Moving to Germany – The ultimate guide
When moving to Germany there are a few important things to consider. Germany might require a valid visa for foreigners from outside of the EU. But this is not the only thing you have to consider. This is why we put together the most important things you need to know when moving to Germany. This includes basic information about Germany as well as insider tips on how to live like a German and enjoy the rich German culture. Especially for EU citizens it has never been easier to move to Germany than it is now. So what are you waiting for?
German visa regulations
Obviously before you move to Germany you need to know if you need a visa. As an EU citizen you will not have any problems to move to Germany. But non-EU citizens need to be aware that they only can stay 90 days in Germany on a tourist visa. But if you plan to move to Germany for good you need a proper resident visa. Visa regulations are, compared to other countries, quite relaxed.
For many visitors it is even possible to come to Germany first and then apply for a visa. This includes citizens from the US, Australia, Canada or New Zealand, just to name a few. All non-EU citizens and citizen that are not from the countries mentioned before need a valid visa before entering Germany.
Register with the authorities – Bürgeramt/Einwohnermeldeamt
What many people forget to do is to register with the authorities as soon as possible. Depending on which city you have moved to you need to find the Einwohnermeldeamt (e.g. in Bavaria) or the Bürgeramt (e.g. in Berlin) and let them know your new address. Also depending on where in Germany you live you need to register straight after moving here or you have up to 2 weeks for that.
One tip, and believe me I know what I am talking about here, don’t put off the registration with the authorities in Germany, this could get you into some big troubles even years later. If there is one thing Germans do not make any jokes then it is with their bureaucrazy. But on the other hand that can also be an advantage as you will never be scammed or treated differently to anybody else.
German bank account
Probably the second most important thing to take care of after your visa and registration is opening a German bank account. This is especially important as you will not be able to rent an appartment or sign up for a internet provider without a German bank account.
Depending on many factors like whether you are a student or you are working in Germany, or if you prefer online banking to normal banks, there are many different choices.
But there are also other factors to consider to find the best German bank account for you. Some of them come with a free VISA card others only include an EC-card, which sometimes comes in handy.
Finding the best German bank account is a difficult task, that is why we put together a detailed overview over the best German bank accounts available.
Insider tip: What most people unfortunately don’t know is that you can already sign up with a German bank from abroad. Not all German banks require a German permanent address in order to accept you as a client. Our favorite German bank, DKB – Deutsche Kredit Bank, let’s you sign up from abroad. This way you are already good to go as soon as you land in Germany.
German internet provider
As you don’t want to be cut off communication with your friends and families you need to get a German internet contract as fast as possible. Usually most of the German internet service providers offer you internet and a land-line at the same time. If you don’t want to rely on Skype and need a German land-line number then make sure to get one of those hybrid contracts that offer both internet and telephone.
One thing you need to know about German internet providers is that they might need 3-6 weeks before they can provide you with your internet connection. This is an awful long time so if possible you should already take care of choosing a German internet provider before moving to Germany, provided that you already have found a place to stay already.
A few things you need to find out for yourself is if you want to sign up for 24 months (which will be cheaper but not flexible in case you move away again) or if you prefer contracts that can be canceled by the end of each month. Also sometimes it is cheaper to only get the contract and buy the hardware on eBay or Amazon while some German internet providers offer discounted hardware if you sign up for 24 months.
Either way the most important thing is to make sure your internet contract includes WLAN, as some internet service providers still charge extra for that. To help you out we put together an overview of the best German internet providers.
Insider tip: 1&1 Internet offers some of the best deals for internet in Germany. Make sure to check if some of their offers suit your needs.
German mobile contracts
Next in line is finding the best German mobile contract for you. Again there are millions of choices, whether you want a 24 months contract, a prepaid card, you need extra mobile data or your focus is good connection even in rural areas. In Germany there are 4 major mobile carriers Telekom, Vodafone, o2 and Eplus, while the latter ones will soon merge into one company.
In general Telekom is the priciest option but has by far the best quality of connection. So if you are travelling a lot in Germany or live in a very rural area Telekom will be most likely your best choice.
Vodafone always offers nice packages of all net flatrates and a mobile phone (which are called Handy in Germany) and has also a good quality of connection.
Eplus and o2 are very good if you live in the city and you want to find the cheapest deals on all net flats including mobile internet. But be aware that in rural areas connection quality might be worse than with other carriers.
But this was only a very basic overview over the best German mobile carriers so if you still need to find the right one for you we have put together more detailed information of the best German mobile contracts.
Insider tip: Deutsche Telekom does not only offer great deals on internet but they also have some good offers on mobile contracts. Sometimes it comes in handy if you sign up for both with the same provider. As mentioned before Deutsche Telekom is the priciest option but offers by far the best quality of connection.
