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Moving to Germany: Essential Guide for Expats

Updated: Jul 14

You've just found out you're moving to Germany! That's so exciting! Moving to a new country can be quite overwhelming, especially if you're moving to a country where bureaucracy and paperwork are complex.

We know you have so many questions about relocating to Germany. From Germany visa requirements, German work permits, cost of living in Germany and so much more! That's why we've put together a guide to help ease your mind and get you prepared with some of the most useful Germany relocation tips.

So breathe a sigh of relief and read the only Germany expat guide you'll need.

Moving to Germany Preparations: Visa and Documentation

German visa application form

There are several types of visas you can get when relocating to Germany. Whether you're planning to study in Germany or work in Germany, there's some paperwork you need to sort out. The first step in your journey is understanding the German visa requirements.

Germany offers a range of entry visas for expats. These include employment, student, job seeker, and family reunion visas. The visa type you'll need also depends on your nationality. You can find out specific requirements based on your visa type on the German Federal Foreign Office. By answering a few questions, you'll be guided to the type of visa you'll need and the documents they'll require.

Here's a basic checklist of documents you'll likely need:

  • Valid passport

  • Completed application form

  • Health insurance documents

  • Bank statements

  • Biometric photos

  • Depending on the visa type, additional documents like a job contract, acceptance letter from a German university, or proof of relationship may be required.

These documents should be in German or submitted with copies by a certified translator and authenticated. You can find a list of certified translation centers based on your country of residence here.

Be sure to start as early as possible to ensure you have enough time for any delays or documents needed to help you apply for a visa.

Settling In: Housing and Cost of Living in Germany

taking keys of a property in Germany

The next step in your journey will be exploring your options for housing in Germany. Your budget, location and family size will determine the suitable housing options and whether it's best to choose a city apartment or a suburban house. You'll need an address for your international moving company to ship your belongings to.

As it's your first time in the country, it is best to consider renting rather than buying a property. This will offer more flexibility and allow you to make an informed decision once you arrive in the country. After all, you don't know what the future holds. However, if you plan on staying long-term, buying might be a good investment.

To do so, you need to understand the cost of living in Germany and be able to allocate a budget accordingly. Depending on the city you're moving to as well as your lifestyle, costs can vary a great deal. Generally, expect to spend at least 35% of your income on rent. You can compare the cost of living in Germany with your country here.

Here's a basic monthly budget for a single person in Germany:

  • Rent: €700 - €1,500

  • Groceries: €200 - €300

  • Utilities: €200

  • Public transportation: €60 - €100

  • Health insurance: €100 - €200

  • Leisure activities: €100 - €200

If you're planning on staying in a specific area, be sure to check the "Mietspiegal" or rent index of that area to give you a better idea on renting costs. Rental prices are regulated in Germany to ensure fair prices based on location, size and amenities that are included in the property.

Healthcare in Germany: Ensuring Your Well-being

two doctors looking at a patient file for healthcare in germany

Healthcare in Germany has always held high standards and is known for its efficiency. Germany's healthcare system is known for its efficiency and high standards. As an expat living in Germany, you'll probably be part of the statutory health insurance scheme, known as "Gesetzliche Krankenversicherung" (GKV).

Having health insurance is mandatory in Germany. Depending on your employment type and salary you'll either be automatically enrolled in the GKV or be given a choice of private health insurance. For anyone who earns less than €64,350 per year, they'll be part of the GKV. Once you arrive in Germany, it is best to sort out your health insurance immediately in case of emergencies.

Always ask for the "Hausarzt" or general practitioner in your area and familiarize yourself with the process. After seeing the Hausarzt, you'll be referred to a specialist if needed.

Embracing German Culture and Customs

couple who have just moved to Germany celebrating OctoberFest with German traditional attire, beer and a German flag

Germans are known for their rich and diverse culture as well as their deep respect and love for tradition and order. That means Punctuality, directness, and a strong work ethic will be highly valued. Understanding these cultural norms can help you navigate social and professional interactions.

With tradition also comes a whole lot of holidays and festivals. During October, Germans love to dress up in their traditional attire and head to "Octoberfest" which is a carnival that originated in Munich bas has spread to many German cities. You'll find lots of carnival games, music and dancing, street food stalls and a whole lot of beer. This is one locals let go of their poker faces and are seen dancing, singing and having a whole lot of fun. It is definitely a thrilling experience to be part of.

As Christmas approaches, the entire Country lights up with some of the best Christmas markets in the world. It's a great way to explore and get familiar with the German culture, food and traditions in a light and fun way.

Daily Life and Practical Tips for Expats

learning german online on a laptop screen

The public transportation system in Germany is efficient and very easy to follow. Tthe trains and buses are well-connected to neighboring cities and towns if you fancy exploring the German horizons. Otherwise, you'll find the S-Bahn which is an overground service, the U-bahn which is an underground service and dedicated biking lanes if you'd like to cycle. Bike rentals are available in most places and even bike sharing options such as Jump, Donkey Republic and Mo Bike depending on the city.

Once you arrive in Germany, you'll need to open a local bank account. To be able to do so, you'll need to register your address first also known as an "anmelden". You can get this paperwork done at your local citizens' office or "Bürgeramt". Most places in Germany are now cashless, but it is always best to have petty cash on you just in case.

Be sure to pack heavy clothes as the weather can get really cold in the winter. You can also check our packing tips to help you make a smoothe move here.

While many Germans now speak English, learning the Germany language will be a huge plus and will enhance your daily life. This will help you integrate better and be more accepted. Learning German can be done through apps such as Duolingo or Babbel, or you can find local language schools in your area to learn in person.

Social Life in Germany for Expats

expats hiking in Germany

Integrating into German groups will not always be easy, especially in the beginning. That's why we recommend joining international expatriate communities to help you adjust and enjoy your time in Germany. You'll also find useful information to help you navigate life in Germany. Here are a few to get you started:

Conclusion: Embracing the Expat Life in Germany

Moving to a new country can be challenging, and it's normal to experience cultural shock and homesickness. Be sure to explore the beauty and culture that Germany holds and stay connected with loved ones back home. Give yourself the needed time to adjust and remember that it's ok to feel lost.

Hopefully, with this guide, you'll be able to transition to Germany smoothly and have some peace of mind.

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