Germany without speaking German?

Hey fellow monkeys

I will soon start as an analyst 1 in a tier 3 bank (RBC, Nomura, SocGen) in London. However, my girlfriend is German and she has two years left of her studies in Germany (near Frankfurt).

I really want to go to Germany to be with her, but all the jobs in IBD seem to require fluency in German. I only know the few words she uses in bed or when she's angry.

What to do? Do you know any bank/botique/mm etc. in Frankfurt which hires non-German speakers?


You can work in Germany without German, but it would be so much easier if you spoke German. Same in Zürich.

My advice is personal, and you don't have to do this, of course.
With a German gf, I think prospective employers would want to work with you if you simply say you are learning German. Get to a basic level of German, this works in your favor in multiple ways. Once you are immersed and with your gf and her friends, you will get to a higher level of fluency quickly. Explain this in nicer words and people will believe in your skills and willingness to adapt.


I know people at multiple BBs who dont speak German at all - no need to learn the language. But the issue is that I think most have transferred internally, so I think its best if you speak to your bank and try to relocate


Have you been to Germany? They don't speak good English. 

Culturally, how would it even work for OP? He can't riff with the other employers who will be speaking to each other in German... 


That's what a very standard job description looks like and you shouldn't refrain from applying. Maybe add some German to your CV. Having said that, internally is your best bet. I would also say headhunters/recruiters will be able to help you if you tell them...unless you are in a Market role, they naturally wouldn't contact you for Frankfurt if you have no apparent link to Germany or language skills


There seems to be some disagreement about whether speaking (good) German is required. Has anyone seen or heard of anyone joining a German bank/boutique without speaking German? If I have some experience, it might help I guess?


Our German subsidiary has teams that speak German and teams that don't speak it at all. Most US American expats and Canadian expats don't speak German and this is clear when they are moved internally or when they apply for a role in Germany or Switzerland.

So yes, I have seen colleagues in our German offices who don't speak German.

This particular case is different though since the SO is native in German. It would be easier to quickly adapt to a new language with a partner who is native in another language.

Regarding work culture: There is always a "global corporate culture' within a firm, but each and every team can handle this on their own. If the majority of team colleagues don't speak German, what other language would they use on a day to day basis?

Alternatively, why don't you look for a US, British or Canadian bank in Germany? They surely don't expect anyone to speak German unless it is absolutely required in a certain role. Not even all clients would require you to speak German since even their workforce is increasingly international.

I am not trying to defend not learning a language (I speak multiple, among them also German) - it is absolutely the better alternative to learn German.

If you don't want to learn German - what would be the point in the long run? Take your SO to an English speaking country? Break up and date someone else in the US or the UK? With enough effort and with a SO native in this language, it would take you approximately 12-18 months to become somewhat fluent (with lots of errors in grammar and missing vocabulary). But I am guessing you will like the culture and the language, otherwise why bother moving there?


First hand info - at all those firms you mention which are supposed to take in English speakers, nearly none apply for M&A/coverage. Even only very select groups within S&T would be able to take English-only speakers.

Even VictoriaPartners has been increasingly looking for German speakers despite what their job post says (source: checked LinkedIn for what their recent hires in the past 1-2 years look like)

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I know at least 1-2 IBD juniors at nearly every bank (also working at one of them) - can confirm that most of the banks mentioned above are still hiring at least one "non-German speaker" each year. Maybe some of them can speak some German, but just for ordering dishes or paying at the supermarket. At least we have to switch to English at work when they attend. At some data provider events, I also met some people from other banks only speaking English to me. From a recruiting perspective, speaking non-working proficient German equals to non-German. 

Have to admit that most of the cases are for female bankers due to diversity quotes, which MDs must consider. When only few German girls would like to work in this industry, filling in the gap in diversity (assuming that is bonus-relevant) is more important than switching to English at work. Though I notice a lot of peers, even MDs are not quite comfortable with English if they have never worked/studied abroad :) 

Don't know the situation at VictoriaPartners now, but we did interview some non-German speakers from the shop as lateral 2-3 years ago.


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