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12 Expats Talk about What it's Like Living in Germany

Betsy Burlingame

Summary: Expats talk about living in Germany. From meeting people to adjusting to the German culture, expats offer a glimpse of life in Germany.


With its thriving cities, historic towns and quiet villages, Germany offers something for everyone. German culture can be a challenge for some, but Germans are true and loyal friends once you really get to know them. Expats answered a series of questions about life in Germany and here are some of the highlights:

Deciding Where to Live in Germany

When we asked expats living in Germany to offer newcomers advice about choosing a neighborhood and finding a home, they replied:

"I lived in a pension (hotel) for 6 months until I knew enough to find a nice rental," said one expat living in Brandenburg an der Havel, Germany.

"The German companies have no relocation programs. That means that you are on your own in finding a place to live. The companies that will help you for a fee are very expensive. And if you just read the newspaper (providing you speak German), you can visit the apartments yourself. But expect not be alone but surrounded by many other people at the same time - depending on the area, too, of course. In Frankfurt or Munchen more than in smaller cities. The German renting system is very different than in US. While in US there are bigger companies, which offer apartments for rent, in Germany there are many people who have an apartment for rent in the attic, for example, of their house," mentioned another expat in Germany.

"Live near my wife's work, so the commute is walk-able, 1 mile, even in winter. We are on the subway line so city center is 15 minutes away. Used an online search to find it," commented one expat who made the move to Germany.

Meeting People in Germany

Expats living in Germany talked about meeting people in Germany and local clubs and organizations:

"German course at the VHS or the university, tandem programme which germans (usually students) use to get to know native speakers and exchange conversation, language skills etc. DAI is also the german american association with a library and courses, lectures etc," said one expat living in Tubingen, Germany.

"Newcomers to Cologne will probably find the easiest way to make friends is to attend some sort of course at the Volkshochschule (adult education) located near Neumarkt. German courses are good ways to meet people, but not necessarily Germans. The announcement boards at the university (located at Albertus-Magnus-Platz) are a good place to put up notices for Stammtische (regular meetings in pubs and cafes)," mentioned another expat in Germany.

"There is an International Women's Group. Most of the women live in Herzogenaurach or Erlangen. There is an International School with grades K-6th called the Franconian International School (FIS) in Herzogenaurach," commented one expat who made the move to Germany.

"Brandis is a small village with few formal organizations. We have relied on our own efforts to connect with locals, starting primarily with the store owners and doctors we are using. Its slow, but working," remarked another expat living in Brandis im Wurzen, Germany.

Expat Life in Germany

What is it like living in Germany? Here is what people had to say:

"Most everyone in the area works for Siemens, Adidas or Puma. It is very International with many delegates from all over the world working for these companies. I would say that it is very family oriented though. With many local festivals and small town type activities. The German way is not to have too much emphasis on work," said one expat living in Nuernberg, Germany.

"People here think that work is very important even to the point where it becomes the ultimate ptiority," mentioned another expat in Germany.

"That's one of the things that I enjoy here. People seem to enjoy their free time more. BBQ's, garden parties or just generally getting together over a few drinks. Their are lot's of council run activities, Karneval, Kirmes etc, which involve, basically having a good time. These activities are also children friendly," commented one expat who made the move to Germany.

"Apparently Munich has the highest number of single households in Germany. Family is no. 1, then friends and socializing. The English Garden attracts leisure walks in all months and of course beer garden visits in summer or when the sun is shining (even in winter!)," remarked another expat living in Munich, Germany.

What Expats Appreciate about Their New Culture

We asked expats in Germany what they appreciated about their new culture. Here's what they had to say:

"Finishing workday at 5pm: whereas in Latin cultures you begin and finish working later. More time and energy saved to do something else. The cheap cost of living and the good connected train system. Quality of life, room to live and nature in the cities. The vocational training system, learning all life long. Book shops and supermarkets, museums which are pleasant to visit," said one expat living in Frankfurt, Germany.

