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The Ultimate How to Move to Germany from America Guide

The Ultimate How to Move
to Germany from America
Guide

Moving to Germany from America? Our Ultimate How to Move to Germany from America Guide covers absolutely everything you need to know about moving from America to Germany.

With in-depth information and valuable resources from how to apply for a visa to how to import common household items, from what the German healthcare and education systems are like, to how to decide where to live, our Moving to Germany from America Guide will help you and your family have a safe, seamless, stress-free move to Germany.

Chock-full of important international moving tips, as well as insights into German customs and culture, including everything from table manners, commonly used words, holidays and food, to the sports Germans like to play and watch, our Moving from America to Germany Guide will also assist you and your family assimilate into day-to-day life quickly and easily on arrival.

As the largest moving company in the world, with over 1,000 service centers across 180 countries, UniGroup Worldwide International Movers will help make your move to Germany as smooth and stress-free as possible.

With over 85 years' experience, successfully delivering 48,000 international shipments annually, our overseas move experts can help ensure your safe, seamless stress-free move to Germany from America.

UniGroup Worldwide International Movers moving Americans to Germany safely, seamlessly and stress-free

UniGroup Worldwide International Movers moving Americans to Germany safely, seamlessly and stress-free

For your convenience, you may:

  • Easily navigate through our Ultimate How to Move to Germany from America Guide by clicking the links within the Contents section below.
  • Read our accompanying step-by-step Complete How to Move to Germany from Americans Checklist, a full-proof list of easy-to-follow, chronologically ordered tasks designed to help ensure you and your family enjoy a smooth, stress-free move to Germany.

BASIC INFO TO KNOW WHEN MOVING TO GERMANY

Nationality

German

National Holidays

New Year's Day, 1 January Good Friday, Date fluctuates Easter Sunday, Date fluctuates Easter Monday, Date fluctuates Labour Day, 1 May Ascension Day, Date fluctuates Assumption of the Virgin Mary, 15 August Day of German Unity, 3 October All Saints' Day, 1 November Christmas Day, 25 December Second day of Christmas, 26 December

Financial Year

Calendar year

Government Type

Federal parliamentary republic

Currency

Euro (EUR)

International Dialling Code

49

Country Domain Code

.de

Road Traffic

Drives on the right

Electricity

220V, 50Hz. European plugs

Emergency Numbers

112: General Emergencies 110: Police

Time Zone

GMT+1 (GMT+2 from the end of March to the end of October)

HISTORY OF GERMANY

Germany is a key member of Europe’s economic, political, and defence organisations and has the largest economy in Europe. Germany was a part of two of the largest World Wars, which resulted in the country being occupied by the US, UK, France, and the Soviet Union in 1945. At the beginning of the Cold War in 1949, the western Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and the eastern German Democratic Republic (GDR) states were formed. FRG became a member of the EC. The end of the Cold War allowed Germany to unify in 1990.

POPULATION

Population

80,722,792

Population Growth Rate

-0.16%

Median Age

total: 46.8 years
male: 45.7 years
female: 47.9 years

Life Expectancy

80.7 years

GEOGRAPHY

Location

Germany

Geographic Coordinates

51 00 N, 9 00 E

Area

total: 357,022km2
land: 348,672km2
water: 8,350km2

Geography

Germany is situated in Western Europe and is the home of many major rivers such as the Rhine, Oder, Elbe and Weser, all of which flow northward. The Danube River, which originates in the German Alps, flows eastward.

Capital

Berlin geographic coordinates: 52 31 N, 13 24 E

Major Urban Areas and Population

Berlin 3.563 Million; Hamburg 1.831 Million; Munich 1.438 Million; Cologne 1.037 Million

CLIMATE

Germany’s climate is usually cool and wet with occasional warm mountain winds.

ECONOMY

Germany has the firth largest economy in the world and is a leading exporter of vehicles, machinery, chemicals and household equipment. High levels of unemployment and low average growth rates were addressed by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder (1998-2005) when a number of reforms were launched by the government. In 2008 and 2009, stimulus and stabilisation efforts were initiated. During Chancellor Angela Merkel’s second term, tax cuts were introduced, which increased Germany's total budget deficit. Government is aiming to invest 15 billion euros during 2016-18 in order to encourage private investment in the country.

GDP Per Capita

$48,200 USD

Taxes and Other Revenues

43.1% of GDP

CULTURE

Languages Spoken

German Turkish Kurdish Tamil Russian

Major Ethnic Groups

German Middle Eastern Asians Turks Africans Americans

NATIONAL IDENTITY

National Flag

National Anthem

"Das Lied der Deutschen" (Song of the Germans)

National Symbol(s)

Golden eagle

National Colours

Black, red, yellow

GERMANY's COUNTRY RANKING

Quality of Life

Ranked 16th of 80 countries

Cost of Living

Ranked 23rd of 104 countries

Education System

Ranked 6th of 187 countries

Healthcare System

Ranked 25th of 190 countries

Happiness of Residents

Ranked 16th of 155 countries

Crime Rate

Ranked 86th of 117 countries

Suitability for Green Living

Ranked 30th of 180 countries

How Much Does It Cost to Move to Germany?

Calculating moving to Germany Calculating moving to Germany

The cost of moving to Germany from America comprises of a number of expenses, each with their own variables. The largest components will likely be the shipping of your household belongings and the relocation of your family. Beyond that, there are additional costs for visas, storage, insurance and temporary accommodation upon arrival.

How Much Does It Cost to Ship Household Goods to Germany?

The cost of shipping your belongings can vary dramatically depending on the volume you’re shipping, what you’re shipping, how and from where and to you ship it. For example, a sparsely furnished two to three-bedroom home shipped by LCL (Less than Container Load) or Groupage sea freight from Washington DC to Berlin or Munich could cost US$1,000 to US$2,000, whereas a heavily furnished four-bedroom home shipped by FCL (Full Container Load) sea freight from and to the same ports may cost twice that. Furthermore, the cost would increase if you’re shipping antiques, a piano, wine, or expensive or bulky items that may require custom crating or packing. And if you’re in hurry to ship your belongings to Germany, the same size homes could easily cost you tens of thousands of dollars to ship by air freight.

Given all these variables, it is strongly recommended that you obtain a detailed quote from an experienced, reputable international mover like UniGroup Worldwide International Movers.

For more information on the different types of sea and air freight, their respective advantages, disadvantages and how to calculate their costs, read our in-depth guide, What is the Best Way to Move Overseas? Best Air & Sea Freight Options.

How Much Does It Cost to Relocate Your Family to Germany?

The average cost of an economy class ticket from the Washington DC or Portland ME to Berlin is between US$500 and US$1000 per person. So, relocating a family of four from America to Germany can be between US$2,000 and US$4,000 in airfares alone.

Additionally, if you are bringing any pets, there will be costs for their flight, any health checks or vaccinations required and possible quarantine charges on arrival. Roughly, a cat or medium-sized dog would cost between US$600 and US$1,200 to join you.

How Much Does a German Visa Cost?

Everyone that applies for a German visa must pay a non-refundable, non-transferable application fee. This application fee must be paid regardless of whether a visa is issued or not. For most German visa categories, this fee is €60.

For more information, visit How to Apply for a German Visa.

What Other Costs are Involved in Moving to Germany?

There are several other costs involved in moving to Germany, including:

  • Storage: If you are not moving to Germany permanently and opt to leave some of your household goods in America, you may need to organize and pay for secure long-term storage
  • Insurances: When moving to Germany, you may need to invest in several different types of insurance, including moving insurance, international health insurance and travel insurance
  • Temporary accommodation: If you plan on searching for a new family home once you arrive in Germany, you will need some form of temporary accommodation for when you first arrive. A hotel room in Berlin can cost anywhere between US$120 to US$170 per night, with a serviced apartment costing on average between US$800 to US$1,000 per week. So, if you need temporary accommodation for one month, the cost could exceed US$4,000.

How to Apply for a German Visa

Applying for a German visa Applying for a German visa

American citizens can stay in Germany for a period of 90 days as long as they don’t engage in employment. However, to work in Germany, Americans require a work permit.

To apply for a German visa with minimum stress and maximum convenience, you must first determine which type you need: a general employment permit, specialist professional residence permit or a self-employed residence permit. You will then need to compile all necessary visa documentation, complete all forms, pay the application fee and submit your application.

Follow each of the steps below to help ensure you receive your German visa quickly, easily and hassle free.

Why Do I Need a German Visa?

American citizens wishing to work in Germany must obtain an employment visa. Having a visa allows you to request permission from the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees to enter Germany. Whilst having a visa does not guarantee you entry into Germany, it does indicate that a consular officer at a German Embassy or Consulate has determined that you are eligible to seek entry for that specific purpose.

Select a German Visa Category

To apply for a German visa, you must first determine which German visa category applies to you:

  • General Employment Permit: To obtain this permit, you need a guaranteed offer of employment from a German company, as well as qualifications that deem you able to perform the work. Americans should note that achieving this permit is rare, as German employers need to satisfy a lengthy process to justify why the job wasn’t offered to a German national
  • Specialist Professional Residence Permit: This permit allows people with very specific skills to work in German companies and industries that need those skills. Most applicants are university graduates or professors and managers with in-depth experience
  • Self-Employed Residence Permit: Expats can apply for this visa if they can prove that they have a specific set of skills that will allow them to establish a business in Germany. Applicants will need to demonstrate how the business will contribute to the local economy and prove that they have the capacity to fund the start-up phase.

How to Apply for a German Employment Permit

If you are applying for a German Employment Permit category, you must:

  • Ensure that you satisfy the basic eligibility criteria:
    • Possess an offer of employment from a German employer
    • Possess necessary vocational qualifications.
  • Submit two copies of the following documentation to your closest German embassy:
    • Application form
    • Two colour passport photos
    • Valid passport
    • List of your vocational qualification
    • Evidence of an employment contract or intent to employ supplied by a German company.

How to Apply for a Specialist Professional Residence Permit

If you are applying for a Specialist Professional Residence Permit category, you must:

  • Ensure that you satisfy the basic eligibility criteria:
    • Have an offer of employment from a German company
    • Have the capacity to integrate into German society
    • Have sufficient funds to maintain yourself.
  • You will also need to submit two copies of the following documentation to your closest German embassy:
    • Application form
    • Two colour passport photos
    • Valid passport
    • Documentation of your knowledge and experience in the profession for which you are seeking a visa
    • A contract or letter of intent from a German employer, as well as a detailed description of the duties you will fulfil.

How to Apply for a Self-Employed Residence Permit

If you are applying under a Self-Employed Residence Permit category, you need to demonstrate:

  • The ability of the business to not only contribute to the German economy but also have a positive impact on the local economy
  • Evidence of capital or a bank loan that shows your investment is fully covered.

If you can provide evidence of an investment of more than €1 million and that your investment will create 10 new jobs, you will automatically qualify under for the two requirements above.

If your investment is less than €1 million, the following criteria will also be considered to ensure that your business plan is sustainable:

  • Your business plan
  • Experience in relevant areas of business
  • Investment amount and how much will be invested into the German economy
  • The ability of your business to provide employment opportunities for local people and skills training to the local economy
  • Your likely contributions to research and innovation.

You will need to submit the following documentation to your closest German embassy:

  • Application form
  • Two colour passport photos
  • Valid passport
  • Detailed business plan, including the scope of the business
  • Proof of capital for establishing and maintaining the business
  • Applicants over the age of 45 will also need to provide evidence of an adequate pension.

For further information on German visas and work permits, visit Make it in Germany.

