Germany is the largest economy in Europe and a very popular destination for immigration. It offers a mix of tradition and modernity. In Bavaria, you can explore fairytale castles and beer gardens, while in Berlin you can explore famous historic sites such as the Brandenburg Gate and Alexanderplatz. Let’s find out what makes Germany a good place to live with all the pros and cons.
Living in Germany as a foreigner
It can be challenging to live in Germany as a foreigner, especially in smaller towns. It will take time and effort to learn German and adapt to local customs. You may feel very lonely in the beginning because it might take time to make new friends with locals. However, In larger international cities such as Berlin or Munich, it is much easier to live as a foreigner because these cities have large expat communities and big international organizations.
How much money do you need to live comfortably in Germany?
The cost of living in Germany varies a lot from city to city. As a general rule, the cost of living in large cities is higher than in small towns. There is also a big difference between East and West. For example, a family of four estimated monthly costs in Dresden are 3,044€ without rent, while in Munich a family of four estimated monthly costs are 3,573.4€ without rent. An average 3-bedroom apartment in Munich will cost you 1919€, while in Dresden it will only cost 880€ according to Numbeo.
Living in Munich: Pros and Cons
Advantages of living in Germany
Many vacation days
Compared to the USA and many other countries, German employees usually get very generous vacation packages. Officially each employee in Germany is entitled to a minimum of 20 days of vacation every year but many companies give their employees 25-30 days, some even more. Usually the bigger the company, the more vacation days you will get. People in Germany are encouraged to take their vacations and actually use them. You can’t keep collecting your vacation days, because most of them expire next year unless there is a good reason not to take your days off, such as important projects or deadlines. Additionally, Germany, especially Bavaria, has tons of public holidays. If you combine them with your vacation days and weekends, then you can theoretically have 2-3 months of vacations per year.
Everybody in Germany is entitled to free public healthcare. Every month you pay a fixed amount from your salary for the health insurance and get doctor appointments and medical treatments for free. Public health insurance covers a large range of standard treatments and procedures. You will not see people in Germany spending fortunes on basic checks or treatment, because everything is covered by universal public health care. You don’t need to worry about getting sick or needing surgery because you will always get the treatment you need. The only thing you have to pay extra is dental treatment or getting a private bed in the hospital. However, there is additional dental insurance available to cover those costs. When you are unemployed, the government will cover the cost of your basic health insurance.
Germany is one of the few countries having a great welfare system.
Paid sick leave: You are entitled to take days off when you are sick. Health insurance will pay your full salary for up to 6 weeks when you are sick.
Unemployment Benefits: If you lose your job, you are entitled to 60% of your salary for a maximum of 12 months and assistance to find a new job.
Parental Leave: Parents are usually entitled to up to 3 years of parental leave to take care of a newborn. The first 14 months are paid between 300 and 1800 euros, depending on the previous employment situation. The time can be split between the parents.
Low crime rates and safety
Germany is a safe country to live in or to travel to as a tourist. In fact, Germany was ranked as one of the safest countries in the world ranking N16 out of 163 countries in 2022, according to the Global Peace Index. It has low crime rates although minor pickpocketing exists especially in the bigger cities. If you apply basic precaution rules, that should minimize the risk of something going wrong, especially near main train or bus stations and the airports.
Central location in Europe
Germany is located literally in the middle of Europe. In the north, it is bordering with the Netherlands, Belgium, and Denmark, in the south Italy, Austria, and Switzerland, and in the east Poland and Check Republic. Combined with an extensive and efficient European train network, it is a great base to explore Europe.
The German Autobahn (highway) is famous for its sections without speed limits, where drivers can travel at speeds that are often higher than typical speed limits on other roads. However, it’s important to note that not all sections of the Autobahn are without speed limits; some areas do have specific speed restrictions, especially in urban or construction zones.
Beautiful castles and nature
Germany has many fairytale castles and beautiful palaces. In fact, Disney’s Cinderella Castle was inspired by Neuschwanstein Castle located near Munich in the south of Germany. Most German cities are very green and have beautiful parks and recreation areas.
