Can You Live and Work in Germany without Learning German?

Article in partnership with Day Translations.

Whether you are a digital nomad or a student who is planning to move to Germany, one of the first questions to ask you is: do I need to study German before moving to Germany? Germany attracts many people each year who want to move to the country permanently, because it offers perks such as high salaries and good standards of living.

Working and Living in Germany as a Foreigner

As recently as 2023, the German government introduced new rules for foreigners who are planning to move to Germany. New immigration laws, which are intended to be fully operational by June 2024 (source: Euronews), aim at encouraging, facilitating and simplyfing moving to Germany for non-EU citizens, as long as they have demonstrable skills that are in demand in the country. The immigration rules are based on a points system.

Previously, from 2021, the German government launched a new scheme to allow non-EU persons to have dual nationality and become German citizens when they met specific requirements while also reducing the amount of time they needed to wait before they could apply for German citizenship.

In 2022 Germany had a skill shortage (source: Euronews) which resulted in 630,000 job vacancies not being filled due to lack of professional candidates. Factors such as ageing and low fertility rates throughout Europe, not just in Germany, have been identified as some of the reasons why about 50% of advertised roles on the German jobs market remain unfilled.

Skills Gap in Germany

These are the industry sectors in Germany that require professional candidates to fill available vacancies:

  • healthcare
  • social care
  • nursing
  • education
  • construction
  • architecture
  • surveying
  • building technology
  • manufacturing
  • production and raw material extraction
  • law
  • accounting
  • management
  • science
  • IT
  • engineering
  • transport and logistics
  • tourism and hospitality
  • general medicine
  • metallurgy.

Should You Learn German to Live and Work in Germany?

While knowledge of the German language is not strictly necessary to work in Germany, in light of new legislation to attract more foreigners, it is still advisable to learn German to become fully integrated.

Jobs in technology companies tend to be advertised in English and most can be performed entirely in English without knowledge of the German language. Some companies go the extra mile and recruit people from other countries before moving to Germany, and can provide assistance with their relocation.

However, looking at the skills gap in the German jobs market and the industry sectors that most require professional candidates, such as medicine, law or accounting, it is safe to say that having a good working knowledge of German is essential to perform well in these roles.

Berlin, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Munich and Frankfurt are the German towns with the highest number of job vacancies requiring English language skills, however job adverts entirely in English make only about 10% to 15% of the total number of vacancies. For example, multinational companies such as Amazon and Google have their European offices in Munich, while international banks have chosen Frankfurt as a key area to have a presence.

To really feel integrated into German society, foreigners can get by at first speaking only English, but they can learn German locally and that will help them in dealing with everyday tasks and dealing with public entities such as county offices and so on. For example, foreigners need to register as tax residents in their local public sector office and apply for a resident permit and work permit at the local immigration office.