How to Apply for a Social Security Number

Applying for a Social Security Number Applying for a Social Security Number

American working in Germany require a social security number (Sozialversicherungsnummer)—you will need to supply this to your employer on your first day of work. A social security number cannot be applied for in America. You must apply for your social security number once you have arrived in Germany. To do so, you need to:

  • Make an appointment at your local State Pension Fund office (Deutsche Rentensversicherung) by calling the English hotline on 0800 1000 480 70
  • Present the following documents to the officer at the Deutsche Rentensversicherung during your appointment:
    • A valid passport or residence permit
    • Residency Registration Certificate from the Town Hall.
  • Your social security card and number will be issued to you on the spot.

Visit Make it in Germany for more information about social security.

How to Decide Where to Live in Germany

Deciding where to live in Germany Deciding where to live in Germany

Most people relocating from America to Germany will already know where they are going to live—your location needs to be confirmed during the application process for an employer-specific employer permit. However, if you’ve not moving to Germany for work or you’re self-employed, you’ll need to take several factors into account when deciding on where to live.

From low crime rates to health and education systems, there are many variables to consider when choosing the perfect place for you and your family to call home. Given the size and location of Germany, geography and weather can also play a large part in your decision, just as unemployment rates, average salary and the cost living are likely to influence the location of your new home.

To help you decide where in Germany will best suit both your needs and those of your family, some of the most important factors are outlined below.

What is the Unemployment Rate in Germany?

The unemployment rate in the area you’re seeking to move to will give you a good indication of whether the local job market is stable, growing or contracting. This is vital if you need to secure employment upon arrival. This report by German publication The Local shows German unemployment rates by region. According to the report, southern and central Bavaria (which includes Munich) have the lowest unemployment in the European Union.

What is the Average Salary in Germany?

The average salary in Germany is €44,900 per annum. However, the average salary varies from region-to-region. The local average salary provides a good indication of your likely earning potential. PayScale provides various reports on average salaries in Germany.

What is the Cost of Living in Germany?

The cost living varies greatly from state-to-state and even city-to-city in Germany. Investigate the average cost of living in your preferred location so that you can budget accordingly.

The following list provides an idea of average prices you can expect to pay for products and services in Germany’s capital city, Berlin (keep in mind that prices vary based on location and service provider):

  • Monthly rent for an unfurnished two-bedroom apartment: €600 to €1,000
  • A dozen eggs: €1.70
  • 1 liter of milk: €0.79
  • Loaf of bread: €1.55
  • McDonald’s Big Mac Meal: €7.50
  • A cappuccino: €2.50
  • Three course meal for two (mid-range restaurant): €35
  • Monthly internet (uncapped ADSL or cable): €40
  • Monthly electricity (100sq.m apartment): €125
  • Petrol (per liter): €1.50.

What is the Crime Rate in Germany?

Obviously, you want your family to live in a safe neighborhood. Just how safe a neighborhood is in Germany varies from state-to-state and even city-to-city. So, before you decide where to live, it is worth investigating crime rates by city and rankings of the safest and most dangerous cities.

What is the Quality and Availability of Health Care Like in Germany?

Having access to quality health care is essential in deciding where you’re going to live. Luckily, the quality of Germany’s public healthcare system means you will have access to quality care no matter where you decide to live in Germany.

For more information, visit What is the Healthcare System Like in Germany?

What is the Quality of Schools Like in Germany?

If your children are accompanying you on your relocation to Germany, it is vital you move to an area that guarantees a quality education. You may wish to take a look at World Schools ranking of the best international day and boarding schools in Germany and US News’ ranking of the best global universities in Germany.

For more information, visit What is the Education and Schooling System Like in Germany?

What is Population Wellbeing and the Standard of Living Like in Germany?

Deutsche Post runs the ‘Happiness Atlas’ project in Germany, which ranks German states according to the level of happiness of its inhabitants. According to the Happiness Atlas, on a scale of one to ten, Germans on average rated their general life satisfaction at 7.11. Overall, west Germany tended to be happier than states that once made up former communist East Germany. The Happiness Atlas can provide a useful insight into the lifestyle you can expect in Germany.

What are Tolerance and Diversity Like in Germany?

If you or any member of your family belongs to a minority group, general levels of societal tolerance and diversity are important factors. As in any country, some cities and regions of Germany are more accepting of cultural, racial, religious and sexual differences.

What is the Average Commute Time in Germany?

When deciding on where to live in Germany, the average commute time can be an important consideration, particularly if you plan to drive to and from work every day. Luckily the commute time in Germany is quite low, with an average daily commute time of 42 minutes. So, if you know where you’re going to work, try to choose a home that provides you with a reasonable commute time.

What is the Climate in Germany?

Germany has a moderate climate that is generally free of extreme temperatures and prolonged periods of cold or hot weather. However, there are significant variations amongst the various regions of Germany:

  • North-western and coastal areas: A maritime climate influences these portions of Germany, providing mild cloudy winters and warm summers
  • Inland areas: Have a continental climate and variations between the seasons are more pronounced. There is also a greater variation between night and day temperatures
  • Central and alpine areas in the south: Have lower temperatures and greater rainfall due to the increased altitude
  • Southern and eastern areas: While winters throughout Germany are generally mild, these areas can occasionally receive heavy rainfall and experience sub-zero temperatures.

What is the Geography of Germany?

The geography of Germany ranges from Alpine regions to coastal regions along the Baltic and North Sea. Most of its landscape is studded with lakes and undulating landscapes, while three of Europe’s most significant rivers, the Danube, the Elbe and the Rhine all flow through Germany. The Zugspitze Mountain in the Bavarian Alps is the highest point of the country, reaching 2,962m (9,717 feet).

What is the Weather Like in Germany?

The weather in Germany is famously unpredictable, with changes occurring daily. The northwest region of Germany is the coldest, with temperatures increasing towards the south and east.

The yearly mean temperature is 9°C (48°F), with summer tending to be warm and winters being cold but not freezing.

Summer has the highest rainfall, although expats will need to get used to carrying rain gear throughout the year.

Most Popular Cities to Move to in Germany

For more information on the most popular German cities in which to live, visit:

  • _blank">Best Cities in Germany to Live
  • 20 Best Cities in Germany for Work
  • Where to Live in Germany
  • Germany’s Top Cities for Jobs and Living
  • Top 10 German Cities.

When is the Best Time to Move to Germany?

Deciding when to move to Germany Deciding when to move to Germany

To help guarantee a stress-free and successful move, you need to plan your moving dates around several factors. The factors that have the biggest influence over the best time to move to Germany are the weather and the holiday seasons.

Consider the Weather

It is best to move to Germany during Spring and Fall when temperatures are milder and rain and snowfall are less common.

However, Americans moving to Germany should keep in mind that the weather in Germany is famously unpredictable, with changes occurring daily. The northwest region of Germany is the coldest, with temperatures increasing towards the south and east. The yearly mean temperature is 9°C (48°F), with summer tending to be warm and winters being cold but not freezing. Summer has the highest rainfall, although expats will need to get used to carrying rain gear throughout the year.

Consider the Holiday Seasons

Moving during holiday seasons in any country is generally more expensive. So, keep in mind that people in Germany usually take a six week break over the summer period from around July to September.

If possible, avoid the following holiday seasons in Germany:

  • All federal public holidays
  • Christmas holidays: One week to two weeks depending on the region, beginning in late December
  • Winter break: While not observed in all parts of Germany, this is usually a one week break at the end of January or beginning of February. There is a two week break in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern
  • Spring break: Usually two weeks in mid-April
  • Whitsun: This is only observed in Baden-Wurttemberg, Bavaria, Berlin and Hamburg. Baden-Warttemberg and Bavaria have a two week holiday, while Berlin and Hamburg have a one week holiday
  • Summer holiday: All states observe a six week holiday, between July and September
  • Autumn holiday: All states observe a two week holiday in October. Baden-Wurttemberg, Bavaria and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern observe a one week holiday from the end of October.

There are significant differences in holiday periods throughout the German states, so it is best to check the exact dates for the area you’re moving to.

What is the Education and Schooling System Like in Germany?

Types of schools in Germany, and how to choose one Types of schools in Germany, and how to choose one

Germany has an excellent education system, as well as many world-class universities. So, it is no surprise that hundreds of thousands of international students study in Germany every year.

In the German education system:

  • Education is compulsory from the age of six until the age of 16
  • In most German schools, education is divided into the following levels:
    • Kindergarten: A form of early-childhood education offered to children between the ages of three and six. This stage is not compulsory, although most German students attend some of form of kindergarten
    • Elementary school (Grundschule): Grundschule educates children from years one to four. Following this stage, your child’s teacher will recommend whether your child is best suited to Hauptschule, Realschule or Gymnasium
    • Hauptschule: This stage educates children from years five to nine. While the same subjects as Realschule and Gymnasium are taught, Hauptschule uses a much slower teaching pace. There is also a focus on some vocational-oriented courses. Following completion, students can enter vocational school and an apprenticeship (Berufsschule) until the age of 18
    • Realschule: This form of education leads to vocational school and higher vocational schools. Students that achieve high results at Realschule may transfer into Gymnasium
    • Gymnasium: Gymnasium culminates in the awarding of a diploma known as the Abitur. The Abitur allows children to enter universities or dual academic and vocational studies. This form of school lasts until year 13 or the age of 18.
  • The German school year consists of two semesters. The exact dates for the beginning and the end of school breaks are different from state-to-state and changes every year to keep holiday traffic as low as possible. Generally, the semesters are:
    • Semester one: September to February
    • Semester two: February to July.

What Types of Schools are there in Germany?

In Germany, schools are essentially divided into two main types throughout all levels of education: public or state schools and private schools. There are also International Baccalaureate schools available, primarily in Berlin. Detailed information on all types of schools available in Germany is outlined below.

Kindergarten

80% of German children attend kindergarten and a variety of tax benefits and government allowances help to remove the financial burden of putting your child through early-childhood education. Kindergartens in Germany are very similar to kindergartens or preschools in America, in that the focus is on teaching children through play.

Public Schools

The standard of public schools in Germany is excellent, with the clear majority of German students attending public education. State governments manage public schools, so there are differences at a regional level. Students are generally expected to attend a public school within their local catchment zone, however exemptions can be made.

The main disadvantage of public schooling is that the language of instruction is German. This isn’t as much of a problem for young students or parents who are planning on relocating to Germany long-term, but for some students the language gap may be too difficult to bridge.

There are bilingual public schools in Germany, which offer instruction in both German and English or another language. These schools are very popular, so parents need to begin the work of enrolling their children well in advance.

Private Schools

The efficiency of the public education system in Germany means that private schools are far less common. Private schools do have more freedom over curriculum and assessments, although fees can be expensive and the standard of education may not be any better than the free public system. Many private schools are affiliated with religious institutions.

International Schools

International schools are the most popular form of education for expat students. Larger cities, such as Berlin and Munich have the greatest concentration of international schools, providing parents with the greatest choice. International schools prepare students for the International Baccalaureate examination and diploma, qualifying graduates for entry to universities outside Germany, while some schools teach according to the Australian, American or UK curriculum. Waiting lists for international schools can be long and the fees can be very expensive. Find your local International Baccalaureate school.

What Types of Tertiary Education are there in Germany?

There are several tertiary education options in Germany, all with varying outcomes and entry requirements. The main types of tertiary education providers are universities, universities of applied sciences, colleges of art, music and film and private colleges.

If you’re relocating to Germany with older children, it is important to familiarize yourself with the German tertiary education system, including the types of education available, to help narrow down your child’s choices and develop an education plan. Detailed information on the types of tertiary education institutions available in Germany are outlined below.

