Moving to Germany: A Complete Guide to Living in Germany
Living in Germany can be an unforgettable experience, but there are some important things to know before you jump on your flight to start your new life. Everything from finding accommodation to setting up a local bank account, figuring out the ins and outs of German health care to the logistical issues of moving to Germany, there’s so much to get your head around.
That’s why we’ve put together a list of some of the most commonly asked questions by those considering making the move to Germany, and compiled some helpful tips to help simplify the whole process. Read on to make your move that whole lot easier.
1- Why Move to Germany?
The all-important question: why is it working putting the effort to move and actually begin living in Germany? Aside from the high standard of living, career opportunities and international community, Germany offers plenty of perks for anyone looking to move there.
Part of the European Union, all-in-all Germany offers a sense of stability. In fact, it’s been named one of the safest countries in the world by the Global Peace Index. Coupled with the country’s efficient governing system and reliable law enforcement policies, as well as its clean streets and booming job market, moving to Germany offers a sense of security.
Living in Germany is made even easier by the large proportion of English speakers. Recent data shows that around 56% of the population speaks a good level of English. However, if you’re moving to a larger city such as Munich, Berlin, Frankfurt, Cologne or Hamburg, you’ll find that almost everyone can speak a little English – at least enough to help you get around.
Apart from the practical perks of living in a major European hub, Germany is a cultural powerhouse. There are plenty of opportunities to explore the country’s rich and diverse history in its many museums, sample traditional foods in its impressive food scene, and discover its ever-developing arts scene.
2- Pros and cons of living in Germany
Pros of living in Germany:
- Fantastic career opportunities. If you’re hoping to climb the career ladder, Germany is a great place to do it. Know for its excellence in engineering, mechanical, electrical and IT fields, there are a number of high-paying jobs in the country’s biggest cities.
- Efficient public transport. Germany has a fantastic network of nationwide transport options, including trains, buses, trams, and domestic flights.
- Low crime rates. A big pull for those moving to Germany is the low crime rates. While petty theft is still commonplace in some big cities, the crime rates are continually falling in some of the country’s biggest cities.
- Lots of green spaces. Most big cities in Germany have fantastic green spaces that are open around the clock for the public to enjoy. So, even if you’re in the capital, you can easily escape the hustle and bustle.
- Competitive welfare system. As a German resident, you are entitled to a series of benefits to help maintain a great work-life balance. These include a public healthcare system, paid sick leave, unemployment benefits, and parental leave.
Cons of living in Germany:
- Red tape. Despite being known for its efficiency, red tape in Germany can cause long delays when you’re opening a bank account, moving house, or even starting a new job.
- Cold winters. Like much of central Europe, Germany experiences long, cold winters with short days. Summer months are warm, but blue skies aren’t always guaranteed and rain can be relentless at times.
- High tax rates. Tax can be as high as 40% in Germany, depending on how much you’re earning. However, this should be weighed up against the free education and public healthcare system.
- Everything’s closed on Sundays. Every Sunday in Germany is treated like a holiday, which means all shops, except petrol stations and small shops will be closed.
- Can be lonely. When it comes to living in Germany, it’s not always easy to meet new friends or integrate into the local community. Learning the language and joining local clubs is a good way to overcome this.
3- What is the average cost of living in Germany?
Cost is an important factor when it comes to moving to Germany. As well as the overall cost of your relocation, you’ll need to understand how much rent, utilities, groceries, transport, and insurance might cost you.
Compared to the high standard of living, you can enjoy a relatively low cost of living in Germany. In fact, many experts claim that you can live more than comfortably on between €1,500 and €2,000, a little more if you’d like to live in a city center.
To help you understand things a little better, here’s a breakdown of what to expect to pay for necessities:
When it comes to living in Germany, rent will make up the majority of your living expenses. Of course, monthly rent varies across the country and depends on the type of accommodation that you’re looking for. For example, living in Munich is generally more costly than living in Berlin, while a 2-bed apartment in the city center is likely to cost a lot more than living in a similar 2-bedroom apartment on the outskirts of the city.
Here’s an idea of how much renting a two-bedroom flat may cost you in Germany’s biggest cities:
- Munich ~ €1,300/month
- Cologne ~ €1,100/month
- Frankfurt ~ €1,200/month
- Berlin ~ €1,000/month
- Hamburg ~ €1,200/month
Utility costs in Germany consist of electricity, gas, and water. Depending on the accommodation you decide to rent, these costs will either be included in your monthly rent or not. If you see an apartment advertised as kaltmiete, the utilities will not be included in the cost of the rent. With warmmiete apartments, it will. However, while water and heating are always included in the warmmiete, landlords can choose individually whether to include other costs such as internet, electricity, and maintenance.
