Living abroad comes with its advantages and disadvantages. Germany isn’t an exception. You need to know all the pros and cons before coming here. They could play a significant role in your decision to settle down in Germany. Here are my twenty pros and cons of living in Germany.
Pros of living in Germany
Location and easiness for traveling
Germany is located in the middle of Europe. It’s a border between Western and Eastern European countries that opens incredible possibilities for travelers. Germany has more borders than any other country in Europe (after Russia, but it isn’t really a Europe, right).
Germany has borders with these countries like:
- Denmark, Poland, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Austria, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands.
What’s a fortune for someone willing to travel and explore.
Moreover, the German transportation network is fantastic. The famous bus company Flixbus will bring you anywhere in Europe for a small price. Many people on the budget and students travel this way.
Apart from this, there will always be a train whatever you go. Germany also got a lot of airports, many of them international. In fact, Frankfurt has the largest airport in Europe.
Free time opportunities
Germany is the largest country in Europe with a long history behind. It offers many destinations for a weekend trip to explore historic cities with stunning architecture.
Many places got destroyed during World War, but also many remained. I will highly recommend exploring Germany’s most beautiful and exciting places and then starting with other countries.
Apart from traveling, Germany offers a lot of free time options from outdoor to concerts and operas – the list goes on and on. However, it also depends on where you are living, small cities and villages won’t offer almost any “cultural” activities.
Furthermore, you can expect a lot of beer festivals as part of the entertainment. Outdoor activities are a second favorite thing to do for German people. That includes biking, jogging and of course “wandern”, this magical word has a big meaning for Germans and couldn’t be exactly translated.
It means hiking, but can also be used for walking in nature. It doesn’t have to be mountains or hills, but nature is a must.
Germany has plenty of music festivals. The music style ranges from folk to rock. Everyone can find something for their taste.
Learn the 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 that successful and productive. Although Germany isn’t the only country with German as an official language, yet only Germans speak it correctly.
Foreigners in Germany will be “forced” to learn a new language otherwise, they won’t be able to integrate themself in the right way. If you are interested to learn a new language and be able to speak with other approx. 220 million people, then Germany is the right place for you.
German culture has existed for many hundreds of years. You will enjoy learning many interesting facts about the country of poets and thinkers.
Public transportation is excellent in Germany. The prices might be a bit high, so you want to look for train discounts or special deals, for example, traveling in the group is always beneficial.
With a student card, you will get a discount too, especially for a monthly or yearly pass, the normal price of which is high.
In big and medium-sized cities, you can get by without a vehicle, whereas it will be more difficult in smaller cities and villages. Although even small towns in the mountains are well-connected, renting a car is essential for more freedom and especially nature trips.
Many will be surprised that even the small towns in the alpine regions of Allgäu and Austrian Tirol have a robust bus and train system.
Main big cities in Germany are connected with high-speed trains, which makes the life of business travelers easier. There is no need to take a flight.
If you prefer to travel eco, Germany is also pedestrian and bike-friendly. Each city has mandatory biking roads, which make riding a bike hassle-free.
Compared to cities in the US, drivers pay more attention here. Fewer cyclists ignore the rules of the road as well.
The health insurance
The employer and half pay health insurance half by the employee. German health care is one of the best in the world. You will pay 7,3% of your monthly salary for insurance, but it will cover most medical expenses, treatments, and hospital stays.
Additionally, your family members may enroll at no cost with the statutory/public health insurance provider. That means an employee in Germany can provide health coverage not only for himself but for the entire family!
The main requirement for public insurance is an annual salary under 60,000 EUR.
Related: “Is German healthcare free?”
There are many ways to save money
Germany is a paradise for savings lovers. Ironically you can spend and save a lot of money here. Germany’s food prices are already considered to be quite low, especially compared to neighboring countries such as France, Italy, Austria, Sweden, and Belgium, where food is much more expensive.
By buying stuff in stock, you can save even more. Retailers like Aldi, Netto, Lidl, Metro are the best. Essential foods, fresh fruit, vegetables, wine, and beer are much cheaper at these supermarkets than general grocery stores.
You can cut your food 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 dollar 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 they are organized more like events with food and drinks—great opportunity to buy something of high quality for a low price.
In general, Germans like to save money, it’s like a national hobby, so they will teach you how to do it right. There are many ways.
Germans love to drink beer. So, it’s probably not surprising that there are now well over 7,000 varieties of beer in Germany brewed in 1,300 breweries. Oktoberfest is the biggest beer festival globally, where the sacred drink is celebrated for 14 days.
Moreover, each region in Germany has its beer sort, and locals proudly drink only this drink. Not only beer maters but also glass, each beer variety is assigned a special kind of glass.
You should know that beer is a big part of local culture, it brings people together, to understand a german man you will need first 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 – half coke or sprite in a glass. Yes, germans like to experiment.
Good work-life balance
For young people who are just starting their careers, the western developed countries push them hard to stay focused on the job. That causes setting aside private life and personal networks.
Germans are a hard-working nation, but they appreciate a balance in life over a career. Work hard – play hard suits here perfectly.
Germans hurry to their families or to accomplish free-time activities. They separate strictly work and private life, after finishing work (right on time) another part of life starts. It’s also not common to speak about the job in the spare time.
That’s not to say that living here will make you lazy or stop your career growth. There is just a greater emphasis on defining who you are outside of the office.
In Germany, taking at least 30 days of holidays (4 weeks) is mandatory.
