Deutschland is such a gorgeous place. Since up and moving to the EU and finally opting for Dusseldorf, I have found it very difficult to settle in and work out the system. So I present to you- THE X-PAT FILES!
Want to live in Europe? Make it legal. There are a number of options you can opt for. Most expats are on visas, which you can read up on here
For those EU nationals, you need to make sure you have eligibility to live and work in Germany, so check with your local embassy.
For those holding a visa, ensure what rights you have in Germany for residency and work. Students will have a very strict limit on hours (usually 20 hours) so ensure you are aware before applying for professional roles.
2. Choose a City/Neighbourhood
Once you decide where and why you’re heading to the land of pretzels, make sure you have an informed decision about where you want to live. Expat forums and blogs are a great resource, here are some of my favourites that helped me decide on a beautiful area in the north of Dusseldorf.
3. Find a Flat or Room Share
Germans are very reliable, careful people. You won’t find a house without a long term rental and credit history, so opt for a cosy flat, room share or duplex. Personally, I prefer to contact rental agents and give them a low down on what I am looking for, to see if they have any properties up or hidden away in their books. I scored the most beautiful apartment, in a great neighbourhood and all within my budget. As a guideline, you can expect to pay between 500-1000 euro per month for a house/flat share, including furniture and bills.
Another huge tip is that Germans lease many apartments completely empty. By empty I mean EMPTY- No kitchen, no light fittings, no toilet seats. Just be aware of what you are signing up for!
4. Register in the City
Most German towns require city registration. For me, it meant taking my EU passport and rental contract into the registration office (called the Bürgerbüro/ Landeshauptstadt– who spoke English!) and getting your registration certificate and number. You WILL need this for all the other registrations! One other vital piece of information, you need to tell them whether you are baptised or not. If you are, you must pay church taxes every month. Lying is not a good idea, the Germans are very good at finding out your secrets!
5. Get A Bank Account
Much easier than it sounds, you will need proof of address (the Landeshauptstadt certificate) and make an appointment with your local branch manager. That day you will receive your bank details for any employer and within a week you will have your new card, online banking and ready to go!
6. Get Health Insurance/Social Security
Health insurance is mandatory in Germany. Employers will pay this out of your wage, so all you need to do is register with one of the main companies (TK, AOK, Allianz) and get your insurance number. Pass this on as soon as you have a job, it takes about 30 minutes and one form to register, but it will take 2-3 weeks to receive your certificates and information. You then need to send in more forms, including 2 passport photos and in return, you will receive and insurance card with your social security number. This will remain the same your whole life- so make sure your information is correct!
7. Register For Your Tax Number
Again, you must have registered yourself in the city first (Landeshauptstadt) and have valid EU rights. If you are in no rush, the tax office will take 2-3 weeks to process your tax ID and mail it to your registered address, but for those in a rush, you can go straight to your nearest (and it MUST be the closest to your address) Finanzamt office.
8. Get A Job (Must Have 1-7 Complete First!)
Okay, so it isn’t as easy as snapping your fingers and getting what you want, but there are a LOT of easy expat jobs that you can pick up and work your way into something more sustainable. Bar work is my go-to with past experience, however waitressing in any English speaking bar or restaurant (I opt for the Irish pubs!) is a great way to make a quick buck and some new friends. The next best option is being an Au Pair. There are hundreds of parents looking for a little extra help around the house or picking up the kids from work, you can check out http://www.greataupair.com/ for a huge selection of temp work.
9. Learn the Basics
Take basic classes, join an expat Facebook group or meet a local for a chat. There are many ways to learn a language but there is no denying surrounding yourself in a foreign social environment is one of the best and easiest ways. Grab a phrase book, know the top 100 words used and you will feel much safer.
10. Learn How to Use Public Transport ASAP
Ahhh public transport. Love to hate it. German public transport is more advanced than many other countries, so use it to your advantage. Once you have the system nailed, you won’t have any issues discovering your new home!