How to move to Germany (based on personal experience)

In 2018, I moved from the United States to Germany. In this article, I’ll share my advice. In reality, there are many tasks to handle, but we’ll keep it at a high level. Depending on your situation, some may not be valid, this aims to be a guideline that you can adjust to your needs.

The items are listed in the order that I would recommend you to do them.

Figure out which countries meet your criteria

I didn’t do this because I found the job first, and then asked myself if I wanted to live abroad for a while.

Get a job offer

In reality, Germany offers a “job searcher” visa, which allows unemployed professionals to temporarily move into the country. But generally, I would recommend against this; for multiple reasons. Mainly, the first company you work for should also act as a support system, in my opinion, at a minimum, they should:

  • Handle the paperwork for the visa.
  • Arrange temporary accommodation.
  • Pay for the visa, flights, temporary accommodation, and related expenses.

At least for the tech industry, obtaining a job through remote interviews is achievable. I’ve done it. And due to Covid-19, it is even more commonplace. You should only apply to companies where the business language is English.

Get the visa

If you pick a good company, then they should lead the process. They’ll need some documents from you, like a diploma, resume, and passport. You might have to go to an embassy for an appointment.

Practice driving stick-shift (optional)

I didn’t know it before I moved, but the default in Europe is stick-shift. Most likely, you won’t need to drive for your daily commute. But it can be a skill that saves you some money when you go on vacation or rent a moving truck.

Learn some of the local language

Of course, knowing more is better and creates a good foundation for further learning. But realistically, if the company is speaking English, you don’t need much. And you probably have more pressing concerns at the moment. I’d recommend learning: hello, thank you, goodbye, men, and women (the last two are so you can distinguish restrooms.)

Get a foreign bank account

This is useful for getting paid and paying rent. I personally use N26, they have a good mobile app with English.

I personally did this the first week that I arrived, but it was technically possible to do while in the USA.

Get a phone that works with the country’s cellular system

When I first moved to Germany, this was a real struggle. I was overwhelmed. I didn’t even know the proper store to visit to buy a phone. I’d recommend saving yourself the trouble and buying one online while you still live in your home country.

Learn about the city’s public transportation (optional)

I am originally from a small town. In Germany was the first time I rode the subway. I remember creeping up to the platform and looking around confused, watching the other people. There were no turnstiles to stop us. I had so many questions.

Take the flight

And move into the temporary accommodation that the company has provided. I’d recommend bringing a good amount of cash to convert into the local currency.


Prepare for weird English

The first time I ever heard someone say, “I’m going to toilet,” I kept a poker face, but I was judging them — hard. It sounded so wrong, like they were a hillbilly. But many people here just speak like that, they say toilet when referring to the bathroom. They also don’t know what “college” is, so get used to saying “university.” I think it is because they speak British English or something…

Try to get a SIM card and data plan

Maybe I’m wrong, but from my understanding, in Germany to activate a SIM, you need to have a registered address. For the first month, I had to navigate a large city and hunt for WiFi at the same time, it was nerve-racking. Only chumps put themselves through that. I’d recommend figuring out some way around that:

  • Research if my understanding is correct.
  • Ask if your company can give you a SIM for a few months.
  • Check if it is okay to use someone else’s address with their permission.
  • Just try to buy one at a grocery store, I just sometimes they don’t bother to check. I’m not sure.

Look for long-term housing aggressively

As someone who moved to Hamburg and Berlin, this is a topic that has given me some trauma. As a beginner, who only knows English, it is most realistic to find a room from a shared apartment. For my tips, see this article.

Settle-in and relax

Good job, congratulations! You survived. I’m proud of you.

Photo by Dan Fador

In large European cities, using only public transportation is survivable. But a bicycle, especially for short trips, makes life more enjoyable.

As someone from the United States, we’re often used to going exactly from A to B with little effort; immediately buying a car in a foreign country is not realistic, so a bike is a good substitute. If you want to go longer distances frequently, an electric bike might be something to consider.

Check if your driver’s license is valid (optional)

For Germany, in the first six months of living there, most people can drive legally as tourists. After that, it gets tricky. Germany has some reciprocal agreements with different countries and individual states of the United States.

I was able to change my over, see my article about that.

Learn the local language at your own pace

Duolingo is a good way to start. If you’re in Hamburg, I recommend VHS Hamburg, I believe it is ran or funded by the government, I forget.

Apply for a different visa that gives you more stability (optional)

If you have a blue card, like me, after two years you can upgrade it. The upgraded version has more freedom. But eventually, permanent residence is better.

Image by me

In short, that is the big picture. Did I miss any important steps? If you have any questions, feel free to ask me in the comments.

4 responses to “How to move to Germany (based on personal experience)”

  1. Get the visa
    If you pick a good company, then they should lead the process. They’ll need some documents from you, like a diploma, resume, and passport. You might have to go to an embassy for an appointment.

    Hi Dave,
    thanks a lot for your summary.
    This the Big Fat Panda(s) from Reddit.
    So, you’ve got your employment visa while still in States? And then in Germany you’ve applied for Blue Card?

    Many thanks!

    // I am afraid, that I will need to replace my immigration lawyer/consultant, he is hopeless. He does not have any experience and does not speak German…

    // And German level of bureaucracy… and very slow, paper based processes everywhere… it is surprising to learn.

    • Nice! It is good to hear from you.

      > So, you’ve got your employment visa while still in States? And then in Germany you’ve applied for Blue Card?

      To clarify:

      While in the US, the only visa I received was a Blue Card and I got it before moving to Germany, so the company was helping me from abroad (making the appointment at the embassy, telling me what to bring, and reimbursing costs — stuff like that.)

      Regarding bureaucracy/consulting, if it is something I’m familiar with, as one of the first customers, I’d be happy to offer you a great discount. 😊

      If you’re interested, you can email me what you need help with at and we’ll figure something out.

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