You can rely on Germans
Most people in Germany are fairly honest and reliable. Germans are doing what they are saying. It’s in their culture to be logical, punctual, and trustworthy.
If they make an appointment with you in two weeks at 2 pm, they will be there right on time. If some changes occur, they inform you a week before. I really like this approach to life. At least you can be sure they won’t let you down or make anything crazy.
Generally, crime isn’t a problem in Germany, only in some specific cities and areas there (yes, Frankfurt’s train station, I am looking at you).
In most cities, train stations and main bus stations are kind of magnet for scammers, alcoholics, and homeless people. They like to meet up in these places, so be a bit more cautious while walking there at night. Yet, at the same time, there is nothing crazy dangerous.
The policemen are very relaxed in Germany. They help people in everyday daily life rather than saving their lives. You can always approach the police and ask for any help; they won’t refuse you.
Cons of living in Germany
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, like for example, sausage but also 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. In fact, there are over 300 bread sorts produced in Germany.
Unfortunately, there isn’t something between the restaurant and bakery. It’s not easy to grab something quick apart from bread. However, more and more supermarkets offer to go section where a variety of snacks could be found.
People from countries with rich in spices cuisine will find German food bland. Particularly foreigners from South Asia will struggle in Germany, especially if they work a corporate job and go for lunch in the company’s cafe (kantine).
Most times a kantine will 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.
Almost everything in Germany 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 a positive thing, like for the staff of a supermarket, but for most, it is an obstacle.
Be organized and do your shopping on other days, most people prefer Saturdays. However, I would recommend picking another day since it can get pretty crowded.
You’re also going to be making meals at home since most restaurants are closed, but luckily there are Döner kiosks around nearly every corner, so 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 in Austria, where Sundays also died, this day of the week always feels weird. Especially for me as an energized and curious person, I wanted to go out embrace the city, explore, do things, it’s a weekend man, you got time for this!
But instead of this, you got disappointed, the city is empty, people are slow like they have retired, no entertainment, shopping, food..you basically don’t know what to do. It’s like go partying on the Christmas eve in Germany, if you don’t know how it looks I can explain in the next post.
Cost of living
It depends where you come from, for someone cost of living in Germany will be a pro for someone a con. As I came 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. The cost of living in Russia is at times lower.
Students can survive on 850 EUR per month. However, in cities like Munich and Hamburg, this amount most probably won’t be enough.
Rent, food, going out, and traveling/transportation are the biggest expenses that you will have while living in Germany. Going by train can be quite costly if there is no discount or special deal.
Germany is in some way the homeland of bureaucracy. German Bureaucracy can be a nightmare for someone coming from abroad, especially outside of European countries.
You will need to collect many, many papers, which includes soo 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 the 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), and 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” when it comes to innovation in the public sector. It’s a significant hurdle for international workers and students who are planning to come here.
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, the Germans have strong friendships from school or university, and they 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 the southern countries or Asia and Latin America will find it very difficult to create a genuine connection with german folks and really get to know them.
Since I am from Russia, where people take even longer to open up, it wasn’t a big obstacle for me, but I want to make other nationalities aware.
This probably goes together with making friendships in Germany. Most Germans tend to be extremely private and closed in nature. You also need to take into account that German folks are direct and straightforward. 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 I have no idea. That can sound not 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 considers it to be a disadvantage because their honest 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.
Greed is also something I experienced in Germany. You will face it more in the country’s south, where people are cautious with their money.
However, they like to own expensive items, like houses, cars, clothes and show it to others.
True, it’s their well-earned money. They can do whatever they want with it. Yet, you can notice money focus and more greediness in people. For me, it’s a big reason not to live in Germany, especially in the south. Yes, money is essential, but not to the extent of how it’s treated by Germans.
Be prepared to pay a lot of taxes in Germany. Luckily Germany, as well as many other countries, have treaties to prevent double-taxing expat’s income. So when working here, you won’t need to pay additional tax at home.
If you are planning to move to Germany, you might want to 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 they 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.
Finally, for taxable income above 265,327 EUR, a 45% tax is applicable. In addition to income tax, everyone has to pay a solidarity tax, which is 5.5% of your income tax.
The income tax rate for a foreigner 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 kid, or divorce. The highest taxes pay a single person without kids. What is unfair, 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.
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 originated in English shown in German.
The same applies to directions, a formal document from the authority, product description. Imagine buying something and have 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 using primarily letters 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, and so on. 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 paying attention to you
It is always easier to speak in your mother language, so why the big group will switch the language only because of one person who don’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 government officials
We already spoke about bureaucratic Germany. Now you will need to manage it without understanding what authority workers want from you. What’s a horror!
Too much order
Germans love order, everywhere, anytime. Everything should be structured and well-thought-out. In fact, 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 per mille restrictions for cyclists too. Riding your bicycle after some beers can cause confiscations of your driving license from half a year to 5 years, and order an MPA (medical-psychological assessment)!
If you fail to pass the MPA, the authorities will automatically revoke your license. 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 defined by 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 a mainstay of security.”
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, which can affect your body in a bad way. Germans also love carbs in the form of different bread and bier. Actually, 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.
Although I somehow managed not to add any pound, most probably my young age was reason for this.
Be careful, particularly with wheat beer (Weizen), it has more calories and nutrients than other beers. For this reason, Germans say 2 Weizen equivalent one meal.
The healthiest way to eat in Germany is to cook your own food, thanks to discounts supermarkets vegetables and fruits are affordable.
Despite the language barrier, living in Germany isn’t that different from being in the United States, the UK, Canada, or any other 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.
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