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Moving to Germany

The Brandenburg Gate

Germany is a dynamic, vibrant country steeped in tradition and culture. Home of world-renowned figures such as Beethoven, Mozart and Goethe, its rich artistic and literary heritage far outshines its difficult and turbulent history. Famous for its award-winning beers, characteristic cuisine, successful automotive industries and championship sports teams, Germany has cemented its place as one of Europe's finest countries in which to live.

Planning Your Move

Moving abroad is a big step, so it's important to make sure it's definitely the right choice for you and your family. Here are some suggestions to help prepare you for the decision.

  • Rent before you buy. Renting an apartment for a few months in Germany can give you invaluable experience of living there without making a big commitment. You can also use your time in Germany to look for potential employment options and acquaint yourself with the local language and customs. Berlin is renowned for its cheap, high quality rental properties so is an ideal place to start.
  • Take part in a home exchange. These programs allow you to swap homes for an agreed period of time with a German family. Visit www.swapmycitypad.comwww.homeexchange.comwww.homeforexchange.com, and www.homelink.org.uk for information on how to sign up.
  • Make sure your chosen area is suited to your needs. Look for schools if you have children, a hospital if you or a member of your family has specific healthcare needs, good public transport links, and other social amenities that will make life easier.
  • If you are looking for a job in Germany, make some trips before your final move to scope the job market and secure a position. If you are planning on running your own business, do some market research in your chosen area to make sure your business will be welcome and profitable.

Your New Home

When you arrive in your new home in Germany you'll want to make sure that everything is set up ready for you to move in straight away. The complicated and often stressful process of buying or renting a house or flat is made all the more difficult when you have to travel long distances to view the property and are not always available to be on-site if problems should occur. Not only this, but if your German is not good, negotiating with the Estate Agent may prove tricky. Here are some tips to help you get the best start in your new home.

  • Renting is more popular than buying in Germany and it is commonplace for people to rent their whole lives and never own a property.
  • If you plan to rent be aware that you will be asked to pay an up-front deposit (Kaution) of up to three months' rent and to sign a rental agreement before you move in. You may also have to pay an agency fee to the Estate Agent (Makler) of up to two months' rent plus MwSt (Mehrwertsteuer, or VAT).
  • Be aware of landlords trying to cut corners. Always ensure your deposit goes to a special joint bank account which requires signatures from both you and your landlord. If you pay the landlord directly you may have limited legal rights with regards your rental property.
  • If given the option, always choose to leave your rental property unpainted. If you paint it before you leave you will be obligated to meet the landlord's standards, and you may have to pay the bill for a professional paint job if s/he isn't happy with how you've done it.
  • Make sure you have legal insurance or are a member of the renter's association (Mietverein). This will protect you legally.
  • Look out for möbliert (furnished), EBK (Einbaukuche, kitchen appliances are included), +Prov. (agency fees apply). This website (http://www.toytowngermany.com/wiki/Apartment_rental) provides a helpful list of more German rental terms and abbreviations.
  • Buying a property in Germany is very similar to buying in the UK with a few exceptions: all arrangements are made through a Notary who acts as an independent go-between for all parties. The buyer is usually responsible for the Notary fees, which range from 2-7% of the property price; at the contract signing you will be expected to agree on a moving date and you may be liable for a compensation fee if you fail to move on the arranged date.
  • There is no council tax in Germany, but energy bills are usually higher than they are in the UK.
  • It is best to arrive in Germany on a weekday as all official buildings and offices are closed over the weekend.

German city photo by rver

Moving Companies

Once you have chosen your new home, one of the first things to think about before leaving the UK is how best to transport your belongings to Germany. Schumacher Cargo Logistics offer specialised shipping to Germany and have options for the shipping of automobiles, oversized cargo, pets and boats. Visit their website to view their full range of services: www.schumachercargo.com. Over's International specialise in moving from the UK to Germany - visit their website for a quote: www.overs.co.uk. Best Global Movers is a price comparison site that offers quotes from six removal companies to bring you the best price. Check out www.bestglobalmovers.com for a quote. Beware that some movers charge a fee for excess loads that is only disclosed upon delivery so make sure you get an accurate and fixed quote before your move.

