As a relocation consultant at CV Abroad, I support people coming from around the world to Berlin for work and take care that they start a new chapter of their life smoothly.
Here’s what I find the most challenging for newbies in Germany.
Without a doubt, it’s difficult to search for an apartment in big cities. A rule of thumb here: an apartment chooses you, not you an apartment. As soon as you understand this, the apartment hunt will gain its vivid colors. If you’ve found an ad with your dream home, first you need to get an invitation for a viewing which is challenging in itself, because a showing agent gets hundreds of requests within the first hours after its publication. And for sure, you need to act quickly because an ad can disappear in two days. There’s a decent package of documents you have to prepare in order to apply for an apartment. Sometimes you get invited to Massenbesichtigungen — mass viewings where you can meet a hundred potential tenants. This all can throw you out of the path, but if you follow my guidance, this challenge will be accomplished in a couple of months.
There will be many deduction lines in your payslip and you will see your gross salary almost go down in half at the bottom of the paper. The thing is, apart from taxes, the employer pays social security, pension funds, and health insurance on your behalf. It’s normal in many countries. What you should take into account is the concept of tax classes in Germany: Depending on a tax class, you will pay more or fewer taxes. At the end of a financial year, you can or should do a tax declaration and deduct many things (purchases, services, transportation, etc) from your income to get a reimbursement from the tax office. That’s why almost everyone in Germany has a tax advisor and you should find one, too. The challenging part is to find a reliable one: Ask your chef, colleagues, read reviews, write them emails. Very often good tax advisors don’t take new clients, that’s why this search can go on.
It’s not a secret that Germans like order, and it’s a real part of German culture. Maybe that’s why this country does so well on the global stage? So, accept it and learn the way Germans work. They respect their and your time and plan ahead, and it’s normal that you can be offered a meeting in three weeks at 10:45, 11:15 and 13:05: When you agree on a time, it’s polite to give three-four suggestions. Always confirm an appointment. Stop your habit to postpone or cancel appointments at the last minute: The shortest you can notice is a day ahead. Please do show up on time, it’s no joke. In a new city it’s so easy to get lost, so get out of the house 40 minutes earlier than Google Maps suggest. That can be a crucial point during a flat-hunting: imagine you let a showing agent wait for you half an hour! The decision about the flat won’t be in your favor.
The value of time comes from work to private life: there’re appointments (Termine) for everything: city registration, opening a bank account, it’s even OK to fix meet-ups with friends in your calendar weeks ahead. If you can’t visit a doctor, not canceling an appointment on time can cause an invoice for not showing up in your mailbox. Thus, pay attention to each paper letter coming to your physical mailbox, sometimes there can be very important stuff that normally has to be sorted into folders with the names Health Insurance, Bank, Taxes, Rent.
People in Europe are concerned about the environment a lot. You probably know that we sort garbage here, but it’s not the only way to show love to the planet.
Many people use public transport and bikes for daily commutes. I had a couple of seniors who were totally OK with cycling to work. A big car is not a status symbol, at least in Berlin, anymore.
At start-ups and bigger companies, people use English as their work language and you may have had interviews in English as well. Many ordinary things, such as ordering in cafes and restaurants can be held in English but the farther from the city center you go, the more difficult it gets: smaller shops or supermarkets outside the city center could be difficult to communicate in English with. Apart from daily life, there’s communication with German authorities which are (mostly) not allowed to use any language other than German to proceed with an interview. Sooner or later you need to decide either you learn German or not: if you want to live in Germany for more than a couple of years, and get a settlement permit and later citizenship, it’s essential to have good command in German.
I hope my list of challenges helps you to be prepared, but in now way becomes discouraging. Because Germany is still one of the coolest countries in Europe to live and work in. It is my home country of choice for a reason!
Maria Lupandina is an independent relocation consultant at CV Abroad.
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Actually, not much! Let’s take a look in more detail, because it all depends on where your candidate is coming from.