Country Guide                            

Germany

The pretzels, BMWs, Mercedes and Ocktoberfest – these are just a few of the most iconic things in Germany and the country has so much more to offer. Intrigued? Let’s explore more to find out what you need to do when you move to Germany permanently!

Overview

As Europe’s largest economy and second most populated country (after Russia), Germany is an important member of Europe’s economic, political, and defence organisations. Germany has the largest population in the EU. It stretches from the North Sea and the Baltic in the north to the Alps in the south and is traversed by a few of Europe’s major rivers like the Rhine, Danube and Elbe.

 

(Last updated: 9 July 2021)

Germany is a parliamentary and federal dem­ocracy. Its federal legislative power lies in the Bundestag (German federal parliament) and the Bundesrat (the legislative body of the Länder/Germany’s federated states).

The Bundestag is directly elected by citizens every 4 years. The parties that make up the government decide which persons will head the ministries they were allocated in the co­alition negotiations.

The Federal President holds the highest office and is elected by the federal assembly. He or she will hold the post for 5 years and can be re-elected only once.

The official language of Germany is German. The next most spoken language is English, and it is the most important foreign language taught in schools. 

The German economy outlook is positive in 2021 as it has started to grow in the second quarter of 2021. All major indicators are now pointing towards expansion and growth and the German economy is expected to grow by more than 3%.

Just a few months back in March 2021, Germany’s Export goods were valued at more than 125 billion euros, and Imported goods were valued at more than 100 billion euros.

Besides that, more than 40% of Germany’s annual GDP is exported to other countries, making it one of the three largest trading nations in the world and one of the most international economies in the world.

With a population of 84,050,720, Germany is home to a large number of people, ranking 19th in terms of population size globally. The population density in Germany is 240 per Km2. The mean life expectancy is 81.88 years, and the median age in Germany is 45.7 years.

Germany experiences all four seasons of the year – Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. In terms of climate, Germany has a temperate climate. It has warm summers and cold winters, but long periods of frost or snow are rare. Rain also falls throughout the year.

The only exceptions are Northwestern and Coastal Germany, as they have a maritime climate, with cloudy, mild winters and warm summers.

 

Spring in Germany (March to May)

Springtime is perhaps the best time to visit Germany as it is less crowded. Do pack an umbrella with you as it can get quite rainy during Springtime.

 

Summer in Germany (June to August)

The average temperature during Summer is 22° C (72°F). There are also extreme times, where the temperatures sometimes reach 35° C (95° F).

 

Autumn in Germany (September to November)

Autumn is the next best time to visit Germany as you’ll just be in time for Ocktoberfest! Just be warned that it will be very crowded!

 

Winter in Germany (December to February)

The average temperature during Winter is 3° C (38° F). There are also extreme times, where the temperatures sometimes reach -10° C (5° F). Cold as it may seem, this season also offers the cheapest airfares and accommodations, especially between mid-January to mid-March.

On average, to cover your living expenses in Germany you will need around €861 per month (around USD$1,002) or €10,332 per year (around USD$12,024).

The prices for food, accommodation, clothes, and entertainment are similar to the EU average. Rent is likely to be your largest expense in Germany.

Generally, the south of Germany is the most expensive area to live in. Two of the largest cities in Germany, Munich and Stuttgart, are some of the most expensive cities to live in.

Visa & Immigration

In general, you will need a short-stay visa to enter Germany and any other member country of the Schengen zone if you hold a passport from a third-world country:

  • That did not sign a visa liberalization agreement with the Schengen countries (refer to here for the countries)
  • That has signed a visa liberalization agreement with the Schengen states, but were previously rejected from entering Germany or any other Schengen country.
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Short-Term Stay Visa

Short-Term Stay Visa is also known as the Schengen Short-Stay Visa/C-type Visa and are for short-term stay trips for up to 90 days.

-Airport Transit Visa

-Transit Visa

-Tourist Visa

-Visiting Family or Friends Visa

-Business Visa

-Official Visit Visa 

-Medical Visa 

-Cultural, Sports and Film Crews Visa

-Trade Fair & Exhibitions Visa 

-Training/Internship Visa

Long-Term Stay Visa

Long-Stay Visa are also known as D-type Visa and are for long-term stay trips that are longer than 90 days.

