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Living in Germany As A Foreigner: Pros and Cons

Thousands of foreigners move to Germany every year. However, as with anything, living abroad comes with its benefits and downsides. Before you move to Germany, you should know what to expect. Some things might play a significant role in your decision to settle here. Here are our insights into living as a foreigner in Germany.

Pros of living in Germany

1. Location and ease of travel

Germany is located in the middle of Europe. It opens incredible opportunities for traveling between Western and Eastern Europe. Besides, Germany has more borders than any other European country.

Germany has borders with the following countries:

  • Denmark, Poland, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Austria, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and The Netherlands.

That’s a fortune for someone willing to travel and explore.

Moreover, German transportation networks are fantastic. The popular bus company Flixbus will bring you anywhere in Europe for a very affordable price. Many people with a small budget and students travel this way.

Apart from this, there is always a train or bus whether you go in Germany. The country also got a lot of airports, many of them international. In fact, Frankfurt has the largest airport in Europe.

https://russianvagabond.com/14-reasons-why-you-shouldnt-never-move-to-germany/

2. Free time activities

Germany is the largest country in Europe, with plenty of natural and historical sights. It offers many destinations for a weekend trip to explore cities with stunning architecture.

Many places were destroyed during the Second World War, but many have remained or were renovated. If you are living in Germany, you should explore what this place has to offer as well as other beautiful and exciting countries that are nearby.

Apart from traveling, Germany offers a wide range of free time activities ranging from outdoors to concerts and operas – the list goes on and on. It might also depend on where you are living, so small cities and villages don’t offer many cultural activities. If you want to visit museums and festivals, you better live in a large or medium-sized town.

Nonetheless, you can expect many beer festivals happening across the country. Outdoors is another common way how people spend their free time here. This includes biking, jogging or hiking.

Besides, Germany has plenty of music festivals. The music style ranges from folk to rock. Everyone can find something they like.

3. German language and culture

If you always wanted to learn German, now it’s time. There is no other country where learning German will be more successful and productive. Although Germany isn’t the only German-speaking country, only Germans speak German properly.

Many foreigners come to Germany to learn the language. However, living here without speaking German is also possible. Yet, if you are interested to learn a new language and being able to speak with other approximately 220 million people, then Germany is the right place for you.

4. Excellent transport

Public transportation is incredibly good in Germany. The prices might be a bit high, but the availability of different transport and high frequency is worth it.

If you are coming to Germany to study, you will get a student card with a discount. Otherweise, a monthly or yearly pass is always cheaper than the regular price.

Therefore, you don’t need to own a car in Germany, unless you are living in the middle of nowhere. Even small towns are well-connected.

Main German cities are connected by high-speed trains and flights, which makes the life of travelers even easier.

If you prefer to travel eco, Germany is also pedestrian and bike-friendly. Each city has mandatory biking roads, which make riding a bicycle hassle-free.

Compared to cities in the US, drivers pay more attention here. Fewer cyclists ignore the rules of the road as well.

5. Healthcare

German healthcare is one of the best in the world. You will get most medical services at no cost. They will be paid by your health insurance, which is mandatory in Germany.

For employees, the employer pays half of the rate for the health insurance, and another half is paid by the employee. Workers contribute 7,3% of their monthly salary for insurance.

https://russianvagabond.com/cheapest-health-insurance-in-germany/

Additionally, your family members may enroll at no cost with the statutory/public health insurance provider. Therefore, German employees can provide health coverage not only for themselves but for the entire family. Yet, the main requirement for public insurance is an annual salary under 60,000 EUR.

Read more about German healthcare and German public health insurance.

https://russianvagabond.com/health-care-in-germany-is-it-free/

6. Many ways to save money

Germany is a dream for people who love to save money. Ironically, you can spend and save a lot of money here.

Germany’s food prices are relatively low, especially compared to neighboring countries like France, Italy, Austria, Sweden, and Belgium, where it’s significantly more expensive.

By buying stuff in bulk and in discounters, you can save even more money. Retailers like Aldi, Netto, Lidl, and Metro are the cheapest. Essential foods, fresh fruit, vegetables, wine, and beer cost much less in these supermarkets than in general grocery stores.

