The good, the bad and the ugly of moving to Germany

Berlin at night

Are you thinking of moving to Germany? And wondering about the plusses and minuses of such a move? I am listing a few pros and cons here, on the basis of my personal experiences in this beautiful country and hope that they help you in your decision making. Of course, do keep in mind that I come from India, and my cultural background and values, might be entirely different to yours. And your journey will also be influenced by your background and expectations.

Nice

Free Education

In Germany education from kindergarten to university is free, apart from some nominal tuition fees or admin fees, in public education institutions. Of course, there are also private institutions, if one chooses to opt for one of those (which then would have a substantial fee structure). Higher education in Germany, is world-class, especially in the fields of Engineering, Automobiles, and Technology. Management and more.

Child friendly

Most of the city’s nooks and crannies have multiple playgrounds and parks. Apart from public pools and Amusement parks all over. Also, for children under 12 years of age, public transportation is free.

Low crime rates

Compared to most other countries, Germany has a very low crime rate and is much safer. Especially for women as well. It is quite common to find women travelling at late hours, alone. It does not mean that there is no crime, and one must not use common sense while navigating through big cities, only that the safety and security of the Citizens are taken quite seriously, and the Police are effective in keeping the crime rates to a low level.

Impressive Social welfare system

One pays high taxes in Germany, but in return, the system takes excellent care of its residents. Here are a few examples of the benefits one gets

1)Unemployment benefit (Arbeitslosengeld): one can apply for this If one loses their job after a minimum of 3 months of working in Germany. You receive monthly financial assistance from the government for up to a year or until you find a new job – whichever comes first. One can receive up to 60% of the net income of the average of the last three salaries.

2)Parental leave (Elternzeit): New parents are allowed up to three years of leave to look after their kids. This time can be split equally, between the two parents. This is an unpaid leave however; parents are eligible to apply for a parental allowance from the government.

3)Parental allowance (Elterngeld): This starts from 250 Euro for the first child and thereafter remains the same for further children one ma have (250 Euros per child). This allowance is available to new families who take parental leave or work a maximum of 30 hours a week.

4)Maternity leave: Most working pregnant women are entitled to up to 14 weeks of maternity leave – at least six weeks before and eight weeks after childbirth.

No Pollution, clean air and lots of green areas

All over the cities, one finds many parks, playgrounds and even stretches of forests within city limits. Depending upon where you are going, there are a lot of lakes, rivers, and beaches that, one can access for leisure. Also, a lot of outdoor activities can be enjoyed in these facilities.

Well-structured Public Transportation Systems

Germany’s network of public transportation includes buses, trams, trains, underground and ferries. Although the system has its flaws yet, it is quite reliable and safe. Till a few years ago, there was a popular saying –that one could set their watches with the punctuality of the German public transportation system, unfortunately, this doesn’t hold true anymore. Having said that, in most cities, depending on where one is living, one can get to the city centre in 30-40 minutes. We have a related article on this topic which you could read here.

Cashless Medical Insurance

By law, all residents need to be medically insured. This could vary from public to private insurance. You can read in detail about this here. But generally speaking, the healthcare in Germany, is top notch and the majority of the populace is under public schemes, which are all cashless. Of course, the system is notorious for having unusually long waiting times, for appointments but that is mostly due to another issue in the country, of lack of skilled labour.

Work-life balance and Job security

Germans take their leisure time as seriously as they take their jobs. Hence, there is a clear demarcation between work life and private life. Also, as hard as it is to find a suitable job in Germany, it is that much harder for a company to let you go legally if you have completed your probationary period (Probezeit), which can vary from 3-6 months. And even if you do get unemployed, for some reason, then you get unemployment benefits from the government until you find the next one (maximum one year). Also, in Germany, one gets a minimum of 20 working days as an annual vacation but can go up to 30 or more days as well, depending on company to company. Also, paid sick leaves are a norm, in most companies.

Insurance for almost everything

Germans are notorious for their love of insurance. There are insurances here for almost all eventualities in life, from Liability insurance, Car insurance, Bike insurance, Legal insurance, Dental insurance and even pets! They have insurance even for them!! But what that does is, after everything is covered for is that it gives you peace of mind, there is after all light at the end of the insurance tunnel! 

Centrally located

Germany is located in the heart of Europe, which makes it easy to access all corners of the continent, within a few hours be it by air, road or rail. Even a lot of the rivers in the country are navigable.

Pet Friendly

You will find people in Germany with their pets, almost everywhere and I mean not just in parks and playgrounds. A lot of hotels, restaurants, malls etc are all pet-friendly here, so don’t be shocked. Even on public transportation, you will find people with their pets. The funny thing although is, that you will not encounter any stray dogs or cats.

Punctuality

Germans are punctual! And I mean not just in their professional life, but even in their social one. Coming from a very disciplined family, I found that most of my fellow countrymen were not -which used to cause me distress, so coming here where the majority of the population is punctual was a pleasant and welcome trait. My father said to me as a child – walk into a room with your head held high (on/before time) vs with your eyes lowered (behind schedule) We have a related article on German culture and etiquette, which you might find interesting

Drinking is allowed in public spaces

It is very common, especially in summer, to meet friends at an outdoor place and have a few drinks. This could be in a restaurant, park, Biergarten or anywhere outside. You could even just walk through the street, with a beer in your hand., without having to hide it. This again is so different from back home, for me.

Clean tap water

Almost all through Germany, tap water is drinkable, barring a few places. And wherever it is not, adding a simple water filter to your tap, can make the water potable.

