Moving to Germany Guide

Heading to Germany as a tourist or an expat? Regardless of your motive, it is imperative that you understand the German healthcare system so that you are prepared if you needed medical care. Health insurance in Germany is compulsory and all expats seeking a residence permit will need to prove they have cover before the permit is approved. We’ve put together a complete guide to health insurance in Germany to help you ensure that you can get the treatment you need while away…

Is Healthcare Free in Germany?

Every single resident in Germany, including new arrivals, will need to have health insurance. It is mandatory for every citizen and there are two types available in the country; private health insurance through a company or statutory health insurance provided by the government.

Expats in Germany can only have access to statutory health insurance if they are employed by a German company. Most employers will pay half of an expat’s health insurance fees every month, whether they opt for statuary or private health insurance. Expats in Germany who are self-employed or do not work must take out a private health insurance policy as they are not eligible for statutory protection.

‘Free’ Health Insurance for Travellers

Visitors to Germany from an EU member country can make use of a European Health Insurance Card, usually referred to as EHIC. This card gives travellers access to the healthcare system. It is only suitable for temporary visitors and is usually restricted to emergency medical treatment only as opposed to long-term care.

Understandably, the EHIC scheme has obvious limitations and, therefore, many visitors exploring Germany opt to take out a comprehensive health insurance policy offering care in all eventualities.

Visitors from outside Europe do not gain access to the same European Health Insurance Card system and so should regard private medical insurance as mandatory in Germany.

Private Expat Health Insurance Germany

The purpose of Germany’s statutory health insurance is to ensure people receive what is ‘medically necessary’ regardless of their income. The medical benefits provided by statutory cover include hospital care as a ward patient with the doctor on duty at the nearest hospital to you, out-patient care with registered doctors and basic dental care.

Expats wanting access to private hospitals and surgeons, private hospital rooms, alternative medical care and comprehensive dental and optical care will need to invest in private health insurance.

Dental Care in Germany

Dental work in Germany can be extremely expensive and very few expats have the funds to pay for treatment outright. Beyond the basic level of care, Germany’s statutory health insurance does not cover all scenarios and relevant treatment and this can be costly.

Expats who do not have supplementary health insurance could see themselves having to pay between 30% to 80% of the final cost. For this reason, many expats and German nationals alike opt to invest in private comprehensive healthcare cover.

Moving to Germany

While Germany may have had a tumultuous past, the country has taken great strides since it was reunified in 1990. Today it is one of the most influential countries in Europe with one of the world’s largest economies.

Therefore, it’s no wonder expatriates from around the world are living and working in Deutschland – and there’s much more to this fabulous destination than financial and commercial interests.

Indeed, Germany also boasts stunning landscapes, like the Rhine Valley and the Black Forest, as well as cosmopolitan cities such as Frankfurt, Berlin, Munich and Cologne.

If you’re relocating abroad to Germany, it’s best to have an idea of what to expect when you arrive – such as the differences in local laws, schooling and the healthcare system.

Germany Laws and Customs

Whether you’re travelling or living in the country, always be sure to carry your passport – the police have the right to ask for identification at any time. For most foreign nationals, a valid passport is the only suitable form of ID.

Drivers should be aware, particularly in major cities, that vehicles need to meet the strict exhaust standards if the area is considered an umweltzone – or environmental zone.

It’s also important to remember that the minimum driving age is 18. Younger drivers who have qualified in their home country are not permitted to drive in Germany.

Meanwhile, those travelling on foot should take care to only cross the road at pedestrian crossings and when signalled. Failing to do so could result in a fine – and if the offense leads to a vehicle accident, the pedestrian may be responsible to cover the costs.

Germany Language

In many ways, German is very similar to English – after all, the two share a common past and have comparable sounds. The majority of the letters are also the same, although German has a few extras – three vowels, A, O and U can include umlauts, while the beta symbol denotes an S sound.

Of all the European tongues, German is the most widely spoken as a first language and it’s also the official language of Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Belgium.

German Healthcare System

In Germany, a universal multi-payer healthcare system is in place. This combines two different types of health insurance – law-enforced and private.

Those in lower-income brackets benefit from compulsory cover, which is known as a sickness fund. People who receive higher incomes may opt in to this system or can choose private insurance instead. Alternatively, a combination of the two is available.

For European expatriates, remember that European Health Insurance Cards – or EHICs – are only suitable for those visiting an EU country, not people living and working there. That’s why comprehensive international health insurance is advised, as it will cover ongoing treatments and it offers the benefits of private healthcare.

German International Schools

For children under the age of six, preschool classes are available but these are privately run and will require payment.

Compulsory education at primary school (Grundschule) begins when a child is six years old. State-run schools are free, however, parents will need to pay for books, class trips and occasional extras.

After primary school, children will continue to Hauptcshule – this is generally for school years five to nine – and then Realschule for years ten to 12 or 13. Classes are generally held between 7 am and 1 pm.

Socialising in Germany

There’s no doubt that German beer is famous around the globe, and the annual Oktoberfest in Munich is an important cultural event that lasts for 16 days in late September and early October.

Of course, it doesn’t need to be autumn in Bavaria to enjoy a pint of your favourite tipple and no matter where you are, you’re likely to find a welcoming bar with a lovely beer garden.

Social clubs are also common – there are more than 600,000 registered clubs in the country – and these generally focus on a shared interest, most often sport. Meanwhile, the majority of towns have their own theatre and orchestra, and community events are held year-round.