Germany is a country which has quickly established itself as a global leader despite its dark history in the 20th century. This nation was responsible in part for both world wars that occurred, and the stain of the Holocaust is something that may never go away. These historical markers are put on display for all to view in museums, tours of the concentration camps, and stories of the Berlin wall so that what happened before can never happen again.
During the summer of 1989, over 50 years after the completion of World War II and the division of Germany, there was a peaceful revolution called Die Wende that led to reunification. Hungary went through a reformist government, opened its borders, and many from East Germany went to West Germany and this worked to create enough unrest that the walls came down.
Germany now plays a significant role in the European Union, encouraging the admission of eastern nations into the block to encourage more unification. Even during the Great Recession years, this country fared fairly well thanks to its robust economic profile.
There are several pros and cons to consider when living in Germany. Here are a few of the key points that you will want to consider.
List of the Pros of Living in Germany
1. It is a reasonably affordable place to live.
You will find that the cost of living in Germany is much better for most households of any size compared to what you would pay to live somewhere like Boston, New York City, or even Chicago. There are some pretty nice places in Berlin, Munich, and other cities where you can have a comfortable spot that isn’t necessarily large, but it will be well-equipped to meet your needs. If you don’t mind living in one of the smaller towns or villages, then you can save even more if you want to call this country your home.
2. The health insurance structure supports all families at all income levels.
You must carry health insurance in Germany as part of the overall system of care. If you make about $60,000 per year, then you are placed on the public option and the expenses that come with it. This system is not quite universal care, but it is a mandated system in which you must participate and contribute. When you plan for the costs and come prepared to each doctor’s appointment, then you can make the most out of this system. It will cost the average person about 300€ per month to manage the public option.
3. You can save on many of your other expenses in Germany.
The food expenses in Germany are one of the most surprising aspects of living here. Many of the items are produced domestically, so there are fewer transportation costs to pay. Although you will need to avoid imports or specialty items to reduce your costs in this area, going to the market is not going to break your bank account. Some foods can be a little harder to find than what you might be accustomed to experiencing, but you will discover that it is generally cheaper and easier to put together your grocery list each week than in the UK or the United States.
4. There are excellent mobile data and internet plans.
You will receive high-speed Internet service almost anywhere you live if you decide to call Germany your home. The mobile data rates are exceptionally competitive in this country as well. Compared to the rest of the developed work, the services that you receive here are must better and provide less hassle when you want to get started. As with any service option in this area, you will want to compare offers and rates for where you plan to live before signing up for a specific plan.
Some rental options will even include your high-speed internet access as part of the utilities that you receive when renting an apartment.
5. The public transportation networks are well-developed in Germany.
If you want to travel anywhere in one of the cities in Germany, then you can take the bus or train with little difficulty. The prices for doing so are very competitive, especially if you purchase a monthly or yearly pass. You can get by without a vehicle here thanks to this infrastructure, although you will need to rent a car if you wish to travel outside of the city for some reason. Train services to the rural communities is lacking at times, especially on the weekends, but there are some regional bus systems that can still help you to get to where you want to be. Even the small towns in the mountains are well-connected to this network so that you can go hiking all day and still be back home for dinner and drinks in the evening.
6. It is an opportunity to begin learning the German culture and language.
When you move to Germany from outside of the country, then you are going to want to start learning the language. English, French, and other European languages are spoken here in small patches, but there is no guarantee that you will have access to an interpreter. Then you will discover that the pace of life in this country is a lot slower than the other countries in the west. People are encouraged to take holidays here to unwind and reduce their stress levels. There isn’t the same rush to be overly productive at all times as you can sometimes experience in American culture.
7. There is a better work-life balance that you can find in Germany.
For young people who are just starting in their career, the West likes to push them hard to stay focused on their job. That causes them to set aside their personal life and networks because they want to maintain their spot in their preferred profession. Although you can find this attitude in Germany as well to some extent, this culture tends to fall on the side of “life” when looking for a balance in the work-life culture. That’s not to say that living here will make you lazy or unmotivated. There is just a greater emphasis on defining who you are outside of the office.