Speciality shops and restaurants from every corner of the world

You will find shops and restaurants of most different ethnicities, across the cities of Germany. Be it Italian, French, Turkish, Indian, Ethiopian, Chinese, Japanese, Persian and many more, so you never miss home food.

Everyone minds their own business

Privacy is a big deal in Germany! So as much as people don’t poke into your business, it is expected that you don’t poke into theirs either. Which again to me is very positive, as back home, there is no greater pressure than societal pressure, whereas here one is relatively free of a judgemental behaviour

Culture and sports

Germany has a very rich historical and cultural background, so depending on your interests you will find many activities to take part in. From Museums, Castles, Churches, Art galleries, Music schools, concerts, Sports stadiums and clubs and much more. So use your free time to explore different aspects of life here.

Beer, the Bread and the Autobahn

What can one say about German beer that hasn’t been said before? World-class and the variety is mind-boggling. Every other village has its own brew here, with each one vying for the title of ‘The best beer in Germany’

The same goes for German bread – the varieties one finds here are absolutely nuts. It’s no wonder that one finds a German bakery in almost all corners of the Globe

And then there is the Autobahn- every speed junkie’s dream come true! But beware that not all stretches of the highway are speed-limit-free zones, the ones that you can let go on are marked. Also, the fines in Germany, are very high, so stick to the traffic laws!! Plus, definitely don’t mix drinking with driving!!! Safety first, both for yourself as well as the others!

Not so Nice

Bureaucracy

I thought the Indian red-tapism was bad, but the bureaucracy here takes the cake! Sometimes you will find that Draconian systems are followed, with a lot of paperwork and very slow processes, which is amplified by the lack of staff during the pandemic and after. Also, the German hesitancy to adapt to digital technology further slows down processes. Although the government, acknowledges the same and is trying to implement changes, yet it’s a slow process. So, do pack a suitcase full of patience when you come here!

Housing

The housing situation especially the rental market in Germany, is currently quite dismal and very stressful, for most including the locals. In most German cities, there is a huge difference between demand and supply. They were just not prepared, for the huge immigrant exodus that has happened here in the past few years. The result is for each apartment that comes up for rent, the competition is severe, with hundreds of applicants for a single apartment. This shortage is pushing up the rents and Real estate prices, in most parts of the country. When you arrive here first, try and book a short-term stay with probably a fully furnished provider such as Air Bnb ,SpotaHome Smartments, Uniplaces to then be able to search for a long-term solution. We did write an article on how to apply successfully, for an apartment, do go through the same, here.

Contracts are binding

Any contracts that you get into here from Electricity, Gas, Mobiles, Rents, Internet, Gyms etc last from anywhere from 12 to 24 months or more. If one doesn’t cancel these contracts, then they auto-renew for another 12 months. One needs anywhere from 3 months or upwards, notice period time, to cancel these contracts! However from 2022 onwards this notice period has now been brought down to a one-month notice period after the initial 24 months of the contract have lapsed. Phew!

Mobile network quality and prices

Coming from abroad,  especially if you’re coming from India, where we are spoilt for choices and some of the cheapest network prices, I was shocked initially, not only by how long it takes to get a home network- could be anywhere from a few days to a few weeks but also the network quality here. It keeps dropping depending on your provider and which part of the country/city you are in. SIM cards are anywhere between 5-50EUR / month (depending on network, speed, and availability) and an internet connection at home is in the price range of 10-50EUR/month – again depending on the provider, speed and availability. Also, a lot of expats here look for a viable VPN Provider and NordVPN, as well as SurfShark, are very popular. Although Proton, is catching up in popularity as well. For comparing DSL providers although, Check24 , a comparison portal is the most sought-after and reliable. We have written in detail both about Internet providers as well as about the best Vpns in Germany 

Language barrier

Since almost all of the processes, one needs to follow here, are all in German, and the fact that a lot of the residents either do not speak or are not comfortable speaking in a foreign language, makes it an extremely challenging task for Expats to get by, initially. This holds true more in the interiors of the country, and probably not so much in the bigger cities like Berlin wherein one can get by with English, for the most part, if not dealing with any Government agency. The good thing is that the government provides various language and integration courses, for immigrants, to smoothen their transition, to the country. There are multiple offline and online schools, available for the same. An online one that we can recommend is Babbel.

Hard to make social connections

Did I mention, that Germans are very protective of their privacy? They can take their time to open up and don’t really believe in small superficial talk. That being said, it doesn’t mean that they are not nice or polite, on the contrary, it just takes time to make friends here. But once you make a German friend, you have a friend for life. Let’s say Quality over quantity, rules here. This feeling is mirrored, by many of the ex-pats who come here.

Weather

Coming from a warm country, the German winters can be long and hard to handle initially. But remember there is no bad weather, only bad clothing!! One can face many consecutive days of wet, dark, gloomy and windy days with no warmth from the Sun. So adequately prepare yourself. Also alternately, during the summers the temperatures can soar above the 30s easily, with most of the houses having no air-conditioning at all! So, either invest in one or go for dips in the nearest pool, river or lake you can find to cool yourself off!

As you can see that the advantages of moving to Germany, far outweigh the disadvantages. There might be a lot of eye-openers, here culturally compared to your own homeland. But having said that, Germany even with its share of problems, has a lot of good things going for it and for its residents. The fact is that Germany is a World leader with a strong and stable economy with multiple opportunities, So I would urge you to give it a shot!

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