10 Essential Tips for Expats Moving to Germany

Updated on
May 28, 2024

Moving to Germany as an expat can be an exciting yet challenging experience. From navigating the bureaucratic processes to adjusting to a new culture, there are several things you need to prepare for to ensure a smooth transition. Here are 10 essential tips that every expat should know before moving to Germany.

Key Takeaways

  • Ensure all your important documents are ready before your move.
  • Choose the right health insurance plan that suits your needs.
  • Book temporary accommodation to give yourself time to find a permanent home.
  • Start learning German to better integrate into the local culture.
  • Understand your net salary and budget accordingly to manage your finances effectively.

1. Get Your Documents Ready

Young girl holding passport and visa application, sitting at cabinet.

Germany is probably the most “Process” driven country that you will ever live in. The good thing is that you know what you have to do and there are no surprises. The difficult thing is that you have to do all the paperwork and there is no way to avoid it! So, our best tip to expats is to have your paperwork ready before moving to Germany.

Passport and Visa

Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months beyond your planned stay. If you need a visa, apply for it well in advance. Don't forget to check the specific visa requirements for your nationality.

Birth Certificate

A certified copy of your birth certificate may be required for various registrations and applications.

Employment Contract

If you are moving for work, have a copy of your employment contract ready. This will be essential for your visa application and other bureaucratic processes.

Proof of Health Insurance

Health insurance is mandatory in Germany. Ensure you have proof of health insurance coverage, whether it's travel insurance for the initial period or a German health insurance policy.

Proof of Residence

Once you find a place to live, you will need a rental contract or a letter from your landlord confirming your residence. This is crucial for your Anmeldung (registration).

Additional Documents

Depending on your situation, you might need additional documents such as:

  • Marriage certificate
  • University enrolment confirmation
  • Proof of a blocked bank account (for students)
Having all your documents ready will save you a lot of stress and make your transition to life in Germany much smoother.

2. Choose Your Health Insurance

health insurance

The health insurance system in Germany is one of the best in the world. That said, you have to choose between various systems (public or private) depending on your profile and salary. Often, expats in Germany think that they need to wait until they arrive to start the process. However, this is not the case, and our tip is to start before moving to Germany.

Public Health Insurance

Public Health Insurance offers a standardized package of benefits defined by law. The coverage includes essential medical services, such as doctor visits, hospital treatment, prescription medications, and preventive care. Co-payments may be required for certain services.

Private Health Insurance

Private Health Insurance provides more flexibility and customizable coverage options. Depending on the chosen plan, individuals may have access to additional services, shorter waiting times, and a wider network of doctors and specialists. However, coverage and benefits vary among private insurers and different plans.

Self-Employed Individuals

Self-employed individuals can choose between public and private health insurance, with public insurance available for lower income levels and private insurance offering greater coverage flexibility but higher premiums.

Tip: Start the process of choosing your health insurance before moving to Germany to ensure your well-being.

3. Book a Temporary Home

Finding a place to live in Germany can be one of the hardest steps, especially from a distance. It's a good idea to secure at least temporary accommodation in advance of your arrival. This gives you a base to start setting up your life and an address to register with the municipality.

Why Book a Temporary Home?

Booking a temporary home, like a serviced apartment or a furnished short-term let, allows you to familiarize yourself with the new city without the pressure of finding a permanent place immediately. It also ensures you have an address within 14 days for the Anmeldung.

Options for Temporary Housing

  1. Serviced Apartments: These are fully furnished and often come with additional services like cleaning and laundry.
  2. Short-Term Rentals: Websites like Airbnb or local German platforms can offer furnished apartments for short stays.
  3. Shared Flats: If you're single and want to save money, consider renting a room in a shared flat.

Tips for Finding Temporary Housing

  • Start Early: Housing is in high demand and short supply, especially in larger cities. Begin your search as soon as possible.
  • Leverage Your Network: If you have friends or family in Germany, ask if you can stay with them temporarily.
  • Budget Wisely: Temporary housing can be expensive, so make sure to budget accordingly.
Booking a temporary home removes the immediate pressure of finding a permanent place and gives you time to get to know your new city.

