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A Complete Guide to Living in Germany as an American

Americans living in Germany

Do you remember when you first learned about Germany? Was it during history class or maybe it was when you were doing something fun, like watching the parade scene in the cult classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Aside from what (and how) you might’ve learned when you were younger, were you aware that there are  approximately 100,000 Americans living in Germany?

monument in berlin

If you are considering a move to Germany from the US there are many reasons that make Deutschland, as the Germany’s call it, a great choice. First off it’s considered one of the safest countries in the world! It also has the strongest economy in Europe—so if you’re a job seeker there might be an open role for you. Higher education is free for everyone; this includes Americans living in Germany. 

Keep reading to learn all about living in Germany as an American and what you can do to make your German dream a reality! 

Is moving to Germany a good idea?

There are plenty of perks for Americans thinking about moving to Germany. This includes the excellent standard of living and plenty of job opportunities; especially if you’re a skilled worker with a tech, science, or health background. 

Another bonus to moving to Germany is that English is widely spoken throughout the country. However, it’ll be helpful to learn German too. Other reasons to move there include safety, affordable, quality healthcare, free education, stellar transportation, and easy access to other parts of Europe. 

city in germany

Even though there are many pros to making Germany your future home, keep in mind that German weather isn’t ideal if you’re seeking a warm climate or ready to retire. Harsh winters are the norm and Germany doesn’t have a path to retirement for foreigners (more on that later). German is notoriously difficult to learn so it will take a lot of time and effort to achieve a high level. 

Keep reading to get a complete overview of what it’s like to live in Germany as a foreigner. By the end you should have a better idea if this European country is the right fit for you. 

Can an American citizen work and live in Germany?

American citizens only visit Germany for a total of 90 days within a 180-day period as a tourist. If you want to work and live in Germany you will need to obtain a visa that gives you permission to do so. When researching these choices, you’ll need to see which options are best suited for your situation.

Visas for Germany

Germany has quite a few visa options for Americans who’d like to live there for an extended period of time. If you’re ready to make your move here are your options:

Student visa: A student visa allows you to live in Spain for the duration of your studies, either by enrolling at a university or certain approved language academies.

Work visa: A work visa is extremely difficult for Americans to obtain but if you’re lucky enough to land a job offer and visa sponsorship from a Germany company, this might be your ticket in!

Freelance visa: This option is for freelancers and self-employed individuals who want to work in Germany or set up their own business.

For more detailed information about these visas, their requirements and how to apply, get your copy of I’m Outta Here! An American’s Ultimate Visa Guide to Living in Europe. In this digital book you’ll find everything you need to know about the aforementioned visas as well as 50+ other visa options for the 18 easiest countries to move to in Europe for Americans!

Moving to Germany from the USA

As mentioned, many Americans are drawn to Germany for its strong economy, phenomenal health care system, and incredible education opportunities. But as we’ve just learned you can’t just pick and move there, there are some steps you’ll have to take. 

If you don’t know where to start, check out our list of the 12 things to do before you move abroad. If you need even more guidance, download our free move abroad guide. Its the perfect resource if you’re just beginning your journey!

Can I move to Germany without a job?

Along with being able to live in Germany on a student visa for the duration of your program, Americans looking for work can start their search from Germany while on a 90-day tourist visa. This is great news for anyone who has been applying from abroad and getting no traction.

In
I’m Outta Here! An American’s Ultimate Visa Guide to Living in Europe, you’ll learn more about the German work visa and how to obtain it. It’s important to understand that while seeking employment from Germany may increase your odds of getting a work visa sponsorship, there is no guarantee that you’ll get a job offer.

What jobs are in demand in Germany?

Now that you’ve learned a little bit about the German work visa, it’ll be helpful for you to get an insight into the industries that are in demand. Like many places around the world, there are numerous opportunities for professionals in the tech sector. This includes information technology and engineering. Medical professionals such as doctors, nurses, and mental health experts are also in high demand. Experienced employees are sought out for positions in education and business too. If you’re have in-demand skills you may have an easier time obtaining a work visa. 

Life in Germany as a foreigner

Getting acclimated to anything new isn’t an overnight process. Therefore, anticipate that it will take time to adjust to living in Germany. You’ll need to adapt to new customs and a new culture. To help you feel more comfortable in your new home, seek out like-minded friends and community. We suggest starting with Facebook and Meetup groups. We have even more suggestions on how to make friends abroad

In addition to looking for social outlets, some ways to prepare for living in Germany include learning the language, researching all you can about your future country and city, and preparing for the climate. By planning and doing diligence, you’ll be able more prepared for life as an expat. As you read on, you’ll also learn from an American expat about her experience of living in Germany. 

Average cost of living in Germany

Compared to the United States, Germany is considered one of the more affordable countries in Europe. Rent is generally our biggest expense, however, since the German rental market is regulated, living costs in Germany are significantly lower than major U.S. cities. For example a one bedroom apartment in a major city like Munich or Berlin will run anywhere from $1200 to $2000 per month. If you need some tips on looking for an apartment abroad check out our 11 helpful tips!

When it comes to other expenses like eating out, public transportation and entertainment, prices will be lower than in the US. However,
expect to pay slightly more for groceries, utilities, and gas. 

Is healthcare free in Germany?

