Living and working in Germany: all you need to know!
„Bureaucratic procedures may dampen your joy over a new job in Germany. Tedious tasks are ahead, prepare yourself well!“
In case you are interested in moving to Germany, there are things to consider – things that make your transition process a lot easier. When moving to another country, you are confronted with a bunch of organisational issues and, unless you already have friends or relatives to facilitate your settlement, surprises. In order to have a smooth and pleasant transition time, we summarised a couple of ideas to keep in mind. Please note that there are certain differences when it comes to the various cities and rural areas: life in Berlin is different from rural Bavaria. So, know what to expect and how to prepare yourself!
Applying in Germany: cover letter, CV and some differences
When it comes to applications, most employers in Germany expect a complete application. That means not only your CV and cover letter to be sent away, but apart from that your certificates dating back to your last school-leaving qualification, your further training certificates and letters of recommendation. It is common in Germany to implement a business portrait as well.
„Invest in a decent business portrait when you intend to in Germany. It is common to present your documents with a cover page where you can implement your portrait, otherwise just put your picture on your CV.“
For job adverts written in Germany you should always stick to the rules – and yes, you will come across rules very often, not only with applications – and prepare your documents in German. Only a few job adverts are actually written in English. Just in case you are not particularly fluent in German and therefore decide to draft your application documents in English, it would be wise to first of all ask the company whether English documents will generally be accepted. For jobs within IT this should not be an issue; in many other industries and jobs however your application documents will not be considered at all. Please keep in mind that it sometimes takes a while until you are invited to a job interview in Germany. Several large companies have a very well-organised recruiting process that only takes two weeks from the invitation to contract signing, other employers however will take their time. It is crucial to apply on time!
Working in Germany: Berlin, Hamburg, Munich & co.
Rumour has it that people in Germany have a tendency to be precise and straight to the point. No fluffy, over-excited small talk, but a matter of act approach will get you everywhere. Some expats are not used to any kind of bluntness, but more of a sugarcoated small talk, so do not take it personally. Of course, things will get lost in translation – however, do not expect too much warmth at the very beginning. In a working environment, people can be rather detached and some never mix up their private lives with their professional ones. This has nevertheless changed over the last years since employees often have a diverse background and extensive international experience. In a lot of countries it is common to invite people over for barbeques, birthdays or whatever reason there is to celebrate, in Germany though, your colleagues will keep you at a distance at first. Do not take this personally, it is just not common to open up to strangers immediately. It takes time – be patient! Moreover, it is common to stay at the same job or company for several years and switching companies every year is not the rule.
Renting a flat in Germany: you will be a „Mieter“ and have a „Vermieter“
When you are looking for a nice flat to rent in Germany, patience is needed. The market in Berlin, Munich or Hamburg is competitive, many locals and expats are waiting in line to rent a flat. Short leases such as for six months or even only three are common in bigger cities. People are queueing when flat viewing, so do not expect finding a flat to be easy. In rural areas, the housing situation is less constrained. Unlike many other countries, Germany has some sort of rent deposit system. You are requested give a deposit of two to three rent rates (Mietkaution) upfront which makes it necessary to have some savings ready to hand over. You get it back when you move out, but it is locked in the meantime in case there is any damage to the flat when you move away as a security option for your landlord or when you are not able to pay your monthly rate. Your lease agreement has to be in a written form, do not rely on words. Most landlords prepare a handover record (Übergabeprotokoll) you need to sign in order to confirm the particular condition of your flat when you move in. Landlords rely on that to have an overview of the repairs and actual condition of the accommodation and can hold their tenants responsible for possible damage. If it is possible, do not go all on your own when this apartment inspection is about to take place.
„Patience is needed when you are looking for a flat in cities like Berlin, Hamburg, Munich or Frankfurt.“
The overall monthly rent covers water use, sometimes even heating. The water quality in Germany is fine and in most places suitable for drinking right out of the tap with the exception of some older buildings. Gas and electricity generally need to be arranged with a provider – and comparing the best offer among them takes some time but is worthwhile. In addition to that, you have to seek out a suitable telecommunication provider for your internet and phone use. Do not expect all things to work smoothly at day one, it usually takes several days until your internet connection is running. Especially mobile internet connection in Germany is often very poor to nonexistent. Pets such as rabbits or fish are allowed in German Mietwohnungen, but for cats and dogs you need to ask your landlord first to obtain permission. Bringing in a dog without permission, even if it is tiny, can get you into trouble.
