Copyright Photo: Niki Nagy / pexels.com
When I moved to Berlin from London six months ago I wasn’t sure what to expect. Here are some things about professional and personal life that I wish I had known before the move to Germany.
by Alice Strasburger, Paralegal at Q-Found
Dynamic economy. Dedicated workforce. Oceans of opportunity.
Berlin’s start-up scene is legendary, followed and envied abroad for good reason. It’s a well-earned reputation for creativity openness and rigor which should extend to the rest of Germany’s major economic centres – Munich and Frankfurt, as well as smaller towns such as Cologne and Düsseldorf. Immersed in a country known for its technological and manufacturing prowess, Germany’s workforce is well-qualified, hard-working, and innovative. In addition, German investors are particularly dedicated to the domestic market and respond very well to in-person contact, so it really pays to be here. There’s a strong drive towards collaboration. Networking opportunities plentiful and often free, whether it takes place in one of the many comfortable haunts of digital nomads, at dedicated events at eateries and exhibition spaces, or online. To get a good idea of what’s on before you move to Germany, check out Startup Calendar and Eventbrite.
When it comes to business establishment, the German system can be a little overwhelming, which is why at Q-Found we take care of all of our clients’ paperwork at a fixed price. Feel free to make an enquiry and we can send you a quote.
Have your papers in order, and turn up at the right time.
When you move to Germany there’s no avoiding the (in)famous bureaucratic system. Coming from a country where there’s usually a bit of room for manoeuvre, it took me a while to get used to having doors firmly closed in my face until I had the right papers. However, now I’ve got used to it, I have more than a little affection for it.
Yes, it is true that unless you have your all-important Anmeldung (Address registration), a lot of basic things, from health insurance – a legal obligation – to gym memberships, will not be available. But once you do have the right papers, and they are not very difficult to obtain, German bureaucracy actually functions very well. Among other things, you can expect to hear back from government agencies within a reasonable time-frame, to get an appointment with a helpful and friendly doctor within a week (often even on the day), and to use the many well-run public services such as libraries etc. for free.
Easy to overlook, but absolutely recommended (if not vital) is the Haftpflichtversicherung (private liability insurance). Almost all Germans have such a policy, often available from your bank, which for a modest yearly fee will cover you for any damages you might cause well into seven figures. Germans are committed fans of insurance (and suing!), and it is well worth being protected from having to pay out of pocket compensation should you ding someone’s car door or spill your drink on somebody’s laptop.
Cash v. Card
Cash is still king here, and it can be hard to get hold of.
For an economically prosperous European country, Germans are still surprisingly cash-reliant. It’s unwise to assume that shops and restaurants will take your plastic. Doing so can result in you having to leave some form of collateral (such as ID) in order to do a jog around the block searching for a Geldautomat (ATM)! And it might well be several blocks before you encounter one, because cash points are sometimes few and far between. As a result of these two factors, many Germans will withdraw a large amount of cash at the beginning of the month and spend it over several weeks. (It is a testament to Germany’s low crime rate that most Germans aren’t bothered by the idea of carrying round half a month’s budget in their back pocket.)
New-wave banks are flexible, convenient, and easy to set up. But use a traditional one for your business. We can help.
Traditional German high street affairs often charge for personal accounts and for cash withdrawal at most ATMs. But a wave of new banks is currently sweeping through the market. They offer both of these services free, alongside a slick online experience. If their lack of physical branches doesn’t bother you, then N26, DKB and Ing-Diba are your friends.
For business accounts, however, it is still worth being with a more established outfit. New banks aren’t really set up for the more complex accounting required for business operation. Additionally, clients will be more trusting of businesses that use the traditional ones. Most of these banks will have a good number of English-speaking employees, but regulations and contracts are often only in German. That’s why at Q-Found, we offer to help our clients to open an account which will cover all their needs. To learn more about this, and the other services we offer new German businesses, click here.
Germans like people who speak their language.
Thankfully, most German professionals and business-people will have a working level of English. That means it’s perfectly possible to run a successful business here without speaking much Deutsch. However, Germans are naturally more comfortable in their own language, and more trusting of people who speak it. So if you’re serious about the move to Germany, it is worth learning the language. The Goethe Institut has a deserved reputation for bringing people up to speed at pace. Or if you’re looking for to spend less and have more flexibility about when you learn, online tutors can be wonderful (Preply).
If you don’t want to spend painful hours poring over tables of verb declinations, then it’s a good idea to employ a native German speaker or two for client relations and administration.
Rural Internet has not left the Stone Age.
It is no secret that Germany lags behind other European countries when it comes to rural 3G and 4G coverage. If you’re taking inter-city transport, expect to be working offline! The cities are a different story, however. As soon as you’re in a built up area, you should be fine for mobile data, and have no difficulty finding a friendly cafe or bar to get some WiFi.
Germany has the fastest and most reliable transport network in Europe. So don’t listen to Germans when they complain about it – they’re spoilt!
Since it is centrally placed, the rest of Europe, both east and west, is at your doorstep when you move to Germany. The road networks are well-maintained. Also, due to the effective freight train system, they aren’t too cluttered with lorries. On an early flight you could be almost anywhere by mid-morning. Taking it more leisurely by train, you can execute a day’s work (offline!) and arrive in time for a hearty dinner at your destination.
In cities you are often better off on public transport, which is cheap, reliable and frequent. An added bonus: since its tunnels are not very deep, mobile data coverage extends through most of the underground system.
Inter-city public transport is also good. Germany’s trains are state-of-the-art. They do not come cheap though. Sadly for the environment you may find that when it comes to longer distances, a flight would be better for your wallet and your schedule. If you’d like to keep to a smaller budget, it’s worth looking at the well-established car-sharing (BlaBlaCar) and coach options (FlixBus). Both markets are competitive and reliable.
Sundays are a mandatory day of rest.
Every country works on its own schedule, and Germany is no different. Although there are few other outward signs of religiosity in German public life, Sunday is still reserved for rest. And I mean really reserved. As a Londoner used to 24/7 shopping, it took me a while to remember that all of next week’s essentials had to be picked up on Saturday!
There is some leeway though. Most German shops close late – 8 or 9 pm. Also, apart from their Sunday snooze, some supermarkets in larger cities are open 24 hours.
And Sundays are never dull – Germans put a lot of effort into leisure activities, be it sporting, famously drinking in Beer Gardens, shopping at Flea Markets (this kind of shopping is allowed on Sundays!), going to the beach, the lake, a festival or a club. Your only issue will be making sure you get home in time for a good start on Monday.