-Study Visa

-Family Reunion Visa

-Employment Visa (issued to persons that have a job offer in Germany)

-Job Seeker Visa (issued to persons seeking jobs in Germany)

-Guest Scientists and Researchers Visa

German Permanent Residency

The German PR permit is known also as the Settlement Permit. In general, you can become a German PR after you have lived and worked in Germany for 4 years. 

Additionally, you will need to fulfil the following requirements as well:

You are financially stable enough to sustain yourself and your family without using public funds.

You must have an accommodation that is large enough to accommodate you and your family members.

You have paid contributions to the Statutory Pension Insurance during the time you lived and worked in Germany.

Obtained at least a B1 level proficiency in the German language and passed the “Life in Germany” test.

Working In Germany

Given low levels of unemployment, Germany faces no critical nationwide skill shortages. However, workers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and health occupations are in shorter supply, notably in southern and eastern Germany.

According to July 2020 statistics, there are currently 573,000 job vacancies in Germany. Vacancies include skilled professions as well as casual work in areas such as English teaching and hospitality.

As of 1st January 2021, the minimum wage is €9.50/hour and the average salary of a person is €3,810 per month.

Taxation

Income tax in Germany is progressive, starting at 1% and rising incrementally up to 45%:

Less than €9,408 (€18,816 for a married couple) = 0%

€9,048 (€18,816) to €57,051 (€114,110) = 14% to 42%

€57,052 (€114,104) to €270,500 (€541,000) = 42%

More than €270,500 (€541,000) = 45%

Also known as Solidaritätszuschlag or “Soli”, is capped at 5.5% on all individual income taxes. This was introduced to improve the economic situation and infrastructure in the 5 ‘new’ eastern states of Germany.

No solidarity surcharge is levied on the first €972 (€1,944 for married couples) annual income tax.

Tourist taxes are known as Kulturförderabgabe (Culture Tax) or Bettensteuer (Bed Tax).

In most states, the taxes range from:

  • €0.50 to €4 per person, per night OR
  • 7.5% of the room bill depending on the type of accommodation, room rate and location

In Berlin, tourists are charged 5% of the room bill and it is capped at 21 consecutive days (business travellers are exempted from this tax).

Munich does not have a tourist tax.

Germany’s combined corporate income tax rate is one of the highest in Europe. At a national level, the corporate tax rate is set at 15%.

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Finding Employment

The most common way to find employment In Germany is through direct appointments. Apprenticeships and graduate schemes are also very common and they include on-the-job training. Employment arrangements like these are very common in German companies as they seek to ensure that all staff, including their interns, have the required skills.

There are other several ways to find employment in Germany, such as through employment agencies, or through job seeker sites. Likewise, you can also search for job opportunities by attending job fairs or events.

Recruitment Agencies

Working Hours & Public Holidays

In general, Germans work 7 to 8 hours per day, 5 days a week, which adds to around 36 to 40 hours per week.

In terms of leave, full-time employees in Germany are entitled to a statutory minimum of 20 days of paid holiday per year, based on a 5-day working week OR 25 days based on a 6-day working week.

However, in reality, most employers give more annual leave, with 27 to 30 days  (excluding public holidays) being the most common.

The list of public holidays in the Germany for 2021 are as follows:

  • New Year’s Day Fri, 1 Jan 2021
  • Good Friday Fri, 2 Apr 2021
  • Easter Sunday Sun, 4 Apr 2021
  • Easter Monday Mon, 5 Apr 2021
  • Labour Day Sat, 1 May 2021
  • Ascension Day Thu, 13 May 2021
  • Whit Monday Mon, 24 May 2021
  • German Unity Day Sun, 3 Oct 2021
  • Christmas Day Sat, 25 Dec 2021
  • 2nd Day of Christmas Sun, 26 Dec 2021

Banking In Germany

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There are 5 types of banks in Germany:Private German Bank

1. Public Savings Bank (Sparkassen)

2. Cooperative Bank (Volksbanken/Raiffeisenbanken)

3. International Bank

4. Online Bank (direkt bank)

Major Private German banks include Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank.

