Moving to Germany from the UK: An introduction
Thousands of British people move to Germany from the UK every year. If you are thinking of taking the plunge and moving to Germany this page will provide you with tips, advice and guidance. I’ve lived and worked on and off in Germany for 10 years and have had an amazing time here, I shall however, offer the most objective information here possible.
Moving to Germany from the UK - Initial Advice
As a British passport holder you will face no problems in getting to Germany with regards immigration or visa constraints. If you want to work you must register with the local civic centre known as Bürgeramt, they will provide you with a taxation card (Lohnsteuerkarte) and then you can get any job you fancy!
Finding somewhere to live in Germany
Rental Accommodation in Germany
The largest challenge for someone new to Germany is likely to be finding somewhere to live. The rental market is more popular than in the UK but has some important differences. It is normal for People to rent for longer in Germany; this has the result that they will often do much more to properties than you might expect in the UK, such as decorating and gardening. The downside is that it can be challenging to find a short term lease.
The other major difference is that in Germany tenants are in a much stronger legal position than in the UK. I have not heard of people having reckless landlords or really poor accommodation standards, this does not mean it is not there; just that it is not so common.
Student accommodation in Germany
Student accommodation is much the same as in the UK. GermanUniversity students live in halls of residence, flats and shared houses. If you are in Germany for a shorter period of time you could consider a placement with a family who will also provide you with food and the all important German conversation.
I great place to start looking for somewhere for students to stay is: http://germany.accommodationforstudents.com/
Which has the bonus of being available in English.
The Bundesrepublic Deutschland
Moving to Germany from the UK - travel and costs
You have really only two options, to fly or to drive.
There are a lot of cheap flights to virtually every major city in Germany, a summary of the major players is shown below:
Ryan Air, Major UK Hub is Stanstead and it flies to the following: Berlin-Schoenefeld, Bremen, Duesseldorf-Weeze, Frankfurt-Hahn, Karlsruhe Baden. I have found Ryan Air to have cheap headline fairs but it flies to places that are not convenient and at annoying time. They also charge some frustratingly high rates for excess baggage.
EasyJet flies from London Gatwick, Stanstead and Luton to most major German Cities. It is still relatively cheap and has a mixture of out of the way airports and really convenient ones.
Germanwings owned by Lufthansa is cheaper but not a rock bottom budget airline that operates out of Stuttgart, BerlinShoenefeld, Hamburg and Dortmund. I like German wings, it is affordable and has a good service and does not try and squeeze too much money out of you for extras.
Air Belin, is Germany’s second largest airline and has the most extensive coverage flying between the UK and Germany in my experience. I have had the best experience with this carrier.
You normally pay no more than £75 for a single flight with any of the above airlines. It is normally worth checking your route out with a travel compare site like Opodo or travel jungle to make sure you’re getting the best deal.
Getting there by plane
By road to Germany
Chunnel or ferry
It is possible to drive from the South England to West Germany in a day. The distance to the Ruhr industrial area from London is about 320 miles or about 7 hours. To the south of Germany you are looking at a probably 12 hours so maybe an overnight stop.
To get across the British Channel you have two options the channel tunnel or a ferry normally on the Dover-Calais route for southerners or perhaps Hull-Rottadam from the North of England (this is overnight and a really nice boat run by P&O ferries). The tunnel is faster, normally cleaner and less hassle than the ferry. I have also found the staff to be really quick when processing my dog. The advantage of a ferry is that you get to walk about and break up the journey and it is normally cheaper. Both ferries and the tunnel have peak times in the day when it is more expensive.
To drive in Germany you must have a warning vest and triangle and in the winter months winter tires are necessary. The police have been known to stop UK registered cars to check this. You must also have insurance valid for driving in Germany.
Moving to Germany, costs, taxation and financial issues
As indicated above, once you arrive in Germany you must register and this will initiate your enrollment into the German Taxation System. The German Tax System is a progressive taxation system that is not dissimilar to the UK’s. It is not possible to make a bold statement such as you can expect to pay more tax in Germany than in the UK, as it depends upon your personal circumstances. After 10 years I can say with a lot of confidence that the quality of Government services is better than I have experienced in the UK.
You will pay the equivalent of income tax, which is variable and up to 45%. Just like in the UK an allowance for individuals and married couples exists and depends upon circumstance – it is a little lower than in the UK. You must also pay an equivalent of VAT known as Mehrwertsteuer to a rate of 19% (although NATO forces, including the UK Armed Forces and diplomatic personnel are exempt) for goods and services.
Upon registration in Germany you are entitled to a number of benefits from the state, these can be claimed at the local civic building, the Rathaus. The most notable is Kindergelt, like child benefit but a little bit higher.
Moving to Germany - Health issues
If you are not staying for a long period you can use a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) card available from the NHS through www.ehic.org.uk. This will give you the same level of treatment as you could expect in the UK.
If you are staying for a longer time then the provision of Health Care in Germany is one of the biggest differences compared to the UK. Germany has no national health service, instead it has a series of providers that are funded by health insurance, Krankenversicherung. This is mandatory but not prohibitively expensive; people on a lower income can apply for assistance from their local civic authority for the costs of health insurance.
Health Care in Germany is excellent but in my view a little expensive and while the standard of care is second to none you also often pay for the high standard of the accommodation, food and constant progress updates. Friends of mine who work in the medical industry and who cite only anecdotal evidence suggest that the major difference is how comfortable (in a physical sense) you feel in the German health system.
Moving to Germany with children
Moving to Germany with children
German education is excellent. It is state dependant (meaning the systerm varies within different German States) but based on common schooling to 11 and then 3 different ability and affinity based schools: Hauptschule, Realschule and Gymnasium. The later has a lot in common with British Grammar schools and are a prerequisite for entry into GermanUniversity.
In Germany children start kindergarten at 3 and school at 6, this is not completely the same as in the UK. You also have the choice of international English speaking schools in the major cities.
Kindergartens can be found through the local Rathaus or online. The Rathaus will also take care of the costs of this education as it is a state entitlement. I have plenty of friends who have deposited non-German speaking children in a completely German speaking kindergarten up to the age of 5 with no problem whatsoever. I think that it could pose a problem on the move back particularly as they start later in Germany.