Germany is the 4th largest European country and the second largest in terms of inhabitants after Russia. The country is a popular destination amongst European expats and it attracts more and more foreigners from outside the European Union, including Australians moving to the capital city Berlin, Munich and other locations.
Besides, Germany has one of the best economies in Europe and offers an affordable cost of living, even in Berlin. More than that, Germany is also known for its historical culture, landscapes as well as for its cuisine that is just waiting to be tasted. Before you move, we have gathered a checklist of 10 things to know when moving to Germany from Australia.
#1 – There is No Speed Limit on Highways
First, in most countries such as France or even in Canada, Germans drive on the right side of the road. No need to worry, it is bizarre at first, but once you are on the road your automatisms return quickly.
The most important change from your home country will be the speed limits on the highways. In fact, there is no upper speed limit on the Autobahn (highways). Germany is the only country in Europe where 70% of the highways have no speed limits. Everywhere else, they are capped around 120-130 km/h.
But don’t think you can drive mad, they have strict rules on the road. For instance, when there are speed limits, the tolerance is small and driving 3km/h over the limit is an infraction.
Whatever you do, always drive safe!
#2 – A Great Public Transport Network in Germany
An alternative to cars when commuting from place to place is public transport. Across Germany, more than 30 million passengers use public transportation on an average per day.
In a city like Berlin or Munich, you have different modes of transport such as S-Bahn, U-Bahn, buses and light rails. Same as in Australia, the fare is determined by zone, time travelled as well as the type of public transport.
They also have an option that you will only find in Germany, the group ticket. Up to 5 people can travel on the same ticket for the whole day which makes it the most cost-effective commuting option when moving to Germany with your family. Finally, in the capital city and other major cities, certain trains and other public transports run all night. Having transport 24/7 is not that common and it is extremely convenient to go back home late at night.
What about travelling in regional Germany? Well, like other European countries, the German rail network is fairly extensive with more than 41,315 kilometres of rails all across the nation. The Dutch Bahn train runs at 320 km/h making most of the cities accessible in only a few hours.
#3 – You Definitely Should Buy a Bike
Germany has a great bike lanes network. For instance, in the capital city Berlin, there are 500,000 daily bike riders, across 620 km of bike path representing 13% of total traffic on the road. On the other hand, Munich offers 1,200 km of bike paths. For the most courageous of you, you can even ride from Berlin to Copenhagen, Denmark on a 630 km bicycle path.
There are many advantages to riding a bike in Germany. Firstly, it’s the most cost-effective means of locomotion compared to cars or even public transports. It is often the quickest way to get from one place to another, or for daily commutes such as travelling from home to the office or the CBD. Finally, if you move to a big city like Berlin, it’ll help you to discover and better know places that you would have missed otherwise. You can take your time to stop and appreciate architecture, parks etc.
So, adopt the German life, buy a bike, feel free and enjoy cycling.
#4 – Drink Beer, Eat Pretzel And Discover More
As a foreigner, you may see Germany as the country of beer. Well, it undeniably is. For example, during the “Oktoberfest” festival held every year in Munich, more than 7 million litres of beers are drunk! While the consumption of beer has decreased over the year, people in Germany still drink almost 100 L of beer per person and per year (as of 2019).
Beer is so anchored into the German culture that even some breakfasts (traditional Bavarian breakfast) are served with beer.
On the dish side, the Pretzel, known as Brezel in german, is a delicious baked pastry. Do not confuse it with the bread, they are way different.
Aside from those things, German food is excellent and diverse. Although the type of cuisine varies depending on the region you move into. People commonly love to eat roasted meat such as lamb, pork and beef. Mustard is another popular condiment. The cuisine takes inspiration from France, Italy and Turkey. You can find a döner kebab or other dishes such as Sauerkraut (fermented cabbage).
In other words, when moving to Germany to make it your new home, don’t hesitate to try new things. You’ll be surprised by the diversity and taste of the food.
#5 – Get to Know The German Culture From Art to Football
When you move to Germany, or to any other nation, culture is something that you need to know before moving. It will prevent you from finding yourself in uncomfortable situations or even in prison if you do not follow the customs and habits.
In Germany, you must remember that evoking WWII is a sensible topic. It’s probably best to keep this conversation for your close friends if you really want to talk about it. But definitely not when you just meet new people.
Germany is also known for its rich culture, art, music, architectural heritage and football. Beethoven, Bach and Schumann to only name a few are from Germany and they influenced the music as we know it today. Art and architecture are an important part of German culture. Berlin and Munich have a lot to offer in terms of museums and buildings. If you have ever wondered if Disney’s castle exists, well you can go to the village of Neuschwanstein and see it for real. This castle inspired the one you can see at the beginning of every Disney movie.
