Here I share my story. I am writing this piece of text sitting on my couch in the southern German city called Ansbach, Middle Franconia, Bayern. I am a software developer who worked in Bangalore a few months ago. I wished to move to my hometown Hyderabad and stay close to family. I attended interviews, got few offers in hand. The exciting part is I got two offers from Amsterdam(Netherlands) and Bavaria(Germany) too. After putting a lot of thought and having discussions with my family, I decided to move to Germany.
I know that expat life could be challenging leaving all the comforts at home. After a lot of brainstorming with my family members, I chose to board the plane to Germany(Bavaria). But before that step, I did a lot of things. I am going to explain the whole experience in three phases:
- Pre visa
- Post visa
- Journey, Observations & Initial impressions
If you know the pre-visa process, feel free to skip to travel & stay experience. Else, read below section carefully.
Note: The things I am explaining below are in reference to South Germany (Bayern) as I am living there. Few things may change according to the place and city you are living (Ex: Beaurocracy or Cost of living in Hamburg, Berlin, Munich, Leipzig, Nürnberg etc)
Pre Visa (Bangalore German Consulate)
Every expat needs a valid passport & work permit to go and work in Germany. A work permit is nothing but a German National Visa. Unlike other countries, the visa process should be initiated and followed up by the candidate herself. Here is the order of steps one should follow.
- Obtain a work contract (Offer Letter) & Admission letter in case you are a student.
- Get an appointment via online mode for visa application (Free, No fee)
- Prepare all required documents (income proof, degree certificate, Demand Draft, etc.)
- Visit the consulate on the appointment date
- Wait for your visa gets stamped (A page attached to your passport)
- Collect your passport and other documents(If they take any from you).
Note: Consulate will keep your passport and original degree for validation purpose until visa approval/rejection happens (Approx 3 weeks)
The second point of getting an appointment in Bangalore/any Indian consulate is tough as appointment slots are booked a few months in advance. That Central European Standard Time(CEST) Zone(+ 1:00 GMT) is four and a half hours behind Indian Standard Time(IST). It means when(12:00 AM CEST) visa appointment slots are opened for booking; it is around 3:30 AM in India. So if you need an appointment, put an alarm at 3:15 AM and be quick enough to grab the open slots.
You will be surprised to find out slots are available only after two months even though you need to join a company or a college next month. My suggestion is to book an available slot though you get a delayed appointment.
I did the same thing. I got my appointment in December. But I requested the consulate to prepone the visa interview as my joining date was earlier. I attached my work contract and a recommendation letter from my joining company to make sure the embassy feel my case was genuine. Don’t abuse this tip because if misused, it can irk the real candidates.
Bangalore German consulate then wrote back to me saying they preponed my appointment to September and I prepared all the necessary documents.
Every applicant should pay an amount specified by the consulate by demand draft(DD). You can take it from your Indian savings/current bank(mine ICICI) in the name of the embassy/consulate. Do it only a few days before your appointment as the chance of DD amount fluctuation risk is lower(They won’t accept any difference in the amount they specify on their website. Since I am coming to Germany for employment, I applied for the German National Visa(D4).
Federal Foreign Office — German National Visa
Please click on this link to the National Visa application form: https://videx-national.diplo.de When applying for…
Tip: Prepare two separate sets of documents required in the same order mentioned on the consulate website. Remember, it is not one set of documents with two copies each. Carry three German passport size photographs. If you are in Bangalore, get photos from nearest G.K Val (http://gkvale.com/). They are professional photographers.
I got an early appointment at around 8:30 AM. I reached consulate by 7:50 AM to avoid traffic. Everyone seated in the reception area and at the scheduled time, the receptionist asked all the candidates to enter another room. We switched off our mobiles. They checked our laptop bags/handbags and allowed us inside.
They assigned me a counter, and I gave all my documents. They asked my original college degree which is a minimum requirement for the job. I tried to provide a photocopy, but they refused it. They took all other documents and gave me an acknowledgment slip, but told me to bring the original college degree the next day. I didn’t have one because I have a provisional degree and didn’t apply for my degree until then.