To tell if a bank is a Public Savings Bank, just look for the word “Sparkasse” in their names. Such banks include Berliner Sparkasse, Stadtsparkasse Munich, and Frankfurter Sparkasse. To open a current account with Sparkasse, you need to be a German resident.

If you are not interested in opening a German bank account, you can always look for international banks in your home country to see if they have a German branch. If they do, you can open an account from your home country and transfer the account to the German branch.

Some of these international banks include: 

How To Open A German Bank Account

If you are of EU nationality, you will not have any problems opening a simple bank account with a German bank. 

However, if you are of non-EU nationality, you will need to prove your residence in Germany along with a German work permit/visa. You may also face difficulties if you are unable to produce/show your credit history.

Having said that, the best way to open a bank account in Germany is to turn up to bank in person and provide the following documents:

1. Your passport/photo ID with a valid visa or residence permit

2.. Proof of residence i.e. your residential address

3. Evidence of income/employment e.g. income tax, payslips, employment letter, employment contract.

If you are a student opening a student account, you will need to prove that you are a student by providing the following documents:

1. Your passport/photo ID with a valid student/internship visa 

2. Student Card

3. Evidence of enrollment e.g. offer letter, internship offer letter and internship contract (if you are on internship visa)

Housing

Germany is an attractive destination for expats. There is a huge supply of housing for expats making it easy to find with different types of housing to choose from. However, the large supply does not translate into low rents. Housing in Germany, specifically Munich and Frankfurt, is expensive. Expect rents to take up to half of the salary.

Type of Housing and Rent

Housing terminologies are quite different in Germany. 

If you want to rent or buy a 2-room apartment with a living room and dining room, you will have to look for a vier Zimmer (4-room) apartment instead. This is because Germany consider living rooms and dining rooms as rooms too, and not just bedrooms. 

Prices also vary from state to state as seen below:

1 bedroom apartment (in the City) = €500 to €1,300

1 bedroom apartment (outside of City) = €350 to €1,000

3 bedroom apartment (in City) = €900 to €2,200

3 bedrooms apartment (outside of city) = €700 to €1,700

In the city= €3,100 to €11,600 per Square Meter

Outside of City= €2,000 to €8,400 per Square Meter

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Where To Find A Home

There are several ways to rent or buy a house in Germany:

The most efficient way is to find an Immobilienhändler (Real Estate agent). This is because leases and contractual agreements are all in German. Hence, even if you are fluent in German, the leases and contractual agreements contain a lot of industry jargon that are hard for a layman to understand. An Immobilienhändler will also help you to find an ideal property that meets your needs and wants, avoid any scams and even negotiate a good rate on your behalf. 

The other way is to look through the newspaper as real estate agencies often advertise through the newspaper. However, this method has a low success rate as a good house may be snapped up before your call even gets through to the real estate agency.

Another popular method would be through Word of Mouth. Your local German friends and colleagues know their place the best and would be the first to know if there are any changes to their neighbourhood.

The top 4 property websites in Germany are:

Transportation

Germany is known for its public transportation system in Europe and it’s not hard to see why, given that they have an extensive network of railways and buses. 

There are many different types of trains and it is very important to know the difference because you might end up in a different region! Here are some of the most commonly used modes of transport.

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In Germany, the minimum age to drive is 18 years old. If you are a foreign citizen, you can drive a car using your foreign driving license, but only during your first 6 months of residence. After that, you will have to extend your foreign driving license OR convert it into a German license or an international one*. You may also be required to undergo a written test, as well as a driving test. 

*Not applicable to the EU (inclusive of Iceland, Norway, and Lichtenstein) or EEA citizens. 

Taxi companies in Germany go by standardised fares given strict regulations. A general estimate starts at a basic fee of around €2-3, then a rate of €1-3 per kilometre. Waiting time is charged at around 0.10 to 0.50 cents per minute. Surcharges may apply at night and for larger vehicles or bulky luggage.

All taxis must use a meter, which needs to be clearly visible. Payment is usually in cash, but card payments are becoming increasingly common.

Uber currently only operates in 6 cities: Berlin, Cologne, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Munich. Competing companies include Mytaxi, Taxi.de and door2door.

S-Bahn 

S-Bahn (short for “Stadtschnellbahn”), means “City Rapid Rail” in German. It is a rail system that connects the suburbs and other smaller regions to the city. As such, it is usually used for inter-region travels. To find an S-Bahn, keep a lookout for signs with a white “S” and green background. 

