Working as a doctor in Germany: things to know before you start

Despite little activity on my blog these days, I’ve noticed that one old text has been getting an increasing amount of attention since I published it some 3 years ago: Surprising things about being a doctor in Germany.

In addition, I’ve been getting a number of personal e-mails from medical students and junior doctors from around the world asking for more information and advice on the subject of potentially starting out as a doctor here in Germany.

So, here are a few of my personal experiences and tips from the perspective of a British-trained doctor who moved over to Germany in 2009. I have a fair bit of information to share, so I plan to write about it over a series of texts. I hope this helps some of you.

Before you start

1. Have I got a good chance of getting a job as a doctor in Germany?

Short answer is yes. Germany does need doctors at the moment. It of course depends on your speciality of interest and your place of interest. The chances of getting a job in smaller or less attractive cities is obviously higher than for example a renowned university teaching hospital. But it’s a big country and there is a lot of choice at the moment.

2. Is my medical training recognized in Germany? What documents do I need?

Before you start actively looking for a job, it would be best to check with the regulating body here what the requirements are for having your medical degree recognised and subsequently obtaining a license to practice.

Each ‚Bundesland‘ has its own governing body (for example ‚Ärztekammer Nordrhein, Bayerische Ärztekammer etc). I suggest you pick your place of interest in Germany and enquire at the local Ärztekammer there, but bear in mind that there may be differences between the states.

Applying from a member state of the EU

In general, applying from within the EU is more straightforward than from outside and incorporates getting high school/university certificates translated, references from bosses, security checks from your home country and assurances from your governing body that your medical degree is in line with the standards set by the EU. The usual occupation health issues such as HIV status, immune status against hepatitis as well as a medical certificate from a doctor assuring a good bill of health is also required. The Ärztekammer I applied to refused to look at any documents until they were officially translated from English into German to tell me if they were the correct ones (despite the fact that they could clearly read and understand English). This is therefore a costly and time-consuming process (both in terms of money and your nerves). In the end I got my registration one day before I was due to start work.

Applying from outside the EU

For those outside of the EU, things can get a little trickier. Depending on the structure of your medical training, it can require extra (un-paid) placements and a medical viva to check your knowledge and skills, in addition to the above paperwork. I would check all of this out before your decision to move here so that you can plan your finances and expectations appropriately. From what I gather, things seem to be decided on a very individual basis.

3. How good does my German have to be to work here?

Germans institutions often ask for the Goethe-certificate level B2. This is a requirement for university entrance and acquiring citizenship for example and is a good rule of thumb before you start work here, regardless of whether it is an official requirement or not. For your own sake. It is a level which just about gets you by in conversation and in reading and writing although far from ensuring an easy start. I found that whilst doctor colleagues and allied healthcare professionals spoke and understood english at varying levels, patients (especially the older ones) generally did not and furthermore expect, quite naturally, to be communicated with in their native language.

Tips for improving your German language skills

Like all languages, your German will only get better through use. If like me at the time, you are starting from scratch, there is nothing like living in the country, reading local newspaper, watching Germany films and making friends to improve your fluency.

I did a one month intensive language course (level B2) before I started work. It was a brilliant way to start my life in Germany and is a September I look back on with immense fondness. I made some great friends from this course from all over the world and went to some great parties. It was the ERASMUS year I never had. Aside from the social side though, it was a good foundation for my language skills.

Throughout the year, I met weekly with a friend from Argentina who had been living in Germany for a few years and wanted to improve her English. We would talk for 30 minutes in English and then 30 minutes in German. Over the years, this turned into wonderful evenings of drinking red wine over bowls of delicious pasta in favorite local restaurants and a lasting friendship. And of course we improved our language. It’s quite easy to find a so-called ‚Stammtisch‘ through Facebook groups days to achieve something similar.

That’s it for today. I will write about the medical training system in Germany and some practical tips about looking for and applying for jobs in further posts!

The last holiday as just the 3 of us

The last holiday as just the 3 of us.

A time to relish our little boy all for ourselves.

To have all our reserve of patience, just for him.

To watch him from afar, sunk happily in play.

Eyes ready to meet his gaze when he raises his to meet ours.

Arms free to welcome him.

Marveling at his increasing curiosity, independence and ingenuity.

Wondering at the words that suddenly form in his mouth, which often have only a meaning to us.

To recognise the baby in him when he suddenly cries.

To look on at him with tenderness as he soundly sleeps.

Unsure just how things will change, for him and for us.

International women’s day

I’m coming to realise that I have paid less attention to the plight of women around the world than I should.

Perhaps because I was lucky enough to be raised by 2 Indian parents who encouraged both their little boy and little girl equally to fulfill their potential, follow their aspirations and develop their talents.

Perhaps because I see that the important men in my life have chosen strong, intelligent women to be at their side.

Perhaps because I chose a man who has always regarded me as capable of almost anything, in times when I would doubt myself.

Perhaps because I  choose to take a positive view of the world over one in which I consider my personal failures and set-backs based purely on a background of discrimination against gender or race.

Perhaps through naivity. Perhaps through ignorance.

Increasingly I see the differences in my world of work. On the world’s political stage. How hard the battle is for women in our poorest nations. That steps backwards, such as the decriminalisation of wife-beating in Russia and the rise of Donald Trump in America, are at any time just as possible if we take the fight for equality for women for granted.

Suddenly feminism, the women’s march and world international women’s day have a new relevance for me. So happy international women’s day – for the progress of women in society so far and to the battle ahead.