Private Colleges (Private Hochschulen)

There are several private colleges in Germany. These colleges charge fees of between €1,800 and €4,700 per annum, while all other forms of education are free. Colleges carry numerous advantages, including working closely with industry. Many are known as ‘business schools’ and offer vocational degrees such as diplomas.

Universities (Universität)

German universities are similar to American universities. They offer a broad range of study options and provide education from an undergraduate to a postgraduate and doctoral level. Universities are the only place where occupations that require government licensing, such as medicine, dentistry and law, can be studied.

To enter university, students require the Abitur or foreign equivalent to gain entry. American students should be prepared to re-study certain aspects of the course, as credit transfers are rarely accepted without some loss.

Universities of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschulen)

These institutions provide four year courses and award bachelor, diploma and masters level degrees. Fachhochshulen provide more practical forms of education, with a focus on areas such as business, technology, social science and design.

Colleges of Art, Music and Film (Kunst, Musik-und Filmhochschule)

These colleges are of an equivalent status to universities. Entry-requirements are incredibly strict and while gaining entrance may be difficult, the education and training are world-class. There are 53 art, music and film colleges and the 23 music colleges have a one-third cohort of foreign students.

How to Choose a School in Germany

To assist you in finding the most appropriate school for your children, visit:

How to Ship Household Goods to Germany

Shipping household goods to Germany Shipping household goods to Germany

If you’re moving to Germany, then a huge part of the process is going to involve shipping your household belongings to Germany and associated customs requirements. To ensure that your household items arrive in Germany safe and sound and clear customs as quickly and easily as possible, be sure to follow our advice on the documents required, customs prescriptions and other tips and suggestions below.

Keep the following considerations in mind when shipping your household items to Germany:

  • Household items are deemed to be goods that:
    • You already used in your previous home
    • May include portable instruments and tools used for skilled manual labor.
  • Your shipment will be duty free so long as you can demonstrate that:
    • You have lived in a country outside the European Union for at least 12 months
    • The household goods are imported within one year of you arriving in Germany
    • The household goods have been owned and used for at least six months prior to being shipped to Germany
    • The household goods will be used in Germany for personal use
    • The goods will stay in your possession for at least 12 months after they have been imported.
  • Individual household items that are valued at over €5,000 must be declared.

What Documents are Required for Shipping Household Goods to Germany?

For the safe shipment and smooth customs clearance of your household goods, you’ll need to ensure that the following documentation is completed as accurately as possible:

  • Customs Registration Form 0350
  • A letter from a third party (such as an employer) confirming that you will live or plan to live in Germany for more than 12 months
  • Evidence of your new address in Germany, such as a rental agreement
  • A copy of your passport
  • A contract of your employment in Germany
  • A detailed goods inventory list
  • A letter signed by you that the shipment does not contain firearms, alcohol, tobacco, cigarettes, tea or coffee.

How to Ship Wedding Presents to Germany

If you’re shipping wedding presents to Germany, these will be granted duty-free entry if:

  • You have lived outside the European Union for at least 12 months
  • The items are being shipped to Germany because they are being transferred to your new permanent residence because you have married a citizen of the European Union
  • The items are shipped to Germany any time between two months before the wedding and four months after the wedding. Although, this time limit may be extended upon request
  • The items will be in your possession for at least 12 months.

In addition to the documents required for shipping household goods, you will also need to provide:

  • A copy your marriage certificate
  • Proof that you have lived or planned to live outside the European Union for at least 12 months
  • Certificate of registration with the German police.

How to Ship Inherited Items to Germany

If you’re shipping inherited items to Germany, these will be granted duty-free entry if:

  • The inheritor can prove that they have a permanent residence in the European Union
  • The items enter Germany within two years of coming into the inheritor’s possession.

There are several items that are excluded from duty-free entry, even if they have been inherited, including:

  • Tobacco and alcohol
  • Commercial vehicles
  • Commercially used objects and materials, except for portable tools and instruments
  • Raw materials.

In addition to the documents required for shipping household goods, you will also need to provide justification of your entitlement as heir, such as a copy of a Will.

For further information, visit our Germany Customs Forms & Guides for Moving Overseas.

How to Import Vehicles into Germany

Importing vehicles into Germany Importing vehicles into Germany

You can move cars, trucks, caravans, campervans and motorbikes to Germany, so long as the relevant customs requirements are met. Vehicles that have been used for at least six months before importation will not be subject to duty. The customs requirements that must be met when importing vehicles into Germany are outlined below.

What Safety and Environmental Standards Must be Met?

Before attempting to import any vehicle into Germany, you must ensure that the vehicle meets all safety and environmental standards, including the European Emission Standards:

  • Euro 1 (Cars registered after 31 December 1992):
    • Petrol: CO 2.72g/km, HC + NOx: 0.97g/km
    • Diesel: CO: 2.72g/km, HC + NOx: 0.97g/km, PM: 0.14g/km.
  • Euro 2 (Cars registered after 1 January 1997):
    • Petrol: CO: 2.2g/km, HC + NOx: 0.5g/km
    • Diesel: CO: 1.0g/km, HC + NOx: 0.7g/km, PM: 0.08g/km.
  • Euro 3 (Cars registered after 1 January 2001):
    • Petrol: CO: 2.3g/km, HC: 0.20g/km, NOx: 0.15g/km
    • Diesel: CO: 0.64g/km, HC + NOx: 0.56g/km, NOx: 0.50g/km, PM: 0.05g/km.
  • Euro 4 (Cars registered after 1 January 2006):
    • Petrol: CO: 1.0g/km, HC: 0.10g/km, NOx: 0.08g/km
    • Diesel: CO: 0.50g/km, HC + NOx: 0.30g/km, NOx: 0.25g/km, PM: 0.025g/km.
  • Euro 5 (Cars registered after 1 January 2011):
    • Petrol: CO: 1.0g/km, HC: 0.10g/km, NOx: 0.06g/km, PM: 0.005g/km (direct injection only)
    • Diesel: CO: 0.50g/km, HC + NOx: 0.23g/km, NOx: 0.18g/km, PM: 0.005g/km, PM: 6.0x10 ^11/km.
  • Euro 6 (Cars registered after 1 September 2015):
    • Petrol: CO: 1.0g/km, HC: 0.10g/km, NOx: 0.06g/km, PM: 0.005g/km (direct injection only), PM: 6.0x10 ^11/km (direct injection only)
    • Diesel: CO: 0.50g/km, HC + NOx: 0.17g/km, NOx: 0.08g/km, PM: 0.005g/km, PM: 6.0x10 ^11/km.

Your car’s manufacturer will be able to provide you with the necessary documentation to prove that your car is compliant with all emission and safety standards.

What is the Process for Importing Vehicles into Germany?

Once your car has been shipped to Germany, you will need to:

  • Register your vehicle at a Vehicle Registration Office (Kfz-Zulassungsstelle)
    • Ensure your vehicle passes a technical inspection. As American cars are left-hand drive (which is the same as German cars), you should not need to make too many modifications to your vehicle
  • You will need the following documentation to register your vehicle:
    • Passport
    • Proof of official address registration in Germany
    • Export permit
    • Customs clearance papers
    • Original vehicle registration papers
    • Certification from the German Federal Motor Vehicle Registry, which indicates that vehicle has never been registered in Germany
    • Proof of insurance
    • Certificate of the vehicle’s conformity with safety and emissions testing.

What Taxes are Imposed on Vehicle Importation in Germany?

All cars and motor vehicles imported to Germany from outside the European Union are subject to a 10% import duty and 19% import value added tax, which is known as an import turnover tax.

Exemptions from this tax exist if you are moving to Germany to become a full-time resident and you can meet the following criteria:

  • You have formally rescinded your residence in America. You can prove this by showing that you have sold your house, terminated your employment, or by bringing a statement from your employer showing that you have transferred to Germany
  • You are in the process of establishing a new home in Germany, by showing a lease agreement, correspondence from your German employer or receipt of registrations at the local Registry Office
  • You have been residing outside of Germany for at least 12 continuous months
  • You can prove that you are the sole owner of the vehicle and it has been used for personal purposes for at least six months prior to import.

For further information, visit How to Germany - Importing a Car into Germany or our Germany Customs Forms & Guides for Moving Overseas.

How to Import Pets into Germany

Importing pets into Germany Importing pets into Germany

You can take most pets to Germany, so long as they are free from infectious diseases that are transmittable to humans and are not deemed harmful to the environment. As such, importing most cats, dogs and birds is possible.

The German Customs Office is the authority responsible for ensuring that all people seeking to import pets comply with regulations. General laws and regulations for importing pets into Germany include:

  • You can bring no more than five animals into Germany; otherwise you will be considered a trader and be subject to different conditions
  • All pet animals brought into Germany must:
    • Be identified by a tattoo or ISO-certified microchip. Pet animals tattooed since 3 July 2011 must also be chipped
    • Be accompanied with a veterinary certificate from an official American veterinarian who works for the American Government. Official veterinary certificates must state the microchip or tattoo number and show all relevant vaccinations, including rabies. You can have your local veterinarian complete all necessary forms and have them stamped by an official veterinarian
  • All animals need to be declared for inspection upon arriving in Germany
  • Failure to meet the obligations of importing pets will result in:
    • Return of pets to place of origin
    • Placement of pets in quarantine for several months
    • Euthanizing the animal in specific circumstances
    • Any and all options will be carried out at your expense.

How to Import Dogs and Cats into Germany

You can import your pet cat into Germany, so long as it is free from infectious diseases that are transmittable to humans and are not deemed harmful to the environment. To import your dog or cat into Germany, you must keep in mind:

  • You need to ensure that your dog isn’t prohibited from being imported into Germany. A number of dog breeds are banned from importation, including pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers and other dogs descendant from these dogs are banned from importation
  • Your dog or cat must receive an ISO-certified microchip before its rabies shot
  • You need to have your pet vaccinated at least 30 days before departure
  • American citizens must have an official veterinarian complete, sign and stamp an official veterinary certificate or have your local vet complete the form and get it stamped by an official veterinarian.

How to Import Birds into Germany

You can import your pet bird into Germany, so long as it is free from infectious diseases that are transmittable to humans and are not deemed harmful to the environment. To import your bird into Germany, you must keep in mind:

  • Pet birds may be imported into Germany from America so long as they are accompanied by an official veterinarian certificate, stamped and signed by an official veterinarian
  • If you seek to import more than five birds, you will need to go through a different process as you will be considered a trader
  • Birds can only be imported through European Union customs offices. You should use the contact details supplied on this page to contact the relevant border inspection post to check the current restrictions on bird imports.

How to Import Other Animals into Germany

When it comes to importing other types of animals into Germany, keep in mind that:

  • Only three rabbits, hamsters or guinea pigs can be brought into Germany as a private import
  • You should check with the German Embassy or Consulate closest to you to see what the current regulations are around snakes, reptiles and other exotic animals. The list of endangered species is updated all the time, so the only way you can be sure that your import is compliant is to check before you leave America.

For further information, visit our Germany Customs Forms & Guides for Moving Overseas.

How to Import Weapons into Germany

Importing weapons into Germany Importing weapons into Germany

Germany has some of the strictest gun control laws in the world. As such, firearms purchased outside Germany are subject to complicated clearance procedures and authorization and can be very difficult to import. The inclusion of weapons in a household goods shipment can delay customs clearances and may result in additional charges. As such, it is worth considering whether to import weapons at all.

