I didn’t know my partner and I were going to be expats in Germany. If someone told me 5 years ago that I would be moving to Germany when 25 years old, I wouldn’t believe it. I always wanted to move abroad, and my dream destination was the United States.
Germany was never on the list, just because I couldn’t imagine myself living here. I consider myself an extrovert and I like being around people, so when I was reading about living in Germany, I found out that Germans can be very reserved when it comes to meeting new people and that their culture is the opposite of what I was used to, but things change and so did my perspective about it.
My dreams came true in 2019 when I relocated to Chicago. I was living with my partner and working in an advertising agency. I stayed there for almost 1 year and the whole experience was just amazing but living so far away from my family made me and my partner rethink the whole situation.
We decided that we want to move closer to our families and friends (they all live in Slovenia) and ended up moving to Germany.
In this blog post, I wanted to write down what it’s really like living and working in Germany as an expat, so if you’re thinking of relocating here one day or you’re just interested in my expat story, you definitely came to the right place.
I will explain a little bit about why we chose Germany, some of the most important information you need to know about this country, how life is here and why I would recommend moving to Germany.
Let’s start at the very beginning!
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Top Tips for Future Expats in Germany – Moving to Germany Guide
In December of 2019, my partner and I started looking for jobs in Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. We knew that we could find really good job opportunities in these countries and they are all pretty close to Slovenia.
Also, we knew that they all have a high quality of life compared to some other European countries. My partner got the invitations to some interviews in Germany first and all of them went well. After a couple of conversations, we decided that this is the right place to start our next chapter in life.
I had to narrow down my job search and after 4 months of applying, I got the job in Heidenheim an der Brenz (a small city in Baden-Württemberg). We moved here at the beginning of May last year.
Moving here was stressful, especially because we had to do it in the middle of the Coronavirus epidemic and the first 2 weeks in Heidenheim we spent in the complete self-quarantine (not fun at all).
Relocating to another country can be a big challenge and if you’re doing it during such a weird time, you really have to be prepared for anything.
6 Key things you need to know before moving to Germany
1) Follow the rules
The first and probably most important thing you need to know about Germans is that they all love to follow the rules and they are not shy about telling someone if they are doing something wrong.
Two examples of respecting the rules include not walking in the bike lane (believe me, I learned this really fast) and always waiting for the traffic light to turn green before crossing the road. In addition to respecting the rules, you should also do your best to be on time.
Don’t be late for business or social appointments, because this is not part of German culture.
2) Learn a few basic words in German
If you’re planning on moving to Germany or just travelling here, I would recommend learning a few basic words, because, in most of the cities, people prefer German over any other language. All shops, pharmacies, and other business signs are written in German, so you can easily get a bit lost.
3) Most places are closed on Sundays
Sundays in Germany are literally meant for resting. Shops, supermarkets, and pharmacies are closed and a lot of restaurants too. Some of them are open from 10 am-2 pm and then reopen at 5 pm.
4) Recycling is a must
Recycling is a big thing here in Germany. When you recycle plastic or glass bottles you can get a small refund for the deposit (Pfand) originally paid for the bottle.
In all the supermarkets you will find recycling machines where you can drop off your bottles and collect some money (a refund for plastic bottles can be up to 25 cents).
5) Have cash in hand
In a lot of German cities, cash is still a king. Many small restaurants, shops or bars don’t have card machines, so make sure you always have some euros ready.
6) Public transport is excellent
You’re lucky. Travelling around has never been easier. Germany has efficient transport with popular high-speed trains, however, if you’re on a budget, you can always choose slower intercity trains going for half the price or even overnight buses.
Working and living in Germany as an expat
Now that you are aware of some key facts about Germany and their culture, we can talk about what it is like to live and work here.
I need to be completely honest with you. Finding a job in Germany can be a real challenge, especially if your German is not on a level B or C.
Most companies are looking for someone who is fluent and the sooner you accept and understand this, the better it will be for you.
I was learning German in high school but I didn’t like the language and I didn’t use it, so I forgot almost all the vocabulary and grammar. When I started applying for jobs here, I was still at level A.1 (I’m slowly getting better).
I was lucky that I got an internship at an international company where almost everybody communicates in English. So, if you want to start looking for a new opportunity in Germany, I recommend you learn the language as soon as possible. Start by taking online classes, use apps like Duolingo or Babbel, and watch German movies (some of them are really fun).
As I already explained a little bit before, Germans are known to be a bit more reserved when it comes to meeting new people and making friends.
They need some time to open up and you have to accept that. So, if you want to socialize, you could start by inviting some people from your work to a coffee or lunch. You have to give them time and be patient, so they can really start trusting you.
Another way of meeting new people in Germany is through sports activities (basketball, football, volleyball) or by joining a club (comedy, running, reading…). Sharing similar interests is a great way to build a long-lasting relationship with someone.
I was also surprised about another thing when I moved to Germany and its bureaucracy. Luckily, I was already used to dealing with it in the United States and I’ve learned how to be patient because you will need that if you’re planning on moving here.
