Thinking about relocating to Germany? From Hamburg to Munich, there are so many incredible opportunities in this dynamic country. Home to 83 million people, Germany has the largest economy in the European Union and the fourth-largest GDP in the world. This nature-loving green country has one-third of its area covered in forests and, indeed it’s true, that there’s no speed limit on the autobahns weaving through the countryside.
Life in Germany can be incredible but there are a few things that you should know before you start packing. Moving internationally is one of the greatest challenges anyone can take on in life and it comes with an endless list of questions. Wondering what to expect from living in Germany? Let’s break down every single step in your essential moving to Germany checklist.
Let’s start with one question that we get asked every day: is moving to Germany a good idea? Moving abroad is a major life decision and it’s important to think about it from a few different perspectives. Beyond just thinking about work, it’s essential to think about everyday living.
What will it be like on that first fateful day in Germany? A central part of your daily life will be affected by where in Germany you choose to live. The daily routine of a Bavarian villager is markedly different from your average Berliner. So, what kind of German will you be? To put your decision into perspective, the country is about the same size as the US state of Montana or around the same size as the United Kingdom.
Officially known as the Federal Republic of Germany, this country is made up of 16 states. In German, and often in English as well, they are referred to as Bundesländer or sometimes just Länder. Each state has its own unique character and the best one for you depends entirely on your lifestyle.
When you first arrive, especially if you are going to be working in Germany, you’ll likely start out in a city. There are 79 cities that have a population of more than 100,000 people and it can be tough to choose the best for you.
Each city has its charms and it is certainly tough to decide the best place to live in Germany. Berlin is amongst the best-known expat spots and it’s become one of the hippest cities on the planet. It’s an expat-friendly German city and full of foreign residents. It’s also one of the most expensive places to live in the country. Leipzig, on the other hand, is the least expensive city in Germany.
Düsseldorf was recently ranked the sixth-best city in the world in terms of quality of life and it’s been turning a lot of heads. Meanwhile, Germany’s financial capital, Frankfurt, is famous for its Manhattan-like skyline of skyscrapers and offers great career opportunities.
The popular expat website, Internations, polled 20,000 expats living in 82 cities across Germany and asked the simple question: What’s the best city in Germany to live in? According to expats in Germany, it’s the city of Aachen!
Expat Insight: Spend plenty of time researching different areas to live before you go, especially if you have the option to work in different areas. Finding the right geographic match is going to have a dramatic impact on your quality of life.
Germans are famous for their language skills which often leads people to ask if you really need German to live in Germany. The answer is no. And yes.
You can get by in Germany with English. You will find offices that use English as the primary work language and they can be great places to work. You will find English-speaking expat services to help you find a home and do other essentials.
That said, you will never thrive or live a full life without speaking German. You can certainly make friends with people who speak English but you’ll face daily obstacles. You might have a doctor who speaks English, but the receptionist probably won’t. You might find that your co-workers speak English but the people at the grocery store don’t.
The bottom line is that if you are thinking about relocating to Germany long-term, it’s crucial to learn German. The good news is that it doesn’t take special skill or a so-called knack for language. It’s all down to good old-fashioned effort. Put in the hours and you’ll reap the rewards.
If you are looking to work in Germany, you’ll save yourself a lot of stress by finding work before you arrive. The Deutschland website is a great place to get started and they have incredible info that will guide you in the right direction to find work in Germany. Once you start looking at jobs in your field and see their starting salaries, you’ll have a good foundation for creating your budget.
Considering relocating to Germany but not quite sure if it’s right for you? Here are a few factors that you might want to consider.
How much money do you need to live comfortably in Germany? The best way to get a perspective is to look at the average income in Germany. To give you an idea, the average resident here earns 46,560 euros per year.
How much do you need to get by in Germany? The minimum wage in Germany is currently at €9.35 per hour. Of course, in some cities, that can be fairly comfortable wage for a single person while in others it won’t be enough to get by.
To give you a better idea of what to expect in terms of the cost of living in Germany, here are a few comparisons. To compare other cities, check out the Numbeo Cost of Living comparison calculator.
How much money does it cost to move to Germany? Your moving costs will vary significantly, of course, depending on your lifestyle. While a single person might be able to hop on a plane with relatively few costs, a family will need to invest more in the physical moving aspect. Link to info?
When it comes to getting settled into a new home, you can expect to pay about three months of rent as a deposit for a new place (note this will be three months of “cold rent” or Kaltmiete as the Germans call it).
Before relocating to Germany, you need to consider the rights that your own citizenship gives you live in Germany. Moving to Germany as an EU citizen is far easier than moving to Germany from the UK or the USA, for example.
If you have EU citizenship, the process of moving to Germany is comparatively simple. For anyone from one of the 27 countries of the European Union, all you actually need is a valid passport or official ID. On top of rights for European Union citizen, these benefits are also extended to citizens of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, and Norway. If you are an EU, EEA, or Swiss citizen, all you need to is register on arrival and you have the right to stay for an unlimited period of time.
On arrival, you must register at your local Bürgeramt or Einwohnermeldeamt. Legally, this must be done within one to two weeks of finding a permanent home (the exact requirement depend on your town). Once you go to the registration office, you will receive a certificate of registration, called a Meldebestätigung. Be aware that they do not speak English in these offices so come prepared or bring a friend. Generally speaking, you just need an A2 language level and the ability to give your basic information.
In order to do your registration, you will need to have your valid EU national identity card or passport. Before you go, complete an Anmeldeformular form, which you can find online for free on the official site. Along with this, bring a lease or other proof of accommodation signed by your landlord.
