Germany

White Line

Germany Free Country Guide

Why move to Germany? Everything you need to know about traveling,
living, retiring and moving to Germany

Capital

Berlin

GDP

$4.03 trillion

Language

German

Time / Call #

UTC +1 / +49

Safety
82%
Cost of Living
55%
Visa & Residency
76%
Healthcare
84%
Climate
59%

About Germany

More and more people are choosing to retire or live the digital nomad life in Germany. The New York Times suggested that Germany has the fourth largest number of American retirees in the world. Located in central Europe, Germany shares a border with Netherlands, Belgium, France and Luxembourg to the west, Switzerland and Austria to the south, the Czech Republic and Poland to the east and Denmark to the north. Surrounded by so many fascinating countries it’s easy to see why so many Americans are choosing to retire in Germany.

Think of Germany and no doubt you’ll conjure up images of Bavarian castles perched enchantingly on hillsides. You wouldn’t be wrong to think of these amazing scenes, but Germany has an array of other enticing features that make it a top retirement destination.

Berlin wall Germany fascinating history car graffiti wall art
A piece of Germany’s fascinating history: graffiti on the Berlin Wall

Germany is steeped in history and it is one of the country’s most intriguing qualities. It’s history dates back to the times of Julius Caesar, through medieval times, to the evils of Nazi Germany and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Germany’s history has heavily shaped its architecture, people and culture. With more than 42 UNESCO World Heritage sites you’ll never be short of historical sites to visit.  OK, let’s just talk about the castles! Germany has more than 20,000 castles that have played an important role in the country’s history. The iconic Neuschwanstein conceived by the mad King Ludwig dates back to 1869 and Meersburg Castle was built in the 7th century. No matter where you plan on retiring too in Germany you can immerse yourself in history.

Winter in hoarfrost castle snow Germany
Winter in historic Hoarfrost Castle

Whether you find yourself at the Karneval in Cologne or downing pints at Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany is a cultural mecca. Absorbing Germany’s culture and traditions is a fascinating way to get more involved in your new retirement destination.

People crowd celebrating Oktoberfest Munich, Munche, Germany
Crowd in Munich celebrating Oktoberfest

Germany is also a nature enthusiasts paradise. From the Black Forest in southwest Germany to Baltic Coast beaches and snow capped Bavarian Alps, Germany is stunningly diverse. There are 16 national parks to explore as well as places like Lake Hintersee and Schrecksee in Bavaria. Both are stunning lakes surrounded by effortlessly beautiful mountains.

Peaceful nature for walking biking hiking in Hintersee Berchtesgaden, Germany
Peaceful nature for walking, biking and hiking in Hintersee Berchtesgaden, Germany

 

What’s more, if you are looking at how to be an expat in Germany, then you’ll appreciate the country’s peaceful nature and top notch facilities and services. The country’s attractions may be important but if you are serious about retiring in Germany then the practicalities are also key. With a combination of natural, historical and cultural attributes, coupled with an all-important high quality of life, what are you waiting for? You better start packing, you’re going to enjoy your retirement in Germany.

 

Climate

Germany’s weather can change at any moment and rain is experienced year-round. Along Germany’s coast there is a temperate climate that sees windy but mild winters and warm summers. If you live inland, you’ll experience warmer summers and colder winters. The nation’s capital, Berlin, sees around 139 days of rain per year, with around 285mm of precipitation. In the south, Munich’s rain falls more frequently with 950 mm per year.

 

Lifestyle

Germans are notoriously hard working people. What people don’t tell you is they are also super friendly. The more you get stuck into life in Germany the more you will be rewarded. This starts with the language. You will find your lifestyle hard to adapt to at first as you navigate the complexities of moving to a country that doesn’t speak your language. You’ll be clutching at straws to remember those few German phrases you know. Just be sure to not mix them up and make President John F. Kennedy’s mistake. In a 1963 speech given in West Berlin, JFK mistakenly said “ich bin ein Berliner”, to mean “I am a citizen of Berlin”, but he managed to say, “I am a jelly doughnut”. Not exactly the supportive camaraderie he was intending. The inclusion of the word “ein” was all that caused this mishap. Jam doughnuts aside, the real message behind this story is how important learning German will be for creating a good lifestyle.

beautiful structures in street in Rothenburg, Germany
Beautiful houses and cobblestone street in Rothenburg

Generally speaking, Germans like their routines bringing structure to their days. But not to worry, if you are a retiree living in Germany you’ll have spare time on your hands to embrace the country’s culture, history and effortless natural beauty.