2016

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A year of shock, terror and breaking apart.  Astonishment at the power of democracy to sway towards a world I do not want to know. Where war was at the forefront.
A year of adjustment and finding ourselves as a family. The right way to balance job and family is surely the hardest struggle for all no longer quite so new parents. I complain of no tragedies but many ups and downs.
But through all my grumble and grouse, my most cherished moments came surprisingly in the hectic of everyday life. Not sipping freshly pressed orange juice on the pebble beach of a quiet bay in Crete, not dipping into the sparkling blue waters of the Bayern lakes in the summer sun, not huddling around an outdoor fire with red wine and friends on a cool autumn evening in Tuscany. But my daily breakfast with the 2 most precious people in my world. Sometimes interrupted by tantrums, sometimes shortened by lie-ins (baby and husband are equally capable of this), sometimes surrounded in chaos. But always a moment of peace. Always a bubble of love. Always a source of strength before I face the world outside.

A wake-up call

I know so little of America and its people first-hand, that I can hardly explain why this election result has affected me so much. 

But the feminist blood in me (and it wasn’t clear to me just how much was flowing until now) is boiling. How can a man make so many despicable comments against women and yet be crowned with the highest office? How can women themselves have so little respect and care for their own value and bring themselves to vote for such a man of their own free will?

I know in my heart that the everyday person on the street, in the shops, the patients I care for, the wide range of people I work with are not racist. Sometimes ill-informed. Sometimes laughably naive.  But never truly bigoted or awful.
Without the right leadership, I fear that these slightly ill-informed and naive people may find a more hateful voice. 

The victory yesterday brings with it a sense of hopelessness. And I don’t quite yet know what I can actively do about it. But it is more and more clear, that if I want my son to have such a happy life as mine, and all the chances that I have had, there is a lot of caring, speaking up and fighting to be done. 

A few days in Amsterdam 



I’ve been to Amsterdam a couple of times before, but never on a „girls weekend“. 11 women from different corners of Germany, different fields of work and different styles brought together in the city of canals and bicycles on a very nearly sunny weekend.

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Lie-ins, lazy brunches, attempted visits to museums, crawling from vintage shop to vintage shop, getting dressed up and dancing.

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I saw less of Amsterdam this time than on my previous visits, but it was filled with laughter, silliness and well, a lot of girliness.

The start of the summer holidays

What a ride the last 6 months has been. Getting my little one settled into nursery and adjusting back into my working life again has been the hardest challenge of motherhood so far.

And here we are celebrating the end of the nursery year and the start of the first ’summer holidays‘ together at nursery. And my baby is no longer really my baby. But a toddler with a world of his own away from me. With wonderful nursery nurses, creative spaces and well, sort of friends. I’m full of thanks for the people who have done their job daily with such patience, care and above all almost always with a smile on their face. Something we could all learn from. I’m proud of my little man for adjusting to his new surroundings and I’m ever so slightly proud of myself too.

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Terror in the streets of Munich

It’s the age of terrorism. And it won’t stop us from how we live our lives. We all know that we are more in danger of losing our lives in a road traffic accident than through an act of terror. 
And yet it feels different when a shooting takes place in a local shopping centre, rather than say an American mall. 
It’s unnerving when you are left stranded in the city because public transport has suddenly come to a halt.
It feels unsettling to see heavily armed policemen on the streets and dozens of police cars and emergency service vehicles on a short ride home.
It feels reassuring when concerned messages from all over the world start coming in to ask if you are ok. And it feels safe to be at home and finally put my little one in his bed. 
There was a strange feeling on the streets this evening. There is a good reason for why we call it terrorism. 

Brexit

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After the shock and disbelief of waking up to Brexit last week, I’m left with a mixture of feelings.

Disappointment, that the country I grew up in has chosen to take this direction. Because I never really thought it would come to this.

Stunned, that the democratic system can leave you feeling so wronged and cheated.

Dismay, when I read of the number of race-related hate attacks which have taken place since the vote. Because I really thought Great Britain was past this.

Dread, when I imagine what sort of a Europe my olive-skinned son will grow up in. Because I had the privilege of never feeling disadvantaged growing up in Britain and assumed the same would be true for him.

Vaguely unsettled, when I think of my status as a UK citizen living in Germany even though I know nothing has changed in my life or is likely to in the very near future.

Luck, that my own move to Germany almost 7 years ago was made so seamless through my status as a European citizen.

Incredulity at the shape of British politics and the slow rise of the right. 

Maybe it’s not all as bad or as dramatic as I imagine. But it certainly feels as if the wheels have been set in motion without anyone really knowing where the journey will take us. 

Back in Great Britain

After 6 months away from home, I was finally back for a break. The longer I live in Germany, the more the UK seems like a completely different world to me.

If it votes to leave the EU in a few weeks, it truly will be a different world for me and my family.

All the same, I get a  ‚it’s so good to be home feeling‘ every time I set foot on UK soil.

And absence makes me want to explore the country even more.

Time is always short, but we had the chance to make a couple of day trips – both funnily enough to Welsh towns this time.


We spent a wonderful family day at the Hay-on-Wye literary festival. Bill Clinton famously called it  „the Woodstock for the mind“.

Well, this time we visited with my niece and nephews and all in all our pack of 4 under 3-year olds. Our consumption of the literary content on offer might have been minimal but we did meet writer Julia Donaldson of ‚Gruffalo‘ fame.  And the bunting-clad tents and make-shift stages, lawns scattered with sun-loungers and wooden walkways made for the best playground for the kids.

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There was an opportunity for putting on my walking boots too, with a beautiful walk up ‚table mountain‘ (all 451 meters of it) in the Breacon Beacons from the little village Crickhowell.

Despite having become almost accustomed to the breathtaking Southern German landscape, it was a pleasure to be surrounded by fields of green, wander through quaint market towns, eat supper in a pub and to revel in the Britishness of it all.

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