I love living in Germany. I love the people, the culture, the history — pretty much everything except for the long winters and the total lack of customer service. (Warm, friendly customer service is so rare in this country, when you finally do stumble across it, it’s like having an orgasm in public.)
I don’t regret moving to Germany for a second, but there were a few harsh realities about expat life I really couldn’t anticipate until I got here. See, you can spend all day long reading how best to prepare for life abroad, but there’s only so much you can learn before you have to talk to a professional; someone with experience, who knows exactly what you’ll need. And that person is most definitely not me.
Nevertheless, I get a lot of inquiring emails from my blog readers. They ask me big questions my tiny dinosaur brain can hardly grasp, like what kind of visa they’ll need to stay in the country, how to find a job, which healthcare plan they should choose, and how they should go about paying their taxes. I always send them a link to my blog post — How to Become A Permanent Resident of Germany: 6 Tips for American Citizens with German Spouses — but that only covers marriage and the visa process. What follows is my very poor, very lazy attempt to clarify some of the other points you might want to consider before moving to Germany.
Jobs in Germany: How to Find One and Where to Look
I’ll be real honest with you: I have no idea how to answer this question. I’m a freelance graphic designer, and most of my clients are in the States, so I’ve never had to land a real job here in Germany. That said, I can’t imagine the process is much different than in the States: You update your resume and then blast that mother at every living thing within firing range until something drops. It’s the American way.
But before you unleash your frontal assault on the German job market, you need to figure out if you’re even allowed to work here. Chances are, if your spouse is German, you’re fine: The government knows you’re not going anywhere with that ball and chain wrapped around your ankle. (Just kidding, honey! I love you!) You’ll be given a residence permit (Aufenthaltstitel or Aufenthaltserlaubnis), and this will allow you to work here alongside the rest of the pale, white, humorless drones.
If you’re in Germany because you’re engaged — but not yet married — to a German citizen, you may need to extend your visa until your marriage papers have been filed at the local civil registration office (Standesamt). I doubt you’ll be allowed to work until you’ve got your residence permit in hand, but I can’t imagine it would be a huge problem. It’s not like in the States, where everyone is scared shitless you’re just scheming for a green card. The German government will work with you because they know you’re about to spend the rest of your life with a German person — making life any harder on you would be like throwing rocks at a dude who’s already walking the plank. The sharks are enough, man… the sharks are enough.
So if you know you’re allowed to work in Germany, but aren’t sure where to find a job, check out these resources:
- Toytown Germany: Job Search for Expats
- The Local Germany: English-Speaking Jobs in Germany
- Craigslist Germany: German Job Listings by City
- InterNations Germany: Jobs & Business in Germany
- XpatJobs Germany: Latest Job Listings for Expats
Health Insurance in Germany: Public vs. Private Options
If you’re going to actually live in Germany — rather than just shamble around the country for a few weeks with white man’s dreadlocks and a smelly backpack over your shoulders — you gotta pop that travel health insurance titty out of your mouth and sign up for the real thing: Krankenversicherung.
Krankenversicherung is health insurance, and in Germany, it’s pretty cool. You can choose between public health insurance and private health insurance, but of course neither one is perfect, and you’re still going to die.
The public health option in Germany actually works: You get sick, you get fixed, and the taxpayers pick up the tab. (You could, theoretically, go to the doctor every single day for the hell of it, but nobody likes an asshole.) With the public option, there’s no paperwork and you’ll never even see a medical bill. You’re 100% covered. Of course you have to pay out-of-pocket for elective medical procedures, like whiter teeth or a new pair of tits. (This is Germany we’re talking about here, not Fantasy Island.)
Now, the private healthcare option is, in my experience, superb. I mean, I haven’t been drilled by a speeding motorist and wound up in the ER yet, but the healthcare I have received has been outstanding. Far less waiting time for appointments, better medication, greater hospital stay benefits, etc. The drawback is you have to pay for all of your medical expenses up front, then send them to your health insurance company for reimbursement. But it’s not the paying or the waiting for reimbursement that sucks — it’s the paperwork. That shit is a royal bitch. Holy Christ on rice.
The lack of paperwork alone could be reason enough to go with the public option, but just remember; you won’t get the same preferential treatment. You’ll have to stand in line with the rest of the shivering convalescents.
Here are some links where you can find some actual, useful information on German health insurance:
- How To Germany: Health Insurance Options in Germany
- Toytown Germany: Public, Private & Foreign Health Insurance in Germany
- Angloinfo: Health Insurance in Germany
Paying Taxes in Germany: Do You Have to Pay the U.S., Germany, or both?
As for taxes, you have to file your taxes in both countries, but only pay one of them. If you’re going to be physically located in Germany, you’ll be paying German taxes. Are you a self-employed American living in Berlin but all of your customers are in Shanghai? Tough titties; Germany doesn’t give a flying shit where you’re from, where your clients are or in which currency they’re paying. You’re considered a German resident, and by god, you’re gonna pay like one.
Then, after you’ve forked over your tax dollars, you gotta turn around and let America know you already paid your taxes to Germany, and either take your US return as foreign earned income, or as a tax credit. Depends on your situation, but either way, the whole ordeal is about as pleasant as hernia surgery.
Here are some useful links regarding taxes for expats in Germany:
Until the day we die — or forego our citizenship — we American expats will be filing two tax returns. And as a fellow expat, my advice is to get a CPA in America and a Steuerberater in Germany, get them talking to each other, and then prepare to take it in the pooper like the rest of us. Of course, you could also find yourself a big, fancy, one-stop shop international tax preparation firm, but those tend to be crazy expensive — like for large businesses or filthy rich people — and I have a feeling someone with that kind of money isn’t gathering tax advice from dick and fart joke bloggers like me.
But overall, I really do have to award the job opportunities and healthcare choices for American expats in Germany with a slightly annoyed — but totally worth it — 4 out of 5 Merkel Diamonds:
Have a great week everyone!