Documents You Need for Your First Weeks in Germany

Updated on
June 6, 2024

Indeed, those first few days in Germany can be something of a rollercoaster, even for the most seasoned expats. After all, knowing your way around everyday life in a new country can be challenging, whether it’s visiting your nearest German supermarket or knowing which bus takes you to the office. So, to ensure you start your new life right, here are 10 things you should do during your first week in Germany.

Key Takeaways

  • Registering your address (Anmeldung) is crucial and requires specific documents.
  • Opening a bank account early on will help manage your finances smoothly.
  • Health insurance is mandatory, and you need to choose between public and private options.
  • Understanding the public transportation system will make commuting easier.
  • Getting a SIM card is essential for staying connected and requires choosing the right provider.

Registering Your Address

Anmeldung Process

The Anmeldung process is your first step to getting settled in Germany. It's mandatory for anyone planning to stay longer than three months. You need to register your address at the local Residents' Registration Office (Bürgeramt) within two weeks of moving in. This registration is crucial for getting a residence permit, work permit, and even for opening a bank account.

Documents Required

When you go to register, make sure you bring the following documents:

  • Passport or ID: Your primary identification document.
  • Rental Contract: Proof that you have a place to live.
  • Completed Anmeldung Form: You can usually find this form online or at the Bürgeramt.
  • Confirmation from Landlord (Wohnungsgeberbestätigung): A document signed by your landlord confirming you live at the address.

Where to Register

You can register at your local Bürgeramt. It's a good idea to make an appointment in advance to avoid long waiting times. Some cities also offer online appointment booking, which can save you a lot of hassle.

Registering your address is not just a legal requirement but also a gateway to many essential services in Germany. Make it a priority in your first weeks!

Setting Up a Bank Account

Choosing the Right Bank

Choosing the right bank in Germany can make your life a lot easier. Whether you’re setting up an account with your energy provider or receiving your first paycheck, having a local account is essential. Most high-street banks require a registered address to open an account, so make sure you have your address registration certificate (Anmeldebestätigung) handy.

Required Documents

To open a bank account, you will generally need the following documents:

  • Passport or ID card
  • Address registration certificate (Anmeldebestätigung)
  • Residence permit (if applicable)

Some online banks might have different requirements, but they will still need some form of identification.

Online vs. In-Person Banking

In Germany, you have the option to choose between online and in-person banking. Online banks often offer more flexibility and lower fees, but they might have stricter identification requirements. On the other hand, traditional banks provide face-to-face customer service, which can be helpful if you’re new to the country.

Opening a German bank account will make exploring your new home easier, whether you’re treating new friends at the Biergarten or taking the kids to see your local handball team in action.

Getting Health Insurance

Doctor writing a medical prescription

Public vs. Private Insurance

In Germany, health insurance is mandatory for everyone. There are two main types of health insurance:

  1. Public Health Insurance: This is compulsory and covers a limited set of medical needs. Regardless of your income, you will be entitled to this scheme.
  2. Private Health Insurance: If your earnings are above a certain threshold, you can opt for private health insurance, which covers more medical needs than public insurance.

How to Apply

Applying for health insurance in Germany is straightforward. Here are the steps:

  1. Research different health insurance providers. You can start with an internet search for statutory health insurance or health insurance in Germany.
  2. Compare benefits and costs. It can be helpful to ask colleagues for recommendations.
  3. Choose a provider and sign up. Make sure to forward your health insurance information to your employer's personnel department.

Necessary Documents

When applying for health insurance, you will typically need the following documents:

  • Passport or ID card
  • Proof of residence (Anmeldung)
  • Employment contract or proof of income
  • Bank account details
Tip: Always keep a copy of your health insurance documents handy, as you might need them for various administrative processes.

Navigating Public Transportation

Buying Tickets

Navigating Germany's public transportation system starts with buying the right ticket. You can purchase tickets from vending machines at train stations, tram stops, or even via mobile apps. Always validate your ticket before boarding to avoid fines.

Understanding Zones

Public transportation in Germany is divided into zones. The fare depends on how many zones you travel through. Here's a quick look at how it works:

Make sure to check the zone map before purchasing your ticket.

Monthly Passes

If you plan to use public transportation frequently, consider getting a monthly pass. These passes offer unlimited travel within certain zones and can save you money in the long run.

A monthly pass is a great investment if you're commuting daily. It not only saves money but also the hassle of buying tickets every day.

Getting a SIM Card

Getting a SIM card in Germany is one of the first things you'll want to do to stay connected. Whether you're keeping in touch with friends and family or starting a business, having a local number is essential. There are two main options: prepaid SIM cards and mobile contracts. Each has its own benefits depending on your needs.

Best Providers

Germany has three major mobile operators:

  • Deutsche Telekom (formerly T-Mobile)
  • Vodafone
  • O2

These providers offer a range of services and attractive tariffs. It's worth comparing their offers to find the best fit for you.

