Already have an account?

New here?

Sign Up

Living & Working abroad

Living and working in Germany as an expat

Nov 23, 2022 by Monica Garcia

A bustling hub of Europe’s business and finances, Germany offers a wealth of opportunities for many expats. The central European country has long been one of the most popular options for those who want a taste of life abroad – and it’s not hard to see why so many people fall in love with Germany.

With plenty of jobs in a range of industries, high levels of English-speaking natives, and a huge expat population, Germany seems like a natural place for people to move to. It's a highly organised and progressive country where you can enjoy a very high standard of living.

Residents of the country can spend their time exploring the busy cities across the country, or take time out in the country’s lush forests, gorgeous lakes and breathtaking scenery – it really is a country that offers something for everyone.

So, what are you waiting for? If you’ve been thinking about making the move to Germany any time soon, let this article be the final push for you to get everything sorted.

Table of contents:

Berlin - Germany's capital

Living in Germany

Whether you’re already certain about making the move over to Germany, or if you’re still weighing up your options and considering other destinations too, here’s all the basic information you might need to know about the country before making a move:

Basic information about Germany:

  • Weather: Germany has weather similar to many of the other continental countries in Europe. Their climate is characterised by cold winters that can see temperatures getting as low as 0°C, and warmer summers that can see highs of 26°C.
  • Population: The population of Germany is around 83 million, making it the most populated country in the EU, with an average age of around 45.7 years old.
  • History: In its very long history, Germany has always been known as a divided country – from the Roman times, up until the separation of East and West Germany. Despite centuries of issues, culminating in Nazi Germany and its involvement in World Wars, Germany has been a member of the European Union since 1978 and since the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989, Germany has been a progressive and harmonious place to live.

Did you know?

  1. Germany hosts the biggest Beer Festival in the world, Oktoberfest. During the festival, a standard glass holds a litre of beer!
  2. Germany has 1,500 types of beer, 300 types of bread and 1,000 types of sausage
  3. German is the most popular third language in the world
  4. Different German dialects sound so different that some regional films have to be shown with subtitles
  5. Germany has more football fan clubs than anywhere else in the world
  6. One-third of Germany is covered in forests
  7. Berlin is 9 times bigger in area than Paris and has more bridges than Venice
  8. 65% of the German highways have no speed limit – they're called the Autobahn
  9. Germany has 6,200 museums, 820 theatres, 130 professional orchestras and 8,800 libraries.
  10. The Christmas tree tradition was started in Germany

Where to live in Germany

Any expat moving to Germany will find themselves very lucky as there’s not just one central hub for expats. There are a number of different cities that are all just as popular with people moving to Germany from abroad. Of course, the obvious choice is the capital city, Berlin, but there are other places that offer the same mix of cultural, historic and entertainment experiences for residents to enjoy.

Whether you’re looking to enjoy city life in a vibrant and bustling centre or find a slightly slower pace of life in some of the smaller areas, you couldn’t pick a better location than Germany.

If you haven’t decided whereabouts in the country you want to move to, here are some of the main cities that are popular with expats:

Berlin

The capital city of Germany, Berlin, is a laid back and multicultural city that offers a huge range of fun activities, sights and past-times for expats to enjoy. The majority of the city was destroyed during the Second World War so, although there is some old architecture to enjoy, most of the city is very modern and progressive.

There are lots of different districts that make up the capital city, all with their own unique style and character, so it’s a city that you could never get bored of. From upmarket Charlottenburg to hipster Friedrichshain that’s full of vintage shops, independent cafes and more.

Munich

Despite being one of the most expensive cities in Germany, many expats still choose it as their number one location for it’s excellent universities, and exciting nightlife – not to mention the world-famous beer festival, Oktoberfest which is a must-do event in the city.

Munich is a very forward-thinking and progressive city and has a mixture of activities for everyone to enjoy. With good employment opportunities for those looking to move for professional reasons, to trendy nightclubs for young people and students to enjoy.

Munich townsquare
Munich

Frankfurt

If you’re looking for a job in finance, chances are that most of the jobs you’re looking at are in Frankfurt, this is because the city is Germany’s financial capital. It has a skyscraper skyline and a large commuter population, making it feel more like New York than a German city.

The city is known for having a high quality of life and excellent employment opportunities, making it extremely popular with young professionals, or those who are looking for a change in career.

Frankfurt skyline
Germany's financial center - Frankfurt

Düsseldorf

Düsseldorf is the perfect cosmopolitan city for those who want to live like the Germans when they make their move abroad. Not only is the city ranked 6th highest in the world for quality of life and infrastructure, but it also has a mix of cultures that makes it an interesting city to explore.

It’s home to plenty of big businesses, restaurants, cultural activities and great universities – so this really is a city that has it all.