The following weapons can be imported into Germany without a permit or the need for authorization:

  • Compressed air weapons, spring-operated weapons and weapons such as air rifles, that are fired by cold propellant gas
  • Soft-air and paintball weapons that create no more than 7.5 joules when fired and carry an approval mark consisting of an ‘F’ in an octagon
  • Guns firing blank or irritant cartridges or signal guns, which conform to an approved type pursuant to Section 8 of the Test Firing Act and which (including their ammunition) bear the ‘PTB’ mark
  • Crossbows.

You will need to supply the following documentation when importing weapons:

  • German gun licence
  • Hunting permit.

For the import of all other weapons, Americans need to contact the local competent weapons authority in the area they are seeking to move to in order to check import and possession requirements and to apply for a licence if necessary.

What Weapons are Prohibited from Entry into Germany?

The following weapons are banned from import into Germany:

  • Fully automatic firearms (submachine guns and automatic rifles)
  • Butterfly knives, fist knives and flick knives
  • Steel rods, clubs and knuckledusters
  • Star-shaped discs (throwing stars), unless designed solely for decoration, that is not presenting any hazard of inflicting injury
  • Choking weapons (known as nunchakus or soft nunchakus)
  • Precision catapults and associated wrist supports and similar devices.

For further information, visit our Germany Customs Forms & Guides for Moving Overseas.

How to Import Alcohol into Germany

Importing alcohol into Germany Importing alcohol into Germany

You may import wines and other alcoholic beverages into Germany as part of your household goods shipment, pursuant to regulations:

  • Importers must be at least 17 years of age
  • The following amounts can be legally imported:
    • 1 liter of spirits, with alcohol volume exceeding 22%
    • 1 liter of undenatured ethyl alcohol with alcohol volume exceeding 80%
    • 2 liters of alcohol with an alcohol volume up to 22%
    • 4 liters of non-sparkling wine
    • 16 liters of beer
    • Or, a proportionate mix of these volumes.
  • If you exceed the amounts above, but the total cost of your imported alcohol is less than €700, you will be taxed at a flat rate of 17.5%
  • If your import is worth more than €700, you will be charged based on the flat tax rate associated with the specific type of alcohol.

For more information, visit Germany Customs Forms & Guides for Moving Overseas.

How to Import Plants into Germany

Importing plants into Germany Importing plants into Germany

Importing plants into Germany from America is difficult due to being outside the European Union. Many plants are either completely banned from importation or have significant weight and size restrictions. If you would like to include plants in your household goods shipment, keep in mind:

  • The importation of potatoes, vines, wine leaves and soil or soil substrate from America is banned under all circumstances
  • To import any type of living plant, plant cutting and plant produce from America, importers will need to organize phytosanitary certificates for their consignment. A phytosanitary certificate is an official statement detailing that your plants are healthy, free of diseases and fit for import into the European Union
  • You can apply for a phytosanitary certificate in America through United States Department of Agriculture.

For more information, visit Germany Customs Forms & Guides for Moving Overseas.

How to Find Employment in Germany

Finding employment in Germany Finding employment in Germany

If you’ve already secured a new role (or are moving to Germany for a specific employment opportunity), now is the time to investigate employment options for your partner. Or, if you haven’t secured a role, to investigate employment for yourself. Follow our tips for the easiest job search possible, from using the most popular employment websites and best recruitment agencies in Germany through to how to establish a business in Germany.

What are the Major German Employment Websites?

Some of the major employment websites in Germany are:

What are the Best German Recruitment Agencies?

Alternatively, you may wish to register with a recruitment agency. Some of the major professional recruitment agencies in Germany include:

  • Approach People
  • Cobalt Recruitment
  • Taylor Root
  • GBO Human Resources.

Some of the major executive recruitment agencies in Germany include:

  • BlueSteps
  • Harvey Nash
  • Pedersen and Partners
  • Stanton Chase
  • Amrop
  • Reaction Search.

Self-Employment and Establishing a Business in Germany

If you or your partner are considering self-employment or establishing your own business in Germany, the following resources may be useful:

Further Resources on Employment

The German government has set up the Make it in Germany site, which provides a range of resources to help foreign nationals make the transition and find employment in Germany.

What is Working in Germany Like?

Working in Germany Working in Germany

Germany is a cosmopolitan, multi-cultural society and there is enormous variation from workplace-to-workplace. Making generalizations about working in Germany is difficult, but there are certain truths about communication style, dress code and office etiquette of which expats should be aware.

What is Business Communication Like in Germany?

Communication in German business settings is typically formal, conservative and direct. Foreign expats should pay attention to how members of the business interact and the way that subordinates treat their superiors.

The primary language of business is German, although most executives and younger businesspeople will have some degree of fluency in English. Never assume that someone speaks English—always enquire if it is possible to hold the conversation in English first. Some Germans may be offended if you assume they speak English.

Expats also need to be prepared for criticism, as directness is flavored over pleasantries. The conservative nature of German business means that humor and outward displays of emotion are never acceptable.

Greetings

A handshake is the most common form of greeting in a business setting. However, it is a not ritual, like it is in some other countries. Your handshake should be firm, brief and accompanied by a smile.

When addressing a business contact, you should use ‘Herr’ for men and ‘Frau’ for women, followed by their surname. For example, Herr Bocker or Frau Mishcke. Only use first names if you are invited to do so.

Business Meetings

Business meetings in Germany are much the same as those in America:

  • They take place in an office or meeting room on company premises
  • You should greet everyone in the room but don’t feel offended if you don’t receive any pleasantries in return
  • Sometimes an agenda will be set ahead of time so that attendees know what is to be discussed and can prepare accordingly
  • Always come prepared with everything you need for the meeting. Germans are quire protective of their property and don’t like lending or borrowing things
  • Ensure you have concrete facts and figures to back up any points you plan on raising.

Email

Communication via email should be no different than any other form of business communication—it should remain professional at all times. When first contacting a person via email, you should use some degree of formality. As your business relationship progresses, you can adopt a friendlier, more casual tone. Some tips for email communication:

  • Your subject line should be clear, succinct and in line with the content of your email
  • Keep your sentences short, clear and easily understood
  • Include a signature in your email with relevant contact information, such as your return email, cell phone number and landline phone number.

Text Messaging

Business communication via text message is becoming more common in Germany. However, the appropriateness of texting as a business communication method varies from company to company and industry to industry and can sometimes even be influenced by regulations.

For instance, a real estate agent and their client may regularly use text messages for communication, particularly as it is an easy communication method to use whilst on the go. However, a financial advisor may be prohibited from texting clients due to security and privacy concerns.

What are Business Hours in Germany?

Business hours can vary depending on the industry, location and even company, and members of the corporate sector will be expected to work overtime if necessary. General business hours in Germany include:

  • Banks:
    • Weekdays: Most banks are open from 8.30am to 4pm, with late hours on one or more days
    • Saturdays: Most banks are open from 9am or 10am to 12 midday or 1pm
    • Sundays: Most banks are closed.
  • Corporate offices: Working hours in Germany are similar to those in America – 8am or 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday with a half hour to an hour lunch break. However, working over 40 hours per week is not uncommon, with unpaid overtime and weekend work sometimes expected. Some companies also offer ‘flexi-time’, with flexible start and finish times
  • Government: Government offices are typically open from 8am to 12.30pm and 2pm to 5pm
  • Retail Outlets:
    • Weekdays and Saturdays: Most shops open at 9am or 10am, closing at any time from 5pm to 10pm
    • Sundays: Large department stores and malls may be open on Sundays, if permitted by local laws.

What is the Usual Office Dress Code in Germany?

In the banking, finance and legal professions, the dress code is very conservative and formal. Men wear traditional-styled suits, in plain grey, black or blue. Shoes need to be polished, and plain or striped shirts of good quality cotton should be worn. Business women should dress in conservative classic dresses, skirt suits or pant suits. It’s important to avoid flashy accessories, although a little color is welcomed.

Expats may find that in creative industries or start-ups the dress code is far more casual. You should still dress formally on your first day and take your cue from what the rest of the office is wearing.

What is Common Office Etiquette in Germany?

Office etiquette in Germany is still very formal, but there is a change happening and the trend towards cooperation amongst all levels of management is growing stronger and stronger. However, for the time being, you should adapt to the more formal and hierarchical aspects of the German workplace.

Work Ethic

German workers are regarded as some of the most hard working and talented employees in the world. Expats will need to work hard to keep up with the relentless drive to achieve that most German workers exhibit. German workplaces are incredibly productive and expats that struggle to keep up with demands are not likely to last long.

Gifts

Giving gifts in a business setting is not common and not expected. It can be regarded as a bribe and some companies have strict rules around gifts to avoid accusations of bribery. In some instances, it may be appropriate to give business associates small gifts (such as chocolates, wine or flowers) when invited to a colleague’s home or for a client's Christmas gift.

Do’s and Don’ts of Business in Germany

  • Do respect your superiors and tailor your conversation to show respect
  • Do dress formally for initial meetings and interviews. After this initial meeting, follow the example set by your colleagues
  • Do speak clearly and directly and be prepared for criticism
  • Do start by addressing business associates formally using their title and surname. It is likely that business associates will ask to be referred to using their first name
  • Do attempt to learn as much German as possible
  • Don’t assume that English can be spoken
  • Don't waste time making small talk
  • Don’t use humor in a business setting
  • Don't be late for meetings or appointments, and if you are late, ensure you call and apologize profusely.

What are Common Customs and Social Norms in Germany?

Customs and social norms in Germany Customs and social norms in Germany

If you’re an American moving to Germany, you’ll need to investigate local German customs and common cultural differences to help you and your family assimilate more quickly into Germany on arrival. Luckily, you can follow our in-depth guide below that takes you through everything from ‘The Value of Order’ and table manners through to commonly used German words and phrases.

What is the Value of Order?

The famous efficiency of German life and society has come about because Germans value order and follow rules. This extends to everything from jaywalking to using the right entry points to buildings and even recycling. When you arrive in Germany, you should learn the rules and follow them. Expats should also not be offended if a German corrects their behavior, such as putting something in the wrong bin.

Do Germans Value Privacy?

Germans can appear to be cold and unfriendly, but this is just a result of their value for privacy and reserve. Don’t be offended if it takes some time for a co-worker to warm to you. It takes time for Germans to show overt affection, but once they do, they are among the friendliest people in the world.

What is Religion Like in Germany?

Christianity is the main religion in Germany, accounting for approximately 60% to 70% of the population. Christianity is evenly split between the denominations of Catholic, Lutheran-Protestantism and Calvinism.

However, as a multi-cultural society, most of the world’s major religions are represented and people of all faiths are free to worship. In fact, freedom of religion is a guaranteed right and, for the most part Germans are tolerant of religious and cultural differences.

What is Considered Good Manners in Germany?

Much like in America, good manners and politeness are important in Germany. To ensure that you exhibit good manners when you arrive in Germany, follow our comprehensive list of tips:

  • If someone does something nice for you, thank them
  • Hold the door open for people behind you; never let it slam in their face
  • Respect your elders
  • Always say “excuse me” if you’ve interrupted or bumped into someone
  • Try to help other people if they need it, such as a person carrying a pram up and down stairs on their own or someone picking up dropped shopping
  • Keep the volume of your voice down in public; try not to shout or argue
  • Punctuality is important in Germany, with many people finding it rude and disrespectful to arrive either late or too early to a social event or appointment
  • Despite the inherent order of German society and social customs, waiting patiently in line isn’t always expected and don’t be surprised to see people rushing and pushing in
  • Personal hygiene is very important in Germany, so be sure to maintain good habits when it comes to showering and brushing your teeth
  • Do not greet everyone you meet, particularly in big cities like Berlin and Munich; you will come across as annoying
  • Do not stop in the middle of a busy street, particularly in big cities like Berlin; you’re likely to get bumped into or knocked over
  • Do not stare at other people
  • Do not stand too close to other people; give them ample personal space
  • Do not ask personal questions (such as their age, religion, political stance or how much money they make) of someone you have only just met.

