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Secondments: what I wish I knew before moving

Seconded to his firm’s Düsseldorf office, Jake Foster has had to rapidly get to grips with a different working life and culture, but despite the stress is able to find he can still add value. Just don’t use the wrong language!

May 2018

Guten Tag aus Düsseldorf, I am currently on secondment to our office here for six months and having only just moved to Germany, the stress and excitement is still fresh on my mind. Here are just a few things I wish someone had told me before making the move:

Life will be different

Having holidayed in Germany before, I thought I had a good idea of what to expect. However, unlike being a tourist, I’m now having to set up a permanent life in a different country, with no idea where to begin! From opening a bank account, finding a house share and registering my residency, the first few days were definitely stressful.

Despite the initial stress, everything in a new language feels like a small achievement. You’ll appreciate the successful trip to the hairdresser and the first time you get your monthly travel card much more in a different language and country. Make sure you’re prepared to make mistakes and push yourself outside your comfort zone.

Work will be different

Although IFRS provides a common global framework for company finances, many German companies still report under local accounting regulations.

However, the knowledge I gained while studying the ACA, coupled with my experience in the UK still meant that I could add value. Many German companies want to do business in the UK and many international companies have subsidiaries in Germany. Having someone who has knowledge of the UK accounting and tax system there to speak to face to face has already proven helpful to some of their clients.

Be prepared to work at a different level than you are used to; you won’t know the local accounting standards straight away and unless you’ve studied accounting in the target language, and there will be lots of new vocabulary you’ll need to learn.

Culture will be different

Germans are known to be serious and although that generally isn’t true, it is with work. Coming from a fairly relaxed and open office, the “hierarchical” system here is very evident.

I’m still greeted with an amused look when introducing myself as Jake instead of Mr Foster. Furthermore, in German there are effectively two languages – the formal and informal. Use the wrong one and you may end up offending someone!

However, Germans certainly work hard and play hard! Longer hours Monday to Thursday means packing up and leaving early on Fridays for a longer weekend! Advanced clarification of office culture, key persons and working times will go a long way to help settling in.

Jake Foster is a manager at ECOVIS Wingrave Yeats and member of Younger Members London.

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