You can cut your groceries expenses by buying no-brand products. Germany produces most of the food items, for example, meat, cheese, bread, beer, wine, and vegetables, so there are no costs for import and transportation. Your weekly grocery list will be significantly cheaper than in the UK or the United States.

Other ways to save a cent will be flomarkts/flea markets – it’s German secondhand but not only for clothing, but you can also find almost everything there. In other countries, it most likely means a garage sale.

Flea markets happen mainly on the weekends and are organized more like events with food and drinks—an excellent opportunity to buy something of high quality for a low price.

Germans like to save money, it’s almost a national hobby, so they will teach you how to do it right. There are so many ways.

7. Beer

Germans love their beer. Hence, it’s not surprising the country is home to over 7,000 varieties of beer and 1,300 breweries. Oktoberfest is the biggest beer festival in the world, where this traditional drink is celebrated for 14 days.

Moreover, each region in Germany has its beer specialty. Not only does beer matter in Germany, but also glass; each beer sort has to be served in a dedicated glass that has an appropriate form and shape.

Foreigners should know that beer is a significant part of the local culture. Put simply, it brings people together. To understand a German man, you first need to drink a beer with him.

What surprises foreigners the most is that beer is often mixed with other drinks in one glass. No other country does it, but Germany loves Colaweizen or Radler. It’s half beer and half coke or sprite mixed together. Yes, Germans like to experiment.

8. Work-life balance

Work-life balance in Germany is superior to many countries. Germans strictly separate work and private life. They know when to work and when to rest. Working overtime is uncommon and, if happens, is paid by the employers.

Furthermore, all employees are entitled to at least 4 weeks of paid leave per year and paid sick leave.

9. You can rely on Germans

Most people in Germany are honest and reliable. Germans do what they say. It’s in their culture to be logical, punctual, reliable, and trustworthy.

If they make an appointment with you in two weeks at 2 pm, they will be there on time. If some changes happen, they inform you a week before. Germans are great people to deal with whether is business or private occasion.

10. Low crime rates

Generally, crime isn’t a problem in Germany, only in some specific areas and only in specific cities. For instance, in most train and main bus stations are favorite spots for alcoholics, homeless people, and other unusual parts of society.

You want to be more cautious in these areas, but generally, nothing bad will happen. Besides, police officers are very friendly and helpful to society. There is no point in being afraid or avoiding them like in some other countries. You can always approach the police and ask for any help; they won’t refuse you.

Cons of living in Germany

1. Lack of variety in food choices

If you move to Germany, you can expect to eat many foods that are part of the cultural cuisine. However, you can find some Mexican, Japanese, and Vietnamese food throughout Germany. That can give you some variety.

Italian and Turkish restaurants are also popular, but Germans dominate the market. That means you’ll be eating lots of pork in different forms, such as sausage and potatoes and pickled foods.

If you are a vegetarian, you might have a hard time. In the south and throughout the country, pork is the main element in a meal, whereas, in the north, people eat lots of fish.

Also, gluten-intolerant people can struggle to find a snack cause a snack for Germans it’s bread in all forms and kinds. There are over 300 bread sorts produced in Germany.

Unfortunately, there isn’t something between restaurants and bakeries. It’s not easy to grab something quick apart from bread. However, more and more supermarkets offer to-go sections where a variety of snacks can be found.

People from countries with cuisines rich in spices will find German food bland. Particularly foreigners from South Asia might struggle in Germany, especially if they work a corporate job and go for lunch in the company’s cafe (Kantine).

A German cafeteria will usually offer you a sausage or schnitzel with fries as a main dish. You can always season it with ketchup for more taste and spiciness. Yes, life is hard.

2. Almost everything is closed on Sundays

Sunday is Ruhetag (rest day) in Germany. All retail shut down except the fuel stations and a few small kiosks. For some people, it can also be positive, like for supermarket workers, but it’s an obstacle for most.

Be organized and do your shopping on other days; most people prefer Saturdays. However, I recommend picking another day since it can get pretty crowded.

If you find yourself bored on Sunday in Germany, here are our top things to do!

https://russianvagabond.com/what-to-do-in-germany-on-sunday/

You’ll also be making meals at home since most restaurants are closed, but luckily there are Döner kiosks around nearly every corner so that you won’t die of hunger even on a Sunday.

Living on the border with the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, or Belgium can bring an advantage in this case since you can drive there to accomplish your Sunday shopping or visit some cafes and restaurants.