Another important part of the culture is a sport in general. A lot of german practice sport as well as watch it. Without a doubt, football is the most famous sport in Germany with the popular team Bayern München. You might be invited to watch a football match against Italy where football is extremely popular too and have a good time with friends and (of course) some beers.
#6 – Sundays Are Quiet, Very Quiet
One of the other things you’ll notice when moving to Germany are Sundays. They literally are the quietest day of the week. It will be strange at first because when you move from Australia where shops are open almost everywhere, here in Germany, due to a law called “Ladenschlussgesetz”, it is forbidden to open on Sundays.
Most of the shops will be closed on that day except for things like restaurants, museums, cinemas and buses. However, this will vary depending on where you are moving to. Some areas are allowed to be open several Sundays per year while others don’t.
The “quiet law” is also another factor that makes Sunday a quiet day. Don’t think that’s only applicable to the German population, you can find similar enforcement all around the world such as in France.
So, in Germany, you need to know that you will not be allowed to make too much noise that day. No loud music, or utilizing loud equipment when gardening and other noisy appliances. If you do not follow the rules, you can be fined by the authorities or go to court for not respecting the Sunday law.
It’s a different type of life on Sunday, but for sure you’ll enjoy this silent and peaceful day.
#7 – If Not Already, You Will Embrace Recycling
One of the things to know when moving to Germany is the recycling system. Undoubtedly, the system has proven its utility and it works. What makes it so effective? Well, it literally pays to recycle. As a matter of fact, every time you buy glass bottles or other, you pay a deposit between 0.08 to 0.25 euros on each item. On the other hand, when you bring back your bottles, you get your money back. So, make sure to keep them because, at the end of the day, it can be a lot of money easily saved and good action for the planet.
One of the other aspects you need to know is that recycling is mandatory in Germany. For example, in a city like Berlin, you have 5 different types of bins at home. Some cities have up to 6 bins to make recycling even more effective.
In other words, you’ll get used to recycling everything and maybe becoming a fan of a more eco-friendly life.
#8 – Money: Cash over Credit Cards When You Pay
This will probably be one of the biggest changes for Australians when living in Germany. Here in Australia, wherever you go, you can pay nearly, if not everything with your Credit Card. Besides, you can pay from your phone with Apple Wallet or Google Pay App. As a result, you almost no longer have cash with you. Well, make sure to have some bucks with you in Germany, because it’s just the opposite.
Still, in Germany cash is king and it’s not uncommon to see “cash only” in restaurants and shops. Why do Germans prefer cash over cards? There are several explanations, and one of them is that with cash they better understand how they spend and this way they keep track of their expenses. On average, Germans keep in their wallet 107 euros (over $170 as of December 2020) which is almost 3 times more than the typical Australian wallet ($59.40).
#9 – They Speak English But You Should Learn German
While German is the official language, they speak very good English. A study has shown that 58% of people living in Germany speak English. If you moved to Germany from Australia that would be a relief compared with countries like France or Italy where it is strongly recommended to learn the language before moving. The reason behind this fluency is the education system and its mandatory English courses for all students.
Generally, you won’t have difficulties working in English with Germans. That being said, when moving to a new country as an expat, it is always best to know and/or learn the language. It’s one way to quickly integrate within the community and neighbours. It will also make you more friendly with the locals or at the shop, even though you speak just a few words. Moreover, there is a list of terms with no translation such as kraftfahrzeughaftpflichtversicherung that you probably should know before moving to Germany.
On the other hand, you might need to learn german to work in government institutions for example. In that case, make sure to enrol in a program with at least 750 hours or 30 weeks to learn the language, which is the average time to learn german.
#10 – A German Health Insurance is Mandatory
On your checklist, when you plan on your move to Germany you need to look for health insurance. By law, even if you are a student, you need insurance to cover your health charges.
On the same model as Australia, you can have penalties. For example, if you decide to not take a health cover, you will be liable for the full amount of health insurance, plus a percentage per month. The price of public health care is regulated and capped. The private system works differently. When it comes to the choice of the insurance supplier, you are free to choose any insurance company. They all offer the same base then extras depending on the benefits you select. For more details and updated information, it is best to look at the German healthcare system website.
Bonus: Shipping Furniture and Belongings to Germany
We’ve covered 10 things to know before moving to Germany. If you are looking to relocate permanently you will need to look at the appropriate visa. Besides, moving long terms means most often taking your home content and maybe a car with you.
Our recommendations are to plan your move in advance in order to get everything ready as well as to contact an international relocation company that can guide you all along the process. Palmers Relocations, have the experience to move people from the corner of the street to all around the world, including Germany. We offer multiple options such as full and shared containers based on your needs. For more information on the relocation process to Germany feel free to contact your friendly team or request an online quote.