Expats Guide to Germany

Expats Guide to Germany

Germany – located in central Europe with borders with nine countries and a population of around 82 million. Most of the population is formed of German residents along with foreigners, guest workers and refugees.

Expats moving to Germany will find that it is straight forward relocating with it being a pioneering country with an influential economy which makes it a popular expat destination with the high living standards. The country has rural and urban landscapes which include the big cities, small towns, and forests, the foothills of the Alps and the beautiful scenic regions of the Bavarian Alps.

Germany has 16 states which each have their own traditions and language and other German cities include Munich, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Hanover. Those who chose to move to live in Germany will experience the lovely landscapes which link the cities to high quality living results.

With Germany being in the centre of Europe, it shares borders with 9 other countries which are Denmark, Czech republic, Austria, Poland, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. As well as this, the country is the most second popular country after Russia for immigrants and many expats choose to live, work and study here.


General Information

Population: There is a population of around 82 million
Capital of Germany: Berlin which is also the largest city
Official Language: Official language is German but English is understood widely
Major Cities: Frankfurt, Berlin, Hamburg, Dusseldorf
Popular Expat cities: Frankfurt, Munich, Hamburg
Time Zone: GMT +1 (GMT+2 from the end of March to October)
Money: The Euro (EUR) divided into 100 cents
Popular attractions: Bradenburg Gate, Romantic Road, Neuschwanstein Castle and Lake constance
Religions: Christianity
Public Holidays: New Year’s Day, Easter Monday, Easter Sunday, Labour Day, Ascension Day, Whit Monday, Assumption of the Virgin Mary, Day of German unity, All Saints Day, Christmas day, Second day of Christmas and Easter Monday
International Dialling code: The international dialling code in Germany is +49
Emergency contact: 110 (police) and 112 (ambulance)

Popular Expat Destinations

Germany is referred to being the country of poets and thinkers due to the well known poets Johann Wolfgand von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller along with narrators and authors who wrote Hansel and Gretel and the Grimm brothers.

The countries capital city is Berlin and Germany is divided into 16 federal states which have their own policies and laws in certain fields i.e. culture and education. The federal government is usually responsible for defences, justice, finance and the affairs with foreign countries.

The 16 federal countries are Berlin, Brandenburg, Bremen, Baden-Wurttermberg, Bavaria, Hamburg, Hesse, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia, Saarland, Saxony-Anhalt, Schleswig-Holstein, Rhineland-Palatinate, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia,

As well as this, Germany has the largest economy in Europe with it being the third largest in the world. Companies in the country export goods worth millions which makes it one of the largest exporters.

Expats moving to the country will be able to live an excellent standard of a thriving economy, which is no surprise as it is one of the most popular expat destinations to move to where you can experience the wealthy Munich city and the party life of Berlin depending on where you choose to move.

With that being said, the cost of living in the country depends on what city you choose to move to – the popular expat cities are Munich which is the most expensive followed by Frankfurt. Berlin however does have cheaper rent properties than in Dusseldorf and Hamburg which has previously been rated the most expensive for expats.


The second largest city in Germany is Hamburg with a population of over 1.7 million people and is located on the Elbe River flowing into the North Sea. This city has the second largest port in Europe making it an important transport hub.

Hamburg is known to be a popular tourist destination for both international and domestic visitors with major European science, research and education hubs with many institutions and universities. As well as this, the theatres and musical shows are proven to be popular amongst the tourists with it being the best European entertainment districts.

Hamburg and Bremen are the only city states which have something of the medieval independences which it has been proudly maintained by the people living there. It is a city which has a cosmopolitan city in its outlook

Expats moving to Hamburg with children will find that the school system is administered by the state ministry of schools and vocational training with around 245 primary schools and 195 secondary schools. The education in public schools is free and the standards of education comparing to other cities in Germany is not so great. In addition to this, there are international schools and a French school available.

There are great public transport links with four underground lines, six above ground suburban lines and nine regional services.

Not only does Hamburg offer business opportunities, but expatriates can enjoy the beautiful sunsets, green space and country sides.


The weather in Hamburg experiences a mild climate with warm summers and cool winters. The winter temperatures are around 34.2 °F and the summer temperatures is 62.4 °F. Seasons are varied with June to August being the hottest and the coldest months being December to February.

Popular Tourist Attractions in Hamburg

  1. Miniatur Wonderland
  2. Port of Hamburg
  3. Hamburg Rathaus
  4. St Michaels Church
  5. Ohlsdorf Chemistry
  6. Museum of Arts and Crafts
  7. International Maritime Museum
  8. Altona


This is the capital and largest city of Germany along with it being one of the 16 states with a population of 3.7 million. Berlin is the most popular cities of Germany and expats moving here will be living in a thriving and cosmopolitan city.

Both expats and tourists come here to visit the beautiful lakes, forests and the fairytale castles with the modern architecture and historical buildings. Its cultural scene and the way of life is fast paced and relaxed. Expats will also find that the sights of Berlin tell the story of an entire nation and that this city is home to the government buildings and the German parliament.