U-Bahn

U-Bahn (short for “Untergrundbahn”), is what we all know as the tube, metro or subway. Germans often take the U-Bahn to travel to and from work. To find a U-Bahn, keep a lookout for signs with a white “U” blue background.

Trams

Trams (Straßenbahnen) can be thought of as mini-trains in the city centre. They travel on rails built on the regular roads and have multiple stops throughout the city centre. It is easy to spot a tram station because they are usually combined with bus stops.

Buses are the main form of public transport in Germany. They cover both short and long distances and operate late into night unlike other forms of transports. Finding a bus stop is rather easy, as they are usually available after every 300 metres. The bus stops also have signs with a green “H” on a yellow background.

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Healthcare

Health Insurance

Usually, your employer will register you with a German health insurance company. However, you are free to choose the insurer of your choice, and you can do so by informing your employer within two weeks of starting work.

If you’re self-employed you must arrange your own registration with a German health insurer.It’s usually a fairly straightforward process, involving bringing your passport and residence permit to a regional office and filling out the forms.

 

Types of Healthcare Insurance

State Healthcare insurance covers the basic pregnancy and childbirth costs, simple dental procedures, inpatient care at your nearest hospital and outpatient care by your doctor.

There are a number of private health insurance companies operating in Germany. These include large multinational insurers as well as local German providers, offering full and supplementary policies. German health insurance providers include:

  • Allianz Care
  • Cigna Global
  • ARAG
  • Ottonova
  • DFV
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Structure

The German health care system is divided into three main areas: outpatient care, inpatient care (the hospital sector), and rehabilitation facilities.

By law, all German residents must be insured for hospital and outpatient medical treatment, and it is mandatory to show proof of health insurance when applying for a German visa. To be eligible for state healthcare, you must obtain a EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) before you arrive. Residents planning to stay more than a year should arrange for either German health insurance or a private insurer.

Education

The German education system is known to be of top-notch quality in the entire European region. Every child in Germany go through at least 4 phases of education, beginning with Kindergarten. 

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Kindergarten in Germany is optional and attended by children between the ages of 3 to 6. After that, school is compulsory for 9 to 10 years.

Grundschule (Elementary or Primary School) is compulsory in Germany and is attended by children when they turn 7 (Grade 1). They will study in Grundschule until Grade 4 (or Grade 6 in the States of Berlin and Bradenburg). 

Once the students graduate from the 4th grade, there is an orientation/testing phase in which the students will be evaluated and “graduated” from in order to to enroll into  one of the 3 main types of secondary schools:

1. Hauptschule

Hauptschule is attended by students from Grades 5 to 9 and teaches the same thing as the Realschule and Gymnasium, but at a slower pace and with some vocational-oriented courses. It is a vocational track, geared towards learning a trade. Graduate students will receive a Hauptschulabschluss certificate. 

2. Realschule

Realschule is geared towards the more advanced technical trades and is attended by students from Grades 5 to 10 and Graduate students will receive a Realschulabschluss certificate and go on to attend Berufsschule, a vocational school. 

3. Gymnasium

Gymnasium is geared towards the academic career and is attended by students from Grades 5 to 12. Graduate students will receive a Diploma called Abitur which prepares them for university.

Private schools in Germany usually charge a higher tuition fee compared to public schools and may offer varied courses leading to the Abitur. They also offer other diplomas and certificates at the conclusion of studies.

International schools in Germany conduct their classes in English and are very popular among the expat community, especially since most of them offer International Baccalaureate programmes. Like Private Schools, International schools also offer other diplomas or certificates at the conclusion of studies, allowing the students to further their studies in a university.

Enrolling into a German university is perhaps the dream of many students around the world because most universities in Germany are public universities and they do not charge tuition fees for Bachelor’s degree programmes. This free tuition system applies to all foreign students as well. 

However, this free tuition system does not apply in the Federal State of Baden-Württemberg, as it reintroduced tuition fees of €3,000 per year for non-EU/EEA students back in 2017. 

Also, students are required to complete their degree courses and graduate on time. If not, they will have to pay the tuition fees. 