What is Considered Good Table Manners in Germany?

Table manners are important in Germany. So, to ensure you make a good impression at your first dinner party or your first meal out a restaurant, follow these handy tips and tricks on good table manners:

  • Refrain from touching your glass until the host has raised a toast. The word for ‘cheers’ in German is ‘prost’ (pronounced like ‘post’, with a short ‘o’ sound (as in lost)
  • Eat politely and chew with your mouth closed
  • Never talk with your mouth full
  • Try not to make too much noise; do not slurp or loudly munch or crunch
  • If something on the table is out of reach, politely ask someone to pass it to you
  • Lift food up to your mouth, rather than bending over to eat it
  • Place a napkin on your lap when eating
  • If in a group, wait until everyone has been served before you start eating
  • Keep your elbows in when cutting food
  • Always use cutlery when eating; never pick up food in your hands, expect in rare exceptions to the rule, such as fried chicken and corn on the cob.

There are some behaviors that should be avoided when eating in Germany, including:

  • Burping at the table
  • Picking your teeth at the table
  • Licking your fingers at the table
  • Placing your elbows on the table
  • Smoking at the table
  • Speaking with your mouth full.

What is Communication and Conversation Like in Germany?

To help ensure you’re neither offended nor offend others when you first arrive in Germany, follow these rules around communication and conversation:

  • Germans communicate very directly and honestly. It’s important that you don’t get offended by this. It is simply the local custom
  • When speaking, it is important to make and maintain eye contact
  • Germans will appreciate you commenting on some of the positive aspects of Germany and its recent economic success, but be careful not to go overboard as locals may feel embarrassed. The same applies to giving personal compliments
  • Germans appreciate personal space, so make sure you maintain a ‘buffer’ during conversation.

What Units of Measurement are Used in Germany?

Germany uses the metric system, unlike the United States which uses the imperial system.

The Imperial system is based on the old British system of measurement (as ordered by the king, hence the name Imperial). The units of measurement in the Imperial system are yards, miles, feet, inches, pounds, ounces, and gallons.

The Metric system is an internationally agreed system of measurement. Based on the mètre des Archives and the kilogramme des Archives introduced by the French in 1799, the metric system uses the units of meter, kilogram and second.

Units of Measurement

Units of measurement in the Imperial system, versus those in the Metric system include:

  • 1 inch = 2.54 cm
  • 1 meter = 3.28 feet
  • 1 mile = 1.6 kilometers
  • 1 gallon = 3.78 liters
  • 1 kg = 2.2 lbs.

Some tips and tricks to help remember how to convert units of measurement include:

  • Converting miles to kilometers: Five miles is equivalent to 8 kilometers (this is an easier conversion to remember than 1 kilometer equals 0.62137119 miles). To convert miles to kilometers, the easiest way to formula to use is: divide the number of miles by five, subtract the answer from the number of miles, and then double the number left. For instance:
    • 100 miles ÷ 5 = 20
    • 100 – 20 = 80
    • 80 x 2 = 160km.
  • Converting pounds to kilograms: 2.2 pounds is equivalent to 1 kilogram (this is an easier conversion to remember than 1lb equals 0.45359237 kilograms). To convert pounds to kilograms, halve the number of pounds, and then subtract one tenth of the result. For instance:
    • 100lbs ÷ 2 = 50
    • 50 - 5 = 45kg.
  • Converting gallons to liters: One liter equals 1.8 imperial pints, and there are eight pints in a gallon. Therefore, one gallon equals 4.55 liters. To convert gallons to liters, multiple the number of gallons by nine, and then halve the answer. For instance:
    • 100 gallons x 9 = 900
    • 900 ÷ 2 = 450 liters.
  • Converting inches to centimeters: One inch is equivalent to 2.54cm. So, to convert inches to centimeters, you simply need to multiply by 2.45. For instance: 100 inches x 2.45 = 245 centimeters
  • Converting feet to meters: There are 3.28 feet in a meter. So, to convert feet to meters, take your measurement (in feet) and divide it by 3.28. For instance: 100 feet ÷ 3.28 = 30.48 meters.

Temperature

In Germany, temperatures are expressed in Celsius instead of Fahrenheit (as in America). A few key temperatures to remember:

  • 32°F = 0°C (freezing)
  • 70°F = 21°C (comfortable)
  • 100°F = 38°C (uncomfortable).

What is the German Language Like?

German is the main language used throughout Germany. It is rare to meet a German that can’t speak English; usually only older generations or immigrants (for whom their second-language is German) cannot speak English. However, it is important that you try to learn some German, particularly as understanding people around you will help you feel more at home.

Common German Phrases

Try substituting the following German words for their English counterparts:

  • “Ja” means “yes”
  • “Nein” means “no”
  • “Bitte” means “please”
  • “Danke” means “thank you”
  • “Bitte schön” means “you’re welcome”
  • “Kein problem” means “no problem”
  • “Entschuldigung” means “excuse me; sorry”
  • “Natürlich” means “of course”
  • “Richtig” means “correct”
  • “Vielen dank” means “thank you very much”
  • “Nein, danke” means “no, thank you”
  • “Es tut mir leid” means “I’m sorry”
  • “Verzeihen sie” means “forgive me”
  • “Sprechen sie Englisch?” means “do you speak English?”
  • “Ich spreche Englisch” means “I speak English”
  • “Ich spreche nicht viel Deutsch” means “I don’t speak much German”
  • “Können sie das übersetzen?” means “can you translate that for me?”
  • “Ich verstehe nicht” means “I don’t understand”
  • “Bitte wiederholen Sie!” means “will you please repeat that?”
  • “Können sie langsamer sprechen?” means “could you speak slower?”
  • “Was brauchen sie?” means “what do you need?”
  • “Ich brauche auskunft” means “I need some information”
  • “Ich brauche hilfe” means “I need some help”
  • “Ich habe mich verlaufen” means “I’m lost”
  • “Wohin gehen Sie?” means “where are you going?”
  • “Ich weiß nicht” means “I don’t know”.

German Pronunciation

German pronunciation is slightly different to that used in America. One of the main reasons for this is the way in which Germans use fricatives. Fricatives are the sounds that emanate from the lip shape that produces the letters ‘f’ and ‘v’ in English. A few tips to keep in mind:

  • The German ‘w’ is a fricative. As such, it does not produce the soft sounds associated with English words like ‘what’ or ‘why’. Instead, you should try produce a soft ‘v’ sound.
  • The German ‘v’ can be pronounced in two different ways. If a ‘v’ is at the start of a word, it should be pronounced like the English ‘f’ sound. If a ‘v’ is in the middle of a word, it should be pronounced like the usual English ‘v’.
  • The German ‘r’ is pronounced as a gentle throat rolling sound.
  • German vowels can be either long or short, depending on the following rule:
    • The vowel is always short before a double consonant
    • The vowel is always long before a ‘h’.

For more information, take a look at this German Pronunciation Guide.

American English versus Queen's English

The pervasion of American culture through film and music means that some Germans, particularly younger people, may use American English. This means that there is no need to change the way in which you spell when working in Germany

What is a Credit Rating?

Maintaining a good credit rating is important in Germany, as it influences loan and credit card applications. The major credit rating bureau in Germany is Schufa. Several factors affect your credit score, some of which include:

  • The number of credit accounts you hold
  • The amount owed on your credit accounts
  • Your total available credit limit
  • Your total debt
  • Your promptness in paying bills
  • Payment or credit issues, such as bankruptcy, loan defaults or foreclosures.

What are the Most Popular Sports to Play and Watch in Germany?

Most popular sports to play and watch in Germany Most popular sports to play and watch in Germany

Sport is central to German culture. If you take the time to learn about the popular national sports, you’ll find it a lot easier to start conversations and settle into your new home. Germans don’t just like watching sport—they also love playing sport. You’ll find some form of recreational facility in almost every German town.

The four main professional-level sports in Germany are football (or soccer), basketball, ice hockey and handball.

Football

As in most of Europe, football (soccer) is the most popular sport, with its fans bordering on the fanatical. The Bundesliga is the top football competition in Germany and is one of the most popular and successful leagues in the entire world. In fact, the Bundesliga holds the record for the highest stadium attendance figures in the world. The season runs from August to May, with most games played on a Saturday or Sunday.

Basketball

The emergence of Dirk Nowitzki as one of the finest NBA players of all time has seen a surge in popularity for basketball in Germany. The highest professional league in Germany is the Basketball Bundesliga (BBL). The season runs from September to June and 18 teams battle it out for the championship.

Ice Hockey

The Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL) runs the top professional-level ice hockey competition in Germany. The league draws significant crowds and live matches feature an incredible atmosphere, where the crowd can be more entertaining the game itself. It is the second most attended ice hockey league in Europe. 14 teams compete for the championships, with a number of American and Canadian players representing local German teams.

Handball

The Handball Bundesliga is considered to be the best handball league in the world. Handball is especially popular in smaller towns that don’t have a major football team. The season runs from September to May, with the top three teams qualifying to play in the EHF Champion’s League.

Other Sports in Germany

Apart from the four main professional-level sports, there is also significant interest in sports such as tennis, car racing, golf and winter sports in the Alpine regions. Germans are also famous for their love of the outdoors and hiking, with their love of tramping around the wilderness giving rise to the term ‘wanderlust’.

Playing Sport in Germany

It won't be difficult to join a local sporting team. The best place to start is at a local YMCA or local private club. If you're interested in football or basketball, you may find that recreational groups have informal games down at the local court or pitch.

Fitness in Germany

In addition to sports, physical fitness is a popular pastime and joining a gym is an excellent way to meet new people. Most cities and towns have local fitness facilities. YMCAs are a great option for exercising on a budget, while private gyms and clubs offer an incredible range of facilities at a higher price. Some of the larger private gyms include:

  • McFit
  • Holmes Place
  • Injoy
  • Fitness First
  • FitX.

If you want to exercise for free, take advantage of jogging and bike paths. You can also use the sporting facilities of some local schools on weekends.

If you live in the alpine parts of Germany, skiing and snow sports are also an essential part of the local culture, as is hiking throughout most of the country.

What Holidays and Traditions are Celebrated in Germany?

Celebrating holidays and traditions in Germany Celebrating holidays and traditions in Germany

There are many different types of holidays and traditions celebrated in Germany, from religious holidays such as Christmas and Easter through to cultural celebrations such as Halloween and the Day of German Unity, as well as more general school holidays. Read our guide below so that you understand the meaning behind each tradition, as well as how and when they are celebrated.

When are School Holidays in Germany?

The German school year consists of two semesters, with a longer holiday over the summer and Christmas. The exact dates for the beginning and the end of school breaks are different from state-to-state and change every year to keep holiday traffic as low as possible. Generally, the school semesters are:

  • Semester one: September to February
  • Semester two: February to July.

When are the German Federal Public Holidays?

Germany observes several federal public holidays, each of which is outlined below. If a federal public holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, it is moved to the first available weekday.

New Year’s Day (1 January)

New Year’s Day celebrates the beginning of the new calendar year. Generally, people attend large parties on the night of 31 December, ringing in the New Year at midnight.

Easter (March to April: First Sunday After the First Full Moon After the Vernal Equinox)

The period from Good Friday to Easter Monday is a public holiday in Germany. Christianity is the most followed religion in Germany and both Catholicism and protestant forms of Christianity have had a significant impact on the country’s history. The Easter period celebrates the death and subsequent resurrection of Jesus Christ, which proved that Jesus was the Son of God and savior of mankind.