Of course, when you choose to live in a serviced apartment in Germany, such as Munich, all of these costs will be included in your monthly rental price.
As we mentioned earlier, Germany has a fantastically efficient transportation system that connects the whole country via high-speed trains, local trams, national bus networks and, more locally, cycling lanes. Even better, public transport is relatively affordable.
Locally, a single trip on a bus or tram costs between €1 to €2, with the option to buy monthly or yearly travel cards for unlimited travel. Inter-city travel can cost between €20-€40 on a high speed train, or even cheaper if you book in advance.
When it comes to food and drink, living in Germany is very affordable compared to its neighbors. Local and branded supermarkets are filled with produce grown inside the country, keeping prices competitive and affordable. Food prices may be slightly higher within the cities, but it is generally a matter of a few cents.
To give you a better idea of prices, here are some average prices:
- 1 liter of milk – €0.90
- Loaf of bread – €1.60
- Six eggs – €1.20
- Kilo of chicken – €3.60
- Kilo of apple – €2.40
- Bottle of wine – €6
- Bottle of German beer – €0.80
4- Do I need a visa/residence permit to live in Germany?
Understanding whether you need a visa to live in Germany all depends on your passport. Put simply, you won’t need a visa if you’re an EU citizen planning on living in Germany. However, if your passport is from outside of the EU, you’ll probably need to apply for a visa before moving to Germany. Citizens of some countries that are part of the visa waiver program can stay in Germany for up to 3 months without a visa. For longer stays, a visa and residence permit are mandatory.
Visa requirements for EU nationals
All EU nationals can stay and work in Germany with just a valid passport or ID card. However, if you’re planning on moving to Germany for more than three months, you’ll need to register with your local registration office.
Visa requirements for non-EU nationals
German visa requirements for those with passports from outside of the European Union differ slightly. Those coming from a handful of countries, including Australia, the UK, New Zealand and Japan won’t need a visa to stay for up to 90-days, but will need a visa if they want to work in the country or stay for longer than three months. Other countries that are outside of the Schengen zone, will need to apply for a visa to simply enter the country.
5- Do I need a job to move to Germany?
Moving to Germany without a job is possible, but it may be difficult to stay for a long period of time if you don’t find employment relatively quickly. While citizens of the EU can enter Germany without a visa, it’s not so easy for other countries to do so.
If you’re moving to Germany from outside of the EU, you can apply for a job-seeker visa. This is a 6-month visa that is designed to give you enough time to settle into the country, find employment and apply for a more permanent visa. There are few conditions for this; you’ll need to be able to prove you can support yourself financially for the full six months, be educated to degree-level and be experienced in your field of work.
6- How do I find a job in Germany?
Finding work in Germany is just like finding a job in any other country and most of the searching is done online. If you’re moving to Germany with the intention of staying for a long time, you might want to try and secure a job before you make the big move.
LinkedIn is always a great place to start, but there are plenty of German job boards to use too including Monster, JobStairs, Kununu and MeineStellenboersen. If you’re an EU, EAA or Swiss national, you’ll also have the benefit of the EURES – a job portal network designed to aid the free movement of people across Europe.
7- What are the best places to live in Germany?
When it comes to finding the best place to live in Germany, it really comes down to personal preference. If you’re looking for the hustle and bustles of the big cities, then one of Germany’s biggest cities will suit you well. Alternatively, if you’re someone that prefers the serenity and community-feel of a small town, there’s options for you too.
These are our top five places when it comes to living in Germany:
- Munich. Germany’s third-largest city, Munich offers up bustling streets, a healthy mix of outdoor spaces and stunning Bavarian architecture.
- Berlin. Capital of Germany, Berlin provides varied accommodation and affordable prices, topped off with a huge cultural pull.
- Frankfurt. Home to Germany’s financial sector, Frankfurt is popular amongst professionals and known for its high-rise CBD.
- Cologne. Fantastically beautiful and seen as one of Germany’s most liberal cities, Cologne is a great choice for young professionals.
- Bonn. One of Germany’s smaller cities, Bonn retains a small-town atmosphere while still boasting a good number of career opportunities.
- Dusseldorf: Historically renowned for its industrial prowess, the modern city has grown into a fashionable, forward-thinking, and cultural city.
- Hamburg: You get incredible musical heritage, non-stop nightlife, an alluring port area, endless things to see and do, and a super-cool atmosphere.
8- How do I find accommodation in Germany?
Finding accommodation is no longer as hard as it used to be when you’re planning on living in Germany. Thanks to the advent of the internet, you can have a fully-furnished apartment ready and waiting for you as soon as you step foot off the plane.