If you are worried about the language barrier, fret not. Even though knowing German is a prerequisite for admission to any German university, you do not need to know German if you are enrolling in an international degree programme. In fact, many of the universities in Germany are conducting their classes in English and German. Hence, it is possible to graduate from a German university without having to take a single course taught in German.

Below is a list of some free German universities: 

  • Humboldt University of Berlin
  • University of Stuttgart
  • University of Mannheim
  • University of Bremen
  • University of Cologne
  • University of Hamburg

Telecommunications

In Germany, there are various internet providers offering cable and fibre optic connections. Most Germans, however, use DSL.

If you don’t intend to stay longer than a few months in Germany, opt for a prepaid plan. While it normally offers a German number, limited phone calls (telefonieren), texts and data (Mobil surfen), there is no contract so you can leave the number behind you upon leaving Germany. 

If you plan to be here for a year or longer then a contract is the way to go. However, bear in mind that the companies will want to sign you up for 12 or 24 months (die Vertragslaufzeit – the contract term).

The longer you sign up, the better the benefits, but be sure to cancel before the end of your 24 months as they may automatically sign you up for another 12 months after that.

The process of getting a mobile phone contract is quite easy. You can do it online via your telco operator or by visiting the telco operator’s outlets.  

You’ll need to bring the following documents to sign up for a mobile contract:

  • Proof of identity i.e. your passport
  • Proof of residence in Germany (address, registration certificate, or Meldebescheinigung)
  • German bank account for payment

You could just sign up for a Sim-only plan. This is also a contract but apparently a bit easier to get out of if you need to cancel it early. 

German sims are sold separately from the phones. 

The 4 main providers in Germany:

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Pet Relocation

If you are relocating with your pet, experts suggest that you start preparing early. This is because there is a lot of paperwork involved and if any of the documents is missing or not completed, your pet could be quarantined.

Your pet would need to be vaccinated for rabies at least 21 days before departure. If your home country has a high incidence of rabies, your pet will be required to undergo a separate Blood Titer Test at least 1 month after the Rabies vaccination and at least 3 months before departure.

Your pet will also need to be microchipped before departure as tattoos are no longer allowed. If your pet is not microchipped, please get it microchipped BEFORE its Rabies vaccination. If your pet is vaccinated BEFORE it is microchipped, your pet will need to undergo another vaccination shot AFTER it is microchipped. 

The German officials will require the vaccination documents upon arrival. Thus, have them on hand when you are departing from your home country. Do take note that the vaccination documents will have to be in either English or German. 

Your pet will also require a passport, and specifically, in this case, the EU Pet Passport as Germany is part of the European Union. This pet passport includes your pet’s microchip number, its vaccination records, clinical examination records and the details of its tick and tapeworm treatments. 

Pet passports can be obtained from your local veterinary practitioner and will be requested upon your arrival in Germany.

In addition, do prepare and have on hand a Written Declaration that your pet’s relocation is not for any commercial purposes i.e. for sale or to change hands.

Although the different states of Germany have different rules, most states ban Pit Bulls, Staffordshire Bull Terriers and American Staffordshire Terriers from entering Germany. Hence, if your pet is one of these breeds, or is cross-bred with one of these breeds, you will not be allowed to bring them into Germany. 

For more detailed information on the breeds and state bans, please approach your pet relocation company. 

  • Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate
  • Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom)
  • The Black Forest
  • The Ultimate Fairytale Castle: Neuschwanstein
  • Miniatur Wunderland and the Historic Port of Hamburg
  • Berlin’s Museum Island

DO-NOTs:

  • Do not be late! Germans value punctuality
  • Do not jaywalk! Most people don’t
  • Do not eat with your fingers
  • Do not put your elbows on the table when dining!


DOs:

  • Do shake hands and make eye contact when you introduce yourself
  • Do remove your shoes before entering the house of a host
  • Do have cash in Germany! Not many places take credit cards
  • Do leave a 5-10% tip, this is customary in Germany

There are:

  • Over 2100 castles in Germany
  • Over 1,500 different beers in Germany
  • Over 300 different kinds of bread in Germany
  • Over 1,000 kinds of sausages in Germany
  • 35 dialects of the German language
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Are you planning on relocating to Germany? If yes, Start your relocation journey with our Relo Buddies today!

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