Public schools in Germany are completely free. Higher education and universities are also very affordable. Germany is home to numerous world-class universities and research centers. Two universities LMU and TUM, have been consistently ranked as top universities in Europe and worldwide.
Great economy and low unemployment rates
Germany is the largest and strongest economy in Europe and fourth economy in the world. The country has a diverse and highly industrialized economy, with a focus on manufacturing, exports, and technology. Unemployment rates in Germany were generally low compared to many other European countries, thanks in part to effective labor market policies and developed industry.
Germany is famous for its beer gardens ( Biergarten in Geman) and is home to many popular breweries. A beer garden is an outdoor area in which beer and food are served, typically at shared tables shaded by trees. Munich in Germany is considered to be the beer capital of the world and has some of the largest beer festivals in the world.
Beautiful Christmas markets
The tradition of Christmas markets originated in Germany in the Middle Ages and later spread to other countries around the world. The most celebrated of all the markets is Nürnberg’s Christmas market (Christkindlesmarkt) on the Hauptmarkt.
Advent calendars, gingerbread (Lebkuchen), and Sankt Nikolaus himself all have German roots. The markets traditionally open in late November or early December and run until Christmas Eve, offering a variety of seasonal goods, crafts, decorations, and street foods.
Disadvantages of living in Germany
Very high taxes
In order to finance generous welfare and social security system, Germany collects very high taxes. People living in Germany and getting average salaries are taxed 45% of their salary. If you are getting a minimum salary or have a part-time job, your taxes will be lower because Germany has a progressive tax rate starting at 14%. But most working people having a full-time job will reach the highest tax bracket very fast.
Germany is well known for its bureaucracy and rigorous procedures. The waiting time to get an appointment with German authorities in bigger cities can take weeks if not months. Very few things can be sorted out online, so in most cases, you have to make an in-person appointment. Most of the paperwork has to be done in German and options in English are very limited. This makes life in Germany complicated for foreigners.
In general, it is possible to live in Germany without speaking German, but your life will be much easier here if you at least learn a bit of German and slowly take your time to improve it. Many local companies offer their international employees German classes for free. This is how I personally learned German. Locals are usually very supportive when they see that you make the effort to learn their language. In bigger international cities such as Berlin or Munich it is much easier to speak to locals in English but in smaller towns, it is much more difficult.
Hard to make new friends
Most Germans like to stick to an old group of friends they have known for a long time from school or university. Many of them also don’t feel very comfortable speaking English. That’s why it is very hard to make German friends and it can take time to get to know people. But if you live in bigger cities it will be a little bit easier to find new friends and socialize.
It rains a lot and winters are cold
It rains a lot in Germany and winters are cold. If you are coming from a sunny and warm country somewhere in the south, it will take some time to adjust to German weather. The mean yearly temperature in Germany is 8.7 °C | 47.7 °F and the coldest month is January when the temperature can easily drop below 0°C.
Shops close early
Most of the shops in Germany close very early and are completely closed on Sundays. For example in Bavaria all shops close at 8 p.m., and most of the pharmacies even at 6 p.m. If you are working long hours, you will need to do some serious time management to manage to do your groceries.
Lower salaries compared to the US
While this doesn’t apply to all jobs, for many jobs, especially software engineering you will get a much lower salary in Germany than in the US. Sometimes it can be half of the salary in the same company and for the same position. But the cost of living in major German cities is also lower than in big US cities, especially the Bay area and New York.
Germany is considered a desirable place to live for various reasons. The country boasts a strong economy, low unemployment rates, and a comprehensive social security system. With a focus on work-life balance, German employees often enjoy generous vacation packages. The healthcare system is universal and affordable, offering free public healthcare to all residents. Additionally, Germany’s central location in Europe and efficient transportation networks make it a convenient base for exploring the continent.
However, there are challenges to living in Germany. High taxes are collected to fund the extensive welfare system, and bureaucracy can be daunting, with long wait times for appointments and limited online services. Language barriers can be a hurdle, especially in smaller towns, and making new friends may be challenging due to cultural tendencies and language differences. The weather, with frequent rain and cold winters, might be an adjustment for those accustomed to warmer climates.