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Finding Domestic Help in Germany

Extra hands make light work, and employing household staff is quite common in Germany.

Although employing household staff is quite common in Germany, finding such help is another matter altogether. There are no official "Domestic Services" companies or reference networks available. Finding someone is simply a matter of word of mouth or setting out to find someone yourself.

The best way to find household cleaning staff is by way of an advertisement in your local neighborhood newspaper or on the community notice boards at supermarkets. Your ad will have to be in German. The following can be used as an example for cleaning staff required once a week:

"Suche Putzhilfe einmal pro Woche nach [your neighborhood]. Tel. [your telephone number]."

You will probably have to master a couple of words of German to be able to communicate with your help, since English-speaking staff is the exception to the rule.

Duties

You will certainly have your own ideas as to how things should be done. But keep in mind that cleaning staff only cleans. They do not do the washing or ironing, and they do not do windows, unless some specific arrangements have been made. They generally also do not do beds, changing of linen or washing up. If you want any of these things done, you will have to discuss that and come to an agreement on what is included in cleaning duties.

Payment

Payment is done at an hourly rate, and depending on which area you live in, can range from €7 to €15 per hour. Ask around in your neighborhood for the going rate. The city tends to be more expensive than the more outlying areas. Payment is usually done at the end of the month, but this should be arranged individually. It is always a nice gesture to offer at least one day's wages as a Christmas bonus during the festive season.

Legal requirements

Most people prefer to ignore the legal requirements and just pay the hourly rates and be done with it. The legalities associated with household staff, however, state that:

Up to a monthly amount of €325 there is only a social security contribution of 22 percent (€71,50) payable by the employer to the responsible social security authority. There is no wage withholding tax for the household help in this instance. There is also a monthly tax-filing requirement for remitting the social security tax.

Salary payment in excess of €325 per month requires more extensive reporting and filing requirements than those mentioned above.

Accident insurance is also available for a nominal amount of €33.75 annually.

If you need more details on this, it is best to contact your relocation firm or your local registration office.

Window cleaning

Windows are the domain of specialized window cleaners in Germany. Since many of the windows are quite awkward to reach, it is perhaps best to leave this chore to the professionals. You will be able to find window cleaners advertising in most local newspapers or in the Internet. Depending on the size of your home and the number of windows to be cleaned, expect to pay anything from €30 for an apartment to €82 for a house. Payment is done in cash upon completion of the window cleaning.

Laundry and ironing

Most dry cleaners (Reinigung) will offer a washing and/or ironing service for men's shirts. This is called bügeln and they charge per piece. Expect to pay between €2 to €2,50 per shirt, depending on your area. You can also have your linen and tablecloths ironed — this is called mangeln and is not as expensive as the hand ironing of shirts.

Dry cleaning is very good in Germany, despite the deceitful mild smell of the dry cleaning agents used here. Anything can be dry cleaned, from curtains to duvets to down pillows. Dyeing services are also available at some dry cleaners.

Garden Services

Expect to pay quite a bit for this kind of service. This could include only mowing of the lawn or include the care of the whole garden. Your best bet is to arrange this through your landlord. Alternatively look for ads in you local newspaper or in the Internet.

Babysitters

Babysitters are just as scarce as cleaning staff and word of mouth is often the only way to find reliable babysitters. The going rate for babysitting is currently €5 per hour.

Our thanks to the American Women's Club of Cologne for contributing this article to How To Germany.