Labor Day (1 May)

Germany, along with 80 other countries worldwide, celebrates International Worker’s Day or Labor Day. The day is a celebration of workers and worker’s rights. Parades are often held on the street throughout major cities and towns, and the day is used to voice the current griefs of workers.

Ascension Day (Date Fluctuates)

A Christian feast day that celebrates the ascension of Jesus Christ’s earthly body into heaven. However, with declining numbers of Germans practicing Christianity, it is becoming more and more secularized.

Whit Monday (Day After Pentecost as Determined by the Date of Easter)

A feast day that is celebrated the day after Pentecost, which celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit onto the apostles. It is considered one of the three baptismal seasons and derives its name from the white that is often associated with baptism.

Day of German Unity (3 October)

This public holiday is one of the most important on the German calendar as it celebrates the reunification of Germany in 1990. There are enormous parades and celebrations in the streets as all of Germany comes together to celebrate peace and unity.

Christmas Day (25 December)

Just as in America, Christmas Day celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ and, as Christianity is the most widespread religion in Germany, it is the biggest holiday of the year. Most businesses are closed on Christmas Day and many on Christmas Eve as well.

Most people decorate their homes with Christmas lights and Christmas trees and children believe that Santa Claus will visit their home and bring them gifts, so long as they have been well-behaved. The key celebration for Christmas is actually held on Christmas Eve for most German families.

St Stephens Day

This day falls on the day after Christmas Day and it is held to recognize the first Christian martyr, Saint Stephen.

Other German Holidays and Festivals

In addition to federal public holidays, there are various other holidays, festivals and celebrations observed by the German population, each of which is outlined below.

Valentine’s Day (14 February)

Much the same as Valentine’s Day in America, this festival is celebrated in memory of St Valentine. Lovers exchange gifts and cards, often anonymously.

St Patrick’s Day (17 March)

Again, as in America, St Patrick’s Day celebrates Irish culture, remembering the Christian Saint Patrick, who is one of Ireland’s patron saints. On this day, people often wear green and head to an Irish pub to drink Guinness, listen to traditional music, and engage in the craic that is central to Irish culture.

Passover (14th Day of the First Month of the Jewish Year)

Passover is a Jewish tradition, which lasts for eight days and celebrates the survivals of the Jews in Egypt. The tradition is marked with ritual dinners called Seder. While Passover is not a federal public holiday, most Jewish companies close during this period.

Mother’s Day (Second Sunday in May)

Just like Mother’s Day in America, children of all ages use this day to show their appreciation for their mother, often buying presents and gifts.

Father’s Day (Ascension Day)

Once again, just like Father’s Day in America, children of all ages use this day to show their appreciation for their father, often buying presents and gifts. However, Germany is unique in that Father’s Day is always celebrated on the public holiday of Ascension Day. In some regions, Father’s Day is called Men’s Day or Gentlemen’s Day.

Halloween (31 October)

Halloween began in European cultures, which believe that on this day magic is at its most potent, with ghosts and spirits able to contact the physical world. Halloween was first celebrated to keep the evil spirits at bay.

Current celebrations are influenced by American traditions. On this festival, children dress up in their Favorite costume (often scary creatures like ghosts, vampires and witches or the latest movie character) and go ‘Trick or Treating’. At each house, children ask for lollies chocolate, and if they don’t receive any, then they threaten the occupants with a trick—usually something like egging their house.

Often, people decorate their homes, particularly with ‘Jack-O-Lanterns’, which are hollowed-out pumpkins with a candle inside.

All Saints Day (November 1)

A day dedicated to all Christian saints and an acknowledgment of the connection that exists between heaven and earth. People traditionally place candles and lanterns on the graves of loved ones. This day also signals the beginning of winter in the North of Sweden and the commencement of the alpine snow season. This day is a public holiday in the states of Baden-Wurttemberg, Bavaria, North-Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland Palatinate and Saarland.

What is Food and Drink Culture Like in Germany?

The eating and drinking culture of Germany The eating and drinking culture of Germany

A key way to experience the culture of a new country is through their food and beverages, and Germany is no different. Not only does Germany have its own unique foods and drinks, it also offers a range of culturally diverse options due to its rich cultural heritage. You’ll also need to be aware of some cultural norms when it comes to food and drink in Germany, such as expectations around tipping and the legal drinking age.

Does Germany Have a National Dish?

German food has become famous the world-round. Its native dishes are known for being hearty and rich in flavor. Some of Germany’s most famous national dishes include:

  • Doner kebab
  • Bratwurst
  • Blutwurst
  • Schwarzwurst
  • Currywurst
  • Sauerbraten
  • Spatzle
  • Knodel
  • Sauerkraut
  • Schwarzwalder Kirschtorte
  • Berliner donuts.

German beer is also regarded as being of some of the finest quality in the entire world. The beers of Bavaria are showcased every year at Oktoberfest and are famed for the strict regulations placed on beer, which state that brewers can only use water, barley, yeast and hops. German wine is also highly regarded, with Riesling originating in the Rhine region of Germany.

What are Restaurants Like in Germany?

When eating out in Germany you’ll be treated to an enormous variety of cuisines. Local cuisine varies according to region, although they all share the German love for heaty, home-style cooking. If you’d like to dine at traditional German restaurants, look for eateries that have ‘gast’ at the beginning of the name, such as ‘gasthaus’ or ‘gaststube’.

In major cities such as Berlin, Hamburg, Bonn, Cologne, Dresden, Munich and Frankfurt, you’ll find cuisines from all over the world, thanks to Germany’s ever-increasing immigrant population.

When entering a restaurant, it is customary to seat yourself. If you’re unsure, don’t hesitate to summon a member of the wait staff, but always address them as ‘Herr Ober’ or ‘Fraulein’. Germany follows the continental style of service. So, don’t expect the type of prompt and gracious service that you may be accustomed to in America.

Bans against smoking in restaurants are enforced at a state-level and only Bavaria and Saarland have completely banned smoking. In other areas, there may be a smoking and non-smoking section.

When you ask for the bill, the wait staff will wait at the table until you have paid it. If you invite someone out for a meal, especially a business colleague, it is expected that you will pick up the check.

How to Find a Restaurant in Germany

There is no standard restaurant rating system in Germany, although newspapers and magazine regularly print reviews. The easiest way to find restaurants and view their ratings is by visiting review websites:

How to Tip in Germany

A service charge of between 10% and 15% is usually included in the bill. This is known as Bedienung. Don’t be afraid to ask if you can’t see the charge on the bill. For exceptionally good service, a tip of 10% is appropriate. The tip should be handed to the waiter who served you. It is inappropriate to tip the owner of the establishment. Tipping is not expected in fast food restaurants.

What is the Legal Drinking Age and Drinking Restrictions?

The legal drinking age in Germany is 16 years old for beer and wine and 18 years old for spirits. Drinking in public is legal and the blood alcohol content limit for driving is 0.05%.

Shopping for Food in Germany

The quality of food in Germany is very high. Food is fresh or snap frozen at the source and shipped by air. As such, food is very safe, with no need to disinfect surfaces – rinsing fruit and vegetables in tap water is sufficient. Residential areas will have large supermarkets, selling all food requirements, as well as other household necessities, such as newspapers, beauty and cleaning products. Most cities will also have greengrocers, bakeries, butchers and fishmongers, where the products will be of higher-quality and you’ll get excellent service.

The most common means of shopping for food is in large chain supermarkets, which are similar in nature and service to American supermarkets. The biggest supermarket chains in Germany are:

  • Aldi
  • Lidl
  • Kaufland
  • Edeka
  • Netto.

A rising trend in Germany is home delivered meal-kit options, with the major suppliers including:

What is Housing Like in Germany?

Housing in Germany Housing in Germany

If you’re not moving to Germany from America for work or your employer hasn’t secured housing for you, you’ll need to investigate potential properties to buy or rent in Germany. Before you start your house search, you’ll need to understand what renting and buying property is like, as well as what types of houses and apartments are available in Germany.

What are the Best Real Estate Websites in Germany?

A good place to start your search is some of the most popular real estate search websites. These will give you an idea of the type of housing available, as well as the average cost. Try:

  • ImmoStreet
  • Ziegert
  • Real Estate.

What is Renting Property in Germany Like?

If you’re planning on renting property, keep in mind:

  • You’ll need to hire a real estate agent (makier) to help navigate language difficulties, as well as the peculiarities of German rental law
  • All renters are required to sign a contract before occupation. Rental contracts typically last for one year and if either the landlord or the leaser seeks to exit the contract, they must provide three months’ notice
  • A security deposit is typically required, usually one to two months’ rent
  • There are two types of rental contract in Germany, warmmiete and kaltmiete. In a warmmiete contract, utilities are included in the bill, while a kaltmiete contract only gives you access to the property. The connection and payment of utilities is your responsibility
  • Most apartments are unfurnished, with some not even coming with light fixtures or a stove, so make sure you ask your makier about what you need to buy before you sign the contract
  • Contracts often require that rent is paid automatically via a bank transfer known as a ‘dauerauftrag’.

What is Buying Property in Germany Like?

If you’re planning on buying property, keep in mind:

  • You will need to provide a 20% down payment to secure a mortgage in most parts of the country. Purchase tax, notary, agent charges and registration fees can also add 10% to the total cost of the property
  • Engage the services of a local, reputable real estate agent. Some of the largest estate agents, which have offices in most cities, include:
    • Century 21
    • Engell & Voelkers
    • Global Edge also provides ranking of German real estate agencies according to varying parameters.
  • Organize inspections of properties that meet your criteria for when you arrive.

What Types of Houses are there in Germany?

Housing types, styles, and even availability vary from state-to-state and even city-to-city. However, some general facts you can expect about housing in Germany include:

  • Housing prices and rent are more expensive in major metropolitan regions
  • Houses generally have several bedrooms and bathrooms, a lounge room and separate living area, a separate kitchen and laundry, and sometimes a study or media room, as well as a finished basement. These types of houses typically only exist in outer suburbs and regional towns
  • Houses do not usually come furnished
  • Laundries in German houses are typically Euro-style, meaning only front-loader washing machines are suitable
  • Most houses feature heating, which run on a combination of energy sources
  • Garages are uncommon, especially in built-up areas, so only import your car if you’re prepared to park it on the street.

What are Houses Like in Germany?

There are three types of houses in Germany:

  • Detached: Free-standing properties that have their own backyards. These yards can range in size from 550m2 (5920 square feet) right up to more than an acre
  • Townhouse: While these are self-contained, they share a ‘party’ wall with the neighboring property and often share a garden
  • Wohnsilos: These tall apartment buildings are the most common form of accommodation in German cities. They are uniform and uninteresting from the outside, but the apartments contained within are often modern and well-furnished.

What are Apartments Like in Germany?

Apartments in Germany may be:

  • Occupant-owned
  • Leased from the building owner (or their appointed representative, such as a real estate agent)
  • Cooperatively-owned (referred to as a ‘co-op’), where owners become shareholders in a company that owns the entire building and its grounds. Members of a co-op pay a monthly fee to cover the cost of gardening, maintenance, the mortgage, insurance and taxes. As members have voting rights when new owners seek to rent or buy a property within the building, they can be difficult to rent or buy
  • Condominiums (Eigentumswohnung), where the apartment is purchased, but the building and grounds remain the property of the building owner. Eigentumswohnung owners (or renters) are charged maintenance fees, but must pay their own taxes, mortgage and insurance. Condos often include additional facilities such as a gym, pool, sauna and tennis courts.