Prepaid vs. Contract

When choosing between a prepaid SIM card and a mobile contract, consider the following:

  • Prepaid SIM Cards: Ideal for short-term stays or if you want to control your spending. You can top up as needed without any long-term commitment.
  • Mobile Contracts: Better for long-term residents who need more data and additional services. Contracts usually offer better rates but require a commitment of 12-24 months.

Where to Buy

You can purchase SIM cards at various locations:

  1. Mobile Operator Stores: Visit a store of any major provider to get personalized assistance.
  2. Electronics Stores: Shops like MediaMarkt and Saturn often have SIM cards from multiple providers.
  3. Supermarkets and Kiosks: Many supermarkets and kiosks sell prepaid SIM cards, making it convenient to pick one up while shopping.
Getting a SIM card is a straightforward process that will help you stay connected and make your transition to life in Germany smoother.

Understanding German Work Culture

Work Hours

In Germany, the typical workweek is around 35-40 hours, usually spread across five days. Punctuality is highly valued, so make sure to be on time for meetings and appointments. Many offices have flexible working hours, but it's always good to check with your employer.

Office Etiquette

German workplaces tend to be formal. Titles and last names are commonly used until you are invited to use first names. Here are some key points to remember:

  • Punctuality: Always be on time.
  • Communication: Be clear and direct.
  • Dress Code: Business casual is usually acceptable, but this can vary.

Public Holidays

Germany has several public holidays, and they can vary by state. Here are some of the major ones:

Understanding these aspects of German work culture will help you integrate more smoothly into your new job and work environment.

Exploring Your Neighborhood

Local Markets

One of the best ways to get to know your new neighborhood is by visiting local markets. These markets are not only great for fresh produce but also for meeting locals and getting a feel for the community. Don't miss out on the weekend farmers' markets where you can find everything from organic vegetables to homemade jams.

Parks and Recreation

Germany is known for its beautiful parks and recreational areas. Whether you're into jogging, picnicking, or just lounging in the sun, there's a park for you. Some parks even offer outdoor fitness equipment and yoga classes. Make sure to check out the local parks and see what activities they offer.

Community Events

Participating in community events is a fantastic way to integrate into your new neighborhood. From street festivals to local concerts, there's always something happening. Keep an eye on community boards and local websites for upcoming events.

Getting involved in community events can help you make new friends and feel more at home in your new environment.

Learning Basic German Phrases

Essential Greetings

When you first arrive in Germany, knowing a few basic greetings can go a long way. Here are some essential ones:

  • Hallo - Hello
  • Guten Morgen - Good Morning
  • Guten Tag - Good Day
  • Guten Abend - Good Evening
  • Tschüss - Bye
  • Auf Wiedersehen - Goodbye

Shopping Vocabulary

Shopping in Germany can be a breeze if you know some key phrases. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Wie viel kostet das? - How much does this cost?
  • Ich hätte gerne... - I would like...
  • Könnte ich bitte die Rechnung haben? - Could I have the bill, please?
  • Haben Sie das in einer anderen Größe? - Do you have this in another size?
  • Wo ist die Umkleidekabine? - Where is the changing room?

Emergency Phrases

In case of an emergency, these phrases could be crucial:

  • Hilfe! - Help!
  • Ich brauche einen Arzt. - I need a doctor.
  • Rufen Sie die Polizei! - Call the police!
  • Wo ist das nächste Krankenhaus? - Where is the nearest hospital?
  • Ich habe meine Tasche verloren. - I have lost my bag.
Pro Tip: Learning these basic phrases can make your first weeks in Germany much smoother and help you feel more at home.


Indeed, those first few days in Germany can be something of a rollercoaster, even for the most seasoned expats. After all, knowing your way around everyday life in a new country can be challenging, whether it’s visiting your nearest German supermarket or knowing which bus takes you to the office. But don't worry, with the right documents and a bit of preparation, you'll be navigating your new life like a pro in no time. Remember, you’ll probably only move to Germany once, so make sure to get out and enjoy it during that all-important first week. From sorting out your Anmeldung to exploring the local culture, there's plenty to keep you busy. So take a deep breath, dive in, and make the most of this exciting adventure!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Anmeldung process?

The Anmeldung process involves registering your address with the local authorities. This is a mandatory step for anyone residing in Germany.

Which documents are required for Anmeldung?

You will typically need your passport, a completed registration form, and a confirmation of residence from your landlord.

How do I choose the right bank in Germany?

Consider factors such as fees, services offered, and the availability of English-speaking staff. Online reviews and recommendations can also be helpful.

What are the differences between public and private health insurance in Germany?

Public insurance is generally more affordable and covers a wide range of services, while private insurance can offer more comprehensive coverage but at a higher cost.

How can I buy a public transportation ticket in Germany?

Tickets can be purchased at ticket machines, online, or via mobile apps. Make sure to validate your ticket before boarding.

Where can I buy a SIM card in Germany?

SIM cards can be purchased at mobile network stores, electronics shops, and some supermarkets. You will need to show your ID to complete the purchase.

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