Next day, I took my provisional degree which they refused too. Then I was desperate and applied my degree online(JNTU, Hyderabad) hoping my visa can be delayed/rejected because of insufficient documents; I waited for two weeks for my degree to arrive. Once I got it, I went to consulate again and submitted it. They took it, and I was happy.
Tip: Consulates usually have different timings for fresh applications and for passport collection/pending applications. Keep that in mind.
I assumed my visa process is blocked on this document and could take some time around 3–4 weeks from the degree certificate submission. But surprisingly, in two days, I got a message that my visa is approved and asked me to collect the passport and degree. It means they processed it already but cautious about the degree. My estimation is it usually should not take more than three weeks for visa approval in Bangalore German consulate.
Tip: Always carry original documents on the appointment day to avoid unnecessary troubles
Post visa (My preparations & travel to Germany)
I am so happy that I got the visa, informed my parents and started making preparations. There are a lot of articles on Medium, web about,
what to bring to Germany from India? , Things to know before coming to Germany? etc. In addition to all those, four essential things I believe could save your life when you arrive first time in Germany. I am talking in view of a person coming for work(expat). It is helpful for students too.
- A place to stay (Super important) *******
- A Travel/Forex card loaded with Euros(Crucial) ***
- Few Euro bills/coins up to 200 € in hand(Important) **
- A weekly hotspot voucher (Telekom/Vodafone) for using hotspots(Crucial) ***
Out of the above four, I took care of all except the last one.
I booked an Air India flight from Hyderabad to Munich with two halts (Bombay and Frankfurt). I also booked an Airbnb for the first three days (a mistake I did and will tell you why?).
On the travel date, I carried two bags of 43 Kgs (23+ 20) with me and checked in at the counter. They tagged my luggage to the destination, and I don’t have to re-check them at intermediate halts.
Tip: Always request your airline provider to tag luggage to the destination if possible to avoid the tension of rechecking
I reached Mumbai international airport and changed the flight to Frankfurt. An immigration official exit stamped my passport.
I boarded the flight and got down at Frankfurt. Entry verification took forever there, and I missed my connecting Lufthansa flight to Munich.
I hurried to a Lufthansa counter with printed ticket. With a gentle smile, an airline agent told me I missed my flight to Munich, and they allocated the next plane to me which is in ten minutes. I stormed to the terminal, and the service by Lufthansa was best. I reached the Munich airport in less than an hour.
I need to travel to Nürnberg next. I already booked a FlixBus that goes to Nürnberg at 18:30 PM. I swiftly collected my luggage from the belt and went to the bus stop with the help of GPS directions thanks to the free Wifi hotspot available at the airport entrance. My Jio sim didn’t work at the Munich airport, but I am on track with the free hotspots.
It was so cold (-1˚C) outside that my hands were freezing at that time. My bus arrived on time, and I was put back into comfortable heating. After an hour journey to Nürnberg, the bus dropped me at the Nürnberg central bus station. The bus stop was deserted at 8:20 PM in the night. I called a taxi because my luggage was heavy and I have no idea of how U Bahn/S Bahn/Tram works. The driver was so friendly and communicated in English with me. I showed a screenshot of my Airbnb address. I conveyed him I do not have network coverage on my phone. He asked the landlord’s number, talked with him and got specific directions, unloaded luggage, and bade me goodbye.
My Airbnb owner helped me with carrying part of luggage to my shared room. He was so kind and offered me the apple cake he prepared on that day. I told him it was my first visit to Germany. Next day(luckily a holiday), he discussed a lot of things about local culture and took me to the nearest supermarkets. I mostly ate outside for the next few days.
The boring story of mine ends here. But exciting stuff starts now. After a month living in southern Germany, I spotted a few things that could be helpful for future expats.
Things Indian(any?) expats should know before coming to Germany (Observations & Impressions)
Getting a hotspot pass
Once you arrive in Germany, don’t buy a sim card at the airport. While you are in your home country(in this case, India), buy the hotspot pass(a Monthly voucher) from Vodafone(https://zuhauseplus.vodafone.de/internet-telefon/wlan-hotspots/hotspot-tickets.html) or Telekom(https://www.telekom.de/zuhause/tarife-und-optionen/zubuchoptionen/hotspot-pass) using the forex card which I encourage you to take. That gives you two benefits:
- It delays purchasing a sim card for internet at the airport(You can buy one cheap at a grocery store later)
- Getting an internet connection(DSL) in Germany can take a month or two So it helps you surf the web, access maps, read reviews, and many more.
