The most common argument which prevails against students going to Germany is that ‘Why to go to Germany when you can earn maybe ten times more in the United States.’ Well, this is factually true. Most of the time, you will indeed be earning more in the United States than what you make in Germany.
But don’t just stop at the numbers. There’s more to the story and the kind of life you get living in the respective countries.
Disclaimer: I am not writing this article to deter your intention of living in America. I only wish to provide an insight into all the challenges.
For comparison, a mechanical engineer in Germany earns around 2,800 to 4,500 Euros per month, after masters. However, in the United States, the salary will be about 7,000 to 8,000 USD. But, there is much more attached to it beyond these numbers. When you start working with the companies, the employer makes sure that for every cent he is giving you, he takes out a Euro worth work out of you. So let us discuss the factors attached beyond the numbers which go to shows that ‘There is no such thing as free money.’
Immigration is usually easier in Germany. If you have been planning on going to the united states for your masters, you must have heard about the turmoil after Trump became the president. There are tons of problems with US H1B and F1 Visa cropping up every day; it is making life strenuous for students who wish to go to the United States for further studies. And for those who reside in the universities, it has become a nightmare to even think about the hefty loans they took before flying in the country with high hopes and expectations.
People who study in the States get better jobs with higher salaries. The education quality is excellent, the opportunities are limitless, and the career trajectory is worth every trouble that a remote student faces in a foreign land. As much flattering as the idea of studying in the U.S. sounds to you, here’s a hard-hitting fact you must adapt your mind into- Life in the U.S. is not as rosy as it seems.
The entrepreneurs in the United States promote the culture of Fast Hiring and Fast Firing. Many times there will be no prior notice, and you would be fired right away without even been given an opportunity for improvisation. The employees in the United States face low stability in jobs. They have a ‘go get it’ attitude. Because of abundance in the availability of skilled employees, the replacement ratio is high, and you have to outperform to sustain your job position.
However, this culture is not prevalent in Germany. In Germany, the employer cannot fire you right away for any lousy work you are doing. He needs to give you at least three written warnings. If you are not able to achieve the desired results, the group leader discusses with you the ways how you can improve your work. Germany has a more ‘let’s play it safe’ attitude. Thus, when it comes to job security, Germany stands way ahead than the United States.
In Germany, there is an exceptionally well established social system to support the employed people, i.e., if the employee fires you, you are entitled to earn at least 60% of your income as the unemployment allowance. This percentage even goes to 75% in some areas of Germany. Thus, you will be saved from bankruptcy in difficult times. In the United States, you cannot expect such kind of government supports.
The United States has vast geography, which makes transportation complex. Due to the lack of an excellent public transportation system, it is preferred to have a private car. Thus the complexity of transportation adds to the cost of living in terms of fuel, insurance, or even expensive cab rides. Meanwhile, the cities in Germany are closely interconnected. The country offers excellent public transportation. Taking a walk or bike ride for nearby destinations is most preferred.
The healthcare facilities in the United States are the most debatable. Even a short stay in the hospital can crunch your pockets very severely, even with insurance. This is because the big pharma and insurance companies maintain good relations with the government and always have their back when it comes to cases against them. Germany offers Universal healthcare. The government mostly runs the healthcare companies, so a trip to hospitals will cost very little to no money. There is a Sickness fund called the ‘Krankengeld’, which even offers compensation for loss of income that occurred while you were sick. German labor and employment law requires the continuation of full salary payments for six weeks in case of an employee’s sickness.
The United States has one of the most popular universities in the world, with considerable infrastructures and facilities. The fees for the universities here are too costly. There is always an option of an education loan, but the repayment becomes quite a task. In Germany, however, education is mostly free of cost. You just have to pay a bare minimum contribution. The universities in Germany promotes research and specialization. The universities might not match the USA’s lavish infrastructural building, but it is in no respect of lesser value.
The United States has a culture of hard work and long hours. The employers in the USA expect you to work long hours and show high dedication towards your job. If you fail to do so, they could just fire you and appoint someone better at your place instantly. The job market is very competitive, and you have to keep performing better and better to sustain the competition. If you fail to do so, the company will always have a replacement ready for you. In Germany, importance to work-life balance is emphasized because a frustrated worker can never give better results. Working on weekends is not encouraged. Spending time with friends and family every weekend is the culture that prevails here. German companies also mandate paid vacations for the rejuvenation of employees. Germany offers a more relaxed work-life and aims to strike a perfect balance between work and life compared to the United States.
More vacation at work. In Germany, you are legally guaranteed a paid minimum entitlement of 20 days of vacation if you work five days a week on a full-time job, and 24 if you work six days a week. If you are disabled, you get five days more. If you are underage, you also get more (between 25 – 30 days, depending on your age). In practice, almost everybody often gets even more (between 25 – 30 days). On average, Germans get 29 days of vacation.
The European Union is way stricter if it comes to what is allowed in our food and personal care products. While the European Union has taken restrictive measures to ensure that a lot of potentially harmful food additives and ingredients in personal care products don’t reach its consumers, most of these substances, however, are still allowed and used in the USA.
Childcare is way cheaper in Germany than in the U.S. If you have underaged children (who live with you), you are entitled to receive child allowance from the government. For the first two children, it’s €204 (each), for the third one €210 and from the forth one on €235. If the children go to a trade school or university, you can receive that money during that time, even if they are older than 18 years old (but only up to 25 years old). Germany gains more points in this aspect.
Thus, there may be pay-scale differences between the United States and Germany, but they also come attached to a lot of factors. Moving to a different country is a huge decision and needs to be taken with the utmost research. So it becomes essential to compare the opportunities in both not just in terms of money, but also in terms of lifestyle and work cultures and your level of comfort with it.