Don’t get us wrong, life in Germany is uniquely regimented.
This is a country where the red man on a traffic light is obeyed as though he were a honest-to-goodness traffic officer.
But at the end of the day, it’s also the country that brought us Oktoberfest, nightclubs that stay open for 48 hours straight, and the perm.
Life in Germany is all about balance.
If you find yourself primed to move to this country of seeming contradictions, there are a several questions you should ask yourself first.
Are you allowed to be there?
In a nutshell, if you’re from the EU, EEA, or Switzerland, you’re welcome to live and work in Germany visa-free.
If you come from a country outside the EU, EEA, or Switzerland, and you plan on staying in Germany for longer than three months, you’ll need a visa before touching down on German soil.
There are certain exemptions, which you can find out more about here.
No matter where you’re from, if you plan on living in Germany you need to apply for a certificate of residence within the first three months of your arrival. This can be done at your nearest Ausländerbehörde (Foreign National's Authority) or at the Einwohnermeldeamt (Residence Registration Office).
They’ll ask to see documents that support your application, which can vary depending on your circumstances. In general, they include your passport or an accepted form of ID, an employment contract or job offer, and proof of health insurance.
BDAE offers a comprehensive range of health insurance packages for expats living in Germany. Find one that suits your situation so you have everything you need in advance of applying for your residence certificate.
Where will you live?
Chances are you’ll need somewhere to live when you move to Germany.
You could get help from a real estate agent (immobilienhändler), look at listings in the newspaper, or — if you know someone — try to find a place through word of mouth.
There are also several websites where you can browse available properties, just a couple of examples are immobilienscout24.de and wg-gesucht.de. The rental market is competitive, so be prepared to send out your fair share of applications (and receive your fair share of rejections).
Once you’re found somewhere, you have two weeks to register your residence at your local registry office after which you’ll receive a registration certificate (Anmeldebestätigung). Hang on to this — you’ll need it to open a bank account and for various other bits of admin.
How will you pay for things?
What came first, the chicken or the egg?
You’re often faced with a similar question when you move to a new country. Have you moved there for work, or have you moved there and hope to find work?
If the latter, then it can be nearly impossible knowing where to even start the job hunt. Particularly if you don’t speak the local language.
The internet, of course, is a good place to start.
Germany’s Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit, BA) describes itself as ‘the largest provider of labour market services in Germany’ and its online job portal lists opportunities offered by its network of over 700 agencies and offices around the country.
In the meantime, you could also work as a freelancer (freiberufler).
A word of caution: if you want to freelance in Germany and you come from a country outside the EU, you’ll need to make sure you’re in the country on the correct visa.
All non-EU citizens must apply for a freelance visa, which involves attending an interview at the German embassy in your country — unless you’re from Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, or the USA — in which case you can apply for a freelance visa from within Germany.
All expat freelancers working in Germany are required by law to have health insurance. BDAE offers that are suitable for foreign citizens who are freelancing in Deutschland — you can take a look here and find one that’s right for you.
What will you do for fun?
One of the most common expat complaints is that it’s hard to build a social life from scratch.
At the end of the day, making friends in a new country all depends on your attitude. It can be all too tempting to spend your spare time streaming videos and scrolling through your Instagram feed, but if you want to meet people you have to get out and about.
Join clubs, take a language class, ask people you like if they want to go for a beer. Take a proactive approach to meeting new people — don’t just sit back and wait for someone else to make plans.
And remember, when you do get that all-too-elusive invite…show up. Germans are committed to keeping their appointments — there’s even a word for it: verabredet — and you’ll lose friends just as quickly as you found them if you flake out at the last minute.
This article was produced by The Local Client Studio and sponsored by BDAE.