Are you moving to Germany for a job, a significant other, or simply a change of scenery? Whatever the reason, moving to Germany—or any foreign country for that matter—is downright terrifying.
Not only are you away from your closest friends and family, but you’re living in a country you know little about.
Sure you’ve read all the travel books and even learned some German, but nothing can prepare you for the adventure in which you’re about to embark.
Lucky for you, we’ve interviewed several expats who’ve made the brave move to Germany and asked them what they wish someone would have told them before moving to Germany.
Here’s the helpful advice they had to share.
1. Learn the Language Beforehand
“In Germany, German is taught German to German, unless you get a private tutor. I would advise taking a course in your own country to get a base,” says Adriana Kroeller of Changing Plate.
There are many different ways in which you can learn German, whether you choose in-person or online lessons. Whichever you choose, it’s important that you learn some basic German before your big move to help smooth the transition.
2. Everyone Rides a Bike
In Germany, the preferred mode of transportation is biking. In fact, Germany ranked amongst the top five EU countries where people cycle most, according to a survey. When asked what mode of transportation they use most often, 8% of the 27,000 people surveyed in the 28 EU Member States answered ‘bicycle.’
Each town, city, and state has different laws concerning bicycles, and laws are strictly enforced. So before moving to Germany, it’s might be a good idea to brush up on the biking laws in the area in which you’ll be moving.
3. Most German Stereotypes Aren’t True
“Despite their reputations for being cold, Germans are usually very helpful. You just have to ask. I was very shy when I first arrived, and I think that made things much more difficult,” says Jennifer of American Faultier.
While Germans aren’t ones for small-talk, they are actually quite friendly and willing to help. Therefore, don’t be afraid to ask questions—no matter how mundane they may seem.
4. Kiss Your Sunday Routine Goodbye
In the U.S., people will spend their Sundays checking off the many tasks on their to-do lists, such as mowing the lawn, vacuuming the house, and going grocery shopping.
In Germany, Sundays are Ruhetag or “day of rest.” Neighbors are expected to keep quiet and all grocery and other retail stores are closed with the exception of churches, Biergartens, and gas stations.
5. Learning German Isn’t as Easy as You Think
“I think the one thing that would’ve saved me a lot of tears and frustration is if I had realized that stumbling your way through basic social interactions in German is an expat rite of passage. Fluency will take a lot longer than you think,” says Caitlin Travis of Life as an Auslander.
“In my experience, Germans know how hard their language is and they’re more than happy to slow down, listen patiently, and help you fix all your grammatical mistakes. They appreciate your effort.”
6. Start Your Search for Accommodations Early
It can be difficult to find inexpensive accommodations throughout Germany, especially in the major cities like Munich.
“There are lots of things that surprised me about moving to Munich, for one it’s not at all easy to find somewhere to live, it can take months. If you are moving here with a company life’s a lot easier if you find a relocation agent beforehand,” said Emma of A Bavarian Sojourn.
“Munich is popular for a reason, it’s a great place to work, but even better to live. Where else can you find a city with so much on its doorstep?”
So, before moving to Germany it’s important to start your search early on. If you want to be extra cautious, you might even want to find accommodation before you arrive in Germany.
7. Germans Can Be Very Direct
“There are tons of things I wish I knew before I moved to Germany. The biggest, however, would have to be researching a bit more about Germans themselves. There are a lot of ways Germans carry themselves and act, which for me was a bit shocking in the beginning. For example, almost all Germans are very direct when speaking with or about something/someone,” said Derek of The Migrant Expats.
“See we Americans are raised in a culture filled with sugar-coated statements that only hint at the truth, especially when talking about something we dislike. The Germans are the complete opposite. This isn’t to say Germans are intentionally mean. Rather quite the contrary. Being unabashedly direct is considered polite and is just a cultural difference. I still find myself getting offended every now and again, but honestly, I’ve gotten used to it…for the most part.”
8. Germans Take Recycling Very Seriously
Germany is Europe’s leader in all things green. Residents are very vigilant about recycling their trash—so much so that they might give you a dirty look if they catch you placing a plastic bottle in the wrong bin.
There are tons of recycling rules that can be confusing for newbie recyclers to understand. So be sure to acquaint yourself with the all of the guidelines. And when in doubt, just ask your next door neighbor!
9. The Paperwork
“I wish I’d known more about the bureaucratic process that one needs to follow upon moving to Germany. I naively thought that once my visa was approved, that’s all I’d need to do. I had no clue about having to register your address with the bürgeramt to get the official paper that allows you to open a bank account, get a cell phone contract etc.,” said Cheryl Howard of cherylhoward.com.
10. Germans Are Proud of Their Culture
Whether they’re from Munich, Berlin, or Hamburg, Germans are extremely proud of what region they come from and uphold long-time traditions.
“What’s one last thing you should know that I perhaps love about this area the most? How proud Bavarians are of their traditions, much more so than we Brits,” said Emma.
“Here everything is celebrated from bringing the cows down from the mountains at the end of the summer, the bier, the harvests, spring, and of course the glorious Christmas markets. And a lot of the time they dress up to celebrate – tracht isn’t just worn for Oktoberfest!”
Moving to Germany–or any foreign country–can be extremely stressful. Follow the advice above to help make your move less strenuous and more enjoyable.
Have you moved to Germany? If so, share your best advice for moving to Germany below.