List of the Cons of Living in Germany
1. There can be a lack of variety in food choices in Germany.
If you move to Germany, then you can expect to eat a lot of foods that are part of the cultural cuisine. That means you’ll be eating lots of sausage, potatoes, and pickled foods. If you don’t like sauerkraut, then you might want to start learning to enjoy it because of its prevalence in some communities. Even the beer is a little different here, with it being a bit thicker and warmer than you might be used to drinking.
You can find some Mexican, Japanese, and Vietnamese food throughout Germany that can give you some variety. If you want burgers and barbecue, then the results you will find will leave you feeling disappointed – assuming that you can find them at all.
2. The nightlife in Germany can lack in variety as well.
If you like going to bars or pubs as a way to get out of the house and meet people, then you will discover that most of the establishments in Germany are essentially the same. You can go enjoy a biergarten in most communities at some point in time, but the actual establishments are all pretty much the same. You can still find some decent food and grab a corner booth to chat with your friends, but you may discover that finding the place which can offer a guaranteed spot, fair pricing, and the right vibe can be exceptionally difficult in some communities.
3. You will still need to pay American taxes as a U.S. citizen.
If you move to Germany from the United States, then you are still liable for federal taxes on whatever income you might generate. Even if you earn money in euros instead of dollars, you’ll need to file that tax form each year. Germany has a treaty with the U.S. that prevents the double taxation of income for expats, so you can currently earn more than $100,000 in Germany without paying taxes (although tax laws can change at any time).
You will find that the salaries for most positions in Germany are lower than what they would be in the United States or Canada. That can hurt some people if they are used to a certain lifestyle. Doctors tend to take the biggest hit, as their salaries are about one-third of what you could earn in the United States.
4. Your family and friends might not be there with you.
One of the most significant challenges that people face when they move to Germany is the fact that they are away from their usual network. Most of your family and friends may not be living in the country with you, which means you could be on your own for the first few months. There are ways that you can begin to form new social connections, but that will require you to work at this issue to reduce its impact.
Even when you do form new friendships, you are missing out on everything that your family and friends are doing back where you used to live. This adjustment can be a struggle for some people, with homesickness causing a few to abandon their German dreams.
5. Almost everything in Germany is closed on Sundays.
If you like the idea of taking a day off every week, then you will love Germany since every Sunday is almost always treated like a holiday. Except for the fuel stations and a few small kiosks, everyone closes their doors. That means you might struggle to find something that you need or pay a lot more for it than if you could wait an extra day. You’re also going to be making meals at home since most of the restaurants are closed – unless you don’t mind filling up on street food as you go exploring.
6. You need to be prepared for the tax withdrawal from your paycheck.
When you consider the cost of taxes and social contributions (including healthcare costs) when living in Germany, then up to 40% of your gross salary can be taken away immediately because of the withholding requirements. If your wages aren’t that high, then it can be a struggle to adjust to this lifestyle. Although you’ll receive plenty of benefits in return for these investments, it will take a couple of months to start controlling your expenses.
7. Riding a bicycle can be a challenge in more ways than one.
If you thought that the police officers were strict when enforcing license or headlight requirements for vehicles in the United States, then you have never ridden a bicycle in Germany. There are numerous strict rules that you must follow when you are in the saddle, many of which can result in fines if your break them – even if you did not know about them before you started your ride.
You will also want to avoid the bicycle lanes since vehicles tend to use them for their own purposes. It is not unusual to see a block full of parked cars where you are supposed to have some room, and there are no parking tickets on the windshields either. Thankfully, you can usually purchase a second-hand buke for next to nothing to limit your transportation expenses.
Verdict on the Pros and Cons of Living in Germany
Despite the language barrier that might exist, living in Germany is not that different than being in the United States, the UK, Canada, or any other developed country. It might rain a lot and people might love beer a little more than they should, but you can manage things quite well from your first day in the country.
Because Germany is in a central location in Europe, it is easy to travel almost anywhere to begin filling up your passport. Switzerland, Austria, France, Poland, and Belgium are all nearby and travel is usually cheap.
The pros and cons of living in Germany can help you to decide if this country is right for you. As long as you can manage the healthcare expenses and taxation structure, you will find enough money available to keep you comfortable while you get the opportunity to go exploring at your leisure.
Blog Post Author Credentials
Louise Gaille is the author of this post. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Louise has almost a decade of experience in Banking and Finance. If you have any suggestions on how to make this post better, then go here to contact our team.