Here you will find more than 150 museums with it being the city of art and museums as well as this many people come to Berlin to see the leading orchestras, ballets and theatre shows.

With a relaxed surrounding, green space, forests and lakes expats will want to move here for the laid back lifestyle and enjoyable attractions.

Looking for property in the city is more affordable than in London and there is a low cost of living with cheap rents and accommodation. Berlin benefits from the well-organized public transport system, education, higher education and the healthcare. Education is considered important in Berlin and there has been an importance shown for higher education with the number of universities, colleges and research institutes that are available.


The weather in Berlin ranges from it being hot in July with temperatures of 18°C and the coldest is in January with temperatures from -1°C. The wettest month in the year is June with rainfall to an average of 71mm.

Popular tourist attractions in Berlin

  1. Reichstag
  2. Berlin television tower
  3. Bradenburg Gate
  4. Berlin cathedral
  5. Museum Island
  6. Charolottenburg Palace


Those moving to Frankfurt will have many things to do to keep entertained, from sports, dining out, festivals and exploring the culture. This city is the fifth largest city in Germany and expats moving here will experience great education, tourism attractions and beautiful culture.

Frankfurt is most famous for the business and financial centres of Germany with it being the largest city in the German state. It is also known for having the busiest airport and the innovative skyline. It is home to the European central bank Deutsche bank and has other large commercial banks.

Expats moving here can find themselves in a global city which has a combined role of a modern and cultural environment.

There are many shopping centres, sightseeing attractions and theatre shows to enjoy here along with the excellent public transport methods to get around seeing all these.

The accommodation here can be expensive but there are different types of properties which are available so it is important that expats secure a home quickly here due to the demand of affordable housing prices. Those who are moving with children will have many options of schools – from public and private schools available which have an excellent standard of teaching as well as the international schools that are available.


The weather in Frankfurt shows warm summers and cold winters with the months of winter being stormy and having snowfalls. July is the hottest month with temperatures of 19°C and the coldest month is January with temperatures of 1°C

Popular Tourist Attractions in Frankfurt

  1. The Romerburg
  2. Goethe House and Museum
  3. Senckenburg National History Museum
  4. The old opera house
  5. St Bartholomews Cathedral
  6. Zoo Frankfurt
  7. St Pauls Church
  8. The Palm Gardens

Utilities – Electricity, Gas, Water and Waste

When property has been rented out or purchased it is advised to check the contract to see if utilities are included. Majority of the states and regions in Germany do however have their own utility companies and with the competition that there is residents usually select their own company depending on who has the best prices.

If you are renting, it is most likely that the building will arrange a connection on your behalf, however if you are applying yourself an ID such as a passport must be shown as well as a deposit given


The electricity in Germany is on a meter which is generally read annually and the monthly bills are calculated through an estimate of household has and electricity usage. Those who use more energy than estimated will be required to make additional charges and those who have used less will be reimbursed.

The electricity supply is run on a standard 230 volt system and payments are made via automatic bank transfer or on a standing order.

Those who want to change their electricity supplier will be required to wait for up to three months and it is recommended that a note of all the meter readings from the previous occupant are taken so that the utility company will only bill you for what you have used.


Gas in Germany is also metered and is read annually with the monthly payments being estimated and adjusted after an annual meter reading. Payment for gas is made via automatic bank transfers or standing order.

To set up Gas in your home, the company can be contacted directly with some of them offering online services to request getting gas connected or even disconnected. The gas supplies have customer service centres with English speaking staff that are helpful in completing


The water in Germany is safe to drink from the tap, but many do choose to buy bottled or drink filtered water. The water is supplied by the local waterworks and the costs of water are determined on the usage.

The water quality is found to be hard in some parts of Germany so it has been advised that lime scale protection products are used in washing machines and dishwashers.

Waste Disposal

Waste disposal has become popular in Germany and most residents like to separate the household waste. The costs for waste disposal are included in the additional chargers of the home owner’s fee.

Recycling bins will also be provided which should be used to separate waste into paper, glass and residual waste. The waste bags are then collected by the municipal services every two – four weeks.

Formal Entry Requirements

When moving to Germany expats will need to ensure that all paperwork is in order and make sure they have the right visa and entry requirements for Germany before moving.

Citizens of EU states are able to come to the country with just their passport and are able to live and work in Germany without a visa, however will need to get a residency permit.

Non-EU citizens who are travelling to Germany for a short stay may be required to apply for a Schengen visa which generally can take around two weeks to obtain. Expats who are not from the EU will also need to get a work or residency permit to live and work in the country

Types of Visas Available

There are different types of visas that are available to enter the country, and it is important that expats make an application for the correct one due to the reason why they are coming to the country.

Tourist Visa

Germany is under the Schengen agreement so residents who have come from other Schengen countries will not need to apply for a tourist visa before arriving. These individuals will also be able to stay for up to 90 days in the country.

As well as the Schengen countries, citizens of the UK, Australia, Argentina, USA and New Zealand are also able to stay in the country for 90 days or less.

