Country Facts – Germany
This information is provided to offer guidance to those seeking to live and work overseas. For more information we recommend that you speak with your national government Foreign Office (or equivalent).
A guide to living in 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.
Local 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.
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.
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 EUcountry, 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.
Schooling for kids
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.
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.
For more information on moving abroad visit www.gov.uk/knowbeforeyougo.
Of course, if you’re planning on travelling to Germany please ensure you have adequate expat travel insurance.