Thinking about moving to Germany? This is what you should know beforehand
Let’s start with the basics. This post assumes that you are a working professional, who is moving to Germany with a job offer from your home country. For a more wholistic view, let’s assume that you are moving with your family, having atleast 1 kid.
The post will touch upon only the basics which you will encounter as soon as you land here.
Having a job offer in hand, eliminates the point regarding finding a job in Germany as something you should be aware about. If this was not the case, depending on the profile, you may or may not face significant challenges primarily due to language.
German language :
Again, assuming you are still learning or partially fluent in German. The lack of your language skills will be used as an excuse against you (and family). Depending on your skin color, the frequency or intensity of this might vary.
The places you will experience this the most will be :
Bureacracy (Burgeramt, Finanzamt, Arbeitsamt, Insurance companies etc)
Healthcare & doctors (separate point below)
Housing market (separate point below)
Shops and malls
Lack of German language knowledge and fluency will be used as the reason to deny you what you deserve - genuine service and treatment. It does not matter how long you live in the country. Fluency of language will be a factor you will deal with on a daily basis.
This is not just limited to small cities or villages. Big cities are only marginally better in this regard (more so, because of the expat concentration and for no other reason).
Germany has a housing crisis.
We have been looking to move into a bigger apartment for over 6 months now, after our daughter was born. This search is still on. Some of our friends (in similar situations), were so fed up with the rental market, they decided to buy an apartment (less competition, but another painful path for expats altogether).
This despite the fact that we have over 8years+ of history in Germany. The viewing appointments are a joke, resembling a fish market. There are 100 (usually much more) applicants invited. That is, if you are even invited for a viewing in the 1st place.
Sample this :
200+ people contacted this agent/property company in 3 days of the ad being posted (rental : 1753 EUR per month)
By the way, that Plus+ you see at top left, costs me 19.99 EUR per month for a premium access on Immobilienscout.
The agents are some of the laziest and incompetent I have ever met. Can’t blame them, with 100+ application for shitty apartments, they dont need to do any work. Some are so incompetent that (my personal interaction) :
they won’t know where the washing machine connection is in the apartment
they wont know the closest public transport connections
will have 2 rooms locked, out of 4 room apartment for a 2k+ rental
ask you if you can “really” afford the apartment (racial profiling??….maybe)
ask for 5,000 EUR for the electrical wiring and modernisation work the owner did in the apartment
and are arrogant as hell.
After viewing, is where fun begins. In a country paranoid about privacy, you will be asked for :
your passports and German identity cards
your work contract (if new to Germany) or 3 monthly payslips
your SCHUFA score (credit rating)
all these details for all of your family
your current landlord’s certificate that you dont owe rent
a self declration form, stating most of the above info
and most probably, still won’t get the apartment.
Interestingly, the rental agents/companies are so bold now that - ALL of this information is to be provided just to be invited for a viewing appointment.
No one scams you over the internet by just posting an ad and after collecting all your personal and financial information, right!!
There are rental ads now which state that “pls do not apply if your NET household income is less than 4,500 EUR”.
Daycare (Kita) :
This situation might be specific to Berlin, since this is also based on our personal experiences.
The Kitas are free for parents, and the state pays for it. This means that you will need to get a voucher from the government and give it to the Kita. For us, it took more than 12 months to get this voucher.
There is a severe shortage of Kitas in Berlin. We were advised to register for a Kita spot while we were still expecting. Germans put in their names on the waitlist the moment the pregnancy is confirmed. We were late, since we started the Kita process after our daughter was born.
We sent out 90+ applications (portfolio of muitlple documents dn a family pic). We were invited for a vist to 2 Kitas.
2/90…pathetic conversion, I know! But, at least they replied.
Most do not even bother to reply.
Of those 2, we got spot in 1. Aspirations of sending our daughter to a bilingual Kita close to our home went out of the window.
The central application system, “Kita Navigator” is a gem of Germany’s digital infrastructure or the lack thereof. Using it, you can send 10 Kita applications at max. Kitas ask for a separate application to formally put down your name on the waitlist.
Healthcare : Our personal experience is detailed out here.
In normal life, getting a doctor’s appointment in general means a waiting period of 2–3 weeks atleast. If you want an English speaking doctor, wait can be indefinitely longer.
The most interesting aspect is that in a country anal about the concept of punctuality, having appointment at a doctor is a joke. Having an appointment just means that you have a number in the daily queue of patients lined up to see that doctor. Once you are at the doctor, the waiting times can range from 10 mins to upto 2 hours (or even more), before the doctor can see you.
Our wait times were :
average 1 hour with my wife’s Gynae
average 45 mins at the pediatrician
and you will be lucky if they actually understand your problem in the 1st instance.
Well, can’t blame the doctors really… since you can not speak German and the German doctors are incapable of empathy
Just this week, my wife had a severe eye infection to the extent that she could not even open her left eye. We went to see the doctor. After the customary wait period, the doctor saw her, prescribed basic medication and sent us back.
This was on Tuesday.
The eye went from bad to worse by Thursday.
We returned to the doctor on Friday morning. The doctor was shocked to see the extent of infection and swelling. Now, he took the case seriously.
Now, he gave an antibiotic prescription of 1000mg dosage. Despite my wife already informing the doctor that she is allergic to pencilling, the doctor prescribed the wrong antibiotic. Good thing my wife is a Phd In Cancer & Diabetes. She informed the doctor again.
Maybe the fear of malpractise claim led him to realise that his prescribed brand of antibiotic will cause more harm than good.
Cash is king:
Dont be surprised that you will be put into an awkward situation when you went to a fancy restaurant, had a good time and when it came time to pay, were told : Cash Only.
Sounds like a joke?
In other countries, it will be. In Germany, this is an unfortunate reality. Germany might be 1st world country, but debit and credit cards revolution didnt drop in in the country. You might be coming from a country, where payment using NFC (through watch, phone or even QR codes) might be possible.
Not in Germany.
From government offices to parking machines on the road, and everything in between, cash is the safest form of currency you can carry. Last week, while sending money to my parents in India (about 1,200 EUR), the money transfer agency got alarmed when I pulled out my debit card to transfer funds. They expected me physically carry that money in CASH.
All of these are my personal experiences in the last 12 months. You will see comments on my language, my expectations from German, question on my German fluency and tons of other aspects. What these commentators will convinently miss is that they face these issues themselves, but will not even acknowledge them.