When it comes to paperwork, the rules apply to everything and anything and it starts with registering your home address. Within the first 2 weeks of moving to Germany, you will have to go through a process known as Anmeldung and receive your certificate of registration.
You will need this to get your health insurance, bank account, residence permit or to register a car. You have to make an appointment with a local Bürgeramt (citizen office) and I recommend taking someone who knows German with you because usually, you can’t get an appointment with an English speaker.
If you want to for example register a new car, it will take you about 2 weeks before you can finish with all the paperwork and actually start driving around (if you purchase it outside of your home state).
So, my tip for you would be to stay patient and respect their rules.
Related post: 10 Best Expat Jobs in Europe
Why you should move to Germany
Even though I mentioned before some challenges you will have to face when moving to Germany, I still think that this is a really good place to live and eventually settle down.
Over these past few months, I changed my perspective on their culture and their way of living. They can be reserved when it comes to meeting new people and they like following the rules but the result of that is the high quality of life in this country and also when you make friends with them, the relationship can last forever. Germany has one of the best economies in Europe.
German companies are leading in many sectors and many markets worldwide. I would also like to point out the really good work-life balance.
For example, in my company, you are not allowed to work more than 10 hours a day and you have to take at least a 1-hour break in between.
Most employees finish working by 4 or 5 pm and then after that, they participate in education or training or take up an interest, hobby or leisure pursuit or simply spend quality time with their families.
Living in Germany means also living in the heart of Europe which can be a big advantage. They have borders with France, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria and Switzerland and you can easily visit them by car, train, or plane.
One last thing I would like to mention here is the diverse landscape. You will find everything, from beautiful mountains, green cities, lakes, and the sea in the north.
Must-see places in Baden-Württemberg
Last but not least are some tips and must-see places in Baden Württemberg, the state in southwest Germany, where I recently moved to.
Heidenheim (where I live) is a cute little town with a population of about 50.000. Here you will find a beautiful castle (the view from the top is amazing), a riverwalk (the river is called Brenz), a lot of small parks and good restaurants.
However, if you love living somewhere livelier and with more attractions, there are plenty of things to do in Bavaria, which isn’t very far from Heidenheim.
Bigger cities like Stuttgart and Ulm are also just an hour away with a car and I love their vibes, so I would definitely add them to a must-see places list. Lake Constance/Bodensee (a big lake in the South) is also really beautiful.
You will find a lot of small cities around it like Lindau, Konstanz and Meersburg. Bodensee straddles three countries—Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, so you can basically drive for a few minutes and be in another country, how great is that?
If I could describe Germany in 3 words, it would be good beer, many rules and an amazing landscape. I definitely don’t regret moving here, because I’m living a really good life. I’m eating all this amazing food, drinking good beer and exploring these new beautiful places with my partner every weekend.
On top of all that, I have the feeling that I’m living in a safe and stable country and don’t have to really worry about what the future will bring. So, if you’re still thinking about moving to Germany or just visiting it one day, I would recommend you do so.
Pin these tips for moving to Germany for later
Frequently asked questions about moving to Germany
Can I move to Germany without a job?
Yes, you can move to Germany without a job. However, you need to think about your chances of getting a job, which will highly rely on your knowledge of German and your skills.
If you struggle to learn the language, you can consider freelancing as it’s a great option to get an income while living abroad.
What jobs are in demand in Germany?
These are some of the jobs in demand in Germany:
- IT Experts
- Lecturers and Tutors
- Electronic Engineers
- Marketing and Advertising Professionals
How much money do you need to move to Germany?
It really depends on the country you currently live in. If you’re moving from the US to Germany, you’ll realise how cheap Germany is in comparison to the US.
If you’re moving from an Eastern European country, you’ll find out that Germany is more expensive.
The average cost of living in Germany per month is around €1,200, but this can be different depending on the city or town.
What are the disadvantages of living in Germany?
I think the advantages of living in Germany overpasses the disadvantages, but, of course, you find the cons of living like in any country.
Some of the main cons of living in Germany are:
- bureaucracy is everywhere
- the German language is challenging
- cold winters
- lack of variety of food choices
- almost everything is closed on Sundays
What should I avoid in Germany?
It’s essential that you try to adapt to the culture as soon as possible, however, knowing certain things before moving to Germany will help you avoid weird situations:
- avoid being late as it’s seen as rude
- enter a house with shoes on
- walk in the bike lanes
- small talk, Germans like meaningful conversations
Is it worth moving to Germany?
After reading the post, I believe you have a better understanding of what it is like to live in Germany.
But if you still have doubts about moving to Germany, here are the main reasons you should make Germany your new home:
- high quality of life
- one of the best economies in Europe
- good work-life balance
- living in the heart of Europe which makes it easier to travel
- diverse landscapes – from beautiful greenery mountains to lakes and seaside
If you would like to know more about moving abroad check this post.
About the author
Lara has been living as an expat for 1,5 years now. She was born and raised in Slovenia but then moved to Chicago and this year to Germany.
She is a Marketing Specialist but in her free time she’s working on some side projects and one of them is blogging. She loves travelling, watching Netflix and eating lasagna 😉