Using Homelike, you can search for accommodation in your chosen city before even moving to Germany. Homelike’s handy search engine allows you to filter by your preference, including price, facilities and size so you can find the right apartment for you. Even better, prices include all utilities so you won’t need to worry about setting up your internet, paying your gas bill or figuring out your meter readings once you’re in the country.
If you do wait until you arrive in the country to find an unfurnished property to live in Germany, most home owners will request documents such as:
- Three payslips
- Previous address
- Credit rating proof
- Landlord references
- Home insurance
9- What is Anmeldung in Germany?
After moving to Germany, you’ll need to register your address if you intend on living in Germany for longer than three months. This process is known as the Anmeldung, and you’ll need to do this before you can open a local bank account, sign up for health insurance or even set up your Wi-Fi.
Here’s a quick step-by-step guide to the Anmeldung when you’re moving to Germany.
- Book an appointment. You’ll need to book in advance, especially if you’re in a larger city.
- Gather your documents. You’ll need to fill in an Anmeldung bei einer Meldebehörde form before your appointment, bring proof of address from your landlord, a valid ID and your tenancy contract to your appointment. #
- Go to your appointment. Take all of your documents to your appointment – if all is well, you’ll receive your registration certificate otherwise known as your Meldebescheinigung.
10- What do I need to know about healthcare in Germany?
If you’re moving to Germany, you’ll want to understand exactly how the healthcare system works, just in case you find yourself in need of any trouble.
The Germany healthcare system operates under a dual public and private system, which is known to be one of the best and most efficient in the world. Everyone gets free healthcare in Germany, but some residents choose to take out private healthcare to top up state cover too.
If you’re not eligible to become a resident when you’re living in Germany, you’ll need to have private health insurance to access the country’s healthcare. Alternatively, if you’re from the EU, EEA or Switzerland, and only visiting on a temporary basis, you’ll be covered with your EHIC card.
11- Can I take my pet along when I move to Germany?
Germany is one of the most pet-friendly countries in the world. Pets are welcome in Germany, but getting them there can be a complicated process as there are strict rules in place. Here are some important things to know if you’re planning on living in Germany with your four-legged friend:
- Maximum of five. Everyone is allowed to bring a maximum of five animals with them, but these pets should not be traded or sold.
- Quarantine. If your pet has the proper vaccinations and paperwork, they will not need to quarantine on arrival if they come from a country within the EU.
- Pet type. Only dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets, horses, turtles, tortoises, rodents, fish, parrots, pigeons and other types of birds are permitted. For any other animal, you’ll need to consult your local embassy.
- Vaccinations. Cats and dogs must be vaccinated for rabies at least 30 days before entry and proof of vaccination will need to be shown upon entry.
- Microchips. Under EU law, dogs and cats must have a microchip or identification number tattooed somewhere on their body.
- Banned breeds. Certain breeds are not allowed to enter Germany including Pit Bulls, Staffordshire Bull Terriers and American Staffordshire Terriers.
12- What should I know about education in Germany?
If you’re planning on living in Germany with children, it’s a good idea to get to grips with the education system. Equally, if you’re hoping to move to Germany to study, this will help you understand the ins and outs a little more.
Germany has a very high standard of education, from preschool all the way through to university level education. Education is also free in Germany, up until the age of 18. Like many countries across the world, there are a number of private schools available too, but you’ll need to pay a fee if you’re planning on sending your children to one of these.
German universities are also extremely popular amongst international students thanks to the high-level of education and reasonable fees. Home to more than 400 institutions, there’s more than 20,000 different courses available to choose from.
13- Can my family join me in Germany?
Living in Germany with your family is important, which is why the government has introduced the ‘reunification of families’ policy. This means, if you have a residence or settlement permit, you are allowed to bring your relatives across the border with you.
Your family will still need to apply for a visa to enter the country if they are not part of the EU, ESS or of Swiss nationality, and will need to apply for a residence permit in order to stay for the long term. The program is limited to your registered partner (husband or wife), children or parents (but only if you are a minor living in Germany). In some cases, uncles, aunts and grandparents are also allowed to move to Germany, but this is decided on a case by case basis.
14- What should I know about childcare in Germany?
If you’re planning on living in Germany with younger children, you may want to consider all of your childcare options. Germany boasts everything from nursery, day care and pre-school care to after school childcare, childminders and au pairs, allowing you to choose the solution that suits you best.
Typically, childcare does not come free of charge in Germany, but it is relatively affordable if you opt for daycare services rather than private au pairs or nannies. On average, nurseries charge between €100-€200/month and subsidies are available to help lower-income families.
If you’re looking for in-house help, childcare can get considerably more expensive. However, you’ll find a range of prices between a professional nanny, live-in au pair, babysitters, and more.