Moving to Germany

If you’re feeling lebensmüde (“life-tired”) and want to move somewhere better and more exciting, this article will be right up your strasse.

You’re in the right place to prepare yourself for your German future, so you can seize life by the lederhosen when you do arrive in Deutschland.

And you’ve timed your move well. Until 31 December 2020, you can still move to Germany from the UK without undue complications – just make sure to register as a resident when you get there.

After that, you’ll be ready to enjoy all the world class beer, pretzels, and currywurst your heart desires, along with the best economy in Europe – despite Germany having shorter working hours than any other developed country.

The country also came an impressive eighth in HSBC’s 2019 Expat Explorer Survey, thanks to its economic stability and excellent schools – plus, the national team actually wins the World Cup sometimes.

But before you immerse yourself in Das Land der Dichter und Denker (“the land of poets and thinkers”), there’s plenty of information to cover and planning to carry out. 

If you feel ready to make the leap now, fill in this form to receive quotes from shipping companies who will transport your belongings to your new home.

an overview of a city in germany

Cost of shipping to Germany

We’ve calculated the average international shipping rates and durations for some of our most popular journeys from the UK to Germany.

The rates are sourced from WorldFreightRates.com, and are based on the port-to-port transportation of a 20ft container of used furniture worth £40,000 – the typical value of the contents of a three-bedroom house (according to Admiral Insurance.) These prices were last updated in April 2020.

The durations are sourced from SeaRates.com, and were also last updated in April 2020.

We’ve also evaluated and discovered the best shipping companies – the ones which will ensure your move goes as smoothly as possible.

RouteCostDuration
London to Hamburg

547 ()

1 day 9 hours
London to Bremen

547 ()

1 day 7 hours
London to Bremerhaven

557 ()

1 day 9 hours

Please note: these container shipping costs exclude typical add-ons such as door-to-door delivery, professional packing/unpacking, and basic insurance cover. Our shipping suppliers normally incorporate these services into their prices, so expect some discrepancy between the rates given here and the quotes you receive. These estimates should be used as an indication only.

Cost of air freight from the UK to Germany

If you feel the need for speed, there’s also the option of flying your possessions overseas, though be warned: air freight can be 12-16 times more expensive than sea freight, according to the World Bank.

You may have a special reason why your belongings have to be sent to Germany particularly quickly – maybe your new job in Berlin starts in just a few days, and you can’t imagine moving without your most precious possessions. In this case, air freight makes sense.

The prices below are based on the transportation of household goods worth £40,000, weighing 250kg, and measuring 110cm x 110cm x 123cm. Your costs may vary.

RouteCostDuration
London to Frankfurt

2,018 ()

1:03 hours
London to Munich

2,018 ()

1:33 hours
London to Berlin

2,018 ()

1:44 hours

Cost of living in Germany

Oktoberfest etiquette may confuse you, Sunday shop closures may inconvenience you, and it’ll definitely be a shock the first time you’re forced to bag your groceries at the speed of light – but with our help, your cost of living won’t be a nasty surprise.

All in all, you shouldn’t have too much to worry about when it comes to splashing the cash in Germany – and if you’re moving from London, you’ll be constantly delighted with price tags.

Going out to dinner is a particular pleasure. You can gorge yourself on sauerbraten (roast beef stew), kartoffelpuffer (potato pancakes), and lebkuchen (ginger biscuits), without feeling nearly as anxious about the bill.

Just make sure to compare the prices below with what you’re used to, and adjust your budget accordingly.

MetricGermanyUK
Milk, bread, rice, eggs and cheese for a week£12.69£10.47
Inexpensive restaurant meal£8.90£12
Bottle of beer£3.12£3.80
Cinema ticket
£10.68£10.00
Monthly gym membership£27.02£30.10

(Data comes from Numbeo.com and is correct as of April 2020.)

VAT

The standard VAT rate in Germany is 19% – a little under the UK’s 20% rate. This is reduced to just 7% for books, flowers, non-luxury food, hotel accommodation, and cultural services.

You can also enjoy a complete lack of VAT on postage stamps, which is useful if you want to send letters telling friends how much you’re enjoying Germany.

However, this all goes out the window if you’re moving to Germany to live in Heligoland, a North Sea archipelago that’s previously been owned by Denmark and Britain. It has no VAT whatsoever – a benefit the territory uses to fuel 75% of its economy.

Germany was one of the first two countries, along with France, to introduce VAT, which has been in place since the First World War.

Its current rate sits just below the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) average, which is 19.3%.

lubeck, a city in germany

Public transport in Germany

It may be a stereotype, but when it comes to public transport, you can look forward to some genuine German efficiency.

If you’re moving to a city, get ready to quickly become acquainted with your local buses, trams, and the S-Bahn and U-Bahn – trains which run every five minutes from around 4am to 1am.

DID YOU KNOW: Every day, Berlin’s 117-year-old U-Bahn carries 1.5 million people to 173 stations across 94 miles of track.

This is slightly slower than the London Underground, but you probably won’t notice, as your commute will be shorter overall. Indeed, London has longer commute times than any German city, according to Moovit.