A tourist visa can be applied for at a German embassy or consulate before arriving in the country. Expats should apply a couple of months before the departure date.

Short Stay Visa

EU nationals will not need a visa to enter Germany although a passport will be required and expats must ensure that it is valid for the duration of the visit. Other nationalities will need to check rules depending on the country of origin which means that some nationalities will not need a visa for up to 90 days within a 180 day period but other nationalities will always need a visa to enter the country.

Fees for a short stay visa can vary from 60 Euros to more but to find out more information it is best to contact the local Germany embassy or visit the German Federal Foreign office website.

When applying for a short stay visa it can take between 2 to 10 days for it to be processed by could be longer in busy periods.

To be able to get a short stay vis, you must meet the following:

  • A valid reason to enter Germany
  • Sufficient income to finance living costs in the country
  • Provide evidence of travel health insurance
  • Be prepared to leave the country before the visa expires.

Documents for a Schengen Visa application

  • Passport
  • Passport colour sized photos
  • Completed application
  • Proof of travel
  • Evidence of accommodation
  • Application fees
  • Schengen visa holders do not have permission to work or conduct business in Germany and other member countries.

Long stay visas

A long stay visa can take up to three – four months for it to be processed and EU, EEA and Swiss nationals will not need a visa for long stay periods or if you wish to take up employment in the country.

To register for a long stay visa, this can be done at the nearest registration office within 7 days of arriving in Germany and generally people will need to speak German to register. For those who are unable to speak German will need to take along a someone who does.

The documents that will need to be shown are:

  • Passport
  • Proof of address
  • Marriage/Divorce documents
  • Relevant fee
  • Non-EU foreign nationals will need to apply for a long stay visa from their home country before arriving, but nationals from Canada, New Zealand, Japan, US and Australia are able to enter Germany first then apply for the long stay visa.

Business Visas for Germany

Those who want to do business in the country will need to apply for a business visa which needs a formal invitation from Germany companies.

Expats will be required to show why they are coming to the country, duration of the stay and costs involved.

Work Permits

Expats who wish to work and settle in Germany will be required to have a work permit. Requirements for a work permit will vary depending on what country you are from.

Most citizens from EU states will not be required to have a permit but those who are from Bulgaria and Romania will need one if working in certain sectors.

Anyone planning on living in Germany needs a residency permit, regardless of where they come from.

Non-EU citizens many find it harder to obtain a work permit for Germany especially those who do not have specialist skills to find work. For this reason, the German government has agreed upon policies to protect jobs for citizens and residents who are already in the country and have a right to work and live in Germany. Those however who are planning to stay for longer than three months will be required to get a residency permit.

Self Employed Resident Permit

This is a permit for those who a self employed or for those who want to set up their own business. Applicants will need to demonstrate how skills are required in the particular area of Germany they will be moving to. A self employed residence permit will be given for three years, ad when it comes to expiring the permit will be extended until further notice only if the application has been successful.

Expats who want to set up their own business will need to show that a positive contribution will be made to the local economy by the means of employing local staff. They also must ensure that they have enough funds to start up the business.

You may be required to show a detailed business plan which shows the long term goals of the business and what will be done in order for the goals to be completed.

General Employment Permit

A general employment permit should be applied for by expats who have a offer of employment from a German company as well as a vocational qualification

To obtain this visa, it is quite difficult due to the government preferring to give nationals of the country jobs. For this reason, employers will need to give a reason of why a foreign national is hired and suitable for the particular job.

Specialist Professional Residence Permit

More skilled professionals and those wanting to work can apply for this visa. Majority of the applications are sent by graduates who have specialist skills i.e. university managers and professors with years of experience and those with other specific skills.

Applicants must be able to prove that they are able to speak the German language as well as being in a good financial situation to be able to support themselves in the country. A firm offer must be given by an employer and degrees, qualifications can be submitted as proof.

Residency Permit

A residency permit should be done in person at the German embassy or local consulate. There are three types of residency permits for non-EU citizens who will be working in the country. These are General employment, Professionals with specialist skills and self employed foreigners. In some cases non-EU expats will need to have the residency permit approved before arriving.

Once application has been processed, expats will be granted a limited or unlimited residency permit which is dependent on the country of origin and the reason for staying.

Study Permits

Expats who want to study in Germany will be required to apply for a study permit. Those who have not been accepted in a university can get a three month, non-working student applicant visa to be able to fulfil the German university requirements proving you have the required qualifications.

Once you have secured admission in the university, a regular German student permit will be required on a full time course which will also enable students to work for 120 days in the year.

Students who have already been offered a position in a German university will need to apply for the three month student visa which then can be changed into a German residence permit within three months.

It is important that students have the finances and health insurance during the course of stay and will need to prove that you are able to speak the German language.

Employment in Germany

Expats seeking employment in Germany will find that there are different ways to be successful in the job search. Although it can be difficult to get started especially if you are restricted to only English speaking jobs. However, those that are qualified with a degree and have work experience as well as being able to speak German have a good chance of obtaining employment.

