cheaper employees, so just waiting to see who else they could get.  That's the hard truth :)  Good luck!

Unlike Magnette above, I have not encountered any real discrimination when it comes to job offers and salaries. It happens (and is fair in my opinion) that a company deducts a "risk premium" because of the uncertainty and additional formalities for employing a (non-EU) foreigner, but a dedicated search for the cheapest option does not normally happen (at least for skilled jobs) - after all, the cost of having an unhappy, non-performing employee is far greater than the potential savings.
Things are of course different for unskilled, manual labour jobs - but there everybody is treated like shit, regardless of nationality.

Beppi, it's the very first time I've heard of a "risk premium."  Interesting.  However, when I was employed in Germany, I was privy to various contracts for new employees (I was asked to translate and explain to them as I am fully bilingual).  I noticed that foreign employees (even from the other EU Member States) were offered lower remuneration packages, with regularity. It has also come to my attention that various large companies are actually employing via Poland, Czech Republic etc. due to the fact that salary offers are lower, instead fo Germany-based employees.  I think it's a trend!

Interesting opinions here. I don't think it is mutually exclusive that a company considers a risk premium – and that they look to save money by hiring foreigners. I look at it this way, consider nursing; there is a big shortage in Germany and they are making special rules to attract foreigners. But strict market economics says that they would find enough locals if they would just pay enough and offered better working conditions. I think they take the risk of integration problems into account but figure the savings outweighs the cost.

@beppi, @Magnette, Thanks for your sharing your thoughts.

Ya, I have been following up with the HR via call and e-mails. They just don't respond to it. No, idea on what's going on with them.  At least they can respond with a "yes" or "no", so that I can move forward with it.
My situation of dilemma, kills me.

Nevertheless, it just happened (a bad nightmare) and I have to move on from here.. ! :proud