Kündigungsfrist – This German monstrosity of a word essentially just means “notice period before quitting/cancelation.”
Where do you find it?
It comes up in work contracts. In that sense it implies that a certain amount of notice must be given (usually by both sides) for you to leave your job.
I have seen it in other service contracts as well, such as mobile-phone and bank agreements. In that sense, it translates more closely to “cancellation notice” or “termination notice”.
Why is Kündigungsfrist interesting to an expat?
First off, living in Germany you often have to deal with this term in contracts, both for job or service. It is important to know what your rights and requirements are when you sign something. Also these notice periods can feel VERY long compared to the US. This means that often once you are a part of the society here, the timing to get out can be a lot longer than you expect.
I have seen a number of service agreements that require 30 days notice to cancel. This isn’t so bad. My Deutsche-Bahn Card requires me to write them a physical letter more than 6 weeks ahead of the time that the card is due to expire to avoid it renewing. Apartment rental agreements often have 3 months Kündigungsfrist.
Here is the real kicker for Americans though, to quit your job you have to hold to this notice period in your contract as well. I have heard stories from friends of upward of 7 months Kündigungsfrist in some contracts. This means you still have to work at the place 7 months after quitting.
So, what does having a Kündigungsfrist, especially such a long one, mean to the culture. Well, it seems to be another expression of the German culture bias toward having expectations and keeping them. This is what is often seen as ordered society. The time frame for changing routines is just very long.
At a job level, having to give a long amount of notice goes both ways. After you are through your initial evaluation period (Probezeit), the employer would have to respect the same X many months notice to let you go that you would have to give to quit. For the employee it acts as a protection. For those of you not used to American employment, most times there is no contractual notice period. Most people give a courtesy 2 weeks, but a company can and often does just ask you to leave that afternoon.
This gives a much bigger sense of security to society. It means that once you have a job, it is much more difficult to lose it. On the other side, companies take their time hiring because it means a bigger commitment.
This same sense of security applies for service and especially apartment contracts. Landlords know you aren’t going to up and leave next month, but you also know he can’t kick you out without notice.
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Check your contracts for Kündigungsfrist terms. If you don’t see them or don’t understand, ask. Germany is all about planning ahead, so make sure you know your commitments.
These are my experiences of the cancelation terms in Germany. Do you have any others to share?