 

Safety and Security

Of the Global Peace Index’s 163 nations Germany came out as the 16th most peaceful country in the world. This being said there are still security factors you should consider when retiring to Germany.

Christmas decorations festive season in Monschau town in Germany
Christmas decorations f in the town of Monschau

Terrorism across Europe is on the rise and Germany is not immune to such attacks. It’s important to be aware when in crowded public spaces. The December 19th, 2016, terror attacks saw a lorry drive into a Christmas market in Berlin. It’s always best to exercise caution and common sense, though in many circumstances these attacks are entirely random.

 

Cost of Living

Compared to other European countries, the cost of living in Germany is fairly reasonable. Research shows that in 2022 you’ll need around $2,200 dollars – to cover your living expenses. Whilst food, bills, and entertainment are in line with average EU prices, you’l‘l find that rent is the biggest expense whilst living in Germany.

Munich Olympic Park at night, Germany
Munich Olympic Park at night

 

Southern Germany is considered to be more expensive than the north. Munich and Stuttgart are two southern cities which are among the most expensive to live in. It’s helpful to compare Stuttgart in the south and Bremen in the north. You can strikingly see the discrepancies in house prices between these two cities.  In Stuttgart a one-bedroom apartment will set you back $900 dollars with a similar apartment in Bremen costing around $600 dollars. 

 

Being mindful of the variations in the cost of living throughout the country will help inform you on the best places to live in Germany and how far your retirement income will stretch.

 

Taxes

Those expatriates living in Germany who qualify as tax residents will be required to pay tax on their worldwide income. In terms of Value Added Tax (VAT) Germany has a standard 19% VAT. This is less than many of its fellow European countries Spain (21%), Portugal (23%), France (20%), Greece (24%), Croatia (25%) and Italy (22%), equal to Cyprus (19%), but more than Malta (18%).

 

Visas and Residency

It should first be noted that Germany doesn’t have a retirement visa for foreigners but there are other ways you can permanently retire to Germany. Americans retiring in Germany will want to first get a Schengen visa allowing them to stay in the country for 90 days. From there you can then apply for a German residence permit.

 

First you must apply for a German Temporary Residence Permit and live in the country for five years. Then after this time you can apply for the German Permanent Settlement Permit. To obtain this residence permit the following criteria should have been met:

 

  • Lived in Germany for a minimum of 5 years
  • Must be financially capable of maintaining themselves 
  • Paid contributions to statutory pension scheme for 5 years
  • Knowledge of German language
  • Basic knowledge of legal and social system and German way of life
  • Have a living space for themselves and their family

 

Health Care

Germany has one of the best healthcare systems in Europe. It is ranked 25th globally by the World Health Organization. Those expats living and working in Germany can access state healthcare, but all residents must have health insurance. As soon as you become a German resident you must register with a private insurance scheme (Krankenversicherung, PVK) or a statutory health insurance scheme (gesetzliche Krankenkasse, GVK).

fascinating nature hiking keeping healthy Eibsee Grainau, Germany
Hiking in the beautiful german countryside can help keep you in shape and healthy. Fascinating nature hiking in Eibsee Grainau

Hospital procedures and prescription medications cost a lot less than in the U.S. An emergency room in Munich will cost you around $200. If you are wondering about the language barrier, most physicians have a brilliant command of English so you shouldn’t encounter many problems. You’ll feel safe knowing that Germany is often reported as having one of the best healthcare systems in the world.

 

Real Estate

It should first be noted that foreigners can purchase property. The two things you will need to be able to purchase property are a high enough salary (or pension income) and be able to qualify for a German mortgage.

 

Despite being able to own property in Germany the country has one of the lowest homeownership rates in Europe. Only around 50% of residents currently own their own property, this is compared to a European average of 70%.