During my life in Germany and Austria, where Sundays also died, this day of the week always felt weird. Especially for me as an energized and curious person, I wanted to go out, embrace the city, explore, and do things; it’s a weekend, man; you got time for this!

Instead, the city is empty; people are slow, there is no entertainment, shopping, or food. You don’t know what to do. It’s like partying on Christmas eve in Germany; if you don’t know how it looks, we can explain in the next article.

https://russianvagabond.com/what-to-do-in-germany-on-sunday/

3. High cost of living

It depends on where you come from; for someone cost of living in Germany will be a pro for someone, a con. For someone from Russia, prices in Germany were a disadvantage, especially if you are a student or doing volunteer work, so basically don’t earn any money.

Students can survive on 850 EUR per month. However, this amount probably won’t be enough in cities like Munich and Hamburg.

Rent, food, going out, and traveling & transportation are the most significant expenses that you will have while living in Germany.

Read more on the cost of living in Germany for a family and a single person.

https://russianvagabond.com/cost-of-living-in-germany-for-a-single-person/

4. German bureaucracy

Germany is, in some way, the homeland of bureaucracy. German bureaucracy can be a nightmare for someone from abroad, especially outside of European countries.

You will need to collect many papers, which include so many criteria. All these criteria must be fulfilled; otherwise, your documents won’t be accepted, or you will need to do the procedure again.

Additionally, government workers do their job according to strict rules, so they will never make an exception for you. In some other countries like, for example, Russia, India administrative personnel can close their eyes on something, but not in Germany.

Office in German, called a Büro, is not far from “Bürokratie” (bureaucracy). Some offices in Germany certainly live up to their stereotype of putting things in boxes rather than thinking outside of them.

Unfortunately, Germany is a “late mover” regarding innovation in the public sector. It’s a significant hurdle for international workers and students planning to come here.

5. Friendships are rare

For many foreigners, it can be hard to make friendships with Germans, at least the real ones. This north folk is reserved, and it takes time for them to open up to new people.

Usually, Germans have strong friendships from school or university and prefer to keep light relationships with others without a deep connection.

You will notice that it’s hard to break the ice in conversation with German. They usually don’t share personal information and stay relatively superficial.

Many people from southern countries or Asia and Latin America will find it very difficult to connect with Germans and get to know them.

6. German mentality

This probably goes together with making friendships in Germany. Most Germans tend to be extremely private and closed in nature. You also need to consider that German folks are direct. They won’t speak around, which can be seen by many as being rude. For them, it isn’t.

The typical answer you will get when you ask something but don’t know the answer: “Keine Ahnung” means “have no idea”. That sounds not very nice.

It will take time to get used to the straightforwardness of Germans, they might hurt you, but at least you can be sure – they are honest people. Sоme might consider it a disadvantage; their genuine and sincere answers sometimes come across as rude and tactless.

On the other hand, Germans are also known for their tolerant attitude to strangers, so you won’t experience much judgment unless they know you well.

To learn more about the German mentality, check out these articles on dating in Germany as a foreigner or as an American.

https://russianvagabond.com/dating-in-germany-as-a-foreigner-guide-based-on-personal-experience/

7. Taxes

Be prepared to pay a lot of taxes in Germany. Luckily, Germany and many other countries have treaties to prevent double-taxing expats’ income. So when working here, you won’t need to pay additional tax at home.

If you plan to move to Germany, you might consider that the taxes and social contributions might cut even a 35-40 % portion of your gross salary.

The first 9,169 EUR or 764 EUR per month (18,338 EUR for married couples submitting a combined return) earned each year is tax-free. Any amount after that is subject to income tax.

Income tax in Germany is progressive: first, income tax rates start at 14%, then rise incrementally to 42%; last, very high-income levels are taxed at 45%. The top tax rate of 42% applies to taxable income above 55,961 EUR.

https://russianvagabond.com/taxes-in-germany-vs-us-full-comparison-2021/

Finally, for taxable income above 265,327 EUR, a 45% tax is applicable. In addition to income tax, and social taxes, everyone has to pay a solidarity tax, which is 5.5% of their income.

The income tax rate for a worker with a gross salary of 40,000 EUR is estimated to be 36%. 

