For many years, Germany has always been seen as a great place to head to for Expats from all over. However, as with most great places, there are the Cons that stand beside the pros. If you are caught up in a dream to go get Germanized, its best to make sure you have a well-rounded look beforehand. To help you get more informed, below are the most common Pros and Cons associated with building a new life in Germany.
Working in Germany
Pro: Work-life balance and job security
Germany can be a great option to work for multiple reasons. Firstly, the employee has much more personal protection and rights in comparison to other countries. The amount of work you are contracted for is very important. Your annual paid vacation allowance is a minimum of 20 days (based on a 5 day work week) however most employers offer 25 or more days. And, they are mandatory. Secondly, you have 6 full weeks of paid sick leave and if you face a longer-term injury or illness, your health insurance will cover a percentage of your normal income amount after. I find this aspect very nice. As an American, I was always used to pushing and going into work sick because I would either face losing pay or my employer letting me go for taking a sick day, but in Germany, it is very encouraged to take the time if your health is on the line.
Con: Climbing the ladder
Heading up through the ranks can be a challenge due to the fact there are a very large amount of qualified people next to you. Competition alone is pretty fierce for Germans, and as a foreigner, it can be even more so. Germans tend to focus a lot on scrutinizing your experience history and educational background, often this can be the big difference between being chosen for an opportunity against a German.
Cost of living
Pro: Lower cost of living
In general, the cost of living is pretty low in Germany (keep in mind I’m excluding certain cities like Munich and Frankfurt). When it comes to your basic needs such as food, electricity, and transportation, they are quite affordable. One of my favorites being the price of groceries. Germans focus a lot on this topic and when it comes to buying food you can even purchase only organic produce for an incredibly small cost. This all being in comparison to my previous home in Hawaii, US coastal cities, and major European cities.
Con: Steep income tax
This topic is typically one of the biggest gripes for locals as the income tax deduction can be quite high, sometimes as much as 40% of one’s income. It is however important to keep in mind that this is not a general statement, German income tax is individually based, it is dependent on the individual’s earning bracket. Even if your income tax is in the higher range, it is good to keep in mind that this tax system helps to support other aspects that improve the German lifestyle such as free education and the public healthcare system.
Health and personal insurance
Pro: Great health care system and the general mindset
One of my favorite parts of life in Germany (and even an industry I studied and worked in for some time) would be its great insurance industry. Granted I worked in the health insurance sector, which is a two-part system I highly admire, but it is not the specific insurances I want to highlight but the whole mentality. Germans are very adamant about their rights to maintaining good health and security, this is an aspect we Americans do not believe in. Whether it is physical or mental health versus personal security or liability, Germans view this as essential.
Con: Too many options and too much German
Unfortunately, the cliches about German insurance are true. Germans do LOVE insurances and have A LOT of them. From health insurance, personal liability, legal, household, bike theft, and even dog insurances (yes multiple insurances for your dogs exist and are sometimes required!). It can be difficult figuring out which you need, what the best offer is, even understanding the German concepts can be quite tricky but often most the difficult getting support in English. Luckily the last years many companies have realized the large number of Expats in Germany who need support and thus adjusted their services. One of these I would recommend to any interested Expats is Coya. Coya is an insurance company for expats by expats. They offer many great options for liability insurances (home insurance, dog insurance, theft insurances…) but also they offer great English support as well as a super helpful blog full of free information for new Expats in Germany.
Pro: Many great options
Coming from Hawaii, I have to say I’m pretty biased about this Pro of living in Germany because the transportation options here always amaze me. Everywhere I’ve been in Germany they tend to have a wonderful transportation system that is not just affordable but varied. Recently in Munich, we have had updates to our MVG app (the public transportation system) that shows you a multitude of connection options, options for the type of transportation (bus, tram, train, or even bike rentals), and you can purchase all tickets digitally. Additionally, most cities are very bicyclist friendly.
Con: Driving is a bit more tedious
The catch for having such a great public transportation system is that owning a car, driving and even getting a license is a lot more costly. The German drivers license alone comes in at a hefty price of around 2000€ (although can be less depending on if you have a preexisting license that can be transferred or you do not need all the exams/ required courses). Next to that, the cost of gas can range from 50€-over over 100€ to fill up one tank and in certain cities, (like Munich) parking is also an additional cost but can also just be very frustrating since it can be so tricky to find a place.
Pro: Great location for those who like to travel
One of my personal favorites to my life in Germany is how close I am to many other European countries and the easy travel options. Weekend city trips are a great option and can be quite inexpensive as well. The German culture is also very travel-oriented so with all of your mandatory days off per year this is a great match!
Con: Lackluster cuisine
*Unpopular opinion alert* I hate to say this…but the tough fact is that German food is not the most exciting. I have found that it has nice comfort food quality to it but after many years, it has really become something where I have noticed there is not much variety or even innovation…but luckily many neighboring countries bring in their influence to help spice up your life in Germany.
Pro: Structure and standard of living
Now, I am not going to say the cliche of German efficiency is 100%, but I will admit that Germans and their general social practices and habits do go towards the higher standard of living in the country. Standard of living in reference to daily life in general. People in Germany really like their structure, set habits, rituals, and practices. There is a lot of discipline in the working culture and a refreshing push on always having some good quiet time to rejuvenate. Take Sundays for example. In many places in Germany, Sundays are for taking it easy. Most shops are closed and work is discouraged (both by neighbors who expect silence in your building and most companies are not legally allowed to have employees work on this day). For some, these cultural differences may be frustrating at first but a lot of expats come to enjoy them once acclimatized.
Con: Socializing can be cold
Germans tend to not be known for their warm, welcoming culture, but this does not mean they are cold-hearted. As an American, when I first arrived (and even many years later) this difference in socializing was a bit rough for me. People here are very reserved and it takes time for them to build more personal relationships. In American we are polar opposite to the point where a lot of times the friendliness is too surface level, as that has never been a preference of mine, I have actually grown to admire its contrast in the Germans more. It may take a very long time to find your people or feel you are ‘in’, but once you do breakthrough you know that your German counterparts are there for you. If you want to hear a bit more on this topic, you can also familiarize yourself with the Coconut vs. Peach analogy.
Pro / Con: Language barrier
The German language to me is a real love/hate relationship. It is incredibly hard to jump into at the start and feels like you will never fully be able to get a grasp on it. Then throw in connecting with your new city, environment, and peers, and it drives you a bit bananas. However, I love the language and the way it never stops challenging you. There are so many fun parts within the language to learn and there is always some form of it you will need to adapt to. I would say the real issues with the language barrier lies in the fact that once you live in Germany, most people will rush to speak any other language with you than German-especially English.
What do you feel about these? Feel free to comment with any I’ve missed below!