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Moving to Germany

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    Germany is a country that has seen great political change since the early 20th century, and today is known for being a cultural, business and tourism hot spot. Located in western Europe, Germany is a vast country that boasts coastline, forests, rivers, valleys, mountainous villages and thriving cities. If you’re considering moving to Germany, you’ll have lots of questions. Luckily, as experienced international relocation experts, we can provide most if not all of your answers. 

    Many people move to Germany for work, for the military, or just to experience an exciting and different way of life. Whatever your reason for Germany, you can be sure to have a wonderful experience. To make sure you’re prepared though, read on and discover all the helpful information we’ve put together about moving to and living in Germany. 

    Orientation

    Germany, officially called the Federal Republic of Germany, is home to 80 million people of all religions and walks of life. The country has one timezone, which is one hour ahead of GMT. 

    The people of Germany are hardworking and enjoy structure and order as well as spending time at home. Nearly 90% of the population of Germany (the second most populated country in Europe, after Russia) live in urban areas rather than rural. 

    Germany has a strong arts and culture background, with brilliant artists, composers, and authors hailing from the country. Names like Grimm and Goethe in literature, Bach, Beethoven, and Wagner from classical music, and Holbein and Dürer from art are synonymous with the German greats.

    Moving to Germany After Brexit

    If you are currently living in the UK and want to move to Germany after Brexit, you’ll need to understand that the process has changed. You can stay in Germany for up to 90 days within any 180 day period, but beyond this, to live and work in Germany post-Brexit, you’ll need to secure either a work or residency permit. You can find out more information about the process here.

    German flag against a blue sky

    Learning the Language

    Germany is a widely spoken language, and is the native tongue to nearly 100 million people. Experts estimate that every tenth book printed is in the German language, and German is the third most translated language – after English and French. The official language of the country is High German, which is what is taught in schools, however there are several regional dialects of the language as well. 

    German is one of the easier languages to learn, despite a complex grammatical structure. This is not necessary for basic communication, however, meaning that expats and newcomers to Germany will likely be able to quickly pick up enough conversational German to communicate with their new friends, neighbours and colleagues. 

    In addition, most German people have a good grasp of the English language, so if your German is quite limited, you should still be able to conduct basic conversations with most people you encounter. If you do want to make sure you’re as prepared as possible by taking a course in order to learn German, you can take a course once you arrive in Germany, or take an online course before you move.

    Passports and Visas

    Unless you are moving to Germany from another EU country, you will need to ensure that a visa is arranged. If you are moving for work, your employer will usually manage the bulk of this process for you, as well as your family if they are moving with you. 

    To get the latest requirements on visas, permits and passports, the best resource will be your own country’s consulate or embassy. However you can also find out plenty of information on Germany’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs website. 

    You’ll need to make sure that you obtain the proper type of visa that is relevant for your time in Germany. Work visas, student visas and settlement examples are just a few examples of how people settle in Germany.

    Customs Requirements for Germany

    For the most part, moving your personal items into Germany is simple and straightforward, and it’s unlikely that you’ll encounter any surprise restrictions for everyday goods. Controlled items worth mentioning are hunting guns, which will require newcomers to be able to provide a valid passport, proof of ownership, a valid gun license and hunting permit, and finally a certificate of registration. The importation of any birds will also require a permit. 

    In terms of prohibited items, when moving to Germany you should expect to bring guns with you that are not for hunting, this will not be allowed. Drugs are also not permitted, as should be expected. The penalties for trying to bring illegal substances into Germany and very severe.

    Mountain lake on a misty day in Eibsee, Grainau, Germany

    Taking your pets to Germany with you

    Germany is a pet loving country, and in particular, the German people admire a well trained and well behaved dog. Dogs are welcome in most public spaces, though it is required that they are kept on a lead at all times and that you clean up after them. If you fail to do either, you may be met with a fine. 

    You may bring your pet with you as a personal companion only, and you may not sell or rehome them once you arrive in the country. You may bring up to three animals with you into Germany, unless you are bringing a female animal with a litter under three months old. You must also be able to prove that any pets you are bringing with you are up to date on their rabies vaccines. 

    If you are bringing pets into Germany from outside the EU, you’ll need to provide health certificates as well as an important permit. However, if you can provide all needed health documentation on the pets (including vaccination records), are not bringing more than three, the need for the permit is often waived. 