The Practical Details

The excitement of moving abroad can easily eclipse the practical - and often boring - details, but these are vital for a smooth transition to a new country. Please check with the local authority of your region to make sure you have fulfilled all of your legal obligations.

  • For EEA citizens the only requirement for living and working in Germany is to register with the appropriate office of the town hall in their local area (Einwohnermedeamt or Bürgeramt).
  • After living in Germany for five years you will gain the right of permanent residency.
  • Non-EU citizens who wish to live and work or study in Germany generally require a visa. A 90-day visa can be issued until the citizen can obtain a full visa from the local Alien's Office (Ausländerbehörde). In order to obtain a visa you will require a valid passport, an employment contract, your CV and academic certificates, and a driver's licence or utility bill.
  • Self-employed workers are welcome in Germany, but must satisfy certain criteria, including proof of self-sufficiency, and must be able to demonstrate that their business will have positive economic benefits for the area.
  • If you possess a UK driving licence you will need to exchange it for a German one (Führerschein) when you apply for residency. In order to do this, your licence must be full and valid with no disqualifications and you must be at least 18 years old. You must send your licence, along with an identity card or passport, a certificate of registration from the Residents' Registration Office, and a recent photograph. For more information, visit http://www.bmvbs.de/SharedDocs/EN/Artikel/STB-LA/validity-foreign-driving-licences-in-germany.html
  • A Green Card is not a requirement for EU drivers in Germany, but it makes life easier and is available free of charge from your insurer.
  • Vehicle repairs in Germany can be very expensive so consider taking out breakdown cover and have your car serviced before you leave the UK.
  • Get an E111 certificate to cover health emergencies. This can be obtained from the post office in the UK. As a resident you will be covered by Germany's national health scheme (GKV, Gesetzliche Krankenkasse).
Beautiful German village

Making the Most of your Move

  • Learn the language. This may take longer than you think and it's worth starting long before you move. Learning German will not only make all of the legal and official processes involved a lot easier, but it will help you integrate better with the natives and give you a greater sense of belonging to the community.
  • Prepare yourself for the party season! Germans know how to throw a really good party and don't be surprised to find they go on until 5 or 7 in the morning. You'll also be missing out if you don't sample some great German beers!
  • Practically no shops or facilities (other than restaurants and bars) open on Sundays in Germany so be prepared to get all your shopping done during the week.
  • Finding employment in Germany can be a challenge, so consider taking on an established business that is already profitable.
  • Join an online ex-pat forum such as www.expatsforum.comwww.toytowngermany.com and www.alloexpat.com. There you can talk to people who have already made the move and get invaluable advice on the benefits of living in Germany, as well as some of the potential pitfalls.

Following the Rules

German laws differ subtly from UK ones so it is easy to accidentally get into trouble. Similarly, if you do not understand the local customs and etiquette you run the risk of offending your new neighbours. Here is a quick list of things to watch out for.

  • A warning triangle, a first aid kit and spare headlamp bulbs must be kept in your car at all times.
  • The alcohol limit for driving is lower in Germany than in the UK. In Germany, the limit is 25mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood, which is less than the UK limit of 80 mg/100ml. If in doubt, don't drive! You can even lose your licence for riding a bike whilst under the influence so if you've had a drink you are better off relying on Germany's excellent public transport systems.
  • Churchgoers and members of recognised religious communities are required by law to pay Church tax. This tax is deducted from your income along with your income tax. Be aware that if you withhold details about your faith when entering Germany in order to avoid paying this tax your attendance at religious services may be limited.

Homesick?

Germany is a wonderful country but you might find you miss some of the more unique quirks of living in the UK. Don't worry, The British Corner Shop (www.britishcornershop.com) delivers UK products all over Germany. If you prefer not to shop online visit the Munich British Shop (Rosenheimerstr. 161, 81671 München, www.british-allsorts.com), or Karstadt(www.karstadt.de), a large department store that stocks produce from around the world.

More Useful Links

www.expatica.com

www.toytowngermany.com

www.british-in-germany.de