Germany is one of the largest economies in Europe and is the fifth largest in the world which means that there will be jobs in the country for expats with a specialist and qualified skills with the skills shortages. Other casual jobs are also available but in most cases, a small amount of the German language must be known.

Those moving to the country that is outside of the EU will also need to make sure that they are eligible to work in Germany.

The IT industry in the country is one of the largest and is always looking for employees to join, there are also opportunities for those who have interest or experience in biology, chemistry, engineering and high-tech science.

The salaries vary on what employment you have and the country has some of the highest in the world especially those individuals who have degrees.

There are many benefits in working in Germany and workers are able to get holidays, paid sick leave, paternity/maternity leave and have the option of part-time working.

Finding a Job

The majority of the expats who move to Germany are usually transferred from international and overseas companies. Individuals who have not secured a job before arriving may find it difficult and must ensure that they provide a well-detailed CV which shows education and professional qualifications/experience.

Along with the CV, employers will want a recommendation from previous employers as well as a copy of your degree.

A good way of finding work can be by signing up to a recruitment agency who can help find work in particular fields and advise candidates on what documents will need to be included in part of the applications.

To find a list of recruitment agencies in Germany, these can be found online or on the German yellow pages. It is also recommended that you find out if the agency will charge a fee for help you find work. There are also many international recruitment agencies in the country which list specialist jobs.

Other ways of finding work can be through websites which can be used by expats. Below is a list of popular websites that are used to find work

Expatica Jobs – This website is used by those who are looking for English speaking jobs. A list of jobs are available in a range of sectors

EURES – Those who are from the EU, EEA or Switzerland can find work through this websites. A job portal which maintained by the European commission and is designed for you to be able to submit your CV as well as getting advice in legal issues

Public German Job – The federal employment agency is the largest provider of labour markets in the country. They have around
700 agencies and offices in and around the country.

For English speaking jobs, you can visit these websites

  • English Jobs
  • Craigslist – A job portal which has casual jobs
  • Toplanguage jobs – Have a list of English speaking jobs as well as other languages.

Many company websites generally advertise jobs available on their own website in both English and German. Top companies in Germany include: Adidas, Siemens, Volkswagen, Bosch, Deutsche Bank and much more

Teaching English

For native English speakers, there are many opportunities to teach English in German schools. You will, however, need to have a degree, experience and a TEFL qualification.
Facts about working in Germany

  • Business hours: The working hours are Monday to Friday 9 am-12 pm and 1 pm to 5 pm
  • Business language: The main language spoken is English but in some parts of the country the second language which is spoken is Russian or German
  • Greeting: A handshake is the usual greeting in business
  • Dress Code: Conservative, Smart and Formal

Housing and Accomodation

The costs of living accommodation in Germany are low and average rents in Munich are the highest in the country. Many Germans spend less than 30 percent of their income on housing.

Finding accommodation is one of the priorities for expats to ensure that they are living in a good area which is suited to their lifestyle.

There are different types of accommodation in the country from apartments to maisonettes, cottages, large family homes and studio apartments. Most people in the city centre do prefer to live in apartments and those wanting to rent property in the larger cities will find the costs of housing being set by the location.

The Majority of the expats moving to the country prefer to rent than buy especially if only in the country for a short period of time.

The properties that are advertised usually show what the size is, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms as well as showing the energy rates.

Expats must be aware that when renting out unfurnished properties, they do come without curtains, light fittings and kitchen appliances.

Finding Property

Finding property to rent in the country can be quite simple compared to other countries and there are different ways in doing so – Online listings, help from an estate agent and newspaper listings.

Once you have found a property of interest, a viewing can be arranged with the particular landlord. With the competition that there is for housing, it is advised that expats show interest straight away as landlords usually determine the shortlist for rental applications. A three months period of rent may also need to be given as a security deposit

With the high demand of properties, the importance of getting all documents in order is vital. The documents expats will need when applying for property include the following

  • Application form – which is usually handed out at the viewing
  • Copies of photo ID and a valid permit
  • Income proof – i.e. wage slips
  • Certificate from previous landlords to ensure you have no rent due
  • Credit reports

If you have only recently arrived in the country and do not have any of these documents, you must indicate this on the application.

Renting property

To rent out property expats must be quick in order to secure a place to rent out. As previously stated expats should arrange to view a property with an estate agent or a landlord and if you are interested in the property the landlord should be made aware.

Tenants will need to give a security deposit of at least one month’s rent, however, some landlords may want rent for up to three months.

The tenancy agreement can be long in Germany where it is not common for landlords to request a lease period of up to two years. Expats renting out must ensure that the lease agreements shows all the details and the conditions are understood before the end of the initial contract period.

The majority of the tenancies are unlimited so tenancy agreements can only be ended by the landlord evicting the tenant through the courts or by giving three or more months notice. The notice is only accepted if the landlord has a good reason for it being given.

The limited contract also is in some properties where the landlord has a good reason for which they are not able to continue renting the property.