Berlin also ranks higher than any other city for the availability of its shared transport, according to a report by McKinsey & Company, and fifth in the world for sustainability.

This means you can enjoy reliability with a clean conscience. Just make sure to check out the annual discount cards if you’ll be in Germany for a while – you’ll save a fistful of euros.

MetricGermanyUK
Cost★★★★★★½
Availability★★★★½★★★★
Quality★★★★★★★★
Speed★★★½★★★★

Driving in Germany: how does it compare?

MetricGermanyUK
Cost of a new Toyota Corolla

19,123 ()

19,612 ()

Cost of a litre of petrol

1.28 ()

1.28 ()

Cost of bills in Germany

Bill (monthly)GermanyUK
Gas and electricity

77.94 ()

89.65 ()

Water

35.14 ()

30.39 ()

Internet

24.24 ()

15.95 ()

Income tax for average wage (including federal taxes)33%20%

Climate in Germany

 

Does it snow in Germany?

It absolutely does. Move to anywhere in Germany, and you’re almost guaranteed to enjoy beautiful white-capped mountains and snow-laden streets, come winter.

During this magical time, make sure to visit Nuremberg or Baden-Baden – the stunning architecture and Christmas markets will certainly get you feeling festive. 

And even when it’s not snowing, the temperature often drops below freezing in winter – so prepare for days spent wrapped up by the fireplace with a lovely mug of heiße schokolade (hot chocolate).

Average temperature per month in Germany

MonthTemperature (°C)
January
-1.2
February1.2
March5.1
April10
May14.9
June18.1
July20
August20
September16.7
October11.2
November5.5
December0.8

Average rainfall per month in Germany

MonthRainfall (mm)
January31
February35
March38
April51
May71
June73
July55
August43
September38
October35
November51
December49

(Data comes from climate-data.org and is correct as of April 2020.)

Housing costs in Germany

Rent in major cities is reasonable enough, especially considering the average salary in Germany is considerably higher than it is in the UK (more on that later).

Again, if you’re moving from London, you’ll feel like you’ve landed in paradise, with more disposable income than you’ll know what to do with.

If you can’t wait to join the likes of Heidi Klum, Manuel Neuer, and Claudia Schiffer in experiencing the wonders of Germany, just complete this form to receive free quotes for shipping your possessions to your new home.

Cost

BerlinMunichHamburg
Renting 1 bedroom (per month)

714 ()

960 ()

780 ()

Renting 3 bedrooms
(per month)

1,310 ()

1,785 ()

1,553 ()

Buying (per square foot)

4,350 ()

8,097 ()

5,237 ()

(Data comes from Numbeo.com and is correct as of April 2020.)

Average house price in Germany: £3,959/m²

Average apartment price in Germany: £2,495/m²

Cheapest place to buy a house in Germany: Gera (£684/m² for an apartment)

The best neighbourhoods in Germany

Best for families: Berlin

The German capital is great for students, singles, and hipsters too, but really comes into its own when you have kids.

According to The New York Times, there are 1,850 public playgrounds in Berlin – one for every 156 kids under the age of 10 – and they’ll blow your mind.

Your children will be able to play in a pirate ship, a witch’s house, wooden planes and helicopters. 

If that’s not enough, tell them they’ll get to go to a fairytale playground with knights, a princess, and a three-headed dragon. It even comes with a free high ropes course.

There’s also a wonderful zoo, aquarium, and Museum of Technology, as well as the beautiful Gardens of the World. Enjoy the tropical plants of Bali, a Korean tea ceremony, and a Japanese cherry blossom festival, all in one breathtaking park.

When you’re on your way to all of these exciting activities, see if you and your kids can spot the bears. A symbol of Berlin since the beginning of the 1900s, statues and art of the creature can be viewed all over the city.

And if you ever need to get out of the urban hustle and bustle, Berlin is surrounded by picturesque green spaces and forests, which are easy to get to.

While you’re travelling outside of the city, you might as well stop off at Tropical Islands Resort, a water park with the world’s biggest indoor rainforest and the country’s highest water slide tower, at a staggering 27 metres.

 

Best for students: Munich

The city, famed for its gorgeous buildings, Oktoberfest celebration, and all-conquering football team (Bayern Munich), also has the top two universities in Germany: LMU Munich and the Technical University of Munich.

Don’t worry about feeling like the odd one out, either: 13% of LMU students come from outside Germany.

And hey, it’s not all about studying. Munich came joint-third in Mercer’s 2019 quality of life rankings, and for good reason.

Crime in Munich is low, the streets are clean, and you can take your pick from theatres, music venues, and cinemas – as well as the ubiquitous beer gardens, and a zoo with more than 750 species.

And if you want to get out of the city, the Alps are close enough to spend a long weekend, where you can try skiing, hiking, or just enjoying the incredible sights.

Also make sure to check out the Viktualienmarkt Munich. This sprawling food market is affordable, and always full of tasty offerings.

 

Best for singles: Berlin

A 2019 study found that an astonishing 51% of Berlin’s residents are single – and with countless bars, nightclubs, gardens, and other social venues, you’ll always have somewhere to look for love.