Note: When you move addresses, it is also mandatory to de-register. This is an important step and legally required (even if you are moving to leave Germany) so keep it in mind as you settle into the country.
If you are a non-EU citizen who has an EU family member, you may already have the right to live in Germany. If your spouse or registered civil partner has EU citizenship, you share their rights. This applies as well if your parents or grandparents are EU citizens. With these family ties, you can get an EU family member residence card in Germany that is valid for five years. You can read all of the details on the European Union website.
If you do not have EU residency rights you will need to get a certificate of residence in Germany, called a Freizügigkeitsbescheinigung.
Without German citizenship or EU residency rights, the most common way to get a visa is to find a job. If you have skills that are in-demand, your workplace can organise a visa for you.
Note that while moving to Germany from the UK without a job or visa in place used to be possible, it’s important to be prepared before you arrive. For non-EU citizens, there are a few options to live legally in Germany.
If you are a high skilled worker who has achieved a higher education degree, especially within the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) sector, you may be able to get an EU blue card.
When you are able to find a job that pays at least €50,800 per year and prove that you can speak a high level of German, you are eligible. The EU Blue Card is valid for four years. If you maintain your job for these four years, you will be able to apply for permanent residency in Germany.
If you are studying an undergraduate, graduate, or vocational degree anywhere within Germany, you can get a temporary student visa. This will allow you to attend your school and work full-time for 120 days per year or get a part-time job that lasts for 240 days. Once you have your degree, you can extend your visa by 18 months in order to find a job in the country. After you have a job, you can apply for an Employment Residence Permit.
In order to get a residency visa in Germany, you must show that you don’t have a criminal record and speak at least a B1 level fo Germany. If you have a family member with EU residency, however, these requirement don’t apply.
When you are relocating to Germany, figuring out banking and taxes will be at the top of your moving checklist.
When you are looking to open a bank account in Germany, you will have a few different options. First of all, you can go for a bank account for non-residents of Germany. This could be a good option to get organised before you moved. If you live within the European Union, it will be fairly straight forward to continue using your account indefinitely after arrive.
Insider Tip: Did you know that with the single euro payments area (SEPA), as soon as you have one eurozone bank account, you don’t need to open another? Opening an account in your home country can make life easier and have you ready to hit the ground running. Do note, however, that while this is the law, it’s loosely enforced across Europe. You may find that it’s a hassle to not have an IBAN (account ID number) that relates to your country. For this reason, you might consider a Germany-based online bank like N26 which issues Germany IBAN for the residents of many European countries.
Taxes range from 14 per cent to 42 per cent in Germany. If you are single, the starting tax allowance is for €9,408 in income. If you are married or in a civil partnership, your initial allowance is for €18,816. Once you hit an income of €250,731 for single people or €501,462 for couples, you will reach the 42 per cent taxation rate.
Here’s an idea of what to expect in terms of German taxes. Do note, of course, that these change every tax year so research again before you move.
The first step to paying taxes is to get a tax ID number, also called an Identifikationsnummer or Steuer ID. This is a unique number just for you that will be issued by the tax office, called the Finanzamt office. If you spent more than six months per year in Germany, you will be resident for tax purposes. If you are employed by a Germany company, they will get things started for you. If you are self-employed, you can make your life easier by working with an accountant while you learn the ropes.
Generally, the climate throughout Germany is temperate, with warm summers and cold, sometimes harsh, winters. Lengthy periods of snow is unusual and rain falls throughout the course of the year. The North and Atlantic coastline generally receives more rain and milder summers and can be prone to Autumnal storms. The southern areas can experience hot summers.
Did you know that 50% of Germans live in rented apartments? Indeed, Germany has one of the lowest rates of homeownership in Europe. When relocating to Germany, you can expect to live in rented accommodation indefinitely. While homeownership is possible, it’s best to start by renting.
On average, Germans spend 34% of their income on their total living expenses. Keep this percentage in mind as you start planning. Before you are ready to move, look at apartments to get an idea of what to expect and how to budget. The most common places to search for apartments and houses are on Immobilienscout24 and Immowelt. These are prime places to start your search for an apartment. While using agency might seem tempting, it is very costly in Germany. If you even have basic German, it’s worth starting the search online. You may find that different landlords out speak English, especially in bigger cities so it’s trying to search.
Here are a few common things that you will see in the apartment searching ads.
There is free healthcare in Germany for all residents of the country called Gesetzliche Krankenkasse or GKV. On top of this standard free care, you can also opt to get your own private health insurance, called Private Krankenversicherung or PKV.
Germany has some of the best schools in the world. Education is free to all kids between the ages of six to 18 years old. For residents of any nationality, there are free university options as well. From age six to 11, kids attend a primary school called a Grundschule. While school is only mandatory start from age six, it’s common to attend school much earlier. There are privately-managed nursery schools called Kinderkrippe that you can pay to send kids under the age of three. From three to six years old, Kindergartens work on a sliding scale depending on your salary. Daycare centres called Kitas are available before and after school for kids ranging from age 3 to 12.
After age 12, your family has a few different options. For those planning to attend university, Gymnasium is the standard option. For kids looking to prepare for a vocation, there are Realschule or you can opt for a Hauptschule, which is focused on practical work skills. Meanwhile, there are also Gesamtschule, which combine the elements of a Realschule and Hauptschule.
Instruction at schools is exclusively in German, with the exception of foreign language classes. There are many international schools in Germany as well and their costs range anywhere from €12,000 to €21,000 per year. For full details, you can get more info from the Association of German International Schools.
Interested in learning more about relocating to Germany? Click here to download your essential checklist for relocating to Germany.
GRID WILL GO HERE
GRID GOES HERE