Housingmarket in Germany

The rates of homeownership rates in Germany are slightly lower than what you find in other European countries, with around 51% of the population owning their homes. This is because, in the major cities, it’s much more common for young and single people to rent apartments before they start thinking about purchasing their own home to settle down in.

If you’re moving to Germany for the first time, we always recommend renting when you first arrive. This way you can quickly move on if you don’t like the city and find somewhere else that you’d rather make a permanent investment.

In Germany, rental prices are pretty high when compared to some others, but prices are generally comparable to other Western European countries like France and the UK. But, remember that you can normally get a higher salary in Germany which balances out the higher rents. On average, if you’re moving to Germany as a professional you can expect to pay around  €700 a month in rent for a one-bedroom apartment, but you could be paying more or less depending on where you choose to live.

The most expensive cities are Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt, where rental prices can easily go up as high as €1,000 a month for a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre.

Most landlords in Germany will ask you to sign a rental lease for a minimum of one year, but if this is a problem for you, you may be able to agree to a six-month contract if you’re lucky.

Especially in the larger cities, the rental market moves extremely quickly – this is because there are always plenty of students and expats moving in and out of the cities. Because of this, you need to be very quick when it comes to making a decision on an apartment. It’s normally better to house hunt when you’re already in Germany, but there are some online sites you can use too – but beware of scams!

Like most countries, when signing a lease in Germany, you’ll be required to pay a deposit fee (equivalent to three months’ rent) to secure your apartment which you’ll get back at the end of your tenancy. You’ll also be required to pay your first month of rent in advance.

Your monthly rent will normally not cover the cost of utilities unless it’s specified in your contract, so make sure to budget around €200 a month for things like water, electricity, heating, and internet.

In Germany, it’s very common for young professionals and students to live in shared apartments rather than living alone. Not only does this give you the chance to meet new people or live with friends, but it also reduces your rent and utility payments as they are shared between a group of people.

St. Pauli - Hamburg
St. Pauli quarter in Hamburg - popular for both housing and night life

What to do in your spare time

If you’re a fan of doing fun activities in your spare time, there couldn’t be a better place for you to move to than Germany. No matter what city you move to, there are plenty of things to keep you occupied.

Lovers of history can spend their time exploring the many castles, cathedrals and beautiful landscapes the country has to offer. Places like the royal Neuschwanstein castle in Füssen, which is visited by over 1.3 million people every year, are one of the most popular attractions, but there are plenty more to explore too!

You can also enjoy typical German food and regional delicacies wherever you’re staying, with the food in each region being very different. From Currywurst to Döner Kebab and Reibekuchen, you’ll never have an empty stomach when you’re living in Germany – and don’t forget about all the beer too!

In all of the cities, there are also plenty of festivals and events taking place throughout the year that we’d recommend everyone attend.

Here are some of the most popular German festivals that you seriously shouldn’t miss:

  • Oktoberfest
  • Carnival
  • Gay Pride Festival
  • DFB Pokal
  • Berlinale
  • Wurstmarkt
  • Wacken Open Air Music Festival
  • Rock am Ring Music Festival
  • Reeperbahn
  • Walpurgisnacht

Food and drink are an extremely strong park of German culture, so you never have to worry about going hungry or thirsty while you visit. Regional dishes are full of meats, potatoes and bread that will always leave you feeling satisfied.

Here are just a few of Germany’s most favourite foods:

  • German pretzels
  • Rumkuchen
  • Spargel
  • Wiener Schnitzel
  • Rouladen
  • Sauerbraten
  • Sauerkraut

Pretzels
Bretzel and other "Laugengebäck"

Cost of living in Germany

Any expat needs to consider the cost of living in a new country. You may have thought about some of the bigger expenses – like travel and rent – but there are also many smaller, day-to-day expenses that you also need to consider.

These things can include getting coffee with a friend, going out for a meal, or just buying new clothes – and these things can quickly add up.

Despite Germany being a popular destination for travellers and expats, the average cost of living has remained quite low, especially if you’re a student.

The average cost of living in Germany is around €1200 a month, but could be higher or lower depending on the city you’re moving to. The majority of this monthly cost will be going towards your rent.

You also need to consider food and grocery prices but in Germany, these should never be too high.

Food prices in Germany are fairly low compared to other European countries as a lot of food is grown in the country and there are a lot of discount supermarkets that fight to keep prices low like Aldi and Lidl.

Most people would be able to do their weekly food shop for around €50 if they’re shopping alone, meaning your monthly food bill should be about €200, maybe more if you’re buying a lot of meat and alcohol.

