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Is Germany a good place to live for foreigners?

Expatrio 2024-07-10
Berlin skyline by night


Germany is often hailed as one of the best places to live and work in Europe – for good reason. With its strong economy, high quality of life and cultural history, it’s no wonder that many international skilled workers are drawn to this vibrant country. Whether you're planning to stay for a while or to settle down long-term, the country has a lot to offer. So let's jump in and see why Germany is a great place for foreigners to live and thrive.

Finding work in Germany as a foreigner

Germany is a great place to work, especially for skilled professionals. Because of its diverse economy there are lots of job opportunities across different industries. Here are some areas where skilled workers are always needed:

  • Automotive industry: Major car brands such as Volkswagen, BMW and Mercedes-Benz are always on the lookout for engineers, designers and IT specialists.
  • Information technology: The tech scene is growing rapidly in cities like Berlin, Munich and Hamburg, with high demand for software developers, data scientists and cybersecurity experts.
  • Healthcare and Pharmaceuticals: An aging population means more jobs for doctors, nurses and researchers in the medical field.
  • Engineering and Manufacturing: Known for its engineering excellence, Germany has many opportunities for mechanical, electrical and civil engineers.
  • Finance and Consulting: Frankfurt is a major financial hub, offering numerous roles for financial professionals, analysts and consultants.

Germans value punctuality and getting things done efficiently. Many companies have less rigid structures, making it easier to communicate and collaborate. Germans also take a good work-life balance seriously. Typical working hours are 9 to 5 and you can expect about 30 days of vacation per year. Employers often provide opportunities for training and career development as well.

Quality of life in Germany: High standard of living

Healthcare system

Germany has one of the best healthcare systems in the world. Here's what you can expect:

  • Everyone has access to healthcare services, either through public or private insurance.
  • Hospitals and clinics are well-equipped and staffed with highly trained professionals.
  • Medical costs are affordable, especially if you have health insurance which is mandatory for all residents.

Education and schools

Education is a top priority in Germany to ensure that both children and adults have access to excellent learning opportunities. There are many international schools that offer curricula in English and other languages, making it easier for expat children to adapt. You'll also find world-renowned universities offering a wide range of programs, often with low or no tuition for residents.

Public services and infrastructure

Germany has a great public transport system that makes it easy to get around the cities and travel throughout the country. The Deutsche Bahn (DB) rail network connects cities and towns across the country. High-speed trains (ICE) to neighboring countries such as France, Switzerland, Austria, and the Netherlands make long-distance travel quick and comfortable. Cities have well-developed public transportation systems, including buses, trams and subways (U-Bahn and S-Bahn). You can get a monthly pass and save money if you commute regularly.

The highway is famous for its speed limits (or lack thereof). Driving is convenient but if you’re staying long-term, you’ll need to get a German driver’s license. Your home country’s license won’t be valid here. Many cities also have bike paths which are great for eco-friendly and healthy travel.

Safety and security

Germany is known for being safe and clean. Low crime rates and well-enforced regulations contribute to a safe living environment. Cities are clean and well-organized with strict waste management and public initiatives that maintain high standards of hygiene. This attention to safety and cleanliness enhances the overall sense of well-being and makes it a pleasant country to live in.

Cost of living in Germany is affordable for expats

Living in Germany is quite affordable, depending on where you choose to live and your lifestyle. Generally speaking, it's cheaper than in cities like London and Paris, especially when it comes to housing and daily expenses.

  • Renting: Most people rent. In cities like Munich and Frankfurt, rents are higher but in smaller cities and towns, it’s more affordable.
  • Buying property: If you’re thinking long-term, buying a house can be expensive in big cities but it’s a good investment. Smaller towns have cheaper options.
  • Utilities: Monthly costs for electricity, heat and water are usually reasonable and sometimes included in the rent.
  • Groceries: Stores like Aldi, Lidl and Edeka offer a wide selection of affordable products. Local markets are great for fresh produce.
  • Transportation: Public transportation is reliable and fairly priced. You can get a monthly pass and sometimes your employer will subsidize it.
  • Eating Out: There’s something for every budget, from affordable fast food to fine dining. You’ll have plenty of options to choose from.

Pros of living in Germany: Feel at home right away

Moving to a new country can be tough, especially because of the language barrier. While many Germans speak English, learning German will help you feel more connected and make daily life easier. There are plenty of German language schools and online courses available. Some employers even offer language classes. Don’t be afraid to practice your German in everyday situations. Germans appreciate the effort and will often help you improve. Joining local clubs (Vereine) for sports, hobbies or interests is a great way to meet people and get a feel for the local culture. You can also attend local festivals, events and community gatherings. They’re great places to socialize and learn more about German traditions.

What it's like to live in Germany: Cultural norms

Understanding local customs will help you feel more comfortable:

  • Germans value being on time. This is seen as respectful and important.
  • They're also known for their direct communication style. Don’t take it personally; it’s just how things are done here.
  • Whether it's separating your garbage for recycling or waiting for the pedestrian light to turn green: Germans follow the rules. Adapting will help you fit in.

A good place to live: Germany offers many advantages for families

When it comes to raising a family in Germany, you'll get a lot of support and benefits to ensure a high quality of life for all. Parents can take up to 14 months of parental leave, shared by both parents, to spend time with their newborns. Families receive financial support, called Kindergeld, to help cover the costs of raising children. The amount increases with each additional child. Many companies offer flexible work schedules and part-time work options to help parents balance work and family life.

There are also many fun things to do as a family in Germany:

  • Germany has lots of great parks and playgrounds that are perfect for family outings.
  • Many museums and cultural sites have special programs and activities for kids, making them fun and educational.
  • From hiking in the mountains to swimming in lakes and cycling in the countryside, there are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy.

Cons of living in Germany: Endless legal and administrative aspects

Moving to Germany involves navigating some legal and administrative processes but don’t worry – here’s a simple guide to help you with that:

Visa and work permit requirements

  • Work visa: Non-EU citizens need a work visa to stay in Germany. The Blue Card program is a popular option for highly skilled workers, making the process easier.
  • Application process: You’ll need to apply for a visa at your local German embassy or consulate before moving to Germany. Make sure you have all the required documents, including a job offer and proof of qualifications.
  • Residence permit: Once your're in Germany, you’ll need to register your residence and apply for a residence permit at the local immigration office.

Registration and bureaucracy

  • Anmeldung (registration): You must register your address with the local registry office within two weeks of moving in. You'll need a lease and your passport.
  • Bank account: Opening a bank account is very easy. You’ll just need your passport, proof of address and sometimes proof of employment.
  • Health insurance: Health insurance is mandatory. You can choose between public and private insurance. Your employer often helps with this process.

Taxation system

  • Income tax: Germany has a progressive income tax system. Your employer will deduct taxes from your salary and pay them to the tax office.
  • Tax ID: Once you've registered your address, you'll be given a tax ID number (Steueridentifikationsnummer). Keep this number safe as you’ll need it for all tax-related matters.
  • Tax returns: It’s common to file an annual tax return (Steuererklärung) to claim any deductions and possibly get a refund. Many expats use tax accountants to help with this.

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