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10 Tips for Living in Germany

Expatrio 2024-02-15
A group of people walking in a german walking street


Moving to Germany means getting the chance to live in one of the most organized and progressive countries on Earth, where you can enjoy a high standard of living. As with anywhere, however, there are always a few pieces of advice that can make things much easier when you’re first settling in.

From recycling to medical care, these top 10 tips for foreigners will make your life easier from the day you arrive.

Everything you need to know to master your first weeks like a pro

This list contains all necessary information about typical German manners you didn't know before, including information about renting an apartment, medical care and a lot more.

1. Transportation in Germany

If you expect to use national, regional, and local trains or buses regularly, then purchase a BahnCard50 to take advantage of 50% off fares. Students in Germany can also enjoy free or discounted train travel within a certain region by acquiring a Semesterticket. You can find out more on public transport on our Transportation costs in Germany page.

2. Special taxes in Germany

In addition to income tax, individuals and households are required to pay some special taxes. This includes the household GEZ or Rundfunkbeitrag which finances public broadcasting. Church taxes are rigorously collected, and should you join a congregation, expect to pay around 8-9% of your income towards the Church.

It's worthwhile to note that if you work in Germany for an extended period, you may later be entitled to some retirement benefits from the social security service, even if you plan on retiring in another country. Find out how much income tax you may have to pay on our German Tax System page.

3. Always take your ID with you

Always remember to keep your Residence Permit card (eAT) and/or ID or passport with you and keep a paper copy at home. Germans are expected to carry their national identity card with them at all times, but for foreign nationals, an eAT will suffice.

4. Renting an apartment in Germany

You will often need to pay up to three months’ rent and a deposit in advance in order to rent an apartment, so make sure you have enough savings. Also, budget for Nebenkosten: additional monthly payments to cover fees, refuse, Internet, and other bills. The amount you will pay per month for an apartment before bills and Nebenkosten will be referred to as cold rent or Kaltmiete.

How much money do you need to live in Germany?

Rental costs vary across the country, but you will likely need in excess of €1000 a month to cover rent, bills, transport and food. Draw up a realistic budget so you know how much you will need to earn. You can find out more about rent and other living costs on our Cost of Living in Germany page and supporting pages.

Where is the best place to live in Germany?

There is no single best place to live in Germany. Young creative people are drawn to the vibrancy of Berlin, whilst the highest standard of living is reportedly enjoyed in the cities of StuttgartFrankfurt and Munich. Leipzig is a relatively small but popular, diverse, and culturally rich city that is gaining in popularity with younger people.

5. The German “Pfand” System

The Pfand system in Germany means that consumers pay a deposit on glass and plastic bottles, which they get back when they return the bottle. Not all shops will accept all empty bottles, however. They will only accept bottles which they sell in store. So, collect them up and take them to a supermarket, as these tend to sell/accept most bottles, provided they have a German Pfand barcode - and this way, you’ll get a mini windfall of change!

6. Medical Care in Germany

To access medical care in Germany, you need to register with the state healthcare system (Gesetzliche Krankenversicherung). Once registered, you will be given a health card (Krankenversichertenkarte) which you need to take to any appointments or visits to the hospital.

Certain people, like freelancers and high-earners, can also choose to take out private medical healthcare. EU citizens can also access basic medical care if they are in possession of an EHIC (European Health Insurance Card). Find out more about medical care and insurance on our Health insurance in Germany page.

7. Get Your German Utilities Set Up

There are numerous internet providers in Germany, but you may also need to get a Deutsche Telekom line fitted first, so check with your landlord. Many young people in Germany rely solely on their mobile phone instead

If you are moving into shared living, you will likely just take on certain household bills or pay into a pot of household money (Haushaltsgeld) that will cover costs for the accommodation. If you are setting up your apartment alone, make sure to be aware of the following utility payments you will have to organize:

  • Heating (Heizung)
  • Electricity (Strom)
  • Water (Wasser)
  • Cable/Satellite Television (Kabel/Satellite Fernseh)
  • Telephone/Internet connections (Telefon/Internetanschluss)
  • Home insurance (Hausversicherung)

8. Learning German

Although English is widely understood in Germany, it really is advisable to learn German first. You will also need to familiarize yourself with the technical terms that you may see in work or rental contracts.

Consider a very cost-friendly German course at a local Volkshochschule (adult education center) if you do not wish to pay the tuition fees of a private German school.

Can you live in Germany without knowing German?

It is just about possible to live in Germany without knowing much German. But in order to find employment and to fully integrate into society, you will need to be able to speak and read German to a good standard, especially if you live outside the major cities. Consider attending an evening language school in your home town or doing an online course in German before you relocate.

9. Meeting people in Germany

Most Germans belong to one or more clubs or groups; in fact, they have one of the highest levels of social cohesion in the world, so joining a group can be a great way to find like-minded friends. The fastest way to meet new people, however, will likely be through your studies or your job.

Can I move to Germany without a job?

You can move to Germany without a job provided you have the money to cover your advance rent and deposit (and enough savings to warrant your visa if applicable). But, if you want to meet new people straight away, the faster you find a job, the quicker this process will be. You will not be able to apply for social benefits in Germany such as unemployment benefits (Arbeitslosenversicherung) if you've only just moved to the country.

10. The German Garbage System

Familiarize yourself with the recycling system in your new home and make sure you know the collection days. Bins tend to be color-coded, and what the colors mean may change from state to state. If in doubt, ask a neighbor or your landlord. Around 68% of all household waste in Germany is recycled.

Typically, plastics, paper, different-colored glass, bio-waste and cans should be separated for recycling, whilst non-recyclable waste has its own bin.

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