Living in Germany: three key steps to help you settle in faster

Life in Germany can be exciting, rewarding and an overall fantastic experience. However, regardless of whether you’re here to study or work, there are a few things you’ll need to do if you want to stay long term.

Living in Germany: three key steps to help you settle in faster

Together with online bank, bunq, we walk you through some of the important steps to settling in Germany, once you have entered the country.

Open a fully-digital bunq account that you can use as soon as you get to Germany, regardless of where you are

Get registered

You’ll often hear that the Germans love their bureaucracy, and there is a lot of truth to this statement. However, in some ways, this makes life a lot easier. One key example is the anmelden (registration) process that everyone staying more than 90 days needs to complete. This may sound daunting, but it really couldn’t be easier. Wherever you live, there will always be a Bürgerbüro (citizen’s office) within easy travelling distance.

Within two weeks of moving into an address, whether that be shared accommodation or your own flat, it is required that you present yourself at the office with your passport, visa, and a copy of your lease.The process usually takes around fifteen to twenty minutes. Once you’re done, you’ll have an anmeldebescheinigung (registration document) that allows you to do all sorts of things, and a steuerliche identifikationsnummer (tax ID number) will arrive in the post shortly after.

From this point, the Bürgerbüro will be your primary point of contact for a wide variety of services, meaning that you won’t have to travel far if you need to work with them.

Get insured

Everybody who works or studies in Germany needs to be covered by health insurance – it’s mandatory. This means that there is a high standard of healthcare, and a wide variety of options as to how to get covered.

Often your work will have their own provider that they work with, and your monthly payments will be deducted from your salary. There are also insurance providers who cater for freelancers, who will work with you in English – you pay them directly.

If you’re studying, you will need to acquire health insurance as part of your visa process. Luckily, there are plenty of providers online who you can compare before hitting the ground running in Germany.

Once you’re insured, you will receive a krankenkassenkarte, or versichertenkarte (health insurance card). You will need to take this whenever you go to your doctor, or the hospital, as it allows them to bill your provider.

You may be surprised at the scope and quality of the healthcare you are able to access in Germany, and this is due to the fact that everybody has their own form of medical insurance. Many providers also provide additional benefits and incentives for health living, so it’s always worth asking and seeing how much more you can get for your money.

Find out how Bunq can make life easier for expats and international students

Get a bank account

Speaking of money, you are going to need a German bank account to be paid, and to pay for many goods and services. Many arrivals dread this part, as dealing with German banks can be a long and drawn out process, with lots of paperwork.

If you decide to sign up with a German bank, it’s often worth taking a German speaker with you, and they can familiarize you with some of the unique vocabulary and jargon associated with opening and working with German bank accounts, such as girokonto (checking account), zinsen (interest) and dauerauftrag (direct debit)

Luckily, there is an alternative. Over the last five years, a number of online-only banks have emerged to make life easier. These bank accounts, such as those provided by bunq, give you an all-important German IBAN account number, while cutting out much of the organisational hassle of opening an account with a German bank.

Pic: Getty/Fluxfactory

An account with bunq can be set up in a short space of time, from the comfort of your own home. Video verification procedures take less than five minutes, and the whole process is totally secure. Best of all, as soon as you have a registered address, you can set up an account with a German IBAN – you then have three months to supply your steuerliche identifikationsnummer. .

Once you’ve set up your bunq account, you can apply through the app to receive a Mastercard debit card in the post, allowing you to make purchases in far more places than is possible with a standard German EC-Karte (Eurocheque Card), and give you fee-free access at many ATMs.

Banking with bunq also means that you’re banking sustainably, with the bank offsetting carbon emissions with the planting of trees and other corporate initiatives. As you will soon discover, this is a very German way of doing things!

There’s plenty to do once you get to Germany to get settled, but banking doesn’t need to be a laborious part of that. With a bank like bunq, life is made much easier, and you can get on with enjoying life in a fantastic, welcoming country.

Take the difficulty out of banking in Germany and explore Bunq’s wide range of banking services. 

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German online bank N26 shutters US service

German online bank N26 said Thursday it was closing its operation in the United States next year, as regulators in Europe place the "fintech" start-up under increased scrutiny.

The N26 logo on a bank card.
The N26 logo on a bank card. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christophe Gateau

N26’s 500,000 customers in the US would be able to use their services until January 11th, 2022, the bank said in a statement, after which it would cease to operate in a market it first entered in 2019.

Instead the Berlin-based operation would “sharpen its focus on its European business”, where it already operates in 24 countries and is exploring expansion into more eastern European markets.

N26 said it would also look to launch new “investment products in the coming year” to sit along side its current account service.

Founded in 2013, N26 offers free, online-only banking services to around seven million clients and is one of Germany’s most high-profile financial technology or “fintech” firms.

In October, the bank raised $900 million from private investors, and announced a plan to hire a further 1,000 employees to reinforce its product development, technology and cybersecurity teams.

READ ALSO: German online bank N26 to create 1,000 jobs

At home, N26 has been in the crosshairs of the German banking watchdog BaFin since 2018 after a local news media investigation found that it was possible to open account with forged IDs.

Earlier in the month, the regulator said it was upping its oversight operations at N26, appointing a special representative to monitor the bank’s progress towards solving issues in “risk management with regard to IT and outsourcing” identified by BaFin.

The regulator also limited the number of new customers N26 could take on to 50,000 a month until the shortcomings were addressed.

N26 was already being monitored by BaFin over failures in the start-up’s anti-money laundering system.

BaFin issued N26 with a 4.25-million-euro ($4.8-million) penalty earlier this year in connection with around 50 “suspicious transactions” the bank failed to report promptly enough.