The Most Challenging Aspects of Living in Germany

Then, we asked expats in Germany what was most challenging about their new culture. They replied:

"All of the regimen especially in regards to education is hard for me. I finished American high school and have then been a working adult for 8 years, and to arrive here in Germany where I am no longer 'qualified' simply because I do not have a degree is rather frustrating," said one expat living in Essen, Germany.

"The most challenging aspect was definitely learning the language and proper etiquette," mentioned another expat in Germany.

"People's manners in Germany, which sometimes lack of politeness are challenging. Spoiled children: thank you low birth rate. The Arbeitszeugnis: an arbitrary and understated work assessment. The cash culture when you are used to credit cards. Thriftiness aka Lidl Kultur, the backlash of a cheap cost of living certainly and Calvinist rests. Culture of suing instead of negotiating and being flexible. This I-work-therefore-I-neglect-my-child as a mother aka Rabenmutter attitude. The way German press see foreign countries. It is mostly hard to deepen any friendships, keep any contacts at long term. You have the impression people do not like answering e-mails," commented one expat who made the move to Germany.

Crime in Germany

"Where we live there is hardly no crime. But in Cologne, which is some 55 Kilometers away, there is quite a bit. In all the big cities here, especially Berlin, there is a large amount of crime. Where there are migrational community, i.e. Turkish, there is a lot," said one expat living in Eifel , Germany.

Diversity in Germany

We asked expats about diversity in Germany and whether locals are accepting of differences. They said:

"Several times we have had locals tell us that an American in Brandis is like a Brandiser on the moon. They are curious why we are here, but politely so. Very few foreigners, but a surprising number of Germans who have lived in the US for short contract work periods. We have met more than ten people like this. Differences they do not approve of are often remarked upon directly, you need a thick skin. But women in particular are open to learning different, more effective ways to do things when they see me do things differently," said one expat living in Brandis im Wurzen, Germany.

"Berlin is a modern city with a lot of diverse people although most places are segregated i.e Turkish people mainly in Kreuzberg and wedding it has recently become more open with tentative steps although cliches are still rife here," mentioned another expat in Germany.

"In the 6 years we were there, the population definitely became more diverse. More Italians, Russians, "East" Germans and Americans. These groups were not invited into the social circle of the Germans but socialized amongst themselves. More Indians, Turkish and ex-Yogoslavian were considered loathesome and unfit to talk to," commented one expat who made the move to Germany.

"Munich is not a cosmopolitan town like say Berlin or London. Munich attracts a lot of high-tech people, as a result, there is racial diversity, but not culturally diverse. Munich is liberallly run (SPD), but Bavaria is conservative (CSU/CDU). I am a person of color and feel comfortable and welcome here," remarked another expat living in Munich, Germany.

International Schools in Germany

"Admission is currently a difficult issue due to the lack of space. Currently only children of EU and NATO employees are given admission. As mentioned above, they are currently constructing two new buildings, so the situation might change in one or two years. Their website is www.eursc.org," said one expat whose children attend European School of Munich in Munich.

"Because there is no other international schooling possibility in Hamburg - the International School of Hamburg is the ONLY choice for international families looking for English-language schooling. The lack of competition means the school is a bit of a dinosaur," added another expat with kids at The International School of Hamburg in Hamburg.

"To discuss early your childrens educational needs, listen to the teachers' advice, because they are used to the traumas of kids moving -- and deal with them well. Get involved in the PTA, and with the other parents. They have a coffee corner every morning and a welcome committe for new parents," commented one expat when asked about International School Hannover in Hannover.

"If you are working parents or have enough income to pay around 450-500 euro a month fee. This kindergarten is simply the best! My 3 year old daughter is now speaking English to me and German to my partner. So the bi-lingual aspect is definitely working. I feel very relaxed and secure leaving my daughter there knowing she is well looked after. She also always looks forward to going to the kindergarten - which is a good sign," remarked another expat living in Europa Kindergarten Max und Moritz (Private with Fees) with children attending Europa Kindergarten Max und Moritz (Private with Fees).

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About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder of Expat Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

AGS Worldwide Movers

First Published: Jan 19, 2018

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