Here are some of the costs of popular grocery items in Germany:

ItemEuro
Milk (1 litre)€0.80
Loaf of bread€1.30
1kg chicken fillets€6.80
1kg apples€2.30
Bottle of wine€5.00

Traffic and public transport

Like most European countries, the transport network in Germany is extremely advanced and you’ll have a range of public transport options like buses, metros and trams.

In German cities, you normally have the S-Bahn which is the fastest form of public transport, and the U-Bahn which is their metro. Many cities will also have a Tram (Straßenbahn) service that can take you around the city and a network of buses that you can jump on.

On the different transportation options, you can buy tickets for short trips (Kurzstrecke), single tickets (Einzelfahrt), day tickets (Tageskarte), week tickets (Wochenkarte) or group tickets (Gruppentageskarte) which you can buy from ticket machines and validate at one of the printing machines.

Prices for the transport tickets in German cities start at €3.80 for a single trip.

Unlike other transport systems, you won’t find barriers that prevent you from getting on transport if you don’t have a ticket. However, you will often run into ticket inspectors who are checking that you have a ticket on board. If one of them catches you without a ticket, you will face a hefty fine of up to €60–100.

If you’ve finished exploring Germany, it’s easy to explore more of Europe and beyond by booking a flight from the many airports across the country. All of the major cities have their own international airports with excellent links around the world.

If public transport isn’t your thing, you could also look into getting a car for your time in Germany. You can use your own domestic driver’s license if you’re from the EU but, if you’re not from the EU, you will have to apply for a local licence after 6 months.

Metro in Berlin
Metro in Berlin

Finding fellow expats in Germany

Around 250,000 expats now call Germany home, so you never have to worry about being lonely once you move. The majority of these expats can be found in the largest cities, especially Berlin where there’s a thriving expat community.

If you want to meet fellow expats, it's easy to find online expat groups that organize meetings, events and trips. Just search for expat groups in Germany (or the city you’re in) on Facebook or Google and plenty of options should come up.

Of course, it’s natural to want to meet up with people from your home country, but don’t forget about the importance of becoming friends with some of the locals.

Most young people in Germany speak English, so you shouldn’t have to worry too much about a language barrier although, it completely depends on where you choose to live.

Most of the large cities have a large English-speaking population, and these people will be the best at showing you around your new city and finding all of the best places to visit.

Learning German

If you’re going to be living in Germany, it’s a good idea to start learning the language to make your day-to-day life a little easier – even though most people already speak very good English.

German can be a little hard to learn at first but, the more you practice, the easier it will become.

We recommend picking up some basic phrases before you move to Germany to get started, so you can get stuck in straight away when you move, and impress all of your new friends with your language skills.

Here are some of the most common words and phrases that we think you’ll need when living in Germany:

  • Hello - Hallo
  • Good morning - Guten Tag
  • Goodbye - Auf Wiedersehen
  • How are you? - Wie geht es dir?
  • Thank You - Danke
  • I don’t understand - Es tut mir leid, ich verstehe das nicht
  • Do you speak English? - Sprechen Sie Englisch?

Working in Germany

Germany has always been known for its good job market. Many large, global businesses have offices in the country so there are always plenty of job opportunities, even if you’re an expat that isn’t fluent in German.

Some of the main industries in Germany that could be of interest to expats include:

  • Software developers: Germany is leading Europe in computer programmes so there is always a big need for more software developers. If you have computer skills, you won’t find it too hard to find a job and get a very good salary from one of the many international companies.
  • Engineering: German manufacturing and IT companies have been growing exponentially so are always in need of top engineering talent from abroad to come and help them as they grow. There are plenty of engineering opportunities in the aerospace, computer and automotive space.
  • Green technology: Increases in sustainability have led to a large amount of new solar, biomass and hydropower companies opening in Germany, so they need more people with this set of expertise to come in and help them. If you want a job that lets you help save the planet, this is the industry to work in.

Robotic arm
Germany is famous for its engineering industry

Work environment and culture

If you’re planning to work when you move to Germany, you might have to consider the big change in work culture. Like most other countries, the typical working week in Germany is 40 hours a week, typically 8 hours a day for five days and you’re eligible for 20 days of annual leave.

Germany is known for being a very fair country, which is shown in its work culture. Most workers will experience fair pay, good working conditions and fair disciplinary practices. You also won’t be expected to work more than your contracted hours so you’ll always have time for your social life.

Germans are known for being quite direct, so don’t expect lots of long meetings where nothing happens. Meetings will be to the point, and there will be a strict distinction between everyone’s personal and professional life.

Some of the larger companies may expect you to dress smart – especially if you’re working in finance or business – but there are now lots of small start-ups and international businesses where you can get away with dressing quite informally – it all depends on where you work.

With most German jobs, you’ll get a probation period of up to 6 months where, if you do something wrong, your employer could end the job agreement without notice.

