When Your German Wife Makes More Money than You: Lessons from an American Expat in Germany

“It’s not a contest, Dear.” — Photo Credit:
Vladimir Pustovit (https://www.flickr.com/photos/pustovit/) — Subject to CC 2.0 Copyright.

As you know, I am a graphic designer from Portland, Oregon. After my German wife and I were married, I dropped everything — including a house, car and full-time job — and moved with her to Hannover, Germany. Overnight, I morphed from a gainfully employed agency designer to a nervously self-employed freelance designer, complete with panic attacks and night terrors in which my home mortgage  — personified by an accountant with the head of a bull — would chase me down and stab me repeatedly with a rolled-up copy of my credit report: “You’re gonna miss your next payment, you little bitch. And you’ll probably miss the one after that too, because you don’t have a steady source of income. You’re just a worthless little piece of monkey shit, aren’t you? And your wife is too nice to tell you, but your breath always sucks.”

Luckily, it all worked out. I built up a client base filled with awesome, inspirational people — most of whom found me through this blog — and I’m enjoying the hell out of working for myself. (Company policies include: “Casual Monday-through-Friday,” “Pantless Skype Sessions” and “Mandatory Pilsner Sensitivity Training.” [Our HR department has been trying to crush this last one for years.])

You know what else came as a pleasant surprise? When my wife finished her Referendariat training and landed a job as a full-time Gymnasium teacher. That’s when her income level shot past mine like a lubed-up piglet on its way to the teet. Not only did she earn more money in Euros — which, at the time, were way stronger than US Dollars — but she earned more after taxes. (Unsolicited Expat Tip of the Day: Most Germans think of their paychecks in terms of net income. They lack the requisite sense of entitlement to think of pretax money as their money. We Americans like to focus on the exact amount Uncle Sam is stealing from us, crank up our blood pressure a notch or two, then simmer through the rest of the day in impotent rage. It’s tradition.)

Anyway, when my wife landed her job, suddenly she was the primary earner, and I became a trophy wife with fake tits and an adorable hobby / business venture. You might think this would crush a real man’s ego, but if you’ve read this blog before, you know I’m not a real man at all. I loved her new pay grade! Where we simply split our financial obligations before, now we could do things on a sliding scale. And the peace of mind was the best part; I knew if I ever had a bad month, she could cover the difference and save me from taking it in the shorts.

Of course, the power dynamic has shifted a little; I can’t just shoot down every purchase decision and Ebinizer Scrooge my way through life anymore. My wife has her own money, so the other day when she suggested we get our wedding rings engraved, I refused, saying I would not be spending any more money that month. To this, she replied:

“But maybe I can spend money. I am the bread maker now.”*

*Of course she meant “bread winner,” but I like her expression way better. 

If you would like to read another classic Denglish post, check this one out: My German Wife Explains the Optimal Weather Conditions for Seasonal Allergy Attacks

21 thoughts

  1. “I became a trophy wife with fake tits and an adorable hobby / business venture. ” – wow. do you need to get your extra bits over ebay or something? ;)

    I’m married to a school teacher too – but thankfully, I was already gainfully employed in Germany before meeting her, so my manly ego didn’t get beaten up. Am definitely thankful for that!


  2. You know WHY Germans are counting their income AFTER tax? Because, when you are not self-employed (and most Germans aren’t) – you get your money from your employer already with tax deducted. I don’t know if it is the same in the US – but the state collects the tax directly from your employer. You may have repayment at the end of the year, when you tell the state what else you have spent money on (not everything, but social security costs, the costs from and to getting to work, extra money for work material – over a certain fixed rate etc.). But the idea is, that you do not NEED to declare your taxes. Of course, when you have some extra income (interest from saving accounts *muahaha*) you DO have to fill out a declaration form, but normally the person in dependent employment does not get back much and can as well leave it at that.


      1. Well, in soaps you sometimes see characters doing their tax and writing cheques (so last century), so I thought tax declaration and payment was not done by the employers – you see what kind of wrong image you get when you watch too much TV.


  3. Yeah, I still have to get the hang of it. I keep complaining to my friends about how much I have to pay on tax every quarter upfront (freelance) and they look at me patiently shaking their heads and say, but why don’t you just put it aside, it’s not really YOURS anyway…sigh.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. My wife makes double what I do now since she became a college professor, and you know what? My ego is fine. Now I can spend almost my entire paycheck on crap I want! hahaha, after 401K and savings and rent and car payment and utilities, wait, I’m still paying all the bills. What’s up with that?


  5. I kind of want to see an over-the-top action movie with a tough German lady exclaiming, “I am the bread maker now” before shooting someone to bits….

    …it just sounds like the BEST action movie catchphrase!


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