Note: The only exception is if you are staying in an Airbnb home, they can provide you with WiFi access. Then skip taking a pass.
Once you settle down(in a day or two), go out and buy a sim card at local supermarkets(Norma, Aldi Süd, etc.). Prepaid cards are an excellent choice to stick with until you understand the local structure of telephony. Postpaid contracts can be alluring at the beginning, but they are not recommended by many existing users. This step gives you a German number.
Stay in Germany
Getting an apartment for you or your family is quite tough. Depending on which city you live in is another factor. Many Germans love renting a house than owning one which adds competition for you. It is satisfying to find a place in advance like Airbnb for a month or a friend’s place. If you are working, you are not allowed to stay(officially for registration) with another working friend in a studio (1 BHK). 2 BHK’s are usually grabbed by families. So your first preference should be finding a permanent place to stay. These websites can be a great help in finding properties in your picked city.
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What I witnessed is Airbnb is always cheaper than the regular hotels in Germany. There are many other factors like distance from city center etc. adds to the cost. One needs to buy some time after coming to Germany to schedule visiting appointments for the properties. Never accept an offer without touring the house. If you are new to Germany, book a temporary stay for at least 2–3 weeks. I did the same thing.
Tip: List down the interesting rental properties. Take the mobile numbers and call them right away. Make one of your colleagues (or a friend who speaks German) speak about you and schedule an appointment.
City Registration: Anmeldung
A person moving to any city (foreigner or citizen) for work purpose should register in that city for the official records. This process is called Anmeldung. You have to go to your city’ s bürgeramt with below documents:
- A letter (you can download online or get it from bürgeramt) signed by the landlord mentioning that you are living in his property.
- Rental agreement (For me, they didn’t check this)
- Your passport (a must carry)
Anmeldung is the entry point for an expat to integrate into German society. Bank account, internet connection, tax returns everything comes with Anmeldung. Without it, you don’t get your salary. It is very significant.
Tip: If you are staying in Airbnb, and have enough bank savings, wait until you get an apartment. Don’t hurry and give Airbnb address for Andmeldung
Apart from registering, you can also de-register(Abmeldung) or do a change of address at bürgeramt. Go through your city’s website to find more details about it.
Opening a bank account (Steuernummer), Applying for Public Health Insurance & Social Security
When you register your address in the city, if it is your first employment in Germany, a Tax-id (Steuernummer) is generated and sent to you via post in two-three weeks post registration. It is an 11-digit number that will be associated with you forever. It is often compared to the pan card number in India to which tax records are linked. Without this, no bank can open a new account for you. So wait until you receive your Steuernummer. Once you got it, you can open an ING Diba checking account here. https://goo.gl/kLf5N6
I heard there are other good options for expat salary accounts like:
Please note each bank has a different policy in creating accounts(underlying charges), so make sure you know them well before proceeding. ING Diba is a popular choice among my colleagues. Once you apply for it online using your address and Tax Id, they will provide you a PostIdent slip and ask you to authenticate yourself by visiting a post office(Deutsche Postbank). Just carry the PostIdent slip and your passport, that would be fine. ING Diba is an online bank and it will send you the girocard(local to Germany, similar to RuPay in India) and will set up a net banking account which could take roughly 2–3 weeks. If you wish to open a bank account instantly, go to Sparkasse or Commerz bank, but they charge you a monthly fee of 2€ — 5€ by exploiting your eagerness.
Tip: In Germany, a lot of things still happen through physical mailboxes, so make sure you have your name on the mailbox.
The HR person in your company needs two things to provide your salary:
- A German bank account (IBAN)
- Health insurance & Social security number
If you have a work permit and registered address, you can apply for public health insurance. For example, these two are the biggest players in Germany:
You can choose many others like Allianz, but I felt TK has an English speaking representative in their branches to ease the interaction with foreign expats.
Tip: Health insurance can be done even before Anmeldung, so ask your HR person to find out whether they can recommend one.
