Welcome to one of the best on-line information resources for expatriates in Germany. How To Germany tells you just about everything you need to know about living and working in Germany as a foreigner. Our articles are updated frequently to keep you current on developments important to a happy and successful stay in Germany. You can download a digital version of the latest How To Germany magazine here.
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Residing and Working In Germany
You're not truly living in Germany until the paperwork's done. Here's a quick primer on exactly what you'll need.
All persons remaining in Germany for longer than three months must have a residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis), of which there are now two types. You can apply for one of them at the local Ausländerbehörde.
Know your status, both here and in your homeland.
Expatriates living in Germany can be subject to German taxes, especially if they have German source income. The German tax system is similar to the structures in other western countries. You pay income taxes throughout the year, usually with an employer deducting tax from each paycheck. Adjustments are then made at the end of the year for possible under or overpayments.
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Rental Furniture in Germany - the Smart Alternative for Expats
With growing success in the USA, the concept of renting furniture is starting to take root here in Germany. More and more foreigners who have moved here are renting furniture instead of buying it or looking for fully furnished apartments. Furniture rental/leasing services have been a big help to many in the US. Now, they are helping expats here in Germany.
Americans can look to H&R Block as an affordable and approachable partner for US tax preparation.
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Driving in Germany
It's true: there are no speed limits on the German autobahns. But there are plenty of other regulations you should be aware of.
Driving in Germany can be a delight: the scenery is beautiful and the roads are well maintained. But there are many rules and regulations to observe.
Bumps and Jolts on the Cultural Road
Large areas of similarity between Germans and Americans make it easy to underestimate the dangers of misunderstanding.
One of the unpleasant things about traveling are bad places in the road that cause bumps and jolts, upsetting you and knocking over your coffee. These are particularly bad when you're not expecting them. It's the same way when you're in what I call "the Transatlantic Zone" - that's any place and any time Americans and Germans are doing business together. In the Transatlantic Zone there can also be bumps and jolts when you're not expecting them. Let me give you an example.
There are compelling reasons why you might choose to send your children to one of Germany's many fine international schools
Many English-speaking expatriates are educating their children at Germany's international schools, and an education at such a school has numerous advantages.
There is, of course, instruction in the native language. And, since the student body is usually quite international, they expose the young people to a variety of cultures. They also do a better job than most German schools of introducing the students to computers, and the program of sports and extracurricular activities is more like what they are accustomed to at home.
German School System
German public education makes it possible for qualified kids to study up to university level, regardless of their families' financial status.
The German education system is different in many ways from the ones in Anglo-Saxon countries, but it produces high- performing students. Although education is a function of the federal states, and there are differences from state to state, some generalizations are possible.
Insurance in Germany
In Germany, insurance is a good thing to have -- health insurance and liability insurance for motor vehicles is mandatory.
If you are planning to spend more than six months in Germany, or have moved here in a job-related capacity, here's a primer on other insurances you may want.
Paying Medical Expenses/Health Insurance Claims in Germany
The system of payment for medical bills has undergone some minor changes in the past few years. And it is dramatically different for those covered under the government regulated public health insurance system (often referred to as the statutory system) as opposed to those with private health insurance.
Supplemental Medical/Health Insurances (Zusatzversicherung) in Germany
German health insurance, depending on the type of policy you may have and depending on whether you are covered by a government run program (Gesetzliche Krankenversicherung or GKV) or through a private health insurance (Privatkrankenversicherung or PKV), normally provides adequate to good coverage for a wide range of health care.
However, again depending on the type of policy you have, not everything may be completely covered.
Children's Allowance - Kindergeld
Taxpaying expatriate residents of Germany are, like Germans, entitled to Kindergeld if they have children.
This is an allowance from the German government to help defray some of the cost of raising children. It can run from €164 to €195 per child per month, and is usually made by a fund transfer into a German bank account.
Hostels in Germany - and Other Budget Accommodations
Hostels Provide A Youthful Take on Good, Clean, Affordable Accommodations. But they aren't the only budget accommodations available for travellers.
If you want a holiday in Germany, but can't quite stretch to a luxury hotel, there are plenty of clean, comfortable, affordable accommodations available all over the country. And, we are not just talking about places for young travellers only!
Expatriate Coaching - Meeting the needs of Today's Expatriate Assignment
Expatriate assignments are not what they used to be. Surprised? Globalization has changed the dynamics of such an adventure for the expatriate employee as well as for the accompanying family. While these dynamics may have changed and will continue to change and the budgets to support the employee and family may have decreased, the fact still remains that these families require assistance to successfully transition, professionally and personally, into the host culture.
That being said, the question remains: Has the support provided to the expatriate and family changed and developed in line and with the same speed with the changing dynamics of today's expatriate assignment? The answer is somewhat gray but becoming clearer.
The German Retirement and Pension System - Basic Facts
Ever since Germany established its first Social Security system in 1889, the public retirement insurance has been "pay-as-you-go", with the current pensions of the retired paid from the current premiums of the not yet retired. Currently about 85% of the work force is enrolled in the Public Retirement Insurance (gesetzliche Rentenversicherung GRV). Civil Servants, who make up about 9% of the work force, have their own pension system and the self-employed, who make up about 9% of the work force, are mostly self-insured (but are allowed to participate in the GRV.) The system is now under strain because of an aging population, reunification, unemployment, economic conditions, early retirement and other factors.
Maternity Leave and Job Protection (Mutterschutz)
Adjusting to motherhood is made a little easier if you happen to be an employed woman working for a German company. You will actually be provided mandatory time-off from work, before and after childbirth. This is revelatory news for many English speaking expats. Basically the Mutterschutzgesetz, Maternity Protection Act of 1968 was instituted to ensure that expecting mothers are not discriminated against when applying for jobs and to provide them with added protection from being dismissed from work as a result of their pregnancy or arrival of their newborn child. This law actually goes well beyond that fundamental claim and provides much more.
In order for the Maternity Protection's measures to be activated, the expectant mother, who is employed, must inform their employer of their pregnancy and the expected date of delivery. If a verbal notification isn't good enough, then a doctor's Certificate of Expected Date of Delivery is to be provided to the employer. Keep your receipt, because employers must reimburse their employees for this certificate when they request it.
Bridal Registries in Germany
More and more as the world continues on its path to globalization, traditions are crossing borders. And so it is with Bridal Registries. The on-line Bridal Registry is gaining in popularity in Germany and throughout continental Europe. This is welcome news for the many expatriates that are living in Germany and planning a wedding here that would probably include a large number of international invitees. There are even multilingual on-line Registries to serve the international community in Germany.
Traditionally, gifts for most weddings in Germany are provided through a Hochzeitstisch (Wedding Table). A couple has their Hochzeitstisch at a particular German store and they literally set up a table with the chosen gifts placed on it. Friends and family visit the store in person and buy something from the table as a gift.