Berlin, Germany
Berlin, Germany
Berlin, Germany

Moving to Germany

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Last updated on Nov 27, 2021

Summary: Moving to Germany: Expats, retirees and digital nomads talk about everything you need to know before moving to Germany.

International Relocation Guide
International Relocation Guide
International Relocation Guide
International Relocation Guide

What do I need to know before moving to Germany?

When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to Germany, they said:

"Plan further ahead than the 90 days we did. Your driver's license is only good for 180 days if you live here. Plan ahead. IF you live in a state with full reciprocity it will be cheap and easy to get a German license. California doesn't have reciprocity so you have to do everything. Minimum cost will be 600 euros. (You pay for the tests every time your take them, you must pay a school to have a car to test in, Driving exam will be in German. Written is 80 driving is 160 plus car and driver.) Bring original documents, Especially if you are working of credentials. We also needed a postulated marriage certificate to claim married status for taxes. Would try to find a place near any job. Munich is pretty flat and bike infrastructure is good," said another expat in Munich.

"If you don't look European, don't move here, come here for a visit is OK. Although University education is inexpensive here, don't waste your time trying to get a degree here. The German university S-cks," added another expat who made the move to Nordrhein-Westfalen.

"I lived in many areas and I worked for many companies. I have been in Germany of almost eight years now. So: 1. Ensure your company will find an apartment for you (it might be impossible). 2. Your company will not put you in the socialist health care system. Say, " NO! I want a private health insurance!" And repeat it a few times, and then put it in writing as well. You will find in time, how primitive the communication skills of your local co-workers are, although in the beginning you will think they are the most modern and open-minded Europeans you ever met. 2. Learn German, if possible, before you move to Germany. If you do not speak German when you get here, you will encounter many problems. And you will get only filtered information. Plus all the misunderstandings, you will be amazed. Although a generalization, a person in Germany will never tell you when they do not understand something or for that matter when they cannot do something. Or if they do not want to do something. There is a passive resistance: yes, sure, OK; and then you will hear nothing until you ask / communicate again. 3. If you have a name, which might not sound American from the German perspective, John Wayne for example :-), be ready to answer the question put to you at some point in time: Are you a real American? If you are not prepared, like I was not, you will be perplexed and get the itchy feeling in your fingertips to reach for a gun and shoot the m.f. although you might hate guns, like I do. 4. Be ready to deal with things that might not cross you mind what so ever, that is be ready for ideas and communication results that you have never experienced. I.e. at work you send an email to a co-worker: you might never get an answer, not even an I will get back to you. Someone comes to make repairs will never give you a precise price. You buy a t-shirt, it will shrink by washing and drying 30%, although it is written in big letters, American T-Shirt. You go buy a new car, the person will try again and again to sell you a used car. You go to the bank to transfer money, there are hidden fees (high percentages) that no one will feel entitled to inform you as a customer. You buy anything that has a standard two year guarantee, it will break after a year, and of course, you will not had kept all the boxes and receipts for everything that you bought. Your department or the whole company will be restructured every three months - you keep tasks to do, you have bosses you do not know. There are Unions not just for blue collar but white collars as well - you got no choice; get informed of the positive but mostly the negatives. Get ready for mobbing: most workers will make the life of a co-worker be hell; I am not sure why it is being done in Germany, probable because it is harder to fire someone; or because of what Freud said, the German culture remained in the anal phase. It is a sado-maso culture. If you fit in, it is OK; if not, it is hell. The school system is very different - get informed. Depending on the region: your neighbors will not be the friendly type at all, and will dislike you very much if you do better financially then they do. And you will get to know it. And so on," explained one expat living in Frankfurt, Germany.

"Secure a job first. Either have your work assist you with the house location, or plan several months of hotel time to "get the lay of the land". Don't be afraid to live in some of the smaller towns, much more character," said another in Brandenburg an der Havel.

"Take your time. Don't compare it to your current home in the US. If you compare, compare it to others in your similar situation (income, family status, lifestyle). If you would like to take public transportation, which is very popular, economical, and practical in Europe, be sure to live near a bus/train stop," explained one expat who made the move to Karlsruhe.

"Frankfurt is a wonderful city. There are a lot of wonderful areas you just have to get out there and explore. Expect things to be different than (USA)home but be open minded about it. I always said that it's not better or worse it's just different. Soak up the experience one day you may no be able to have it. Do what you need to do to make your at home. It's hard being a foriegner especially if it's your first time living overseas. Find a way to make yourself a safe spot where you feel be relaxed at the end of a day of learning a new language and exploring a new town.If you don't speak the language get out there start taking German lessons as soon as possible. Immerse yourself in it and it will get easier," explained one expat living in Frankfurt, Germany.

How do I find a place to live in Germany?

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About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000. Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Some of Joshua's more popular articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 8 Best Places to Live in Croatia and the Living in Mexico Guide. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

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Get a quotes for international health insurance from our partner, William Russell.
GET A QUOTE

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Berlin, Germany
William Russell Health InsuranceExpat Health Insurance

Get a quotes for international health insurance from our partner, William Russell.
GET A QUOTE

William Russell Health InsuranceExpat Health Insurance

Get a quotes for international health insurance from our partner, William Russell.
GET A QUOTE

Living in Germany GuideLiving in Germany Guide

Guide to Living in Germany covering expat life, local culture, finding a home, diversity and more.

Germany Forum Germany Forum
Meet other expats and talk about living in Germany.

Best Places to Live in Germany Best Places to Live in Germany

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Cost of Living in GermanyCost of Living in Germany

Expats offer insight into the cost of living in Germany.

Moving to GermanyMoving to Germany Guide

Expats in Germany share 10 things they wish they had known before moving to Germany - from the importance of learning German to residency permits to understanding the culture and more.

Real Estate in GermanyReal Estate in Germany

Real estate listings in popular cities and towns in Germany.

Pros Cons of Living in GermanyPros & Cons of Living in Germany

Take off your rose-colored glasses and learn what expats have to say about the biggest challenges and the greatest rewards of living in Germany.

Retiring in GermanyRetiring in Germany

Advice for people retiring in Germany.

Contribute to Germany Network Contribute
Help other expats and newcomers by answering questions about the challenges and adventures of living in Germany.

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