Other than this, tenants moving into the property should inspect and note down any damages to the property to ensure that the security deposit is given in full once the lease has ended.

Renting Costs

A two bedroom apartment can cost up to EUR 300 per month and this is usually higher in popular areas and larger cities.

Utility costs are generally not included in the rent, but this can be laid out before signing the agreements. The property will be described as Kaltmiete which means it is without heating and utilities. A warmmiete however, does include heating and other costs for other utilities and management fees.

Buying Property

Expats wanting to buy property will find that it is a straightforward process and the deals are handled generally by estate agents.

When you have found a property you want to buy, a contact will be prepared between the seller and buyer which will indicate the terms of the sale. A notary will then sure that the sale is carried out and that there are no problems.

There are additional costs involved in buying property in Germany which includes the agent fee, notary fee, property transfer tax and other administrative costs.

Education and Study

43Expats moving to the country must be aware of the education system and the different types of schools which children can be enrolled in. Once a student enters secondary school, there are five different school types and these will dictate the higher education opportunities.

The government plays a small role in providing the education in the country and the school’s responsibility is mainly with the individual states. Therefore, parents will find that there is a difference in the curriculum, teaching style and facilities within the schools.

Children will study the academic subjects Maths, Science, Geography, History and Languages as well as be having the opportunity to study other vocational disciplines. There is now an emphasis on the academic subjects in the schools with creative subjects outside of the main curriculum. Students will also get the opportunity to decide if they want to follow an academic or a non-academic route at the end of primary school.

Compulsory Education

Education in the country is compulsory for all children aged six to 15 years old, although some students carry on with their education until the age of 18.

The schools in Germany are run by the state which is free, however, there is fee paying private and international schools available for parents who want to send their children to one of those.

In addition to this, the general education policy is set by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research with each federal state having their own education programme and standards which mean that the students learn different across the country.

Students are tested on a regular basis and will receive two reports in the year which will give them a grade of 1-6. When the child has gone to secondary school if the student does not achieve the required grade in more than two classes they will be required to repeat the whole of the year.

The School Year

School in Germany starts in Mid-August/September and ends in the beginning of July. You must check this with the school directly as this can vary from the state you are residing in. The schools holidays are similar to those in the United Kingdom with six weeks in the summer, two weeks in the autumn, two weeks at Christmas, a week in Easter and various state and religious holidays. You are unable to take children out of school during the term and parents should be aware that if this is done without permission they will be fined.

The school calendar for private schools will have their own

The Education system

Nursery and pre-school is optional, but primary school and secondary school are compulsory in the German education system.


Children who are under the age of three can attend nursery and those with children who are aged between three and six may send their child to a pre-school. Morning sessions, a whole day, evening and weekend sessions are available in some places for children to attend.

The nurseries and pre-schools can be private, public or church run with some being free and with others charging fees which is usually based on how much income the parents earn. It is advised that your child is put down on a waiting list as soon as possible as they may not be able to get a place straight away.

Primary School

Children from the age of six to twelve attend primary school and they are able to start in the autumn term in the year that the child turns six. However, if the application has not been sent, there is a cut off date to determine if they can start school.

On the first day of primary school, the tradition in Germany is that a child brings a Schultute which is a decorative parcel filled with sweets and presents.

Primary education has four grades (1-4), although in some German regions the school continues until year 6. Students will be tested at the end of the second year so that they achieve a certain standard and may need to repeat the year if they fail to do so.

Once the primary school has ended, the teachers will then again assess abilities and interests then advise parents on which secondary school would be best for the child. Although, parents usually decide the secondary school themselves

Secondary School

There are five types of schools which make up the secondary education system in the country. This is determined generally on the basis of the student’s academic performances, teachers recommendation and a parents preference.

  • Gymnasium:  A secondary school which helps prepare students for tertiary education and finishes with final examinations after grade 12 or 13. Most students study here between the ages of 10 and 18 where they are able to study a broad range of  subjects including different languages
  • Realschule: This school offers a much more broad education for intermediate students. It offers a range of vocational subjects in addition to the traditional academic courses. After grade 10 a final assessment will be taken place. It can offer a high academic standard and there is a range of subjects which are taught.
  • Hauptschule: A school which offers vocational education with a final examination taking place after grade 9 or 10 and is for less academic students. It is the least demanding school but it appropriate for students who want to enter a trade or apprenticeship
  • Gesamtschule: This secondary school combines academic courses with the vocational ones allowing students to transfer to Realschule or Hauptschile in grade 10
  • Sonderschulen:  Another school which prepares students for Realschule or Hauptschile

Local and International Schools

The majority of the children in the country do attend local schools which are free, however, some foreign families may want to send their child to an international school which will make it easy for them to adapt and be able to continue their education in the same language and curriculum.

Berlin and Munich are known to have many international schools which cater for students who have different nationalities.

As well as this, international schools have a high standard of learning, small class sizes and also extracurricular activities for children to take part in.

Expats should expect to pay at least EUR 18,000 per year on tuition fees in an international school.


Home-Schooling in Germany is illegal and if you take your child out of the education system you will be fined.