The tax rate also depends on your personal circumstances, such as marriage, having a child, or divorce. The highest taxes pay a single person without children, which is pretty unfair. In the end, you want to enjoy your earned money while you are young instead of giving it to the government.

As you can see, almost half of your income goes into tax. Germany has one of the highest tax rates in Europe.

See more on taxes in our guide about German salaries.

https://russianvagabond.com/what-is-a-good-salary-in-germany/

8. Life is hard without speaking German

You can get by without German but life will come with many obstacles. If for work, many companies don’t require international employees to speak German, but a local language is needed apart from a job.

Imagine accomplishing all bureaucratic matters, finding an apartment, buying your daily bread, and explaining your preferences to the waitress in a bavarian restaurant.

It’s not always will be successful without involving the German language. Besides, foreigners who don’t speak the local language will have difficulties integrating into society.

Remember that many things in Germany don’t have an English translation. Even movies that originated in English, are shown in German.

The same applies to directions, a formal document from the authority, and product descriptions. Imagine buying something and having no idea what it is. Germany isn’t a foreigner-friendly country in that case.

  • Not able to understand letters you receive

Germany is still primarily using written letters (mail) for communication between people and authorities, doctors, banks, etc. The letter you will receive will also be only in German, for example, letters from the banks, government, insurance, etc. 

Which are pretty damn important! Here are some difficulties you might face if you don’t speak German:

  • People will speak German in bigger groups and not pay attention to you

It’s always easier to speak in your mother language, so why the big group will switch the language only because of one person who doesn’t understand German? It could happen that they will talk a bit in English but then switch back to German. That has happened a lot to me.

  • Dealing with the government and officials

We already spoke about bureaucratic Germany. You will need to manage it without understanding what authority workers want from you. What’s a horror!

https://russianvagabond.com/how-to-get-a-job-in-germany-without-speaking-german/

9. Following rules

Germans love their rules and order. Everything should be structured and well-thought-out.

There is Hausordnung (house rules), Schulordung (school rules), Arbeitsordnung (work rules), Strassenverkehrsordnung (traffic rules), Sozialordnung (social order), and Öffentliche Ordnung (public order), and so the list goes on.

Only Germans can follow all these rules; foreigners they rather drive crazy.

For example, Germany has alcohol restrictions for cyclists too. Riding your bicycle after some beers can cause confiscation of your driving license for half a year to 5 years, and order an MPA (medical-psychological assessment).

The authorities will automatically revoke your license if you fail to pass the MPA. And good luck trying to get it back – it can take years (of therapy) before you pass the annual MPAs.

Another rule is that you can only paint your house according to the defined by the government color, and it might not be your favorite color.

German people have many strict rules. Even their language is very organized! Everything is logical and can be explained by a definite rule. So order begins from the language and continues into everyday life.

“Ordnung” is one of the sacred words in Germany, and that has something to do with the German emphasis on security as opposed to liberty.

For the last thousand years, security has always been the number one value, and order is the basis of security.

10. You might gain weight

What else could you expect from the country of sausages, pork, potato, and beer?

As you can see, traditional German food is heavy and meat-focused, affecting your body badly. Germans also love carbs in the form of different bread and bier. They even drink beer with bread (Brezel)!

If you go all in and try all beers you can and constantly grab food at festivals and events (which happens in Germany each second day all over the country), weight gain can be guaranteed.

Be careful, particularly with wheat beer (Weizen); it has more calories and nutrients than other beers. For this reason, Germans say 2 Weizen is equivalent to one meal.

The healthiest way to eat in Germany is to cook your food; thanks to discounters, vegetables and fruits are affordable.

Conclusion

Despite the language barrier, living in Germany isn’t that different from the United States, the UK, Canada, or any other Western developed country.

It might rain a lot, and people might love beer a little more than they should, but you can manage things quite well from your first day in the country.

Because Germany is located in central Europe, it’s easy to travel almost anywhere. Switzerland, Austria, France, Poland, and Belgium are all nearby, and travel by bus is usually cheap.

The pros and cons of living in Germany can help you decide if this country is right for you. As long as you manage the living expenses and taxes, you will have a great time exploring and having fun in Germany.

To be on the safe side, read our guide on why someone shouldn’t move to Germany.

https://russianvagabond.com/14-reasons-why-you-shouldnt-never-move-to-germany/

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