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.com, www.homeexchange.com, www.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.