What is the Best Way to Get Around in Germany?

Getting around in Germany Getting around in Germany

Germany has one of the most extensive and efficient public transport systems in the world. This means that owning a car is not a necessity. However, if private driving is your preferred method of getting around, you’ll love the well-maintained roads and autobahns that allow you to get from point A to B in record time.

What are the Road Rules when Driving in Germany?

If you plan to drive once you arrive in Germany, there are several different road rules of which you should make yourself aware:

  • Germans drive on the right-hand side of the road. This means that:
    • You’ll need to take extra care when pulling out of intersections, roundabouts and one-way streets
    • The gear stick will be in your right hand
    • The indicators and windscreen wipers will be operated by your right hand
    • When crossing the street, you need to look right for on-coming traffic.
  • Many sections of the autobahn have no speed limit. However, there are sections that do have speed limits, so pay careful attention to signs to avoid large fines.
  • The recommended maximum speed on autobahns is 130km per hour (81 miles per hour). If you are travelling faster than this and you are involved in a collision, your insurance claim may be refused
  • The speed limit in built up areas is between 50km per hour (32 miles per hour) and 100km per hour (62mph), so pay careful attention to road signs
  • If you are towing a trailer, you can only travel at a maximum speed of 80km per hour (50 miles per hour), even on autobahns
  • Blinking yellow lights at intersections are a signal to stop
  • Seatbelts must be worn at all times
  • It is illegal in Germany to drive whilst intoxicated
  • All cars in Germany must have a red reflective triangle, a first-aid kit and a minimum of two reflective safety vests. If you stop for any reason, you must place the triangle 200m (656 feet) behind the car on an autobahn and 100m (328 feet) behind the car on other roads
  • You may only overtake vehicles on the left. There are severe penalties in place for anyone caught passing on the right
  • Unless otherwise posted, vehicles coming from the right have right of way
  • Yellow signs showing a child kicking a ball are known as traffic calming zones. These are zones where children are allowed to play on the street and pedestrians always have right of way. Speed limits in these zones is 7km per hour (4 miles per hour).

For more information about driving in Germany and road rules, visit How to Germany.

Can You Drive in Germany with a Foreign Drivers' Licence?

When moving to Germany from America, expats will be able to use their licence for up to six months. After this point, they must convert their licence to a German permit (Fuhrerschein).

Americans will not need to undergo any testing to have their licence converted. However, depending on the state or territory that is issuing your German licence, you may have to take a visual test.

To exchange your licence, you’ll need to visit your closest driver’s registration office (Fuhrerscheinstelle) and provide:

  • A certified translation of your American licence, which can be attained at the ADAC automobile club. A translation costs €36 for members and €46 for non-members
  • Your passport
  • Your application form
  • Your residence permit
  • Two passport photos
  • Proof of completion of a first aid course
  • Results of a vision test, if required. Vision tests can be completed by an optometrist or the Technische Überwachungsverein (TüV).

Visit the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure page, which has been translated into English, for further information. You can also read through this fact sheet, provided by the German government.

For citizens of the United States, the US Government requires that you apply for an IDP through either the American Automobile Association (AAA) or the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA).

To apply for an IDP, you must:

  • Complete the appropriate IDP application form
  • Present your valid US driver's license
  • Provide two passport photos of yourself
  • Make the applicable payment. The fees vary depending on the shipping method, destination and processing time and are listed on the application forms
  • Submitting your application either in person or via mail.

What is Public Transport Like in Germany?

Since reunification, Germany has invested heavily in its public transport system and an efficient system of trains and buses now allows citizens and expats to reach basically every part of Germany without the need for a car.

Trains

The Deutsche Bundesbahn controls the national railway system. The system provides fats travel throughout Germany and connects with other systems to allow passengers to easily travel around Europe. Expats should purchase a Bahn Card, as this provides cheaper fares than purchasing single-trips.

There are several different train services in Germany:

  • EuroCity: Provides an international travel option
  • Inter City Express: Express trains between major cities
  • Intercity: Provides travel between larger cities in Germany, although with stops along the way
  • Regional: Provides services within regional cities and moves through connecting stops in smaller cities
  • Regional Express: Trains passing through regions with frequent stops
  • Autzug: Allows for overnight travel with sleeper cars
  • City Night Line: Provides night travel between European cities. Passengers can choose from a seated car or a couchette.

Buses

While large German cities and towns have a rail or subway service, smaller towns or suburbs may not. In this instance, smaller towns are likely to operate a public municipal bus service. Typically, you will need to purchase your ticket on the bus or from a vending machine and then validate the ticket upon entering the bus.

There are two types of bus stops in Germany:

  • Bushaltestelle: All buses stop at these tops. They are usually marked by a pole with an ‘H’ sign
  • Bedarfshaltestelle: The bus will only stop if you hail it down. You must also let the driver know in advance if you would like to be let off at a Bedarfshaltestelle.

Railways, Subways and Trams

The major cities of Berlin, Bonn, Cologne, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich and Stuttgart have subway systems that are connected to the regional transport system. In Germany, subway systems are known as U-Bahn, while suburban and regional lines are known as S-Bahn. U-Bahn and S-Bahn lines often link up to make travelling around and between cities easy.

Leipzig has a tram system, consisting of 13 lines that link up with bus services. The system is maintained by Leipziger Verkehrsbetriebe.

Taxis and Uber

Taxis (or ‘cabs’) are common in inner city and suburban areas, as well as within smaller towns. Taxis can be ordered by telephone or hired at a taxi stand known as a Droschke. It is illegal to hail taxis off the street. Taxis are usually white or beige Mercedes.

A relatively new company, Uber is an app-based ride share cab company. It is currently only available in Berlin and Munich. By using Uber, you can hire a driver to pick you up in their private car and take you to your desired destination. The nearest driver can be at your pickup location within minutes.

What is Air Travel Like in Germany?

The efficiency and speed of the German train system means it is often easier and less time consuming to travel around Germany by train. Low-cost airlines such as Easy Jet and Ryan Air do offer competitive pricing, but these airlines often operate out of smaller airports, which can be located hours out of major city centers.

So, while the journey itself may be shorter, the time it takes to travel to the airport, check in and travel from the airport at the end other may be longer than taking a train direct to the city center.

What Items are Prohibited When Shipping Goods to Germany?

Prohibited items when shipping goods to Germany Prohibited items when shipping goods to Germany

Many dangerous or prohibited goods cannot be shipped to Germany. People attempting to import prohibited items into Germany may be subject to a penalty and the items may be seized by customs officials.

What Items are Prohibited Entry to Germany?

General items prohibited from entry into Germany include:

  • All products containing biocide dimethylfumarate (DMF)
  • Any printed material, film, audio, CD, DVD and cassettes that contain propaganda of a violent or aggressive nature that is associated with the extreme right, race-hate, war-provoking nature or material encouraging aggressiveness towards free democracy
  • Any flags, copies, uniform pieces or memorabilia or replicas of the like representing extreme, aggressive, non-democratic or violent groups or ideologies
  • Asbestos fibers, including Crocidolite, Amosite, Anthophyllite, Actinolite, and Tremolite subject to the Rotterdam Convention
  • Certain carcinogenic substances
  • Chemicals subject to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC)
  • Pesticides subject to the Rotterdam Convention
  • Counterfeit coins and bank notes
  • Counterfeit or pirated goods
  • Mushrooms from Eastern Europe
  • Potatoes
  • Explosives
  • Radioactive materials
  • Absinthe
  • Narcotics
  • Fireworks
  • Goods bearing false origin statements
  • Goods infringing a copyright
  • Goods infringing a trademark
  • Green and black tea originating from the People’s Republic of China
  • Indecent or obscene material
  • Instruments of torture as defined by Annex II
  • Medication, including ‘over the counter’ drugs and certain nutritional supplements considered to be medication by Germany regulations
  • Ozone-depleting substances (such as chlorofluorocarbons or halon) or products containing these substances, except for fire extinguishers for aircrafts
  • Stamps (fictitious) including dies and plates for manufacture.

For more information, visit Germany Customs Forms & Guides for Moving Overseas.

What Wildlife Products are Prohibited Entry to Germany?

Wildlife products prohibited from entry into Germany include:

For more information, visit Germany Customs Forms & Guides for Moving Overseas.

What Items are Restricted When Shipping Goods to Germany?

Restricted items when shipping goods to Germany Restricted items when shipping goods to Germany

When shipping items to Germany, some items are subject to restrictions and will require additional precautions, including textiles, rough diamonds, money, trademarked items and Iraqi cultural property.

Textiles

The import of textiles into Germany is restricted. If you are importing over €1,500 worth of textiles, you will require an import permit.

Iraqi Cultural Property

When entering Germany, you must adhere to regulations designed to protect Iraqi cultural assets. Following the Gulf Wars, the smuggling and sale of Iraqi cultural assets has been rife throughout Europe. Anyone importing cultural assets and other objects of archaeological, historic, special scientific and religious interest into Germany must declare the item(s) to authorities.

Rough Diamonds

Anyone bringing rough (uncut or unpolished) diamonds into Germany must hold a valid Kimberley Process Certificate.

Money

You must declare cash over €10,000 in writing to customs authorities without being requested to do so. You should make the declaration using this form.

Trademarked Items

Imitation products represented by a registered trademark are restricted. The items most frequently identified as having false trademarks are perfume, jewelry (including watches), cameras, tape recorders and musical instruments. Pirated copies of copyrighted books are also restricted.

Food (Including Herbs and Spices)

Bringing food with you to Germany can cause delays in customs clearances, so it is recommended not to include in food in a general household goods shipment. For more information about importing food products, visit The Private Import of Food – German Customs.

For further information, visit Germany Customs Forms & Guides for Moving Overseas.

What is the Healthcare System Like in Germany?

The healthcare system in Germany The healthcare system in Germany

The German healthcare system is among the best in the world. The facilities and personnel are world-class, which is why Germany is such a popular destination for medical tourism. On top of that, Germany also offers citizens and residents a public healthcare system that provides them with excellent, subsidized healthcare.

The standards of public and private healthcare are similar, although being privately insured gives you more control over the doctors you see, the facilities you are treated at, and when you have procedures done.

What is Health Insurance Like in Germany?

As an employee of a company in Germany you will be automatically subsidized for the cost of basic health treatments and emergency services. However, if you are self-employed, you will need to take out comprehensive private health insurance to ensure that you are covered in all eventualities.

As it is provided by the state, the health insurance you receive as an employee in Germany is known as statutory health insurance. The cost of this insurance is usually shared with your employer. Most companies offer to pay half the cost for access to this insurance.

People with high incomes may also benefit from taking our private health insurance, as opposed to the public plan. Payments for public health insurance are means-tested, so high-income earners may end up paying more for public insurance than private health insurance.

Major Health Insurance Providers

Some of the major health insurance providers in Germany include:

  • Gothaer Group
  • AXA
  • Allianz
  • DKV.

What are Emergency Medical Services Like in Germany?

Emergency medical services for acute injuries and illness are free to all. Immediate care will be provided and emergency calls should be directed to ‘115’. As in America, you will be passed on to an operator who will dispatch an ambulance to the location you have provided.

It is important that this service is only used in emergencies. For less critical situations, expats should make their way to the nearest hospital, where the emergency unit will organize treatment.

How Do Pharmacies and Prescription Medication Work in Germany?

Pharmacies are known as Apotheken in German and they can be identified by a large red ‘A’ on the sign. As dictated by German law, pharmacies must be owned and operated by a qualified pharmacist. Each pharmacist is only allowed to own up to three pharmacies, so there are no large chain pharmacies in Germany.