    Once your pet has entered Germany, you’ll need to keep their rabies vaccinations up to date and ensure that you display the tag which proves the vaccine, which is provided by the vet.

    Bringing vehicles into Germany

    Some people moving to Germany hope to take their car with them. This is possible, though depending on your country of origin, it can become more complex. If your car was purchased and used originally from within the EU, you won’t need to pay import fines, but if you’ll be in the country for more than 3 months, you’ll need to pay to register the vehicle. 

    If you’re hoping to bring your vehicle with you to Germany from a non-EU country, it’s worth being aware that this is something not usually done. The main reason for this is that shipping a vehicle into the country is costly, and your employer may have a limit on the size of items you can bring with you. Another important reason is that you’re going to encounter potentially heavy import costs. It’s also worth noting that you may have to significantly alter your vehicle in order for it to meet inspection standards, or you may find that once you get the car into Germany, parts and servicing are difficult to secure.

    Exchange and Currency

    The official currency of Germany is the Euro, represented by the € symbol. German euros can be used within Germany as well as any other EU country, and vice versa. So if you are entering Germany from another EU country, you won’t need to worry about exchanging your currency. 

    However if you are coming from a non-EU country that doesn’t use the euro, you will need to exchange your money. This can be done at banks and ATMs, but don’t forget that Gerson offers FX and International Money Transfer services.

    Finding a home in Germany

    Depending on your reason and method of moving to Germany, you may or may not need to secure housing on your own. Typically, people moving to Germany for work will depend upon their employer to support them in finding somewhere to live. However, if you’ll be handing the house hunt in Germany on your own, there is plenty to work with, but you may want to enlist the help of an estate agency, as some German customs might come as a surprise to those unfamiliar with the ways of the country. 

    For example, it’s not unusual to see a property where the previous tenant has taken away the entire kitchen. This is because in many cases, German tenants have to supply things like cookers, refrigerators, and even sinks. Most expats in Germany prefer to rent rather than buy, and working with an estate agent will help you to find property in areas where it may be difficult to do so, and they can help you work out rental agreements, which can sometimes be overwhelming to newcomers.

    Getting around in Germany

    Depending on your personal and living situation when moving to Germany, you’ll need to make a choice on the best form of transportation for yourself. 

    For example, if you live in a large city on your own or as a professional couple, you may find that relying on public transport is perfectly adequate. However if you have a family and children, or live in a more suburban or rural setting, you may find the public transport to be lacking.

    Charming road in Rothenburg, Germany

    Driving in Germany

    In order to legally drive in Germany, you will need a driver’s license. If you are going to be in Germany for a limited amount of time, under 6 months, you can drive using your existing driver’s license from your home country. However if you’ll be in Germany for beyond 6 months, you will need to make more long term arrangements for your driving situation. If you’re from another EU country, you can continue to drive on your existing license until it expires. At this point, you could apply for a German driving license if you choose to. 

    If you’re from a country that is not within the EU, after the initial 6 month period you’ll need to obtain a German driving license. In order to do this, you’ll need:

    • A valid driving license 
    • To apply within the first six months of living in Germany and completing your first Local Registration of Address
    • To pass the required vision tests
    • To pass all first aid, written and physical driving tests

    Road conditions are typically good in Germany, and the country is famous for the Autobahn, a highway with no real speed limit, only a suggested 80mph/130kph guideline. German drivers are extremely competent and tend to adhere to rules and laws closely. Some expats might find German drivers to be a little aggressive, especially on the Autobahn where coming up on someone’s bumper who is driving too slow isn’t uncommon.

    Social Life in Germany

    Most urban areas in Germany have a strong expat presence and therefore a tight knit community for newcomers. Most expats tend to meet and mingle with other expats, though in more rural areas this isn’t always possible. 

    The German people are typically welcoming to expats, so it’s worth reaching out to your new German neighbours. Bear in mind you will usually need to make the first gesture, as the German people can be a little more reserved. 

    People living in Germany tend to enjoy a varied social life, with plenty of opportunities for mingling. Sport and leisure clubs offer plenty of activities and opportunities to meet people, and the culture-rich cities of the country provide plenty of interesting things to do and see.

    Interested in information on another country? Take a look at our other International Relocation guides.

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