Living in Germany

What languages do they speak in Germany?

Though German is the main language of Germany, English is widely spoken. Around 56% of the population speak English, and in schools, English is the most important foreign language taught. However, if you are looking to live and work permanently in Germany, it is wise to start learning the language sooner rather than later. This will help you integrate into German society early on.

How long do you have to live in Germany before becoming a resident?

To gain permanent German residence, you must meet one of the following conditions. If you are deemed a highly qualified worker, you can be issued a settlement permit immediately. EU Blue Card holders can apply after working 33 months or if you are self-employed, you may be able to gain permanent residency after 3 years.

What are the legal requirements of moving to Germany?

Fortunately, US citizens do not need a visa to enter Germany as a tourist or for business for up to 90 days.

How much does it cost to live in Germany?

Fortunately, Germany is one of the more inexpensive European countries to live in. Household expenditure in Germany costs around €859 ($976) a month, according to the Federal Statistics Office. With utility bills costing on average just under €220 ($250) a month, a monthly train ticket costing approximately €70 ($80), and meal out for 2 people costing approximately €45 ($51) it’s an affordable country to live in.

How do you buy a property in Germany?

Fortunately, there is no special paperwork or requirements for foreigners wishing to buy property in Germany. You simply find a property, make an offer, a ‘notar’ will draw up the contract and you will finalize the mortgage and sign the contract.

Can I drive in Germany with a US license?

If you wish to continue driving in Germany after 6 months, you must be in possession of a German license. However, as a US citizen, if you are only intending to stay for less than a year, you can drive on your US license for up to 364 days. To make this happen, you will need to go to a driver registration office before the end of the 6 months expiry date and provide proof you will be leaving Germany before the year ends.

How expensive is education?

Positively, higher education in Germany costs significantly less than the US. Most universities do not charge tuition fees for students, including foreigners.

How do I open a bank account in Germany?

To open a bank account in Germany you will need your passport and proof of registration. You will also potentially require proof of income in the form of payslips. To gain proof of registration, you must register your address with the Bürgeramt. This process must be done when you change address in Germany.

What healthcare is there?

If you are a resident in Germany, you may be eligible for state healthcare. However, you must be registered with state health insurance. If not, you must be covered by private health insurance in Germany.

Working in Germany

What are the usual working hours in Germany?

Employees are legally allowed to work 48 hours a week, 8 hours a day. Saturday is classified as a normal working day, so if employees were to work a standard five-day week, their hours would total 40 hours.

Working hours in a day can be extended to 10 hours under specific circumstances and overtime is compensated with additional time off.

How much annual leave are you entitled to?

Full time employees in Germany are entitled to 24 paid vacation days a year (equivalent to 4 weeks) if they work 6 days a week, 20 days if they work 5. To be classified as full-time employees, employees must work more than 6 months in one calendar year. If working less than 6 months in a year, employees are entitled to vacation on pro rata.

What benefits are you entitled to?

Residents and expatriates can take advantage of Germany’s extensive social security system, which benefits those who are sick, disabled, unemployed or retired. The majority of the German population is insured under Gesetzliche Krankenversicherung (GKV), the German national health system.

Do I need a visa to work in Germany?

US citizens do not need a visa to enter Germany as a tourist or for business for up to 90 days. After 90 days, you will need an electronic residence title (eAT). You can apply for a Residence Permit that entitles you to work before taking up employment.

How should I conduct myself in a business meeting?

In Germany, meetings are taken very seriously, and will always follow a stringent and well-planned agenda. It is important to back up your statements with well-researched facts and examples as Germans are very analytical.

It is also worth noting that in more formal environments, it is expected that the highest-ranking employee should enter the meeting room first, however this is not always necessary in more informal environments. Always shake hands with those partaking in the meeting upon greeting and departure.

The Do’s


  • Learn to be extremely punctual
    The Germans are very punctual people, and will find it rude even if you are a few minutes late to a meeting or appointment.
  • Know the difference between ‘du’ and ‘sie’
    As a general rule, ‘sie’ is the more formal ‘you’, and should be used when addressing strangers or colleagues. ‘Du’ is more informal and is generally reserved for people you are close to. In business, it is best to use ‘sie’ when addressing someone of higher authority to be on the safe side.
  • Understand seating convention in restaurants
    It is completely normal for strangers to share empty seats on your table when the restaurant is busy. If you wish to sit down, you should ask “Ist dieser Platz noch frei?” (Is this seat free?) and bid farewell when you leave.
  • Expect a round of handshakes
    In some German offices, a round of handshakes are a part of the daily routine, so don’t be taken aback!

The Don’ts


  • Throw away recyclables in the trash
    Germans are very environmentally-conscious and will always separate their recyclables from their regular garbage. If they see you throwing away something that could have been recycled, you will not be looked upon favorably.
  • Phone people at home after 10pm
    In Germany it is rude to phone people at home after 10pm unless you have specifically asked them beforehand. You are also unlikely to reach anyone by phone after 5pm Mon-Thurs and after 4pm on Fridays.
  • Address a young woman as ‘Fräulein’
    Today, this is seen as an offensive, outdated form of addressing young women. Therefore, you should use Frau [surname] instead when addressing a woman of any age.

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