In German pharmacies, all medication is kept behind the counter, meaning you must ask the pharmacist for prescription and non-prescription medication. Most pharmacists will speak English and give you clear instruction on dosage. Most pharmacies are closed in the evenings, Saturday afternoons and on Sundays and public holidays.

It should be noted that there are also stores known as drug stores or Drogerie in Germany. These stores do not stock medication and instead sell consumer goods, such as toiletries.

How Do Electricity, Water and Gas Utilities Work in Germany?

Electricity, water and gas utilities in Germany Electricity, water and gas utilities in Germany

When moving to Germany, you’ll need to understand how electricity, water and gas utilities work, from the biggest utility companies in the market, to connecting your services, as well as whether your American appliances and electronics will work in Germany.

How to Connect Your Utilities in Germany

Once you’ve found a property to rent or buy, you’ll need to organize the connection of your electricity, water and gas utilities. Some things to keep in mind:

  • It is rare for water not to be included in your rent. If this is the case you will need to ask your landlord to put you in touch with your local water supply company (kommunale Wasserwerke)
  • Depending on where you live, you may need to connect gas, as well as electricity to run your central gas heating and cooking
  • If you are renting under a warmmiete contract, it is common for gas and water to be included in the rent, although electricity is rarely included
  • If you are moving into a block of flats, you should ask the property manager about which companies supply the building so you can make your choice accordingly
  • There is strong competition between utility providers, so do your research and get the best price available
  • The biggest energy (gas and electricity) utility companies in Germany include:

Will My American Appliances and Electronics Work in Germany?

Your American appliances and other household electronics may not work in Germany due to three potential compatibility issues: the plug, the voltage and the frequency.

The different power plug is easy to overcome with a plug adapter. However, the difference in electricity voltage and frequency can be more challenging. In the US, electricity is 100 to 110 volts, at a frequency of 60 Hz. By comparison, in Germany the electricity voltage is 230 volts, at a frequency of 50 Hz.

Generally, many electronic items nowadays (like computers and peripherals) can run on both voltages and frequencies. You just need to check their power labels or manuals for ‘110-240v 50/60Hz’ before plugging them in for the first time in Germany. And if they can’t run on both voltages, there is still a chance they’ll work by purchasing ‘step-down’ voltage transformers. However, these transformers can be costly, bulky, unsightly and inconvenient.

You should therefore thoroughly check the manuals of all your appliances and electronics to ensure they are compatible with German voltages and frequencies, before incurring the cost of shipping over items that might be useless upon arrival. Buying new or secondhand appliances and electronics once you arrive may not only be more cost-effective, but your only solution.

How Do Cell Phones and the Internet Work in Germany?

Mobile phones and the internet in Germany Mobile phones and the internet in Germany

There is any number of cell phone and internet providers in Germany, all of which offer a range of different packages at a range of different price points. Be sure to compare services and prices between companies to ensure you get the best value.

Internet services are of a very high quality in Germany, although DSL is still more common that cable or wireless connections. Bundle packages are available, which give you access to internet and cable television. Again, be sure to shop around to get the best deal, paying careful attention to speed and download allowances.

The main cell phone providers are:

  • T-Mobile
  • Vodafone
  • E-Plus
  • O2.

The main internet providers are:

  • 1&1
  • Vodafone
  • O2.

How to Keep in Touch with Family and Friends Back Home While in Germany

Keeping in touch with family and friends from Germany Keeping in touch with family and friends from Germany

The thought of leaving family and friends behind while you relocate to Germany can be difficult but, thanks to modern technology, staying connected is easy. There are plenty of ways for you to keep in touch, from cell phones and Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) apps like Skype and WhatsApp, through to the German Postal Service.

Phone

To make an international call from Germany, you'll need to dial:

  • The German international access code, which is ‘+00'
  • The international country code for the country you wish to call (this is '1' for America)
  • The area code. For example:

    • '907' for Alaska
    • '302' for Delaware
    • '808' for Hawaii
    • '208' for Idaho
    • '207' for Maine
    • '406' for Montant
    • '605' for South Dakota
    • '802' for Vermont
    • '307' for Wyoming.
  • The number of the person you wish to call.

Different carriers will have different international call rates, so make sure you confirm these rates early on.

Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) Apps

One of the cheapest ways to make an international call from your mobile is to take advantage of a Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) app, such as:

If you use any of these apps while you're connected to Wi-Fi, you'll save a lot of money. You also won't have to worry about international country codes—just click on the contact and press call. You also have the option of making videos call over Skype, Facebook Messenger and FaceTime, helping you feel more connected to your friends and family.

Internet

The Internet offers you round-the-clock access to the people you miss back home. Email, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter all allow you to keep connected and you can also use your computer to make international calls via Facebook and Skype.

Most cities throughout Germany will offer free public Wi-Fi access points, so keep an eye out for the Wi-Fi symbol to increase your connectivity. Tapping away on a keyboard in a café is a popular pastime, so you’ll never be far away from a moment to connect with the ones you miss.

Postal Service

Deutsche Post provides the main postal service in Germany. While it is a private company, it faces little competition. It provides a fast and efficient service, although it is expensive compared to other parts of Europe. Prices for international shipping vary according to weight and destination; visit this page to calculate the cost of posting your parcel back to America.

What Tax Do I Pay in Germany?

Paying tax in Germany Paying tax in Germany

As a developed economy, the German Government taxes all people that work in Germany. These include income tax, sales tax and property tax. So that you understand your personal taxation obligations, be sure to read through the in-depth resources below.

What is Income Tax?

If you are employed, your income tax will come straight out of your pay check. However, if you are self-employed you will need to pay your income tax yourself. As of 2016, anyone working in Germany that makes a salary of more than €8,652 per annum must pay income tax.

Germany has a progressive tax system of between 14% and 42% of your income depending on your total salary. For example, a single person earning over €254,446 will be taxed at 42%, while a single person earning up to €54,058 will be taxed at 14%.

Included in income tax is a ‘solidarity surcharge’ of 5.5% of the total tax paid, which is used to cover the cost of integrating the states of former East Germany.

What is Sales Tax?

The sales tax in Germany is known as a Value Added Tax (VAT). This tax covers most goods and services and is charged at a flat rate of 19% for most items. There are some items (such as food, flowers, magazines, transport and books) that attract a lower tax rate of 7%.

What is Property Tax?

Property taxes are charged by municipalities and vary from area to area. You should check the local property taxes with your real estate agent before purchasing property.

What to See and Do in Germany?

Things to see and do in Germany Things to see and do in Germany

Germany has been a central player on the world stage for almost all of recorded history. It is a country of stunning natural beauty and it is populated by a people that mix endeavor with creative flair. It is a place of high-culture and the gritty underground, efficient industry, and a rollicking festival and party scene. There is simply not enough time to sample or list all the wonders that Germany had to offer. This is just a sample of what expats can look forward to.

Bayern Munich

Bayern Munich is one of most successful soccer club in Germany and one of the most successful clubs in the world. Bayern Munich calls Allianz Arena home and seeing a live match is an unrivalled experience. The fanaticism of the crowd is worth the price of the ticket alone, and when a goal is scored, the energy is so fierce that the entire stadium feels as though it could crumble.

Berlin

Perhaps no other city went through as much change, catastrophe, destruction and rebirth in the 20th century as Berlin. The scars of the past are still visible, but they have been embraced and that’s what makes this city such a treasure. The history combines with a hedonistic spirit unmatched anywhere in the world.

Christmas Wonderland in Cologne

Cologne loves Christmas time and even the hardiest scrooge will come alive with Christmas spirit wandering through its traditional Christmas markets. You can sip Gluhwein (mulled wine), eat gingerbread and buy traditional toys for the good boys and girls.

Dresden

Dresden was considered one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, until it was levelled during the Second World War. Instead of building a new city, Dresden has been lovingly restored to its former grandeur. The restoration of the Dresden Frauenkirche church is particularly beautiful, while the Gemaldegalerie Alte Meister is home to several masterpieces.

Frankfurt

The financial pulse of Europe is more than skyscrapers, stocks, business meetings and deadlines. Frankfurt features some of the oldest and best-preserved medieval buildings in Europe and the Museumsufer is one of the most important museum districts in Germany and even Europe.

Hamburg

Hamburg is famous for its hedonistic culture. Music makes this city. The Beatles completed their apprenticeship here and the city still heaves with music at all hours. However, Hamburg has more to offer than just partying; a cruise through the Speicherstadt’s Canals at night is a truly magical experience.

Moselle Valley

Germany produces outstanding wine and the Moselle Valley is the finest terroir in all of Germany. Not only will you sample some of the finest white wines on the planet, you’ll also sample traditional German culture. Things haven’t changed much around the valley and the lazy life among the Moselle River is a welcome relief from the ruthless efficiency of urban Germany.

Neuschwanstein Castle

Located in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps, Neuschwanstein Castle is straight out of a fairytale. It is striking, dramatic, imposing and intricately detailed. The castle inspired some of Wagner’s work, and when you see the castle, the sounds of Wagner will immediately come to mind. It’s over the top, but unforgettable.

Oktoberfest

There is no party like Oktoberfest. For two rollicking weeks, the people of Bavaria and all over the world descend upon Munich to guzzle liters of beer in lederhosens and take part in traditional Bavarian culture. There’s nothing quite like the excitement that fills the beer hall as the first Steins are brought out and, for the non-beer drinkers, there’s plenty of food and rides to keep everyone entertained.

Reinsteig

Germans love hiking and the Reinsteig is arguably the finest hiking trail in the entire country. It follows a mountain ridge trough spectacular scenery and cultural delights, taking you through both the highlands and forests of Germany.

The Black Forest

The world’s largest cuckoo-clock, Triberg im Schwarzwald, is nestled in one of the world’s most famous forests. The Black Forest is the setting of fairytales and legends and the setting of some of the most pristine nature in Germany. It offers endless hiking and exploring opportunities and you never know when you’ll stumble across the next picture-perfect town.

The Philosopher’s Walk

Heidelberg is home to Germanys oldest university and the birthplace of German Romanticism. Hegel, Schelling, Goethe and a host of other literary gods ambled down the Philosopher’s Walk that passes along the Neckar River, and the town has never lost its literary leanings. You can find plenty of cozy cafes to flick through a book or catch a poetry reading.

The Rhine

The Rhine is Germany’s most famous river and one of the best vantage points to explore the country. You’ll sail past villages that seem as though they have been re-created from a medieval fairy-tale and through major German cities, such as Cologne, Bonn and Dusseldorf.

Weimar

Weimar is 1,000 years old. During its long history, some of the most famous artists, writers, musicians and revolutionaries have combed its streets. Schiller, Wagner, Goethe, Bach, Liszt and Luther have all called Weimar home. This city was at the epicenter of the 18th and 19th century’s ‘golden age’. Wandering around its streets is a must for anyone that would like to sample first-hand one of finest moments in the cultural history of humanity.

Further Resources on What to See and Do in Germany

For further information on what to see and do in Germany visit:

  • Top 25 Things to Do in Germany
  • Cool and Unusual Things to Do in Germany
  • 25 Best Things to Do in Germany
  • Things to Do in Germany
  • 10 Incredible Places to Visit in Germany.

Disclaimer

We have been furnished with the above information, however, UniGroup Worldwide Moving gives no guarantees or undertakings concerning the accuracy, completeness, or up-to-date nature of the information provided. It is essential that users verify all information contained here before taking any action or relying upon it. UniGroup Worldwide Moving cannot be held liable for any actions taken based on the information contained within this Guide.