As you have no doubt realized, my wife is German. She is a Gymnasium teacher here in Hannover, Germany, and I am a freelance graphic designer. Financially, we do alright, but like the rest of the world, we could always use a little more scratch. This often prompts discussions between us concerning what we would have done professionally, had we not chosen the career paths we’re on now. (And possessed the requisite talent and basic cognitive capacity to do anything else.)
Being a high school teacher is actually a really good job in Germany — especially at the Gymnasium level. (There are 3 levels: Gymnasium for the college-bound nerds; Realschule for the lazy screw-offs; and Hauptschule for the little felons in training.) My wife’s job also comes with a few perks in addition to her paycheck, like job security equivalent to tenure, frequent paid holidays and breaks, and a big dose of respect from the general public. It’s not like in the States, where being a teacher is regarded as an act of tragic altruism: “Oh my god, you’re a public school teacher? Where you work with all those pubescent animals for free? That is so good of you. I could never do that.”
Of course there are lots of other well-paid, well-respected jobs in Germany. Engineers spring to mind — especially those in the automotive, electrical and mechanical industries — and you’ve got the usual high-earning positions, like doctors, bankers, managers and computer scientists. Software engineers and IT experts are always in demand. Bilingual folk can always find jobs teaching or tutoring. And waaaaay down at the bottom, just above the poverty line, is where you’ll find me; an American trophy husband with an art degree.
I’m just kidding. It’s a fine arts degree. But if you’re a fellow expat and you’re worried about finding a job, consider these rather awesome ideas from The Local.de: Ten best expat jobs in Germany. (Personally, I like the one about being a beer tour guide. Holy Christ that would rule.)
Anyway, my wife and I were musing one night about the high-income jobs we could have had, when we started listing off the positions we thought might earn good money. I mentioned how I’d once entertained the notion of becoming a psychologist (I’m pretty sure everyone has), but my wife suggested one could earn some real money in Germany becoming an engineer for Volkswagon, saying:
“You can get a golden tooth with that one.”*
*From the German expression, “Man kann sich einen goldenen Zahn damit verdienen,” which, apparently, refers to a job that pays a lot of money. Like a pirate, I guess.