 

There’s no denying that property prices in Germany are drastically increasing. The EU Commission documented that property prices had increased by 94% between 2010 and 2022.  

Brandenburg Gate Berlin, Germany
Brandenburg Gate in Berlin

If you are thinking of retiring to Berlin, then you may have a hard time purchasing a property. The capital’s high tenant population has resulted in more available rental properties rather than ones to buy. Head to Munich and know that it’s the most expensive German city to buy a home.

 

Best Places to Live in Germany

So, where are the best places to live in Germany? City living is popular in Germany with Berlin, HamburgMunich, Frankfurt and Stuttgart being five of the most popular cities to live in. Another city that you should consider is the picturesque Heidelberg. 

Picture perfect river city Heidelberg, Germany
Picture perfect river city Heidelberg

Berlin 

Berlin is a juxtaposition of historic architecture and modern buildings. The largest of Germany’s cities, this cosmopolitan capital has everything you need and a ton of fun things to do. There are a plethora of neighborhoods to choose, from the lively inner city to the modern suburbs.

 

Sunset over river Elbe in Hamburg, Germany
Sunset over river Elbe in Hamburg

Hamburg

Right on the River Elbe, Hamburg is a great city compromise if you love nature. There are a ton of parks, lakes and nature spots, despite it being the largest non-capital city in the entire of Europe. Escape the city by exploring the canals and waterways and cycle to your heart’s content.

 

Assortment of bread and cheese from store in Munich, Germany
Assortment of bread and cheese from store in Munich

Munich

Munich may be an expensive city to live in but there’s a reason (or several) why so many people still live there. Munich is the center of Bavarian architecture which gives the city a magical feel. It’s also home to the annual Oktoberfest.

 

Skyline of the financial center of Frankfurt, Germany
Skyline of the financial center of Frankfurt

Frankfurt

Frankfurt, Germany’s financial city is a great place to settle down. You can stay in an inner-city high-rise or out in the suburbs. Many people think its modernity makes it one of the best places to retire in Germany.

Stuttgart 

The capital of Baden-Württemberg state is Stuttgart. Stuttgart is famed for its car making industry, but its industrial history doesn’t take away from the city’s natural spots. This city is surrounded by vineyards and the Black Forest. This city is also bursting with cultural excitement. There’s the state opera, state theater, and an array of fun events to enjoy throughout the year.

 

Proximity to the United States

A trip across the Atlantic is needed to reach Germany. From Los Angeles to Berlin, it’s a 15 to 16 hour flight, usually with a stop in Paris or Amsterdam. Flights from New York feel a lot shorter with direct flights taking just 8 hours.

 

Germany is six hours ahead of New York and nine hours ahead of Los Angeles so it’s more manageable than other retirement destinations to keep in contact with family back home.

 

Activities and Recreation

Looking for the best activities in Germany? And how about recreational activities, what do Germans typically do in their free time?

Walking and biking around Cochem, Germany
Walking and biking around the river city of Cochem

Germans love to walk and cycle. Whether you are enjoying a trip around your city at the weekend or venturing on a cycling trip with friends you’ll soon find a community of locals and expats that will want to tag along. Germany is also a nation of soccer enthusiasts.  Most Germans are heavily invested in their Bundesliga side as well as the national team.

Dresden historic center, Germany
Dresden historic town center

Visit some of the nation’s incredible castles, the Berlin Wall, or the Berchtesgaden National Park. From architectural gems to historical cities and sites, beautiful castles and areas of natural beauty Germany is littered with places to visit for the weekend or longer. 

Do you like good wine, great beer, tasty food and a bit of cheer? Then you will be happy to know you can enjoy all of this in the many lively festivals that Germany has throughout the year, Oktoberfest being the most famous.  

 

Bottom Line

There’s no doubt about it, if you choose to retire in Germany your standard of living will be fantastic. This coupled with amazing attractions and impeccable modern facilities and healthcare services makes living in Germany a no-brainer. Where else can you embrace drinking beer as a tradition and castle hop to your heart’s content?

German popular snack, the delicious Pretzel
German popular snack, the delicious Pretzel

Here is a list of the Pros and Cons of traveling, living, moving and retiring in Germany

Pros

Cons