So, here we go. ‘Auf Wiedersehen’, 2018. Hello, 2019. At this time of year, many of you are probably thinking about what has been and what might be on the agenda for the year ahead. Pondering what you would like to change in your life and achieve in 2019. According to a recent YouGov survey, carried out in cooperation with the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, Germans have one thing in particular on their minds. It’s all about the work-life-balance.
TEXT: BARBARA GEIER | PHOTO © BARBARA GEIER, PEXELS
Here are the figures: 45 per cent of the survey respondents want flexible working hours and 39 per cent would like to reduce their working hours. Well, who wouldn’t? However, here’s the thing: Germany is actually already doing quite well when it comes to more flexible ways of working. The YouGov survey also asked ‘Does your company offer options to reduce working hours or work part-time?’, and 60 per cent answered that with yes. Not too bad in comparison and from my expat perspective. It’s funny how your perception changes. And my current, one based on having many working relations with Germans in Germany is that they have way more free time than people in the UK. Which might also be down to – watch out, cliché coming up – higher levels of efficiency. But that’s another topic.
Coming back to my impression of the German work-life-balance situation. Of course, I know that this is subjective. At the same time, there are certain things that are just very German for me in a working hours context that I still encounter regularly. Trying to get hold of someone on a Friday afternoon can be difficult at times (motto: come in early to make off into the weekend as soon as possible). Then there are the regular ‘Brückentage’, the famous German Fridays between bank/public holidays and the weekend. Don’t expect to find too many at work then and something to consider for everyone who has regular business relations with Germans. I mean, come on, who in their right mind would come in for just one day!
Then there are the bank/public holidays as such. After many years in the UK, I feel that Germany has just too many of them. In this context, please note that by saying “too many”, I have basically, for Germans, committed a crime. Never, ever try to suggest that the odd “Feiertag” (literally, “a day of celebration”) might be scrapped, it doesn’t go down well in Germany. Mind you, these days of leisure are not an equal figure for all. Depending on which federal state you live in, it’s a few more or less. With 13, Bavaria and its people win (lots of Catholic bank holidays). The good folk of the Bavarian city of Augsburg even get one extra for a special local festivity. In Berlin, Bremen and Hamburg it’s ‘only’ nine. Or, in a nutshell, should you ever consider moving to Germany and a good work-life-balance is high up on your agenda, make sure to move in the right direction ….
Barbara Geier is a London-based freelance writer, translator and communications consultant. She is also the face behind www.germanyiswunderbar.com, a German travel and tourism guide and blog that was set up together with UK travel writer Andrew Eames in 2010.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Discover Germany Magazine.’