Americans living in Germany are required to be covered by the private or public health care system. The type of insurance required and cost is determined by your visa and income status. Health insurance in Germany is more expensive that that of Portugal and Spain, however expect to pay less than in the U.S. Find more information about private health care options and requirements in Germany in I’m Outta Here! An American’s Ultimate Visa Guide to Living in Europe.

Best places to live in Germany

A big part of deciding to move abroad is researching where you’d like to live. If you’re an American considering living in Germany, you’ll need to figure out what city or town checks all your boxes. The following overviews will help you decide your future home away from home. 

Berlin

You’ll find a little bit of everything in Germany’s capital city. This includes cafes, culture, and foreigners from all over the world. Since Berlin is the leading (and largest) city for expats seeking to live in Germany, the cost of living has skyrocketed over the years. However, costs, like rent, are still considerably lower than major American cities. 

Brandenburg Gate

Munich

In addition to being the capital of Bavaria, Munich is a lively city known for its festivals, food, and beer. It is the home of Oktoberfest! The city is popular amongst tourists and remains one of the most expensive places to live in Europe. However, the higher cost of living hasn’t stopped expats in search of an excellent quality of life and stellar public transportation system from making Munich their home. 

Hamburg

As the fourth largest city in the country, Hamburg attracts many English speaking expats seeking work in aviation, biotech, the automotive field, and maritime industry. Because the city is located on the Elbe river, Hamburg draws foreigners who want to be by the water too. 

Cologne

Although it’s smaller than other German cities, Cologne is an environmentally friendly city that’s rich in history. While the city attracts expats from all over the world, it’ll be easier to immerse into the local culture if you can speak some German.

Bonn

If you’re looking for a quieter city that’s near nature, consider making Bonn your new home. You’ll get to enjoy views of the Rhein river, hit nearby hiking trails, and explore the local wine region if you move to this German city.

Retiring in Germany

While the weather in Germany isn’t ideal for someone who loves the sun, Germany offers many benefits that make the country appealing for expats considering living there later in life. This includes a lower cost of living compared to many American cities, great healthcare, and excellent infrastructure.

Cochem, Germany

But it’s important to note that Germany does not offer a specific visa for American retirees. However, you can apply for a residence permit at your local German Embassy or Consulate or head to Germany on a 90-day tourist visa and apply from there within your first three months. You will need to show proof of sufficient funds, health care coverage and possible language proficiency. Given that retiring in Germany isn’t nearly as popular as Spain or Portugal, information on this path is limited.

An American expat living in Germany - Meet Rebecca

Prior to calling Germany her home, Rebecca, 42, was based in Austin, Texas. While living in the state’s capital, she worked in digital marketing for one of the leading companies in the area. When Rebecca realized she could do her job from anywhere in the world, she got a jump start on her plan to travel by the age of 40 and made it happen sooner. 

 

As Rebecca was preparing for her exciting adventure in January 2017, she started a freelance writing and digital marketing business. Around the same time that she was getting her plans to hit refresh in order, she met and fell in love with a German man from Bonn who happened to live in Texas.  

Once Rebecca started living the digital nomad life in Europe, she used Bonn as her base. The city’s central location, proximity to Cologne, and closeness to a major airport appealed to her. She also enjoyed being on the water and near nature. 

 

When Rebecca went to Germany in 2017, she learned about the country’s language course visa. Since this visa is valid for a year, Rebecca studied German for a few months and was then able to travel throughout Europe. During this time, she’d hop around for a bit and then return to Bonn every month or so to spend quality time with her future husband. In 2018, she moved to Spain and participated in the popular language assistant program.

After the program, Rebecca returned to Germany on a job seeker visa for 6 months. And, this past May, Rebecca received a three year residence permit after marrying her (now) German husband. Today, they call Bonn their home.

Although Rebecca has a high-command of German, she’s had to adjust and navigate living in the country. Over time, she’s realized that it takes a lot of patience to process things that are in a foreign language. She’s also had to manage dealing with gloomy weather. 

 

Since moving to Germany, Rebecca’s learned to appreciate the slower pace of life like supermarkets being closed on Sundays. She’s also had to adapt to things like not being able to use credit cards in a lot of shops and businesses with dated websites.

 

Making friends has also been a gradual process for Rebecca. While Germans might be perceived as reserved, she’s learned that locals are actually just a bit shy. She’s found that within time, Germans tend to be extremely helpful and friendly.

If you’re an American considering living in Germany, Rebecca recommends being 100% intentional about embracing the language and culture. This goes a long way and will result in you feeling more comfortable in your new home.

Rebecca’s plans to permanently move to Europe happily took her by surprise and she’s now thrilled to be living in Germany.

How to move to Germany

Now that you have a better sense as to what life is like for an American in Germany, what’s next?

If you’re ready to move to Germany, hop on over to She Hit Refresh’s Facebook Group to connect with over 10,000 like-minded women living in Germany and other countries throughout the world.

Make I’m Outta Here! An American’s Ultimate Visa Guide to Living in Europe your source for all you need to know about visas for Germany and 17 other European countries!

And if you’d like more personal assistance book a 1:1 consultation call where you can ask questions and discuss your ideas with a move abroad expert.

If you’re interested in learning more about other European countries check out our guides on how you can move to  SpainPortugalFranceItalythe Netherlands, Ireland, GreeceEngland, and Iceland

All information included in this piece is based on most recent information available at time of writing – January  2023.

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