Expat’s guide to living in Germany
Industries and income
Germany is in the top three of the world’s industrial powers, and one of the top five largest by GDP. Car manufacture is one of the big industries, but there’s also a lot of innovation taking place in the technology area. Berlin, the capital city, is not only a vibrant place to live but the heart of digital start-ups and research.
Some of the industries where work is most in demand at the moment are IT experts, engineers, medical professionals, trades workers, and the hospitality industry.
The average salary in Germany is the equivalent of $85,000 a year, with airline, management, legal, and financial service roles taking the lead.
Visas and right to work – What do I need before moving to Germany?
There are two main options for the right to work in Germany. If you don’t hold an EU passport, you will either need to get a residency permit or a working visa. A temporary residence permit will allow passport holders from certain countries to live and work in Germany, and you’ll often need a job offer in advance.
If you don’t have a job, you could look at the Job Seekers visa. This will allow you to spend up to six months in Germany while you look for a job, although you can’t work using this visa. If you secure a job you’ll be entitled to a work visa or permit.
German is the main language – however, most people speak good English, especially those who live in larger cities and younger people.
Cost of living
There is a high standard of living, and the general cost of daily items is fairly decent. Basic grocery items are reasonably cheap and even a full dinner at a restaurant might only cost you around €10 or €15. Your location will also determine your living costs. Cities like Berlin, Bonn, and Cologne are more expensive to live in, while some areas in former East Germany will cost less. You can get details on the cost of living at Numbeo’s website.
Tax rates are high. Income tax starts at 18.9% and rises progressively up to 42% – but it is these higher rates that enables some of the great social systems and high standard of living.
Because Germany is such a popular place to live, it can be difficult to find a job there as an expat. Most Germans will study in higher education for as long as seven years, giving them a high level of education that can make the job market competitive. Often it’s much easier to move across with a job offer – but this doesn’t mean it’s impossible to find one when you arrive. Germany is a huge country and there are opportunities, so flexibility with where you move may help you secure work.
Finding a place to live
Some of the most expensive cities to live in are Munich, Hamburg, Düsseldorf, and Frankfurt. Berlin is also expensive but cheaper than some other options, and is certainly cheaper than many other capital cities. Renting and buying are both common for expats. In Germany accommodation price is determined by the size of the building or space. Just Landed have some great resources to help you find a place to live in Germany.
Most accommodation is let unfurnished – which includes whiteware and even light fittings. When you’re moving to Germany, what to bring with you can often be narrowed down by looking at what’s available. There are many good-quality and reasonably priced everyday items available in the country, so it might be best to leave behind everyday or larger items and furnish when you arrive.
Education standards are very high in Germany. The schooling system has four levels: nursery and kindergarten, primary school, secondary school, and tertiary. There are five types of secondary school which focus on different areas of education, from a broad overview to something more focused on vocational subjects.
State education is free and it may be worth sending your children to a local school if you’re planning on staying in Germany for a long time or would like them to learn the local language. Many expats will choose to send their children to an international school, which will cost around 18,000 euros a year, and bilingual schools are also an option. You can look at a list of private schools and international schools online.
Fact: The world’s first book was printed in Germany.