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Living in Germany : A Guide to Moving to Germany as an ExpatSo you’ve decided to move to Germany! After you have gone through the bureaucratic nightmare of getting your residence permit, working permit or citizenship, you are ready to explore what Germany is all about. Of course you have heard that this is the European land of opportunities with beautiful cities and towns, and it’s all so very clean. But what is life in Germany really like? Here we will go through a few characteristics of life in Germany, the best and cheapest places to live in Germany, as well as the cost of living.

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The currency

The Euro is the official currency of Germany. You might have known this, but if you come from a country where the currency is different, be advised that you will need to exchange it for Euros or you won’t be able to buy anything. The other option is for you to use your debit or credit card, which will then be charged with the expenses.

The language

Germans speak German. Of course, they speak other languages such as English, but to get around the country, it is best to at least have some basic language skills. You might be frowned upon if you have no idea how to say hi, please, and thank you in German. Learning the rest of it is pretty difficult as the grammar rules are challenging, but in every city or town you live in, there will be a language school which offers German language courses.

It’s peaceful there

Life is pretty busy in Germany as in any other place. But in general, there is peace and quiet anywhere you go. Except for the clubs, which will rave with techno music. Other than that, you will find that Germans love their silence, that there is low corruption, and that it won’t be that difficult to find a job.

Germans love their rules

It’s the stereotypical opinion, but Germans are a rule loving bunch of people. They have written and unwritten laws which they adhere to religiously. And if you do something wrong, don’t expect to be let off the hook. Dare to jaywalk and cross the street on a red pedestrian light and you will inevitably either get a dirty look or someone will stop and scold you. So read up and get informed on what you can and cannot do in your new home.

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Better workers’ rights

Employees are valued in Germany quite a lot. If you are an American living in Germany, you might have noticed this more than others. Employees have a lot of organizations that protect their rights and if you complain, someone will listen. As an employee, you will not be exploited and are not at the mercy of a mean boss.

Bad customer service

If you live in a place where the saying “the customer is king” prevails, then you will be thoroughly surprised in Germany. Germans have a poor habit of not giving stellar customer service, or at least not at the level which most Americans or Canadians are used to.

Apartment furnishing

Never mind that finding a place to live is quite difficult and expensive with all the fees you’ll have to pay. But when you move in, you will find the apartment empty. If you’re used to moving into a new place and having a few cupboards, a kitchen and a bathroom sink, and maybe a bed frame or closet, forget about that. Most German apartments don’t even have light fixtures, let alone other things. So be prepared to buy a kitchen and other furnishings when you move into your new home. You can find cheap things on your local newspaper listings or in a used furniture store.

Good public transport

The train and bus are on time. They are also clean. Public transport is widely used in Germany and it is an incredibly good experience. If you’re used to saying that your bus or train were late as an excuse for not getting to work on time, that won’t be acceptable in Germany. Order and timeliness are extremely appreciated here, so you’ll have a great time using public transport.

Cities built for bikes

The roads in Germany are built for all kinds of transport. They are pedestrian friendly, and most important, bicycle friendly. When you move to a new city, the cheapest transport mode will be by bike, so you can use this in Germany a lot. Almost all roads have a specially designed lane for bikes and you will see cyclists everywhere.

Recycling friendly

Order in Germany goes so far as to include your trash. You will see special bins for all kinds of garbage and there is a specific time when you must do your recycling. Germany is an environmentally friendly country, so you should brush up on your recycling skills and learn what materials go where when you move there.

A good education system

Education is well ordered in Germany. It is high quality, and most importantly, it is FREE. You will most likely not have to pay any tuition for university, or maybe just a few hundred euros per semester. The difference with U.S tuition, for example, is astounding. Whereas in the U.S you graduate with a mountain of debt, in Germany, you can start earning a full salary without the burden of paying back your education.

Everything closes down on Sunday

This might sound strange, but it is not a myth. All stores are closed down on Saturday evening and do not open until Monday morning. Sunday is a time of rest (or drinking) in Germany, so anticipate it and use it well. Most foreigners when they first move to Germany forget this important fact and might end up without bread on Sunday, so be sure to go to the store on Saturday and pick up food and other things you need.

Lots of travelling opportunities

Germany is in the middle of Europe. And travelling in Europe is much cheaper than in other places, especially in the U.S. You can be in another country in a few hours. It gives you immense opportunities to travel even within the country as it is quite big, and outside of it too, to see different cultures.

Good food

People go to Germany with the expectation of eating lots of sausage and nothing else. Germany has a wide selection of foods, from the meat to the desserts. You get a huge range of breads and other baked goods as well. You might not be able to find the comfort foods of your own country easily, but you will have the opportunity to try many different dishes and ingredients that will be delicious.

And of course amazing beer

The crown jewel of Germany is of course the beer. Everyone knows it and everyone expects it. The beer is brewed better and the selection is humongous. So you’ll get to try amazing beer flavors and it won’t be extremely expensive.

What are the best places to live in Germany?

If you still haven’t chosen a place to stay in Germany, don’t rush into deciding. Germany is a huge country and each place has a distinct atmosphere and opportunities. So here we have listed some of the best cities to live in Germany according to job opportunities. Then we will also list some of the cheapest cities in Germany.

The best cities to live in Germany by job opportunities

  1. Munich
  2. Dusseldorf
  3. Frankfurt
  4. Berlin
  5. Hamburg
  6. Stuttgart
  7. Nuremberg

These cities are in the list since they offer immense job opportunities. Many high ranked German companies are located there and they all have vibrant infrastructure and high salary potential. They are also in the top cities of the world to live in, so you won’t go wrong if you move to any of them.

Cheapest cities in Germany

  1. Leipzig
  2. Bochum
  3. Kiel
  4. Siegen
  5. Jena
  6. Osnabruck
  7. Bremen

These are the cheapest cities to live in Germany. If you are on a budget and expect to not be making a lot of money the first few months or years when you are in the country, it is best to move to one of the cities above. Avoid moving to huge cities and the capital Berlin, since they are extremely expensive.

What is the cost of living in Germany?

In addition to the best and cheapest places to live in Germany, you most likely want to know what the living cost in Germany is. More specifically the cost of living in Germany for a family. Based on statistical data, here are 15 cities of Germany and their cost of living index. The higher the cost of living index, the more expensive they are.

Ranking City Cost of Living Index
1 Dusseldorf 85.64
2 Frankfurt 84.17
3 Hamburg 81.65
4 Munich 80.21
5 Heidelberg 76.42
6 Stuttgart 74.47
7 Berlin 72.5
8 Karlsruhe 72.50
9 Bonn 72.00
10 Cologne 71.51
11 Nuremberg 70.95
12 Aachen 69.61
13 Dresden 67.98
14 Bremen 67.00
15 Leipzig 66.60

Source: Numbeo

To have a more graspable comparison, we will compare the cost of living for a family of 4 in Dusseldorf and in Leipzig. In Dusseldorf, you would need around 1,660 Euros to pay rent for a 3 bedroom apartment and additional 2,913 Euros to cover other living costs per month. In Leipzig, you would need 890 Euros to cover the same apartment and an additional 2,277 Euros for other expenses. So in total, you need 4,573 Euros per month in Dusseldorf and 3,167 Euros per month in Leipzig.

In general, for an expenditure of 2,700 Euros in Leipzig, you would need 3,800 Euros in Munich. So as you can see, Dusseldorf is really more expensive than Leipzig.