Quiet hours in Germany – and rules
Speaking of trouble: quiet hours are important in German houses. Any noise such as from a washing machine or loud music is prohibited from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. But more rules are to be considered when renting a flat in Germany! In and around most apartment buildings, the hallway and the pavement in front of the building has to be cleaned. If you are lucky, your landlord has a service company coming to clean the entrance hall and staircase in your apartment buildung – if you are less fortunate, you will be involved in this together with the other tenants. Especially in and around Stuttgart, the so called Kehrwoche holds a long tradition. [quote align=“center“]Some landlords even only consider potential tenants who hand over a short application including a self-presentation and copies of your salary statement.[/quote]If you think you have encountered enough rules by now, we have to disappoint you: separating waste is another big issue most expats are not really aware of. Why so? Germans are very particular about separating trash into blue (paper), yellow (plastic) and black (whatever is left) containers. In some areas, there are green containers for the disposal of organic litter such as leaves and fruit in addition. If you are not aware of the strict separation of waste materials, people will not hesitate to remind you! Sundays are quiet and shops are closed, washing your car is prohibited. Now you have the answer why shops are usually so very crowded on Saturdays! Apart from a few health resorts (Kurorte) in Germany, stores remain closed on Sundays. Restful Sundays are important in Germany, so always keep in mind that no grocery shopping is possible. Rest times (Ruhezeiten) are also a force to be reckoned with when you intend to eat out. Some restaurants open from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. take a break and then reopen at 5.p.m.
Registering at local authorities in Germany
Whatever you are concerned with at the moment, please make the appointment at the registration office early. As anyone who lives in Germany is requested to register with the local authorities within two weeks, it is highly recommended to get an appointment as early as possible and the best way is to give them a call. In most German cities such as Berlin, the registration office is surely overwhelmed with work. So do not wait too long and call them first thing to make an appointment! Please be aware of the fact that you need a so called Wohnungsgeberbescheinigung, a filled out certificate from your landlord in order to register. Another mandatory registration in Germany concerns the inevitable fee for television, radio as well as internet use. The GEZ (Gebühreneinzugszentrale) shows no mercy and will keep bothering you otherwise. An online registration for the GEZ is possible, most banks and post offices also have the registration forms ready for you to fill in.
Contract renewals in Germany
Just in case you intend to limit your stay in Germany, keep in mind that the contracts you signed will usually renew automatically if you do not terminate your contracts on time. This for instance applies to gym memberships, energy provider contracts or internet provider just to name a few. Three months before the contract ends, you are mostly able to send in your contract termination – so always do this on time, in a written form and, just to make extra sure, via registered post and email. Some companies are keen on denying contract terminations and therefore it is crucial to be thorough!
Private liability insurance (Haftpflichtversicherung) in Germany
„Some insurances are mandatory in Germany like for example health care insurance, others are good to have. Be informed in order to avoid double insurance.“
Among the many contracts you are supposed to sign in Germany, the private liability insurance is one of them. You are simply liable when you break things. Imagine visiting friends and accidentally smashing their new computer? Bad luck, but your insurance will cover liabilities in case of an accident. It is highly recommendable as it covers person damage (Personenschaden), wealth damage (Vermögensschaden) and object damage (Sachschaden). However, a private liability insurance is still optional. Insurance contribution for a Haftpflichtversicherung starts at 50 € per year, depending on the extent of your coverage (Deckungssumme). Your family (spouse and children) is usually included. Some extra coverage packages (Zusatzleistungen) include for example a passive legal insurance or default on payment coverage. Pet liability insurance is included in some contracts for your private liability insurance, but in some it is not! Do not opt for the cheapest offer. A separate text on insurances in Germany informs you about further mandatory or recommendable insurances you should consider, among them health insurance as well as long-term care insurance.
Start learning German as soon as possible!
As you have now seen, the peculiarities of everyday life hold obstacles for those who intend to move to Germany. The bureaucratic burdens are a nuisance even for most Germans, therefore understanding only a few words will complicate your life to a certain extend. Things are easier with several German terms and idioms because you should not expect any fluency in English from administrative institutions or service providers, especially not when it comes to details in contracts. Learning German is tough, so do yourself the favour and start brooding over books early! Speaking of which: do not rely on verbal commitments from anyone such as authorities, companies or on information given you via hotlines! Customer service is sometimes neither helpful nor friendly.
Till Tauber ist seit 2013 als freiberuflicher Bewerbungsschreiber tätig und greift hierzu auf sein Wissen als Diplom-Ingenieur mit zusätzlichem MBA-Abschluss zurück. In dieser Zeit hat er mehr als 3.500 Bewerbungen im Kundenauftrag geschrieben – und weiß, worauf es beim Anschreiben sowie beim Lebenslauf ankommt. Auf TT Bewerbungsservice schreibt er zu aktuellen Themen rund um die Bewerbung.