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Frankfurt has been a popular expat destination for decades. Its major drawcard is its thriving economy, and the opportunities it provides for ambitious professionals.
The workplace in Frankfurt is certainly not for the faint-hearted. New arrivals are expected to work hard and efficiently and to prove their worth. Their hard work is usually rewarded with great salaries and the excellent standard of living that Frankfurt is known for.
Job market in Frankfurt
Frankfurt is the financial, commercial and industrial capital of Germany and, along with Paris and London, one of the major banking and financial centres of Europe. The city is home to more than 400 banks and financial institutions as well as the Frankfurt Stock Exchange – the largest in Germany.
Major names in finance with large operations in Frankfurt include Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse, UBS, Royal Bank of Scotland, KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Deloitte. The city is also home to two important central banks, namely the European Central Bank and the German Federal Bank.
The aviation industry is another prominent employer in Frankfurt. Frankfurt International Airport is one of the world's busiest airports and the single largest place of work in Germany, employing more than 70,000 people. Other major employers in the aviation industry include Lufthansa, Condor and Fraport.
Frankfurt is also home to Germany's highest concentration of lawyers and, as a result, most of the world's large international law firms maintain offices in the city, including Allen & Overy, Baker & McKenzie, Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Linklalters and Norton Rose Fulbright.
Finding a job in Frankfurt
Such a high-profile work environment means expats should prepare for a competitive, professional and fast-paced experience. Most expats work in the financial, banking and business industries, and most often for international employers that are building their presence in Germany. It is important to note that many of the expats in Frankfurt are relocated by companies they have worked for previously, or are headhunted, so it is important to be well qualified when applying for positions in the city.
Expats trying to find work in Frankfurt can start by using online sources for some useful insights into the types of jobs available in the city. Those looking for work in niche industries will benefit from networking and making contacts with those already in their field in Frankfurt.
Speaking German is not a prerequisite for many jobs in Frankfurt, but some knowledge of the local language will certainly be beneficial to new arrivals hoping to pursue a successful career in the city, both to better business interaction and to smooth out social dealings. Ideally, German lessons should be taken before arrival in Frankfurt.
Expats from non-EU countries and some newer EU-member states are required to have a work visa to commence employment in Frankfurt. This can be applied for at the German consulate in an expat's home country. EU nationals have the considerable advantage of not requiring a work permit in Frankfurt.
Work culture in Frankfurt
The work culture in Germany's commercial hub is somewhat conservative. Expats will need to understand and incorporate elements of German business culture into their practices if they wish to be successful and make a good impression in the local workplace.
Business culture in Germany is generally formal, while efficiency in the workplace is paramount. Time is money, so being punctual is important. Once the meeting begins, Germans get straight down to business and there's little room for small talk.
Punctuality and appearance are important, so expats should dress well and arrive at meetings fully prepared and on time. It's best to avoid humour, especially at first, as it can be misconstrued. One should expect to be asked detailed questions and have facts and figures on hand to back up what is being presented.
Although most Germans speak good English, many prefer to speak their own language when it comes to business negotiations. Expats who don't speak German should consider hiring a translator for important meetings. Newcomers to Berlin will find that Germans are generally private and maintain a strict separation between work and home life, so it may take some time to forge more personal relationships with colleagues.