11 Things to Know Before Moving from the Us to Germany
Recognized for its castles, beer, and cars, Germany has become one of the most desirable countries for Americans who are looking to move out of the country. Germany has the biggest national economy in Europe and is regarded as one of the safest countries to live in. Before enjoying all the benefits that come with living in Germany, there are a few things you need to know. Here are all the things you need to know before moving from the US to Germany.
1. First steps upon planning a move to Germany
How can I move from the US to Germany?
For most visas, it is a requirement to purchase private healthcare prior to your arrival in Germany that lasts up to 90 days. After getting your residence permit, you can apply for Germany’s health care system.
*Note that you will have to have a basic understanding of the Germany language if you want to live in Germany. See more on the language requirements below.
Work Visa to Germany
You can apply for a visa to work in Germany as a skilled worker with a University degree, as a skilled worker with vocational traning, as an aupair, as an IT Specialist, or as a job seeker. To know more about the specific requirements for each work visa to Germany visit Schengen Visa Information website.
Study Visa to Germany
Studying in Germany requires the acceptance at a German University and a letter of motivation stating why you want to study in Germany. Your visa application will take around 6-8 weeks to be processed, but may take longer. To know more on the requirements for studying in Germany, visit German Missions in the United States website.
Family Reunion Visa to Germany
If you are planning to get married, are married, or are the parent of an underage child, you must obtain a Family Reunion Visa for your move to Germany. To know more about the requirements for joining family in Germany, check out the German Missions in the United States document for Family Reunion Visa. The visa application takes around 12 weeks to be processed.
2. What should I look for in an International Moving Company?
Shipping your things to Germany takes about 5-9 days by plane and 15 days by boat. You can easily move your things from the US to Germany by plane or boat, but make sure the moving company you decide on is reliable. So when opting for an international moving company, here’s what you should look for:
- Insurance is included (ask what’s included)
- Rates are not extravagant (compare with other companies)
- They have many Google reviews that are over 4 stars.
- Customer service and transparency is their priority.
3. Car Shipping to Germany?
Unless they have significant emotional attachment to their car, most Americans choose to leave their cars behind when moving to Germany due to the elevated shipping and import fees and the long vehicle inspection process. After all, Germany is the car hub of the world, so you won’t have much trouble finding a car within your budget. If you must absolutely ship your car to Germany, here are the steps to follow:
- Get various quotes from the best car shipping companies. A trusted car shipping company will have insurance, good reviews, and will make customer service their priority.
- Choose the port of departure.
- Choose the port destination.
- Prepare the car by cleaning it and emptying the tank to ⅛ full or you may have to pay a fee upon arrival.
*Ask your chosen car shipping company for additional requirements.
4. Currency in Germany
Since 2002, the currency in Germany has been the euro. Bills are issued in €500, €200, €100, €50, €20, €10, €5. Coins are issued in €2, €1, 50c, 20c, 10c, 5c, 2c, and 1c. Paying with credit cards in Germany is not as common as in the US so make sure you always have some cash on you. You can get cash from the Geldautomat (ATM).
5. Language in Germany
What is the main language in Germany?
The main language in Germany is German. English is the most common foreign language spoken in Germany. A big majority of the German population does get by in English.
Do you have to know German to live in Germany?
While most of the German population speaks English, it is a requirement to learn German when moving to Germany. Germany has strict language laws for immigrants so their integration to the country can be facilitated. You do not have to be fluent in German to move to Germany but you must have a basic understanding of the language or your visa application may be denied. To know more about the language requirements when moving to Germany and to learn German in the US before your move, go to The German Missions in the United States website.
6. Healthcare in Germany
Healthcare in Germany is not free. If you make under 60 000 euros per year in Germany, it is mandatory to sign up with the government’s health care scheme to which you will pay monthly fees of approximately 15% of your gross income. If you make over 60 000 euros per year, it is mandatory to purchase private health insurance. Everyone in Germany has a form of health insurance whether it is public or private. If your long-stay German visa has been approved, you can access Germany’s healthcare system after you have received your German social insurance number and have registered with the German authorities upon your arrival.
7. First Steps Upon Arrival in Germany
Register with the authorities
Within 2 weeks of your arrival in Germany, it is a requirement to register with your local registration office. You can find your local registration office The Registration Office’s website.
Get your residence permit
Within 3 months of arriving in Germany, you must take an appointment to obtain your residence permit. Make an appointment with the State Office for Immigration as early as you can. To book an appointment with the State Office for Immigration, visit Berlin’s website.
Get your Social Security ID
To open a bank account, pay your taxes, be eligible for German health insurance, you must get a Social Security ID. Your German employer will enroll you in the social security system automatically. You will then start paying a deductible that will make you eligible for German healthcare. Click here for more information on the German Social Security ID.
