WorkWild Geese

Irish in Germany: ‘There’s a good appreciation of work-life balance’ but ‘in the beginning you can easily fall foul of the rules’

Wild Geese: Claire Molloy, Munich

When she decided to move to Germany with her future husband, Daniel, lawyer Claire Molloy chose the city she wanted them to live in – Munich – before the job. It’s a decision neither of them regrets.

The couple, who met while studying in Trinity College Dublin, were frustrated by the poor economic climate in Dublin at the end of the noughties. And Daniel, also a lawyer, yearned for a move back to his home country.

“Daniel comes from Frankfurt but wanted to live somewhere very different. It’s hard not to like Munich. It’s a great place to work with a very nice lifestyle. It’s beautiful with an outdoor sunny vibe and fabulous beer gardens that give it more of a southern European feel.”

Molloy grew up in Belmullet, Co Mayo, after her father moved there from Dublin to work as a GP. Her love of German began at boarding school and culminated in her studying law through German at Trinity. While her early ambition was to become a diplomat, Molloy’s career path saw her going on to undertake a master’s in European Law and training as a solicitor with A&L Goodbody.


When she moved to Munich she initially worked in a large law practice but soon realised that working in-house for an international organisation offered a better career path in Germany for someone with her background. She has enjoyed a successful career working for Sky, Intel and her current employer, Synlab International.

“I have had tremendous opportunities that would have been very hard to get elsewhere. Munich has a great concentration of international companies and there are options in terms of moving from one to another. Sometimes lawyers think that they cannot move from their jurisdictions, but there are a lot of opportunities in these international organisations.

“I have found my niche, and this has been a great way for an Irish lawyer to have a good career here.”

The Friday night after-work drinks doesn’t happen much here. People socialise with their friends or go home to their families

Synlab International is Europe’s largest provider of medical diagnostics and clinical laboratory services and employs more than 27,000 people worldwide. In her day-to day work, Molloy deals with issues such as the regulation of data including GDPR, as well as regulatory issues around AI. She also inputs into the firm’s corporate strategy planning, which, she says, is increasingly data driven.

Molloy finds the cost of living in Germany considerably cheaper than in Ireland, most notably for food and energy bills. Renting is easier and offer greater security for tenants. The cost of purchasing property in big German cities such as Munich, however, has escalated sharply in the years she has lived there, she says.

Living initially in a city apartment they bought, Molloy and her husband have now bought a house in the suburb of Trudering, which offers easy access to the mountains with winter sports and hiking and lake swimming in the summer.

With two young children, the couple also find that early year education and childcare are far more family-friendly in Germany than in Ireland. Like other parents there, they have enjoyed the benefits of free kindergarten and an entitlement to part-time work for parents.

Holidays are also more generous in Germany with employees receiving up to 30 days’ annual leave in addition to 13 public holidays in some states.

Molloy finds that there is a much sharper division between work and home life, and boundaries are observed.

“The Friday night after-work drinks doesn’t happen much here. People socialise with their friends or go home to their families. There’s a good appreciation of work-life balance and a respect for people’s private lives. I quite like that.”

People in Munich are also very open, however, easy to get to know and have a lot of time for the Irish.

“They like us and have a very positive view of us. I have never once experienced anything negative about being Irish.”

Molloy is now well settled in Germany and has no intention of returning to Ireland, though she enjoys regular visits home to family and friends.

One big difference between Germany and Ireland, more in common with stereotypes, is that Germany is a well organised and very rule-based country.

“When you live here, in the beginning you can easily fall foul of the rules and you might get irritated by this as Germans will tell you very directly if you are doing something wrong, such as walking in a bicycle lane.”

The Germans are also very fond of their bureaucracy and Molloy does miss the more pragmatic and laid-back approach in Ireland. Ireland is also more innovative around digitalisation, she finds. She cites a recent example of communicating with a public authority, which invited her to respond “either by post or by fax”.

“The Germans can be very conservative and they have complicated systems of red tape and they get caught up with it. They know this themselves. It’s choking the country and they are starting to move against it.”