Setting up Life in Germany

What are the 5 necessary and urgent parts of your life to organize first when moving to Germany?

Updated 10-Feb-2023
Covid restrictions are lifted, thankfully, and hopefully will not return😳
Disregard #5 below

Getting set up in a new country is difficult because everything is new, different, and urgent. You are eager to start enjoying your new area. You want to see sights, try different foods and drinks, and enjoy the culture. Also, you have so many new places to travel! Balancing all that out with completing setting up a new life in Germany is an exercise in patience. From speaking to other expats, the complications around setup seems to be universally frustrating, especially in a different language.

After living in Germany for almost a year, we have new perspective on many things. We hardly mind that it takes five transactions to pay our rent each month. Here are the 5 most important things to set up for life in Germany when you first arrive.

1. Housing

It’s a competitive market here in Stuttgart. You cannot sign up with one realtor and have them show you rentals. Each property is listed with a realtor, and you contact that group to arrange for a showing. Coordinating this may take 3 or 4 back-and-forth emails and phone calls per each apartment, and the realtors don’t work on Sundays. We worked with multiple agents looking at some very quirky places that would not work. For example, “there is no kitchen, but one can be added within 6 months … for a price!” (This literally happened to a friend of ours.)

Once we learned about the different locations around Stuttgart, and the types of apartments available, we worked on the plan of “find it quick, keep it simple”. We moved from our short-term housing into our apartment 38 days after arriving in country, and we’re very happy with our choice.

View of street in Stuttgart lined with 6-story homes and cars parked on both sides of the street

2. Communications

With internet provided in our apartment and using our subscriptions to Netflix and Disney+ for TV watching, we only needed to work out the mobile phones. We’re using the flexibility of AldiTalk with month-to-month payments to have a German number for local use, such as phoning doctors’ offices, and to contact each other. We’re holding onto our USA numbers through Google Voice, which allows us some texting capabilities. We mostly use WhatsApp / Signal, Facetime, and Skype to stay in touch with everyone back home in the US. We completed this within our first week of arriving.

2 Aldi Talk cards and mobile phone

3. Banking

It is massively frustrating not being able to access your own money! US banks will not recognize us here in Germany, they will not send a PIN to a German phone number and are unable to send a text through Google Voice. With tips from expats, and hours of long-distance negotiating over the phone, we were able to convince a US bank to transfer funds to our online EU bank. These online banks (Wise, Revolut, etc.) also offer the option of transferring currencies within your account, so US dollars turn into Euros, and with this we’re able to pay the rent. This setup took longer than we thought it should, but we had it in place within 5 weeks.

Dollars and Euros, bills and coins

4. Transportation

Yellow UBahn Trains in underground station

We don’t have a car in Germany, we are using the very good public transportation here. We buy monthly tickets on the app that lets us travel all around Stuttgart on trains and buses; the Google/Apple Maps apps are super easy to use to find what bus or train you need to reach your destination.

This was the easiest setup but resulted in so many new apps on our phones!

5. Covid Requirements

Update from February 2023, Covid Restrictions are widely lifted.

When we arrived in Europe in 2021, proof of vaccinations was needed to be able to go out to eat, enter shops, and most importantly – to travel.

The European Union created an app to hold this proof on your phone, but at the time, it wasn’t available on the US App Store like it is now. The process is to take the CDC vaccination card to an Apotheke (pharmacy), and they will print out a QR code with your data. Then we very carefully created a German Apple ID, changed the Apple ID connected with our phones, downloaded the app, uploaded our vaccination information, then changed our Apple ID back to our normal one, and our data was still intact. Phew!

Image of CovPass app from the App Store

It’s good to remember that once these major items are all accomplished,
everything else that needs to be done comes together a bit easier.

Rob and Barbara at outside table at Irish Pub in Paris with 2 Guinness on a sunny day


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