After your probation period has ended, you’ll have to hand in your notice and work a notice period that would have been specified in your contract. Most notice periods will be between 1-3 months.

Taxes and salary

In Germany they try to make things as fair as possible by having a minimum wage that every worker in the country should receive. The current minimum wage is set at €1,584 a month – which is higher than the average cost of living, which is good!

However, remember that expats receive a more attractive salary, and in many cases, bonuses are also included!

German income tax is based on what you earn. If you earn less than €9,984 yearly, you won’t have to pay anything. After you reach the threshold you will pay 14%-42%, which then goes up the more you earn. The maximum amount of tax is 45%, but that’s if you earn over €277,826.

With higher salaries balanced with the country’s average cost of living, Germany is a very cost-efficient place to live and work. Most expats are able to save some money while they’re in the country too!

Bundestag
The German parliament

Networking

If you’re just moving to Germany as a professional, it’s a good idea to start networking as soon as you can. There are plenty of international workers in Germany, especially in the larger cities, so there will be plenty of people you can meet.

There are lots of events held throughout the year that anyone is allowed to attend, some are hosted through Meetup where you can search for events in your specific area or industry.

You can also look for events and networking sessions on Google by searching for things like "Networking events in Berlin" or "Meet marketing professionals in Germany". You can even look for groups on Facebook that connect business professionals in the country.

Arriving in Germany

Germany has long been part of the European Union, so if you’re coming from another EU country, you’ll find it very easy to relocate.

All you need to stay in Germany for up to three months as an EU citizen is a valid form of identification.

After the three months, you’ll be able to stay longer if you’re employed, looking for work, or if you have enough money to support yourself without gaining employment.

Health insurance in Germany

The National Health Service in Germany is available to all residents and foreigners. It’s really important to make sure you have your health insurance covered when you’re moving to a new country.

It’s something that you should have sorted before you move, if you can’t provide evidence of your health insurance upon arrival, you may be denied entry to the country.

The German healthcare system is among the best in Europe and all residents are required to have health insurance that includes care in hospitals and doctors. Public health insurance in Germany covers 90% of residents and includes many basic health care needs – although some specialist care, like eye or dental care, may not be included.

You can also apply for private healthcare in Germany but this will be dependent on your employment status and salary.

On average, expats can expect to pay around €110 per month for public health insurance from one of the following popular providers:

  • Kaufmännische Krankenkasse
  • Techniker Krankenkasse
  • AOK Baden Württemberg
  • Barmer

Open a German bank account

Any foreigner living in Germany is eligible to open up a German bank account..

If you want to open your own bank account, the process is relatively straightforward, you just have to go to the local branch of your chosen bank and ask to open an account.

Some of the most popular banks in Germany are:

  • Deutsche Bank
  • KfW Bankgruppe
  • Commerzbank
  • DZ Bank Group

Once you’ve decided on the bank and you’ve found your local branch, remember to bring the following documents with you:

  • A valid passport or national ID card
  • Address and contact details
  • A recent bank statement

The bank account will be open straight away, but your bank card will usually be delivered to your home address within a week.

Deutsche Bank HQ in Frankfurt
Deutsche Bank HQ in Frankfurt

The main reasons for moving to Germany

Germany is one of the most popular expat destinations in Europe – for good reason. Its lasting popularity is mainly because it’s a country full of opportunities for anyone who wants to take them. With great career options, beautiful landscapes and high quality of life, there’s an endless amount of exploring and living that you can do in this vibrant country.

Not only can you benefit from above-average salaries when you move to Germany, but it’s also paired with a relatively low cost of living. This allows you to save money, or use it to explore more of Europe and beyond. Whether you want to spend your time in Germany eating and drinking at one of the many foodie festivals, or just soak up as much of the scenery and architecture as you can, there really is something for everyone in this country.

If you’re a student or recent graduate, you can not only benefit from attending some of the best universities in the world, but there’s also a thriving nightclub scene in most of the major cities, and plenty of bars, restaurants and cafes that you can spend time with your friends at.

Here are our top 10 reasons why you should consider the move to Germany:

  1. A thriving expat scene with plenty of networking opportunities
  2. Plenty of amazing cities to choose from, each with its own unique style
  3. Good job opportunities in a range of industries
  4. A strong food and drink culture that will always leave you satisfied
  5. Efficient travel networks make it easy to get around and explore
  6. Above-average salaries and lots of English-speaking jobs
  7. A relatively low cost of living
  8. Most people in Germany speak English
  9. Endless amounts of fun activities and festivals to get involved in
  10. Beautiful architecture and landmarks at every turn

So if the thought of living and working in Germany attracts you, why not check out some of the job vacancies that we offer in the country here at Lingocruit!

Castle Neuschwanstein
Castle Neuschwanstein