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Moving to Germany

Your guide to expat life in Germany. Feel at home in the Federal Republic

Want to move to Germany?

Germany is the engine room of the European Union, boosting economic stability across the region. Its society runs efficiently and with precision, although local laws and bureaucracy can be frustrating. It may also take you a while to adjust to the famously unpredictable weather that can change from year to year and region to region. That said, you should have no problem adapting to German culture, which is a compelling mix of modern innovation and proud tradition.

No matter where in Germany you move to, each area has its own fascinating character – from the industrial energy of the Ruhr Valley to Munich’s striking architecture and the beautiful hills of Stuttgart.

As well as its financial strength, the country has a rich culture, natural beauty and comprehensive social security. This is very appealing to expats if you're looking for a welcoming place to raise a family while you develop your career.

Basic info about Germany

  • Population: About 83 million

  • Capital city: Berlin (also the largest city)

  • Main languages: German, but English is widely understood and spoken

  • Main religion: Christianity. Other religions include Islam

  • Political system: Federal republic

  • Time: GMT+1 (GMT+2 from the end of March to the end of October)

  • Electricity: 220V, 50Hz. European-style plugs with two round pins are used

  • Currency: Euro (EUR)

  • International dialling code: +49

  • Internet domain: .de

  • Emergency numbers: 110 (police), 112 (ambulance and fire)

  • Road traffic: Drives on the right

Weather in Germany

Germany has a moderate climate. Extremes of temperature are rare, but there are regional differences. The northern coastal region has warm summers and mild winters, while conditions inland are more varied.

In winter, temperatures fall to between 5°C (41°F) and -4°C (23°F) with snow in the mountainous regions. Summer highs average around 23°C (74°F) but can exceed 30°C (86°F) during heatwaves that may last a few days. You can expect rain at any time of the year.

Key phrases in German

  • Hello Guten tag
  • Good evening Guten Abend
  • Goodbye Auf Wiedersehen
  • How are you? Wie geht es Ihnen?
  • Thank you Danke
  • Yes Ja
  • No Nein
  • Do you speak English? Sprechen Sie Englisch?
  • Can you help me? Können Sie mir helfen?
  • Sorry Es tut mir leid

Shipping to Germany

Shipping goods to Germany is straightforward, although the associated costs and strict import controls mean that many expats choose rather to buy new items when they arrive.

Medicine

You’re allowed to take a personal supply of medication for up to 3 months. Bear in mind that what may be seen as a vitamin or natural supplement in your home country could be classed as a medicine in Germany and subject to the same restrictions.

Food

There are restrictions on taking animal products into Germany, including meat and dairy. Potatoes are prohibited and wild mushrooms have to be inspected by customs officials.

Pets

Some dog breeds are considered dangerous and aren’t allowed into the country, although the list differs from state to state. All pets must be microchipped and vaccinated against rabies, and you’ll need an up-to-date vet's certificate.

Top tips for Germany

See what people responding to our Expat Explorer Survey think about living in Germany.

If you plan to stay for a long term, you can exchange your foreign drivers license for a German one within the first three months. After that time window, you will need to attend a driving school (it's in German). Its lengthy and expensive - avoid that if you can!
Check out everything thoroughly in advance. Everything here is difficult for an expat, especially health insurance and the ability to get a job without a German university degree.
Visit the major cities like Berlin, Frankfurt, Munich, Hamburg. Go wandering in the Bavarian Alps, travel along the rivers Rhine and Mosel and visit the Black Forest.
Learn the language! Germans speak English, but you will never feel truly at home unless you make the effort to learn German.
You need to know that the German tax system is complicated. Taxation is on global income.

All Expat Explorer survey data and all tips (in quotation marks) are provided by HSBC.

All other content is provided by expatarrivals.com, Globe Media Ltd and was last updated in September 2021. HSBC accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of this information.

This information is purely for orientation and to inspire further research, it does not constitute advice and no liability is accepted to recipients acting independently on its contents. The views expressed are subject to change.

Always remember to ensure you're aware of and comply with any laws in your host country or country of origin that apply to gift giving and bribery.

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