Open a Bank Account
To register for important services like internet and insurance, you will need a bank account in Germany. If you are looking for a bank that has an English language services, you should opt for bigger banks like Sparkassen. If you don’t mind that your banking language is in German, you may choose to opt for popular banks like Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank, KFW Bankgruppe or DZ Bank.
You can drive with your American driver’s license up to 6 months after residing in Germany. You will also need to get your American driver’s license translated into German. To be allowed to drive in Germany after 6 months, you will need to get a German driver’s licence (Führerschein) at your closest driving license office. To book an appointment with your local driver’s license office, visit Berlin Service Portal.
8. Housing and Renting in Germany
Renting in Germany
Most people in Germany are renters rather than owners. There are strict rules in German apartment buildings, to know more about these rules, click here. You will be happy to know that rent in Germany is not that expensive compare to other European countries. If you rent an apartment in Germany that is labelled “Cold Rent” it means the apartment does not include utilities. If you rent an apartment in Germany called “Warm Rent” it includes utilities like water, heating, and more depending on the apartment. To find an apartment for rent in Germany you can visit websites like ImmobilienScout24, Ebay-Kleinanzeigen, Immowelt, and Meinstadt.de.
Purchasing a property in Germany
Due to lack of space and expensive renovation costs, most people tend to not purchase properties in Germany. Those who do purchase properties are usually far away from the city as they are cheaper and more available. If you do choose to purchase a property in Germany, ImmobilienScout24, Immowelt, Immonet, and WG-Gesucht are all websites that can help you with your search.
Electricity and water in Germany
Electricity or gas and water in Germany are usually included if you rent. Energy providers will be different based on the areas you live in. The most know energy providers are Vattenfall, E.On, Lekker, and Greenpeace Energy. Signing up with your energy supplier is either done by phone or online. Your water supplier will be different based on the area you live in. To know who your local water supplier is, contact your municipality.
Internet and cell phone in Germany
Cell phone’s in Germany are known as Handys. Make sure your phone is unlocked prior to your arrival in Germany so you can quickly buy a German SIM card from any cell phone provider, a supermarket, a corner shop or a filling station. You can either choose a prepaid option or get a monthly subscription. The most popular German cell phone providers are T-Mobile/Telekom, Vodafone, and O2.
The Internet in Germany is expensive due to 3 large companies operating most of the system. In terms of speed, it is considerably average. You should expect to pay $40-$50 USD a month at 50 Mbps for the internet in Germany along with an additional installation and equipment fee. The top internet providers in Germany are DEINHOME, 1&1 Internet, and Vodafone.
9. Cost of Living in Germany
The average cost of living in Germany is $3300 USD per month in the city for a couple. The cost of each individual expense is listed below.
Cost of living for a couple in Berlin.
Rent for cold rent 2 room apartment
Utilities (gas, water, electricity, phone, internet)
Entertainment (eating out & other)
Health Insurance (15% of salary) – May vary
Other (transportation, material goods)
10. The Essential Insurance Coverage in Germany
Health Insurance in Germany
It is a requirement to have health insurance upon your arrival in Germany. Once you have become a lawfully resident in Germany and are eligible for their healthcare system, you must pay a monthly premium for health insurance. Adherence to public health insurance is mandatory for those who make less than 60 000 euros a year. If you make over 60 000 euros a year you may choose to opt for private health insurance, but it is still mandatory that you have health insurance. Health insurance in Germany costs an average of 15% of your salary per month.
Home Insurance in Germany
While Germany does have a very strict health insurance policy, it is not mandatory to purchase home insurance. Home insurance is a great way to protect your home and your belongings in case they get damaged. The most popular home insurance companies in Germany are Lemonade, ARAG , BavariaDirekt, and AXA.
Car Insurance in Germany
11. Tips for Buying Groceries in Germany
Grocery costs are low in Germany, due to the competition between big grocery chains. The majority of grocery stores are closed on Sundays and are not open as late as in the US. Don’t forget to bring your own bags as plastic bags are banned in Germany. Some of the top grocery chains include: Edeka, Rewe, Lidl, Aldi, Carrefour, and Kaufland.
What to Expect from your New Life in Germany?
While you will have to learn German to live in Germany, you can expect a great quality of life. Don’t forget to be on time, carry cash with you, and don’t wait until Sunday to buy stuff as most stores are closed. Avoid making noise between 1 and 3 in the afternoon as most people take naps. Don’t forget to get a taste of that delicious beer and have fun eating out! Want to know more about moving from the US to Europe? Check out our article on the Things to Know before Moving from the US to Europe.
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