4. Start Learning German

Learning German is a crucial step for any expat moving to Germany. While many Germans speak English, knowing German will significantly ease your integration and daily interactions. Here are some tips to get you started:

Use Technology to Your Advantage

Today, with the technology available, you can start learning before moving to Germany through many different channels:

  • Start with a daily or weekly podcast.
  • Take an online course with a center like Tandem or ExpatsLanguageSchool.
  • Use an online language tool.

Enroll in German Tuition

If you prefer a more structured approach, consider enrolling in German tuition to meet your needs before you make the move. There are many options available, from online courses to in-person classes.

Practice Common Phrases

Knowing some stock phrases will make interactions with everything from the citizens’ office to the bank to the supermarket that little bit easier. Practice these phrases regularly to build your confidence.

While Germans are often able and happy to speak English, this has its limits. You will generally be able to get by with a few phrases for a while, but to really get to know the locals and tackle all the formalities of relocation bureaucracy, it helps to have had some language training or at least to start learning once you arrive.

Join Language Exchange Groups

Joining language exchange groups can be a fun and effective way to practice your German. These groups often meet regularly and provide a supportive environment for learning and practicing the language.

5. Know Your Net Salary

Before moving to Germany, it's crucial to understand what your net salary will be. Your gross salary might look impressive, but the net amount you take home can be quite different. Here are some key factors that will affect your net salary:

Income Tax

Income tax in Germany is progressive, meaning the more you earn, the higher your tax rate. This can be a shock if you're coming from a country with lower income tax rates. Make sure to research or use an online calculator to get an estimate.

Health Insurance

Your health insurance rate will also impact your net salary. In Germany, health insurance is mandatory, and the cost is usually split between you and your employer.

Tax Category

Germany has different tax categories based on your marital status and other factors. Your tax category will significantly affect your net salary.

Additional Benefits

Don't forget to account for any additional benefits you might receive, such as a company car, housing allowance, or other perks. These can sometimes be taxed as well.

State Allowances

You may be eligible for state allowances like Kindergeld (child benefit) if you have children. These allowances can help offset some of your expenses.

Our tip: Ask your company's HR department to provide a net salary simulation. You can also use online tools to get a rough estimate.

Here's a quick table to summarize the factors affecting your net salary:

FactorImpact on Net Salary
Income TaxHigh
Health InsuranceMedium
Tax CategoryHigh
Additional BenefitsVariable
State AllowancesLow to Medium

Understanding these factors will help you better plan your budget and avoid any nasty surprises when you receive your first paycheck in Germany.

6. If You Have Children

Understanding the German Education System

One of your key challenges is to understand the German education system, know which school you should choose for your children, and when to start the process. Children under 6 years old go to the Kita system, either a crèche or kindergarten. These schools are mainly public, so you need to register before the beginning of the school year (August).

School Options for Children Over 6

From age 6, a child in Germany starts Grundschule. Predominantly, you have a public school system in Germany, but if you would like to keep your children’s mother tongue, as many expats do, take a look at the international or bilingual schools in your target region.

Take into consideration that you can have a tax return at the end of the year from the Tax Office if your children are at a private school.

Childcare and Independence

If you’re struggling with childcare, you’ll be pleased to know you can leave your child at home alone for up to six hours from the age of 10. And if you really trust them, at age 11, they can begin babysitting close friends or family members for up to two hours.

Applying for Kindergeld

Don’t forget to apply for Kindergeld from your first child. This is a benefit provided by the German government to help with the costs of raising children.

7. Save a Budget for the 1st Month

Moving to a new country can be exciting, but it also comes with its own set of financial challenges. It's crucial to have a budget set aside for your first month in Germany to ensure a smooth transition. Here's what you need to consider:


  • First month's rent
  • 2-3 months' rent deposit
  • Utility setup fees


  • Buying new furniture
  • Essential household items

School Fees

  • School entrance fees (if you have children)


  • Groceries
  • Transportation
  • Unexpected expenses

Planning ahead and having a budget can save you from a lot of stress and help you settle in more comfortably. Make sure to account for all possible expenses to avoid any surprises.

8. Book an Appointment for the Anmeldung

Once you have booked your temporary home, book an appointment for the Anmeldung as early as you can. The Anmeldung is the key to everything: getting paid, opening a bank account, getting your Tax ID, finalizing your health insurance, and accessing any local public service.

Why Book Early?

There is high demand for registration appointments at citizens’ offices, especially in larger cities. You are officially required to register within 14 days of arriving in Germany. Most citizens’ offices let you book appointments online, so it’s worth trying to do this before you actually arrive.