Shopping & Eating
People coming from India can find things are a bit expensive in Germany. It depends on living city too. For me, Nürnberg was frugal and peaceful. But for people living in big cities like München(Munich), life seems to be super costly. Wherever you live, there are few discount supermarkets where you can save your money. They give things for lesser prices because they deploy few in-house brands instead of having products from every manufacturer. Stick to few and try to plan a budget around those products every month. For me, I cook myself, and it gets as cheap as 100€ for groceries. For a family, it can get to 300€ a month. If you don’t cook, it can cost you around 10€ per day for food.
You have a few significant supermarkets that are chain shops located throughout Germany.
- Aldi Süd (South) and Aldi Nord (North)
Out of these, I feel, Netto and Lidl are the best ones for budget shopping. Aldi is the next choice. It doesn’t mean you should not consider others. Edeka and Rewe give better quality products for few extra cents you pay.
Now coming to eating, you find many people in Germany eating in restaurants compared to cooking at home. The price in restaurants may vary once again depending on the city you live and the place within city Ex: Bakeries and restaurants at central train stations(Hauptbahnhof) can be costlier than bakeries in the suburbs. Since I covered the estimated cost in the above section, I don’t wish to discuss further on the topic of food.
There are many articles on google about local German food (Sausages, Pretzels, Schnitzel, etc). It is up to you to explore more.
Transportation & German Public Transport System (U-Bahn, S-Bahn, RE, and ICE)
Last important thing you should know is about the transport system in Germany. You have these modes of getting from one point to another in the country.
- Self-driving your car
- Taxi services (I use it if I have luggage with me)
- U-Bahn (Subway train) (Like Metro trains in India, connects main parts of the city)
- Regular City Bus (Connects most of the points in the city)
- Tram (Connects subway to interior portions of the city)
- S-Bahn (connects nearest cities and stops at a lot of small intermediate cities)
- RE-Bahn (RE) (Stops only at major towns between connecting cities, Like a regular express train in India)
- ICE (Inter City Express) (Long journey option. Stops only at the destination, like Rajdhani in India)
In a city, I mostly prefer U-Bahn(Subway train) and then find a tram to get to the target. If it is a small town, bus services or walk are better options.
You can always refer to the updated maps and timetables from DB (Deutsche Bahn) and City websites. Below is a Scienennetz(rail network) map for Nürnberg city.
A future German expat from India should know the above points to simplify the knowledge transfer process and system understanding that usually takes place. I wrote this article as a guide for two people.
- Future expats (Who are in the German visa process?)
- Fresh expats (What to expect from this country and its institutions?)
Learning Deutsche (German)
Learning German is especially important if you are planning to come to Germany to stay (Work or Study) and not for tourism purpose. Knowing German allows you to smoothly integrate with system & people and has lots of benefits. I use Deutsche Welle & Drops for learning German.
LEARN GERMAN | DW
Deutsch lernen! Interactive German language programs for all German learners from Deutsche Welle
Drops | Play with your Words | Available for 31+ Languages
Word by word, Drops helps you learn new vocabulary through fun, fast-paced games with simple mnemonic images in just 5…
Last but not least, Reddit is a very opt place for asking questions and clarifying doubts. You can see everything related to Germany discussed in these threads:
r/germany: English-language discussions and news relating to Germany and German culture.
r/German: /r/German, previously known as /r/LANL_German is a community focused on discussion related to the learning…
index — German
r/German, previously known as /r/LANL_German is a community focused on discussion related to the learning German…
I stayed in a beautiful city of Nürnberg where I lived at an Airbnb home. I got a chance to catch a glimpse of the medieval Bavarian style constructions and history that is very vibrant. Now I moved to Ansbach city after renting a permanent studio that is close to my office. I am lucky to be in Germany before Christmas as I went to Christkindle markets in both Nürnberg and Ansbach only to find energetic and lively celebrations of people who came from all over the world.
That’s it. Here ends my lengthhhhhhhhy article :). If you have any feedback or questions, please comment below or message me on twitter.
Note: I know these are my personal impressions and opinions are meant to be changed, so a sincere welcome to corrections and criticisms.
Naren Arya 𓂀 (@Narenarya3) | Twitter
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Have a beautiful day :) Tschüs!