I moved to Germany during a pandemic, which made a complicated move even messier. But here are the things I wish I knew before I left the United States…
1) You do not need to know German, but it helps
I moved to Germany without a single German class, which I thought would be a deal breaker. When I started applying for my job in Germany, I initially thought I would apply to the company to let them know that I am interested and open the door to conversations about what exactly I would need in order to get a full time position (i.e. “You are a great candidate, but we chose this other person because they speak German…”). I was shocked during my interview process that not only did I not need German, they were completely unfazed by my concerns around cultural differences.
In the end, my coworkers have been very helpful with my transition and it turns out that most Germans know English (around 7 years of school lessons!). But, I heard from an advisor that the difference between someone staying in Germany for 5 years vs permanently is whether they learn to speak German. This makes total sense as you cannot expect to settle here and make friends without knowing the primary language.
For my German classes, I take them online through “Speakeasy! Berlin“. But if you really want to conquer the language, this is not enough. Along with my online class, I am listening to podcasts and using Duolingo, all while speaking German as
much as I can much as I am comfortable.
2) Finding a flat (with a kitchen!) is difficult
When I first started looking for housing, I first contacted a few coworkers that I was comfortable with and asked them how much they spend on their flats per month so that I could get an idea of what to expect. I used the website Immo Scout 24 (the most popular search option I found in Munich) and everything I found was few hundred euros more than the price range I had heard. After some investigating, I realized it was because I wanted a flat with a kitchen already installed.
Rentals in Germany come with nothing, not even a kitchen. So the reason why my search was coming up a little bit more than everyone else’s was because I ticked the “kitchen” box for my search. Kitchen’s in Germany are expensive and since I was just moving here, I didn’t want to have to pay for one when I had no idea where I would be in a few years. So keep this in mind if you are searching.
Also, the flats do not come with any storage; no closets (I had to buy a wardrobe, I recommend Ikea), no cabinets/shelves in the bathroom, and no lighting. When I moved into my flat I was sitting in the dark for two days because I moved in on a Saturday, which happened to be a holiday in Germany, and nothing is open on Sundays!
3) Getting a driver’s license is a little tricky
If I had know how expensive getting my German driver’s license would be, I would have negotiated the expense out of my work contract. Not only does it require a 7.5 hour first aid course, but I have to go back to driving school. I feel like I am 16 years old again and it is going to cost me a whooping 800 euros (that’s the cheaper price).
It can be cheaper and even a bit easier, depending on where your US state of residence was before you moved. Which brings me to my fourth point…
4) Where you lived before you moved to Germany highly impacts your taxes (and can help getting your driver’s license MUCH easier)
In some states in the US, no matter if you move out of the country, you will be required to pay state taxes. So be sure to do your research and, if you have family in one of the states that will make your taxes cheaper, change your driver’s license to that state before you move.
In some states, you can show up to Germany and just exchange your license for a German one without having to take the test or pay the hefty fees. I don’t want to give out detailed advise, since I don’t want to be blamed if it is misconstruing, but do your research!
And if it helps, you probably don’t need a driver’s license if you are living in a large city. Getting around by public transportation is cheap and easy. You can even use the the trains all around Europe for vacation! I took a 15 hour train from Salzburg, Austria to Sylt, Germany and it was awesome. I may have watched Harry Potter and ate a chocolate frog just for the occasion….
5) You aren’t going to be able to find some of your favorite foods at the grocery store and it will annoy the crap out of you
Goodbye, black beans. See ya later, salsa. It was nice knowing you, cake/brownie mixes. Why’d you have to go, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos? Thanksgiving is not the same without you, pumpkin puree!
Sure, you can find some of the things on Amazon or some alternative websites, but they will be expensive!!
6) Not only is everything closed on Sundays, but you aren’t allowed to make any noise
It has taken me some time to get used to everything being closed on Sunday, but I am still not used to the lack of noise. Especially when you are moving into a place and there are a lot of To Do items on your list for the weekend.
In Germany, their walls are not made of drywall, but instead they are made of a cement mixture. This means, if you want to hang even the smallest of pictures on your wall, you cannot use nails and you have to drill a big hole. This creates noise and on Sundays, you can’t even vacuum! It’s the holy day…no noise!
I hope this was helpful, maybe even a little bit entertaining. Is there anything specific you would like me to talk about? Let me know in the comments!
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