How to Book

  1. Visit the website of your local citizens' office (Bürgeramt).
  2. Look for the appointment booking section (Terminvereinbarung).
  3. Choose a date and time that suits you.
  4. Fill in your details and confirm the appointment.

What to Bring

  • Registration form
  • Landlord confirmation
  • Passport
  • Rental contract
  • Visa (if applicable)
  • Marriage certificate (if registering with spouse)
  • Children’s birth certificates (if applicable)

Pro Tip: Keep a digital copy of all your documents. It can save you a lot of hassle if you misplace the physical copies.

9. Join Expats Groups on Social Networks

Joining social network groups for Expats in Germany is a fantastic way to start understanding your new life in Germany as an expat! You can get first-hand information about your new city and receive tips from others who have been in your situation. It's a great way to socialize, start making friends, and learn about what living in Germany is like.

Benefits of Joining Expat Groups

  • Access to local tips and advice
  • Opportunity to make new friends
  • Learn about events and activities
  • Find recommendations for services and businesses

Popular Platforms to Join

  • Facebook: Numerous groups dedicated to expats in various German cities.
  • LinkedIn: Professional networking with other expats and locals.
  • Instagram: Follow hashtags and accounts related to expat life in Germany.

Joining these groups can make your transition to life in Germany smoother and more enjoyable. Don't hesitate to reach out and connect with others!

10. Start to Read About Germany

Learn About German Culture

Before you move, it's a great idea to start reading about German culture. This will help you understand the local customs and traditions, making it easier to integrate. Knowing a bit about the culture can also help you avoid any social faux pas.

Understand the Cost of Living

Germany can be quite different from what you're used to in terms of living expenses. Researching the cost of living will give you a better idea of how to budget your finances. Here's a quick overview:

ExpenseAverage Cost (Monthly)
Rent€700 - €1,200
Groceries€150 - €300
Transportation€70 - €100
Health Insurance€80 - €150

Get Familiar with German History

Germany has a rich and complex history. Reading up on it can give you a deeper understanding of the country and its people. From the Roman Empire to the fall of the Berlin Wall, there's a lot to explore.

Learn Basic German Phrases

While many Germans speak English, knowing some basic German phrases can go a long way. It shows respect and can make everyday interactions smoother. Consider picking up a phrasebook or using language apps.

Pro Tip: Start with phrases like 'Guten Tag' (Good day), 'Bitte' (Please), and 'Danke' (Thank you).

Explore German Cuisine

German food is hearty and delicious. Reading about traditional dishes like Bratwurst, Sauerkraut, and Pretzels can get you excited about the culinary adventures that await you. Plus, you'll know what to order when you first arrive!


Moving to Germany can be an exciting yet challenging adventure. With these 10 essential tips, you're now better equipped to navigate the intricacies of German life, from handling paperwork to finding the right health insurance. Remember, preparation is key, and the more you know before you go, the smoother your transition will be. Don't forget to join expat groups and start learning German early on – it will make a world of difference. Enjoy your new journey in one of the most organized and progressive countries on Earth!

Frequently Asked Questions

What documents do I need to prepare before moving to Germany?

Before moving to Germany, you need to have your passport, visa, employment contract, birth certificate, and any other relevant documents ready. It's also advisable to have certified translations of these documents.

Is health insurance mandatory in Germany?

Yes, health insurance is mandatory for all residents in Germany. You can choose between public and private health insurance based on your needs and eligibility.

How can I find temporary accommodation in Germany?

You can find temporary accommodation through various online platforms like Airbnb, Booking.com, or specialized expat housing websites. It's advisable to book your accommodation well in advance.

Do I need to learn German before moving to Germany?

While it's not mandatory, learning German can significantly ease your transition and help you integrate better into society. Many locals appreciate when expats make an effort to speak their language.

How do I calculate my net salary in Germany?

Your net salary in Germany is your gross salary minus taxes and social security contributions. You can use online salary calculators to get an estimate of your net income.

What is the Anmeldung and why is it important?

The Anmeldung is the process of registering your residence in Germany. It's a legal requirement and is necessary for opening a bank account, getting a tax ID, and accessing other essential services.

Get Connected With The Right Health Insurance Provider
Get your free Quote today!
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
arrow up