Geman electricity provider
Once you move into a new flat you will automatically be signed up with the local electricity company (called Grundversorger). This may be very handy as you have nothing to do, but it also means that you probably pay more than you should.
Insider tip: Right now Lifestrom offers the best conditions like a price stability guarantee until June 2019(!) and some very good sign-up bonuses. Bonuses range from a 100€ Amazon voucher to a brand new Samsung Galaxy Tab A7.0. And on top of that you will get 3 months of free access to German streaming website Maxdome!
Now with the most important tasks out of the way it is time to give you an overview over the best cities to live in Germany provided that you can choose your favorite German city. Most likely foreign companies send their employees to Berlin, Munich or Hamburg as most foreign companies have offices in these cities.
Berlin – The German capital
As you may have noticed there is a lot of hype about Berlin nowadays. And let me tell you Berlin is in fact the coolest place to live in Germany. Why? Well for a lot of reasons, let me try to name a few.
Berlin is the greenest capitol I know. Just have a look on Google maps and you will see the unbelievable amounts and size of parks within the city center, like Tiergarten, Tempelhof or Volkspark Friedrichshain. So whenever the sun is out Berliners pilgrimage to a free spot in the park to catch some sun.
This brings me to the next point Berlin is all about having a good time and not so much about working 24/7 like in other parts of Germany. But who can focus on a career if you have so many cafes, bars, parks or clubs around?
Partying in Berlin is maybe only comparable to Ibiza in summer time as you can go out Monday morning and come home Sunday night without having to stop dancing. There are always some open airs, day long raves, etc. that keep you busy partying your time away.
But also if you left your party days behind you Berlin offers a lot of options to enjoy your time with kids and family.
Especially the areas around Prenzlauer Berg are very kids-friendly and you will see young families everywhere. So if you are planing to party a lot after moving to Germany Berlin is your place to be.
Continue reading if you are planning on moving to Berlin for more useful information.
Munich – The southern capital
Munich is nice, Munich is pretty and Munich even has the Oktoberfest. Munich is save, Munich is clean but Munich also can be (for exactly the same reasons) boring and very snobbish.
But Munich has two things that Berlin does not have. The Alps and jobs. While Berlin is as flat as a pancake Munich offers world class skiing options right at the doorstep. While in Berlin it is difficult to find a job that pays well Munich has many options to find well paid work.
So basically Munich is more the typical German city that you had in mind before. Clean, organized and safe. And even though more than 1.3 mio people live in Munich it still feels like a small town, which is nice sometimes. So if you plan on working a lot and focusing on your career after moving to Germany Munich is your obvious choice.
Continue reading if you are planning on moving to Munich for some great insider tips.
Hamburg – The northern pearl of Germany
Don’t let pictures fool yourself, Hamburg is not located next to the coast. But the Elbe and the gigantic harbour give you a very unique feeling when visiting Hamburg.
Hamburg may be best described as a mixture of Berlin and Munich. Munich, because Hamburg is very expensive, posh and clean and Berlin, because it still has St. Pauli or Schanzenviertel, which are as laid back as Friedrichshain or Kreuzberg in Berlin.
Hamburg also offers a lot of good job opportunities, especially in media and logistics. So Hamburg is like a compromise between Berlin and Munich. And best of all Hamburg naturally due to its big harbour offers some of the best seafood in Germany. Keep on reading if you plan on moving to Hamburg.
In general in Germany you can feel each of the 4 seasons. Winters might get rough especially in the East, where the climate is influenced from the cold winds coming from Russia. In the South winters are more bearable as it does not get that cold and grey and you can go skiing when there is enough snow.
Spring usually starts around April and is one of the best times to be in Germany. It is not too hot yet and the flowers and trees start to blossom which is especially nice in rural areas. Summer is somehow tricky, as in some years Germany has good weather and sunshine for 3 months, while in other years the sun does not show for more than 1 day in a row. Also the South tends to get more sunshine, especially the area close to Freiburg in the southwest, while in the North summers can be quite depressing sometimes.
Autumns are my least favorite time of the year as it can be very rainy and windy.
So probably if you like to have 4 seasons and you don’t mind some years of missing summers and harsh winters then Germany will be the right place for you. For everyone else you just need to escape in winter for 2 weeks to a nice sunny destination for holiday and then come back and enjoy living in Germany again.
Move to Germany – Now
Now is probably the best time to move to Germany. The economy is still one of the best in Europe, people are friendly, cities are usually clean and safe and Germany is a very friendly country. What you need to do is take care of all administrational tasks right away so that you can enjoy all the advantages of living in Germany from the start.
Oh and have I mentioned already that German food is just delicious? In the South you will find Spätzle, which are similar to pasta but way better or in the North you will get a lot of fresh seafood. Also if you are a Vegetarian Germany is a great place as almost all restaurants make sure the offer some nice vegetarian dishes.
So pack your belongings and move to Germany now, you will not regret it.