Tertiary Education

Students who want to apply to go to university will be expected to have passed their Abitur examinations following from their Gymnasium education. For those students who have attended Realschule and have passed the Master Craftsman Diploma are also legible to apply for university courses.

Students who do not wish to attend university will be required to go on an apprenticeship which will allow them to do in service training at various companies.

Healthcare and Medical System

Germany has healthcare of high quality with many services being available, it is also less likely that expats will need to wait for treatments. Those that are living and residing in the country may be eligible for state healthcare providing that you register with the state health insurance in Germany.  If not, you must ensure that you are covered by a private health care insurance provider.

The healthcare system is one of the oldest in the EU and with the experience of doctors it makes it the best health care system in the world. There are more than 2,000 hospitals in the country and half of these are public with two different types of private hospitals – Non-profit and for profit.

It is funded by the statutory contributions which ensures that healthcare is free for all. Private health care insurance can also be taken out. However, strict conditions are in place about who must register for a mandatory state of health insurance and who can opt in favour of private health insurance.

Expats who have a foreign health insurance policy are able to use this when visiting Germany temporarily but will be asked to pay cash at the end of their visit. Those who are from the EU, EEA or Switzerland who staying on a temporary basis the EHIC card can be used, this allows you to get medical treatment for free or discounted.  German health insurance will be compulsory to take out once you have become an official resident.

Health Insurance Scheme

Employees that earn less than EUR 57,600 a year will have to take part in the government health scheme and this means you must take out health insurance once the work contract has been signed.

The health insurance scheme covers primary care with the hospital (in and outpatients), basic dental treatment and care with doctors who are registered. Non-working dependants who live at the same address and are registered with the Krankenkasse are also covered with no extra charges in place.

However, the health insurance scheme does not cover consultations with private doctors, complimentary treatments, dental implants and glasses.

Expats who are in this scheme will have employers paying 50% for the health insurance and the other 50% is paid by yourself. The rates are generally set by the German government but for the state, healthcare expats would need to pay 15% of the monthly salary. If you earn more than 4350 Euros per month, you have the option of de-registering from the state health insurance to take our private health insurance.

It is important that when you are visiting the doctor, your health insurance card should be shown. If a prescription is required you will need to pay for this which you will be reimbursed for.

Private HealthCare

Those who choose to go out of the state health insurance are able to get private health insurance cover. These are generally those who are

  • Earning more than EUR 57,600
  • Working part-time and earning less than EUR 450
  • Self employed
  • Freelance professional
  • Civil servant or certain other public employees

Private healthcare insurance usually covers more of a wide range of medical and dental treatments. Employers also contribute to private health insurance fees and if you are not eligible for state health insurance you can take out private health insurance from local or expat health insurance companies. Some of the largest international ones include – Bupa, Axa and PPP international.

How to register

To register on the health care system you must do this with the German authorities at the local town hall. Once registration is completed, a social insurance number will be given to you which you will then start to make national insurance contributions, this will then allow you to have state run healthcare which is the same as the German nationals.

Health Card

When you have taken out health insurance, you will be given a health card which you will be required to take every time you visit the GP, dentist or a specialist. The card will have your name, date of birth, address as well as your health insurance data.

The card, which contains your name, date of birth, address and health insurance data, is scanned when you visit a medical service.


Around Germany, there are many pharmacies available and are easy to find with the red A on their sign.

It is a legal requirement that pharmacies are owned and run by a qualified pharmacist but each is only allowed to own three pharmacies around the country. All medicines in the pharmacy are kept behind the counter and only a selection of health products will be available on the shelves.


There are no vaccinations which will be needed by expats when moving to Germany. However, you must ensure you have the routine vaccinations such as:

  • Tetanus
  • Diphtheria
  • Measles, Mumps and Rubella
  • Hepatitis B

Emergency Services

For medical emergencies, you will need to dial 112 which is an emergency helpline with medical professionals who are able to speak some English.

To call an ambulance you will need to dial 115. The majority of the private hospitals and other hospitals in Germany have an accident and emergency unit.

Banking Services and Options

Germany has over 2,500 commercial banking institutions which offer many banking options which make it hard for expats to know where to begin.
The system of banking and taxes in Germany is quite straight forward and once expats have obtained their residency card the process of opening an account will be east.
The major banks in Germany include Deutsche Bank, Landesbank, Westdeutsche and many more. Most international banks also have branches in the country where expats can continue their overseas account.

Opening a bank account

Expats who want to open an account in Germany can do this online or in person, this will require an appointment to be made.
If you need to open an account immediately, you will need to take a sum of money but funds can be transferred from overseas which can take a few weeks.
The documentation required to open an account includes:

  • Proof of ID
  • Proof of address
  • Proof of earnings
  • Money for a deposit

German Currency

The official currency in Germany is the Euro (EUR) with 1 EUR divided into 100 cents
Coins: 1, 2, 5, 10 and 20 cents, and 1 and 2 EUR
Notes: 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 EUR

Debit cards and credit cards are accepted in Germany and ATM’s are found everywhere offering good exchange rates.

