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For many years, Germany has been a popular destination for expats. But, as with any destination, life in Germany comes with certain pros and cons. The country has plenty of job opportunities and excellent infrastructure. On the other hand, expats can experience a lot of culture shock when first moving here owing to the language barrier and sometimes conservative culture.
Below are some of our biggest pros and cons of moving to Germany.
Cost of living in Germany
+ PRO: Low cost of living
Overall the cost of living in Germany is on par with the rest of Western Europe. Basic needs such as food, electricity, internet and clothing are all relatively affordable. Barring the city centres of Munich and Frankfurt, even accommodation is relatively cheap depending on where one chooses to live. Compared to coastal cities in the US and other major European countries, Germany is relatively affordable.
- CON: Extreme tax deductions
The biggest con of living in Germany is the high amount of tax that is deducted from a worker’s pay. Depending on an expat's salary, income tax can be as high as 40 percent of their income. The upside of these high taxes is the fact that it allows many subsidies, free education and free healthcare.
Working in Germany
+ PRO: Good work-life balance
Working in Germany comes with a good work-life balance. Munich, Hamburg and Berlin are frequently ranked in the top 10 'most livable' cities in Germany. Germans tend to negotiate for more flexible working hours and often put their families above work.
- CON: Rising through the ranks can be tough
Since Germany has such a large pool of highly educated workers, competition for top positions can be fierce. Rising through the ranks can be hard for many workers, but it's especially true for foreigners. There's a definite glass ceiling in workplaces in Germany that only a few get to break through.
Culture shock in Germany
+ PRO: Locals are disciplined and punctual
Expats are often surprised at the Germans’ punctuality and discipline. But, once acclimatised, expats find it refreshing, and work culture, and life in general, is much improved because of it.
- CON: Locals aren’t particularly friendly
Many expats report that, initially, they find Germans to be not the most welcoming. This can be intimidating for newly-arrived expats, but once they start settling in they usually deduce that this brusque attitude isn’t personal. Generally speaking, Germans can be tough to engage with, but once expats make an effort to immerse themselves in local culture and perhaps learn the language, they’ll find that the locals will warm up to them.
- CON: Language barrier
Though most Germans speak English well, there's a general reluctance from their side to speak the language. Germans often won’t speak English in certain situations out of embarrassment or simply because they don’t want the exchange to last too long. The German language can also be pretty hard to learn, but for long-term expats it is certainly worth it.
Lifestyle in Germany
+ PRO: Easy access to other European countries
Many expats enjoy living in Germany as it’s easy to travel to other European countries. One can simply get on a bus, train or even rent a car and experience a completely different environment within a few hours. This proximity makes weekend trips to countries such as France, Belgium and the Czech Republic eminently possible.
- CON: Bland food
Though Germany is known for its excellent beer and delicious pretzels, the rest of the local cuisine can be rather limited. Though expats from other European countries may not notice it as much, those from more exotic countries may struggle with daily meals consisting of bread and potatoes.
Healthcare in Germany
+ PRO: High standard of healthcare
The healthcare system in Germany is highly modern and well developed. Most hospital workers can speak English, so expats won’t experience a language barrier. Hospital staff, in general, tend to be friendly and efficient, and hospitals are equipped with state-of-the-art technology.
- CON: Public health insurance can be slow
At times, the government can take a long time to pay medical providers. This can then lead to making an appointment or finding a new doctor with state insurance a challenge. There's a noticeable difference between how those with private medical insurance are treated in comparison to people on public insurance.
Getting around in Germany
+ PRO: Excellent public transport options
Germany has a great public transport system. One can easily get across the country and even travel to neighbouring countries by train and bus. Cities are also well serviced by local bus, train and tram systems, so much so, that many expats don’t feel the need to own a car.
- CON: Cycling not that straightforward
Many strict rules need to be followed when cycling in a German city. Not following these rules will anger other road users and can result in fines. Vehicles also tend to use bicycle lanes for their own purposes which can make it difficult getting around on a bike.
►To learn about adjusting to life in the country, read Culture Shock in Germany
Are you an expat living in Germany?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Germany. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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