Career couples – a family moves to Germany

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If Tim Büthe’s move from North Carolina in the US to the southern German city of Munich is not yet quite complete, it’s because he is still lacking a pair of lederhosen – at least that’s what his wife Sarah thinks. Although American herself, she is already the proud owner of a dirndl dress, and her two children also have typical Bavarian outfits in their wardrobes. “The two of them already feel like proper Bavarians”, says Sarah Büthe.

From North Carolina to the TU Munich

Sarah and Tim Büthe

Thanks in part to the Dual Career Service provided by Tim Büthe’s new employer, the Technical University of Munich (TUM), the family was able to feel at home in Germany quickly. A political scientist, Tim accepted the newly created chair in international relations at the Bavarian School of Public Policy at the TUM in July 2016. Previously, he was Associate Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at Duke University, a leading American research university in Durham, North Carolina. "The offer from Munich, which involved the opportunity not only to establish my own major research group but also to build a new political science institute and design a novel interdisciplinary curriculum at a university with the highest academic standards was extremely attractive."

More than just a career move

Nonetheless, the decision whether the family should move to Germany hinged on much more than just the terms of the job offer for Tim. His wife Sarah had studied law at Stanford University before working in a law firm and then at the United States Court of Appeals. Both of them felt that it was very important to know whether she – like her husband – would have good career prospects in Germany. They also wanted to feel that their two children, aged four and seven, would adapt quickly to life in Germany and be well cared for. Although Tim grew up in Germany, he had spent more than half of his life in the USA when he received the offer from the TUM. Tim even did his undergraduate studies in the USA, thanks to a scholarship from Harvard University. He then completed his graduate studies and PhD at Columbia University in New York. Germany felt far away for both of them, not only geographically.

What do Dual Career Services offer?

The TUM’s Dual Career Service therefore played an important role in the decision to move to Munich. From the outset, its staff offered to help the family with all questions relating to their new life in Germany, including concerning Sarah’s career opportunities here: how would she obtain a residence permit? Would her law degree be recognised in Germany? Which professional opportunities might be open to her in Germany? How does one write a curriculum vitae for German employers? Would she be able to drive a car in Germany with her US driving licence? How does one apply for a place at nursery and primary school? How does one find somewhere to live in Munich? "The staff at the Dual Career Service supported our move to Germany in many different ways. Knowing that we could rely on competent support played an important part in our decision to accept the appointment in Munich. And their experienced advice before and after the move really helped us get off to a good start in Germany," explains Sarah. "Not least in terms of dealing with the enormous bureaucratic hurdles that are part and parcel of moving to Germany", adds Tim. As his wife emphasises, the assistance with the career move is continuing to have an important impact: "The TUM Dual Career Service is still providing me with valuable advice about launching my career in Germany."

Help with career planning

At present, she is enrolled at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) München in a postgraduate course for lawyers with foreign qualifications. Afterwards, she hopes to work in a law firm where she can contribute both linguistic and legal expertise. Her chances of achieving that goal look promising: Sarah speaks perfect German – having spent a year in Germany on a high school exchange in the early 1990s – and will be familiar with two different legal systems once she has completed her postgraduate course. "The staff at the Dual Career Service encouraged me in my decision to enrol on the course," the lawyer explains.

50 offices at German universities

The idea of the Dual Career Service was born more than 20 years ago in the USA, and today there are roughly 50 such offices at German universities. Most leading academic institutions in Germany offer the service – which is in considerable demand: most of these offices advise between ten and 30 couples each year; at the TUM it is as many as 60.

A good choice in every way

The concept works, as the example of the Büthes shows. The family quickly adapted to life in Germany, partly thanks to Munich itself. "We are enjoying the lively urban environment and the international feel. At the same time, you can quickly get out of the city into the country", enthuses Sarah, who really appreciates the good public transport system and wide range of cultural activities in the city, not to mention the extensive recreational opportunities in the surrounding countryside. The two children learned to ski in the winter and the family is enjoying taking cycling trips along the Isar river this spring – and perhaps in the autumn they will head off to the Oktoberfest in traditional Bavarian dress.


Dual Career Network Germany (DCND)

Approximately 20 German universities’ Dual Career offices have founded the Dual Career Network Germany (DCND). The offices help the partners of academics who are moving to Germany also to find work locally that reflects their qualifications. In addition, they help couples with numerous issues relating to finding a place to live, finding childcare and schools, handling administrative processes and dealing with local authorities, as well as with general questions about life and social integration in their new home.

Dual career in Germany

Highly qualified couples who are both planning a career in Germany can receive targeted support from dual career networks at universities.