Main train station in Frankfurt, Germany
Main train station in Frankfurt, Germany
Main train station in Frankfurt, Germany

Living in Germany Guide

Living in Germany Guide

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Last updated on Feb 13, 2020

Summary: Expats, global nomads and retirees living in Germany talk about meeting other expats, befriending locals, the local culture, diversity in Germany, international schools, crime and more.

AGS Worldwide Movers

People living in Germany share their experiences making friends, adjusting to the culture, what expat life is like in Germany, healthcare in Germany and more.

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:

"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," said one expat living in Munich, 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.

"I lived in a pension (hotel) for 6 months until I knew enough to find a nice rental," commented one expat who made the move to Germany.

"I asked future co-workers who lived in the area then I visited those areas they suggested," remarked another expat living in Karlsruhe, Germany.

"We had our company choose an apartment for us first. We where there 1 year and where able to explore all the areas around us. After that we choose a realtor to find an apartment for us. It was expensive but we really liked the apartment and where able to choose an area closer to the friends we had made and the places we liked to frequent," added another expat in Germany.

"Primarily, our relocation agency found this particular house for us. But, during a Look and See trip, my wife and I identified neighborhoods and towns that we liked. First, we wanted to be close to my work, and to Heidelberg (closest major city). Second, we were looking for a "small-feel" town that had a nice pedestrian zone. Third, there had to be playgrounds within walking distance. With that, our relocation agency found 7 homes in 5 different towns. We settled on this particular home because it was a single-family home versus a twin," remarked another expat who made the move to Germany.

Read our article, 8 Best Places to Live in Germany, for advice about deciding where to live in Germany.

Expats in Germany may get a free expat health insurance quote from our partner Allianz Care, whose plans ensure that you have access to quality healthcare whenever you need it. Allianz's flexible solutions allow you to tailor your cover to meet your needs and budget. Get a Quote

Expats in Germany may get a free expat health insurance quote from our partner Allianz Care, a leader in international insurance for expatriates. Allianz's plans ensure that you have access to quality healthcare whenever you need it. Their flexible solutions allow you to tailor your cover to meet your needs and budget..

Meeting People in Germany

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

"The Duesseldorf Group on meetin.org (http://www.meetin.org/city/MEETinDUESSELDORF) is the easiest way to meet new people. Alternatives are the Irish pubs (such as Buck Mulligans and O'Reily's, both in the Old Town) and the International Library," said one expat living in Dusseldorf, Germany.

"I met people mainly by going to bars, many of which, because of the Army presence and international community, cater more to English-speakers and Americans (the downside of this is the GI crowd, which, despite having met a lot of cool soldiers, also has a lot of violent and ignorant drunks.) There are probably more wholesome ways of meeting people, but I'm wouldn't be the one to know. If you get a job on a U.S. base, they have a lot of programs and such aimed at helping families and new arrivals adjust and meet new people. The university also to host a lot of cultural events and such. There are a lot of nearby woods and mountains so there's always athletic/outdoors type opportunities," mentioned another expat in Germany.

"www.toytownmunich.com It's a forum dedicated to English-speaking expats in Munich. There you get a lot of first-hand information regarding English-speaking medical professionals, exchanging info about where to make the best of a long-weekend, etc," commented one expat who made the move to Germany.

"I recommend joing a "fitness club". Joining a Gym is a good way of meeting new people; this mean that you would need to sign a contract, which in most cases automatically renews on a yearly basis," remarked another expat living in Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany.

"You will be tolerated but not accepted. My children attended school there and we participated in the local music school," added another expat in Germany.

"I would recommend the British Council in Berlin as everyone is great especially Eileen and Len and Paul from the cafe always welcome and also a great information place www.brotcoun.de Also try the British Pub Sanmariter Strasse for a great atmosphere and good beers and sometimes real fish and chips. www.queenvic.de," remarked another expat who made the move to Germany.