But being single isn’t all about trying not to be. The largest city in the country also has the cheapest rent of any major German city, and a culture that spills out at the edges – so you’ll have plenty to do, and plenty of disposable income to afford it.

From the remains of the Berlin Wall and the Reichstag government building to an intense and varied nightlife, the capital has it all.

Make sure to check out innovative restaurants like GOOD BANK, which grows its own lettuce in pots on the walls – therefore creating food with the smallest carbon footprint possible.

 

Best for hipsters: Dresden

We’re not gonna lie: as well as being great for families and single people, Berlin is also fantastic for hipsters… but we think it’s become a bit mainstream.

If you want to be a true hipster, you have to find the up-and-coming destination that only those in the know are talking about – and that’s Dresden.

After being destroyed by Allied shelling at the end of World War Two, Dresden rebuilt itself, and has picked up the pace since Germany reunified at the end of the Cold War.

The multicultural city now has a thriving creative culture, thanks largely to low rents and large, vacant properties, as well as a district – Neustadt – which could rival any part of Berlin for artistic, bohemian flair.

Enjoy the baroque architecture and trendy cafes, and don’t miss the Weinsommer event in July, which celebrates the best wines from the Rhineland-Palatinate region.

Working in Germany

HSBC’s 2019 survey ranked Germany as the fifth-best country for aspiring workers, and another survey from the same year found the European country is the best for working millennials.

The country offers a higher average salary than the UK, as well as at least nine public holidays. That number can rise, depending on which state you’re going to call home. 

People in Germany also work fewer hours than those in the UK, according to European Union statistics. While Brits work 42 hours per week, on average, their German counterparts work 40.2.

Over a year, that means the average German employee works for 65 fewer hours – or 2.7 days.

CityAverage annual salary
Berlin£42,300
Munich£49,350
Hamburg£44,030
Cologne£42,270

(All information comes from PayScale.com, and is correct as of April 2020.)

Work visas

Germany is one of the best countries in the world for British expats when it comes to applying for a visa – because you don’t need one.

And don’t worry about Brexit, either. As long as you move to Germany before 31 December 2020, you can study or work in the country. Just make sure you register with your local registration office.

After five years, if you wish, you can apply to become a permanent resident.

 

Jobs in Germany for students

The laws governing international students’ right to work in Germany are also pretty generous: every year, you can work for 120 full days, or 240 half days.

Considering that’s nearly half of all weekdays, you should have plenty of time to make money alongside your studies.

However, you’re not allowed to be self-employed or to work as a freelancer. You can accept a temporary job or a part-time gig, or nothing.

If you do want to make some cash while you better yourself academically, you’ll need to apply at the Agentur für Arbeit (Federal Employment Agency) and the Ausländerbehörde (Immigration Office).

Expat healthcare

Health insurance is compulsory for everyone living in Germany – no exceptions.

Make sure you have your insurance sorted before you arrive, or else you’ll be rushing around on your first day in a new country, desperately trying to stop breaking the law.

To do so, you have to register with a health insurance company (Krankenkasse). This will usually be handled by your company.

 

Do you need private insurance?

As well as taking advantage of your new country’s universal healthcare system, we would also recommend that you take out private medical insurance.

50% of your premium contributions will be covered by your employer, and you’ll receive the best treatments, in the quickest time possible.

Schools in Germany

As well as boasting 23 universities in Times Higher Education’s top 200, Germany also came in the top 25% of OECD countries for maths, science, and reading in 2016.

Expats ranked Germany as the third-best country for schooling in HSBC’s survey, and it’s clear to see why when you take a look at the country’s fantastisch institutions. 

 

Best public school: John F. Kennedy School

Renamed after the President who brought Germany and the US closer with his famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech, this co-education school in the nation’s capital teaches children aged 5-18.

The school is selective – and admission is probationary for the first semester – but if your child makes it past these hurdles to become one of the institution’s 1,700 students, they’ll benefit enormously.

You can look forward to your little one learning in bilingual, bi-cultural surroundings, and if they intend to graduate here, they can choose between achieving a German Abitur qualification or an American high school diploma.

 

Best private school: Schule Schloss Salem International College

If you’re looking for an international school which will help your child to succeed, look no further than Schule Schloss Salem.

Based in Salem Castle in the south of the country, just a 50-minute drive from Switzerland, this boarding school is perfect for all expats, as your 16-18-year-old can benefit from the century-old school’s excellent standards – no matter where in Germany you’re living.

Schule Schloss Salem tops the rankings created by European education service Smapse, and your child will be taught in German and English, meaning they’ll become accustomed to this foreign tongue while also completing their studies in the best environment possible.

Conclusion

Having learned all of Germany’s ins and outs, you’ll now be prepared to leap into life in your country of choice.

There are so many exciting things to look forward to when it comes to living in Germany, from the delicious food to the exciting sport and cinema.

Just be careful not to spend all your money too soon – after all, das Leben ist kein Ponyhof! (This translates as “Life isn’t a pony farm”, but means “You can’t always get what you want”.)

If you’re ready to embrace everything Germany has to offer, fill in this form for free shipping quotes from trusted specialists who can move your belongings to your new home.