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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 your history class or was it 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 over 80 million people live in Germany? Of those, approximately 100,000 American expats call Germany their home. 

monument in berlin

Now, before we dive into all you need to know about what life is like for Americans living in Germany, here is some more information about the country’s culture and history that you might find interesting: 

  • Germany is considered one of the safest countries in the world.
  • In addition to having the strongest economy in Europe. Germany is the third largest country on the continent. 
  • A third of the country is covered with woods and forest.
  • Germany is ranked second in the world for their beer consumption. Ireland comes in first. 

  • Higher education is free for everyone. This includes Americans living in Germany.
  • As the biggest annual folk festival in the country, Oktoberfest draws thousands of people from all over the world. 
  • If you love driving fast, you’ll be able to take advantage of the lack of speed limits on the infamous Autobahn. 
  • Germans are known for being precise, punctual, and proper. This stems from the country’s complex history and appreciation for following the rules. 

Did you also know that Germany is a hotspot for Americans seeking to study, live, and work in the country? 

So you’re in the right place if your dream is to move to Germany! Without further ado, read on to learn more about expat life for Americans living in Germany. 

Is moving to Germany a good idea?

There are plenty of perks for Americans considering 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 live abroad include affordable and 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. It might also take time to pick up the language and understand local customs. To help you adapt to living in Europe, read more about adjusting to life in a new culture.

 

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

Can an American citizen work and live in Germany?

There are plenty of visa options available for Americans who’d like to live in Germany for an extended period. When researching these choices, the hardest part will be deciding which visa is best for you.

If you’re interested in taking advantage of the excellent education system in Germany, you might qualify for one of the visas that’ll allow you to go there to study. There are also a couple of work visas available to qualified Americans who fit the criteria. 

 

For a deep dive into visas for Americans who want to live in Germany, get your copy of I’m Outta Here! An American’s Ultimate Visa Guide to Living in Europe.

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.

Before making any major life change, it’s important to do your homework. So, along with researching visa options and contacting your local German consulate, you’ll need to review what to do before going to live in Germany. You’ll find helpful tips to get you going with the 12 things you need to do before you move.

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.

While seeking employment from Germany may increase your odds of finding work, it is not a guarantee that youll get an offer. 

What jobs are in demand in Germany?

Now that you’ve learned that you can move to Germany without a job (although we recommend securing a job before moving), it’ll be helpful for you to understand more about the industries in need of skilled workers. 

 

There are numerous opportunities for professionals in the tech sector. This includes information technology experts and software engineers. 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.

Life in Germany as a foreigner

Getting acclimated to anything new isn’t an overnight process. Therefore, anticipate that’ll take time to adjust to living in Germany. To help you feel comfortable in your new home, seek out like-minded Facebook and Meetup groups. 

 

You’ll find more helpful ideas on how to make friends while living in abroad here

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 to ease into your new routine. As you read on, you’ll also learn from an American expat and She Hit Refresh member on her experience when moving to Germany. 

Average cost of living in Germany

Compared to the United States, Germany is considered one of the most affordable countries in Europe. However, expect to pay slightly more for groceries such as $4.00 for a gallon of milk. 

 

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.

  

Check out 11 Things I Wish I Knew Before Renting an Apartment Abroad for helpful tips and tricks about looking for a place to live abroad. 

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. 

 

For more information about what life is like for expats living in Berlin, get your copy of I’m Outta Here! An American’s Ultimate Visa Guide to Living in Europe today! 

Brandenburg Gate

Munich

In addition to being the capital of Bavaria, Munich is a lively city known for its festivals, food, and beer. Even though the city is popular amongst tourists, it remains one of the most expensive places to live in Europe. Also note that the cost hasn’t prevented expats in search of an excellent quality of life and stellar public transportation system to make Munich their home. 

 

If you’re curious to know more about life in Munich, visit here.

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, phenomenal healthcare, and an excellent infrastructure.

Cochem, Germany

It’s important to note that Germany does not offer a specific visa for American retirees. However, you 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 living in Germany, what’s next? Along with joining She Hit Refresh’s growing Facebook community, check out the following resources:

All information included in this piece is based on most recent information available at time of writing – October 30, 2021.

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