Expat Life in Germany

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

"It is a university town, so there's always a lot of nightlife and cultural/academic events. It's population is too diverse to generalize, but it doesn't seem to have as much of a materialistic 9-5 business-minded attitude as I'd imagine would exist in a larger city," said one expat living in Heidelberg, 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!)," 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.

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

"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," added another expat in Germany.

"Cologne has a very lively social atmosphere, especially in the Brauhauser of the Altstadt and in the area called the Sudstadt. The students' quarter around Zuelpicher Str. is always crowded on weekends (excepts during exam periods). Cologne also has a English language movie theater/cinema called the Metropolis. English books are available at the main library (http://www.stbib-koeln.de/)," remarked another expat who made the move to 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:

"I have type 1 diabetes and I was absolutely blown away by how amazing it was. I cannot say enough about this. My wife and I also did in-vitro fertilization, pregnancy and post-natal experience and it cost us 100 euros for the whole thing - with great results. I appreciated the emphasis on recycling, public transport was efficient (we didn't need cars), everything was in walking distance for us, and it was easy to navigate everything in English," said one expat living in Hannover, Germany.

"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," mentioned another expat in Germany.

"There are many things about Germany that I feel constitute an improvement to my life, but the single most important one is easily their healthcare program. They have a single payer system and everybody in the country is covered. Regardless of what my medical needs are, it is paid without question and without me seeing a bill. The second most appreciated improvement is probably the ability to travel cheaply and without restriction to so many historically and culturally relevant places throughout Europe," commented one expat who made the move to Germany.

"I know that most people say Germans are not open and friendly, but I have found that most people are willing to give me the chance. Maybe that is because I am married to a German, and therefore have an 'inside contact'? I also LOVE how punctual everyone is," remarked another expat living in Essen, Germany.

"I found the love of my life and he balances and compliments me 100%. No men in the USA come clsoe to him," added another expat in Germany.

"Americans are often fake in friendships. We'll 'friend' anyone and not take it seriously. Germans take longer to establish friendships but they are solid friends. Germans work to live, where Americas live to work. We put job as a high priority, Germans put the holiday as a high priority. You can laugh about the 30 days of vacation, but they have similiar productivity output as the USA," remarked another expat who made the move to 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:

"I think the most challenging thing is the perception of German unfriendliness. The old people in German are absolutely horrible. They are by far the rudest, selfish, nasty people I have ever had to deal with. Other than that, it is a culture that really doesn't care to make small talk like in the states. I appreciate that, but some people see that as rude," said one expat living in Hannover, 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," mentioned another expat in Germany.

"The most challenging aspect was definitely learning the language and proper etiquette," commented one expat who made the move to Germany.

"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," remarked another expat living in Essen, Germany.

"Becoming friends with people is seemingly difficult. Also mannerisms and conversation topics are much different and difficult to adjust to," added another expat in Germany.

"Finding the right job! It is not the tasks but the people that are making the difference," remarked another 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:

"Heidelberg has a very diverse and international character as a result of several factors. Most notable is the city's large and prestigious university, which attracts lots of German and international students. The city also has large expat and immigrant communities. The U.S. military installations in and around the city and the military personell and civillian workers who live offbase. Because of the academic and international character of the town, most people speak some degree of English," said one expat living in Heidelberg, 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," 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.

"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," remarked another expat living in Berlin, Germany.

"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," added another expat in Germany.

"Yes, very diverse and accepting to the international delegates. Main religions of the region are Catholic and Protestants," remarked another expat who made the move to Germany.

International Schools in Germany

"As an American coming over to Germany, it was hard to understand the IB perspective at first. But I committed to it learning it and now I feel it is much better than a public school in the US. The school is friendly and welcoming, and Hannover is an amazing place to raise a family," said one expat whose children attend International School Hannover Region in Hannover.