Paying Income Taxes in Germany

Expats are expected to pay tax on income that has come from a German source. Individuals who earn more than those that are on lower salaries will pay more tax.

Residents of Germany or individuals who have an income from the country must pay tax on salaries, self-employed earnings and other sources of money. Foreign nationals will be required to get a tax registration card once they have started to work in the country.

Tax is generally taken from the employee’s salary along with any social security contributions. All expats that are employed or have their own business and must complete an annual tax return regardless of if they are formally employed or doing freelance work.

Transport and Travel

With all the great transport links in Germany, most people prefer to use the public transport as opposed to driving as trains are the most common and fastest way to get around. With high-speed rail links between the main cities and European countries, and reliable tube, tram and bus services people end up leaving their cars at home.

Expats that live in the major cities will not need a car to travel and when they do require a car, they have the option of hiring a car for a few days.


Expats will find that Germany has many intercity bus routes which travel to or from Berlin. Prices on the buses are reasonable and cheap.

Intercity buses can be booked in advance and one of the most popular ones is Neun-Euro Bus which allows passengers to travel on services connecting to Kassel, Frankfurt, Mannheim and other cities at set prices.


The railway system in Germany is reasonable priced and well efficient with it covering most of the country. This is one of the most popular ways of getting around the country and generally takes less time when travelling in between cities.

Deutch Bahn is one of the railway operators that run long distances and regional trains in the country with other services available for expats to travel around the cities.

The major cities are linked by an ICE (Intercity Express) train which is operated at high speeds of 250mph, however, this may prove more expensive than the local train operators.

Another operator includes the Regular Intercity (IC), this is known to be more affordable than the ICE but are not as modern.
The IC and ICE trains are run every hour on all of the popular routes.

Reservations are not always necessary but you may save a good amount of money when booking on the weekends and public holidays.

The ticket prices vary on all the trains depending on location, time and route. However, for expats who will be using a train on a regular basis for travelling to work or when wanting to view the attraction sites, a Bahn card is available for one year which offers discounts.

Domestic Flights

Many people prefer to use the train when travelling, however the option for taking a domestic flight is available. The budget airlines can be quite expensive and smaller airports are used which are not located in convenient areas.

Driving Rules and Regulations

Driving in Germany is fairly east with the outstanding road networks and motorways. Germany has no toll fees for cars but petrol prices are quite high. The roads in Germany are great but drivers may come across many small roads, other than this signs are easy to understand.

Nationals from another country will be allowed to drive in Germany for six months on any international drivers’ license before obtaining a German license. An extension of up to one year is available on application. Licenses that are issued in EU countries are valid for the period of validity. Non-EU nationals who will be living in Germany for over a year will be required to exchange their license for a German one and may be asked to take a written or practical test. To find out

Applying for a License

To apply for a German driving license you will need to submit:

  • The relevant application form
  • Passport
  • Residence permit
  • Existing drivers license
  • 2 passport sized photos
  • Evidence of attendance at a driving school in Germany
  • First aid course completion proof
  • Eye-test certificate

All drivers are required by law to carry a first aid kit along with a red reflective triangle, which should be placed on the road at a certain distance if the car is broken down.

Speed Limits

With the Autobahns in place, Germany is the only country which has a general speed limit on its highways. The highways have limits of up to 81mph.

The federal government has set the general speed limits and all limits are multiples of 5km.

The two default speed limits are 31mph on built up areas

  • Built up areas : 31mph
  • Outside built up areas: 62mph

Shipping and Removal Services

Germany has many ports available making it easier to ship products in Germany with UK shipping companies. The rivers of Germany have acted as a route to make it possible for water transport.

Air freight is more expensive to ship but is available, it is also essential to get insurance and use one of the companies for removal transport.

Some relocation companies in Germany include:

  • Arriva Relocations: http://www.arriva-relocation.de/ – Arriva relocations can provide expertise on how to settle down in cities in Germany. They will also help with immigration, registration and accommodation.
  • Paragon Relocation: paragonrelocation.com – A company which provides international relocation

Communications in Germany

Germany has a high-quality communication network with some efficient technologies. With the telephone and internet services that are available, expats will be able to keep in touch with family and friends on a regular basis


To apply for a landline this can be done through the chosen company alone, this way you will also be able to find out what prices and deals they have an offer to keep bills at a minimum.

One of the popular telephone services are Deutsche Telekom, these will require a installation charge depending if you are getting a new line or are transferring a line to your name.

Bills are usually sent out monthly and are payable within seven days as a customer service centre, bank transfer or at the post office.

Mobile Phones

The mobile phone providers in Germany are known for offering a world class service and here there are four main operators – Telekom, Telefonica Germany, Vodafone and E-plus.

When getting contracts for a mobile phone expats are able to choose prepaid packages with international calling being able to monitor how much data they have left.


The internet is widely available all of around Germany and most people take advantage of using free WIFI when in restaurants and cafes.

