While looking for available jobs in Germany, you may notice that most positions require German language skills, which may make you tempted to give up on finding a job in the country. However, there is a small amount of jobs hidden in the listings that do not require German, which means that people who do not speak German can still apply for those positions (as long as they speak English).

According to a survey conducted by “indeed” in 2018, 44% of German workers use a foreign language at work; with English, French, and Russian being the most frequently used languages, in descending order. 97% of the workers are required to know English, compared to 19% for French and 12% for Russian, Statista reports.
Source: Fremdsprachen im Job: Englisch die klare Nummer 1

In this article, we have compiled a list of job opportunities for foreigners who do not speak German and are looking for a job in Germany, and we will also go through what kind of jobs are generally available for this group of people.

German companies

German companies account for more than 90% of all job opportunities in Germany, and while most companies require German as a basic requirement, there are a few that do not require this. In big cities such as Berlin and Frankfurt, the globalization of companies is particularly pronounced and the official language within some companies is naturally both German and English, and in some cases English only.

there are in fact many English-speaking jobs as international companies are popping up all over the city. With a thriving start-up scene, some have even labeled Berlin as the Silicon Valley of Europe.
Reference: English-Speaking Jobs in Berlin, How to Find One?

If you are looking for a German company where you can work using and communicating in English only, the following kind of companies would be suitable:

  • Companies in large cities
  • Relatively new companies (e.g. start-ups)
  • Companies in the IT sector
  • Companies operating in international markets

A German company that is located in the countryside, or whose business depends on the domestic market, probably has German as the official language within the company, or simply may have no need for non-German speaking personnel as they are targeting the German market in the first place.

In addition to these aforementioned kinds of companies, the following positions are more likely to not have a German language requirement:

  • IT Developer
  • System Engineer
  • Recruiter (for international personnel)
  • Marketing (outside of German market)
  • Sales (outside of German market)
  • Customer Service (outside of German market)

The common thread here is that there is no direct contact with German clients and the focus is on communicating with international clients and markets. The level of German required within the company will vary depending on the size of the company and the industry, but larger companies tend to have their internal documents in English, with daily reports and contracts written in English, so communication problems are less likely to occur.

It should be noted, though, that just because these jobs are open for applicants without German language skills, it may not necessarily mean that foreigners have an advantage when it comes to finding work in the field in question.

Even among German companies, there are a certain number of companies that are looking for personnel that speak specific foreign languages, such as Japanese. However, as mentioned above, the opposite is also true for Japanese companies that target the European market.

For example, Japan is Germany’s 15th largest trading partner in the world and has only one-fifth of the trade volume of China (source: Facts about German foreign trade), which means that the need for Japanese-speaking staff is limited. If we take away the advantage of foreigners who can speak English and other European languages, there is, in general, no need for German companies to go out of their way to hire foreigners.

Accordingly, even though it is possible for a foreigner to apply for a job in a German company where German is not required, whether or not he or she can actually win the position is another matter – seeing as there are a lot of Germans that communicate perfectly fine in English as well.

Japanese companies in Germany

On the other hand, Japanese companies with a presence in Germany are a good place for non-German speaking foreigners to find work. Compared to the German companies mentioned above, Europeans may have an advantage if they understand Japanese culture and are fluent in English and other European languages (of course Japanese is also an advantage) at a Japanese company in Germany. In fact, according to Career Management in 2020, more than half of people employed by Japanese companies tend to never reach business level German or complete beginners when they are hired.

One reason for this is that Japanese companies based in Germany are not necessarily targeting the German market, but also other European markets (France, Russia, Scandinavia, etc.) and are often engaged in developing and researching markets in these countries. Other reasons are that Japanese expatriates in Germany do not speak German, and English is often the official language of these companies.

In the following positions English, as opposed to Germans, is often required

  • International Sales
  • Sales Assistants
  • Sales Promotion and Sales Planner
  • Business Development

In the case of international sales, if you can speak a specific European language, you can become a sales representative for that region, making specific language skills an advantage for that kind of position. Among Japanese expatriates, it is rare to find someone who can speak a European language other than English, though, so there is a very real need for those who can speak a language that Japanese expatriates cannot. In particular, people with some technical skills who are fluent in a European language tend to be valued by Japanese companies in Germany.

However, this does not mean that German is a completely useless language within such a company – for this reason, many people who find a job in Germany without German language skills study German after their employment, either at a language school or by taking online lessons.

At the very least, Germans you would work with often expect you to be able to greet them and that you try to adapt to German culture, regardless of whether you can actually use the German language for business purposes or not.

In reality, Germans prefer to converse in German. Many of them would like to conduct business negotiations with customers and internal meetings in German where possible, even though they do speak English very well. In the end, it comes down to a feeling of appreciation for those that stay in Germany for a long time and that are happy to learn German – even though there is not much demand for that kind of language skills at work.
Source: ドイツ人は親日か?ドイツで現地就職して分かった意外な実情(Japanese)

Multinational companies in Germany

Finally, similarly to Japanese companies in Germany, multinational companies are also a good option for non-German speaking jobs. The reasons behind this are the same as for Japanese companies in Germany, namely that the official language within the company is English, the company often works within Europe, and the company does not necessarily focus solely on the German market.

However, the question of whether a foreigner can obtain a position in a multinational company in Germany also comes down to the same question as in the case of German companies: Is there any advantage to hiring a person who does not speak German?

For example, if a Chinese company is interviewing an English person and a Chinese national and neither of them speak German, they will hire the latter because communication would still be easier. Of the 400,000 permanent foreign students in Germany each year, 40,000 are Chinese.

Source: ICEF

Working for an American or a British company, the question of nationality is somewhat reduced as long as you can speak English, but the minimum level of English required is C1. If you only speak English, it will be more difficult to find a job. So, if you can speak English and at least one other European language, you will have a real advantage.

If we compare the three different kinds of companies that do not require German language skills; German companies, Japanese companies in Germany, and multinational companies in Germany – we find that, in the end, the best place to work as a foreigner with an understanding of Japanese culture is often at a Japanese company in Germany.