"If you want a great international school, this is not the one for you. Go to a different city if you can. For the cost paid at this school, one would expect a very high quality. But, before IB program in grades 11-12, the educational quality is quite average. Additionally, there are no programs or activities for advanced or gifted students. Help is provided for non-native English speaking students. In addition, tuition does NOT include field trips or class trips, all of which are out of pocket. For a such a small school, there is certainly an attitude of "we only do it this way; if you don't like it, too bad for you." For the price of going to this school (one of the highest in Germany), one would expect a bit more flexibility. But, it appears that the end product is not individualized learning but every student on the same schedule and path," added another expat with kids at International School Hamburg in Hamburg.

"Some teachers in this school are excellent; passionate, determined, supportive and positive. There are unfortunately some, who seem to lack involvement. The quality of education is therefore dependent upon the teacher the child receives. If the parent is planning on financing the school himself, it might make more sense to find something cheaper or a public school. As much as I consider the school's international spirit wonderful, the quality of education is rather inferior. From what I have learned, the school does not prioritize the student, despite the stressful pre-university phase. The new management fails to create a friendly and academic atmosphere and prioritizes secondary issues. According to my child, new policies have been introduced this year, which prohibit the IB students (17-19 year olds) from using mobile devices, even in break time, as well as prevent them from leaving school campus during their periods off. The school's administration has displayed a pattern of disrespect towards its students and parents, who were questioning the new rules.This results in a certain hostility between the management and students/parents. I would advice a parent to consider this school only if t is being financed by a company. Paying this money yourself might be not worth it considering the above," commented one expat when asked about International School Hamburg in Hamburg.

"Make sure you take full advantage of the help offered by the administration and the PTA. I had a lot of questions when our family arrived at the school, but I always found answers, through the admission person, the principals, my children's teachers, the counselors, or through my country representative with the PTA, and of course other parents. I have heard that there have been a few problems before at ISH, but things seem to be improving," remarked another expat living in Hamburg with children attending International School of Hamburg.

"Do not go to Hamburg International School. It is a waste of money and educational time. The teachers do whatever they like, because there is no leadership in the school," said another expat in Germany with children at International School Hamburg.

"This is a very good school and very experienced in the International system. The school has been established for 50 years and has a about 1800 students enrolled over 3 campuses. Even though the number of students is high in total, It is split into 2 geographical sites (Oberursel and Weisbaden. Weisbaden is from Age 3 to Grade 5 and Oberursel is from age 3 to Grade 12. The Oberursel site is large and has 3 schools on site (Primary, Elemetary and Upper). Each school feels friendly and small but has the benefit of being on one site. The school is a little American in feel - much of the teminology is US and I found that a little bit hard to get used to (E.g. Athletics does not just mean summer track and field sports as it does in UK but it means all sports!!!!), but about 25% - 30% of students are American. Overall, we are very happy with our move to this school. Our children have certainly grown in academic and social skills and are thriving here," remarked another parent with kids at Frankfurt International School in Frankfurt.

Cost of Living in Germany

"Here are some of the cost of living figures for Dusseldorf, Germany. Flat rent 1000-1500 Eur Flat buy 3000 Eur/m2 Avg Restaurant 8-10Eur/meal Car leasing 300-500 Eur/month Car insurance vary 1000-2000 Eur/year Insurances 300Eur/year Health insurance private 400 Eur/month Health insurance public 400-800 Eur/month Income tax vary depending family status," commented one expat living in Dusseldorf, Germany.

Residency & Visa Requirements

"If you are from the EU, you don't need a visa nor are their residency requirements. If you are from outside of the EE, a visa & work permit are needed, but easy to get if you come to work," commented one expat living in Dusseldorf, Germany.

International Health Insurance in Germany

Get a free international health insurance quote from our partner, Allianz Care, whose plans ensure that you have access to quality healthcare whenever you need it. Allianz's flexible solutions allow you to tailor your cover to meet your needs and budget.

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, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and 5 Best Places to Live in Spain. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

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