When renting apartments, some may already come with a wireless connection which is included in the monthly rental fee. However some tenants may be required to look for an internet provider themselves. Luckily, internet providers who have good packages are not so difficult to find with the large mobile operators offering many internet packages.

Postal Services

Deutsche post is the private national postal service which is run in the country. The postal service is proven to be one of the fastest within the country and a variety of options are available for when sending packages in and outside the country.

Leisure Activities in Germany

Germany has many leisure activities to offer for those who enjoy sports and various other things. Expatriates will have no shortage in things to do outside of work with their families.

Sports: Germany is a country which absolutely loves sports and most of the residents are active and are part of sports clubs in tennis, gymnastics and soccer. As well as this, children who enjoy sports will be able to take part in activities at school including soccer, volleyball, basketball and dancing. Some of the most popular sports include tennis, swimming and skiing with the high mountains available in the country.

The residents in the country enjoy going to museums, theatres and concerts, Expats will find that these are all very well maintained and supported which means you will find many interesting places to visit in and around the country. The theatre in Germany is important to the German life and the country has frequent performances of music, drama and dance as well as music festivals.

Within some families in Germany, leisure time is spent at home with the family especially in the months of winter.

The expatriate company in Germany have developed social activities with clubs and societies which cover a diverse range of interest and national events.

Restaurants/Cafes: There are many restaurants, cafes and beer gardens around the country which give you the opportunity to meet other expats and residents of the country

German Cuisine

There are many different types of cuisine and foods that Germans enjoy eating including meat but nowadays expats will find that there are more vegetarian dishes available on the menu.

The cuisine in the country has evolved nationally through social and political changes which vary in different regions.

Some cities in Germany also share dishes with Austrian and Swiss cuisines.

Sauerkraut, Sausages and Brezeln which are famous food exports providing fresh bread, delicious pretzels and cakes in the bakery shops. You will also find that smaller villages have bakeries with a variety of bread and rolls.

Typical German food includes:

  • Sauerkraut: This is a famous vegetable which is associated mainly with German food and eaten with meat and potatoes
  • Knoedel: Dumplings made out of bread and eaten with mushrooms in a creamy sauce
  • Black Forest Cake: A delicious dark chocolate cake which is filled with cherries and cream, enjoyed by many

Vegetables are eaten often in vegetable soups and stews, as well as this, are served as a side dish. White asparagus is one of the most common side dishes which also can be prepared as a main dish

Annual Events in Germany

There are many events that take place all year round in Germany which gives expats the opportunity to meet and socialise with others. This is also a great time to engross in the German culture during the celebrations. Some of the popular events include:

  1. Berlin International Film Festival: This is the world second largest international film festival after Cannes. Anyone is able to buy tickets online to attend.
  2. Oktoberfest: A traditional festival with beer, Bavarian foods, bands playing music and lots of German men wearing This beer festival is held in Munich and is free of charge for families.
  3. Rock am Ring and Rock im Park: A huge rock festival which is held over three days in different locations. Suitable for all ages and is one of the largest musical festivals in the world.
  4. Leipzig Book Fair: Those who enjoy reading or even writing will love this as it is one of the biggest dates in the calendar for those who work in publishing. Here you can meet favourite authors and find out about books.
  5. Festival – Mediaval: A major medieval festival which is held in Selb (close to the German Czech border), It has many things to take part in such as archery, birds of prey and other things associated to the medieval life along with great music.
  6. Karneval: A carnival which starts in November to the following Ash Wednesday and it has been tradition that women could kiss any man after cutting his tie off. Expats will get to experience huge street parties and parades on the streets on the weekend before.
  7. International Dixieland Festival: A jazz festival which is one of the oldest in Europe recreating the atmosphere of the south of America. Music is played on the paddleboat streamers
  8. Africa festival, Würtzburg: One of the largest African music and culture festivals which is held in the whole of Europe. You will experience hundreds of musicians, singers and dancers from around Africa along with thousands of visitors.
  9. German Christmas Markets : The Christmas markets can be found in many countries, but Germany definitely has the best ones with seasonal gifts, food stalls and spiced wine

Expert help and Local Advice

Expats who have recently moved will find that there is local advice and expert help available to make you settle into the country. A few of them are shown below:

  1. American Womens Club of the Taunus: http://www.awctaunus.org This is a non-profit, English speaking organisation which serves Frankfurt. It offers support to women and families who have recently moved to Frankfurt. Women will be able to take part in social events and network with other expats who have also recently moved here. Some of the monthly events include lunches, book clubs, travel and more.
  2. Pickwicks English Club, Frankurt: http://www.pickwicks.deA social club which is open for English speakers and they offer a range of activities for expats to get involved in. From theatre trips to gallery visits, sporting outings, sight seeing trips and going to local restaurants to eat and drink. Here people will be able to interact with others from different nationalities with some of them members since it was opened.
  3. Frankfurt-n-Motion Sports and Social Group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/frankfurt-n-motion/ – A social group for expat communities which inspires others to have fun and keep fit. From Sports, social events, skiing and community places taking place this can be done alone or with families.