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Social Security and Etiquette in Frankfurt

Expats working in Frankfurt are part of Germany’s financial center, benefitting from the city’s excellent infrastructure and its multiculturalism. Learn more about Frankfurt, about work permits, business districts, and social security. You’ll be ready for working in Frankfurt in no time!
The city is also home to the European Central Bank.

Social Security

Expatriates may contribute to Germany’s social security scheme and have a certain percentage of their gross monthly salary deducted for that purpose. Participation in that scheme is compulsory for German citizens and most expatriates, provided they are not exempt, for example if they are intra-company transferees or work in the diplomatic service. If you are not subject to exemption, your home country does not have a social security agreement with Germany, and provided you have worked in Germany for less than five years, you may, at least, ask for a refund of your contributions to the pension plan. This refund is granted, at the earliest, 24 months after your permanent return to your home country.

At the time of writing in 2016, Germany had entered into social security agreements with 18 different countries, as well as special agreements with China and India. Focused primarily on pension plans, these agreements — as well as Germany’s EU membership — regulate the contribution to and payment of social security funds when nationals of one country live and work in the other and thus also aim to avoid double charges for expatriates.

If you are unsure of how your contributions in Germany affect your pension funds back home, for instance, please contact the responsible offices back home or the Deutsche Rentenversicherung in Germany. You can call their service hotline by dialing 0800 1000 4800, write an email, or visit one of their offices in Frankfurt at

  • Städelstraße 28,
  • Zeil 53, or
  • Weismüllerstraße 45.

Of course, your private pension funds should not be affected by your contributions to the German social security system.

The National Pension

The national pension fund makes up the most important part of Germany’s social security scheme, aside from public healthcare. In 2016, contributions came out to be 21.9% (18.9% for old-age pension and 3% for unemployment insurance). However, you only pay half of the overall contributions while your employer pays the other half. Any income above a certain contribution ceiling called Beitragsbemessungsgrenze (in 2016: 74,400 EUR annually in West Germany and 64,800 EUR in East Germany) is not subject to these contributions.

Once you reach the official age of retirement, you can freely dispose of your pension. With at least five years of contributions, the age you may access your funds is gradually increasing from 65 to 67 until 2029, depending on your birth year. For those born in or after 1964, the age is 67.

The exact sum you will receive in the end is calculated based on the amount of your income and the number of years you have paid contributions. Self-employed people are not generally covered by the national pension, unless they request to be affiliated to the statutory pension insurance. If you are considering self-employment, please do additional research and refer to our in-depth guide concerning self-employment in Germany.

For a detailed account of Germany's social security system, see our articles on Social Security and Taxation

Business Etiquette to Avoid Offence

Germans are said to be rather formal and serious. However, that does not mean that friendliness is not prevalent among business partners, particularly in the more international business world of Frankfurt. The first phrase you need to learn, when doing business in Frankfurt, is “Guten Tag!” This general form of greeting is usually accompanied by a hearty handshake. When invited to an interview or a business meeting, make sure to be on time as Germans value punctuality above anything. Being late is considered incredibly disrespectful.

During meetings and negotiations, Germans tend to be very direct. Try to just go along with it and do not mistake their direct way of communicating as rudeness. At the same time you should make sure not to interrupt anybody. When trying to impress your business partners, try to do so by proving that you are qualified in your job, instead of bragging.

For more on German business culture and etiquette, as well as other job-related topics, just take a look at our section on Jobs and Business in Germany.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Francis White

"I had the pleasure to meet so many interesting expats at a Frankfurt bar night that I found myself a new social circle in no time at all. "

Caroline Stiles

"Cultural events, aperitivos, Cantonese dinners - there's so much going on in InterNations Frankfurt that I don't know where to start. "

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