38 Pros and Cons of Living in Germany As A Foreigner

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Researched & written

by Jen Palacios


As with everything in life, there are pros and cons to living in Germany. In this guide, I lay out all the good and the bad you might encounter to evaluate what’s it like to live in Germany.

The information in this guide is very subjective and based on my own experience. How you will experience Germany will, of course, depend on your cultural background and experiences. I hope this guide sheds some light on how life in Germany may look like for you.

πŸ–ŒοΈ Table of Contents

22 pros of living in Germany

Pro #1 – πŸš… Efficient public transportation 

Germany has a big network of public transportation, including buses, trams, trains, and if the place requires it, a ferry (like in Hamburg). Although the system is not perfect, it is quite reliable, safe, and you can arrive almost anywhere with it.

Pro #2 – 🚲 Cycling is quite common

Many expats are surprised by the number of cyclists in Germany. According to the European Cyclists Federation, Germany ranks as the fifth European country in its Barometer, which looks at bicycle usage, cycling safety, and market size, among other cycling statistics.

❗️ A word of caution

If you plan to use your bicycle as your main mode of transportation, you need to know that you are not the king of the road. Always drive with caution and focus. In the video below, we have outlined the most important rules to follow when cycling on the roads of Germany.

Pro #3 – πŸŽ“ University is affordable

If you are looking to study in Germany, I got good news for you: there are no tuition fees in most German universities! I say the most because unis in Baden-WΓΌrttemberg charge, on average, 1.500 euros in tuition fees per semester. If you compare the 1.500 euros to tuition fees in other countries (cough cough the USA), it seems like a fantastic deal.

Just because tuition fees are 0 or very low, you still need to think about your living expenses. According to the DAAD, living costs for a student in Germany are, on average, 850 euros a month.

Pro #4 – πŸ•’ Punctuality

Germans are always on time. Always! If you say you will meet with some German friends at 18:00, you better be there at 17:55. That is German punctuality, being at a place at least 5 minutes before the agreed time.

I love this! I always have considered myself a punctual person. This did not go well in Latin America, where I’m originally from. So I’m happy to meet with Germans and appreciate their punctuality.

Pro #5 – πŸ”« Low crime rates

Germany has low criminality rates. According to an article from the Deutsche Welle, the crime rates fell to the lowest in decades in 2018.

There are, of course, some crimes happening in every major city within Germany. For example, bikes and purses get stolen, and thieves break into homes. However, the criminality rate is so low that it does not happen very often.

I come from Guatemala, a country where criminality is high, and I can say that I feel very safe living in Germany. Just as in any big city, one needs to have some common sense when exploring it: don’t walk alone in shady neighborhoods, don’t leave your belongings unattended, etc.

Pro #6 – 🌳 A lot of green areas in cities

I think this could be a general European thing. However, anywhere you go in Germany, there are always parks and areas for people to lay out a blanket and relax.

People in a park

Pro #7 – βš–οΈ Comprehensive welfare system

The German government helps its citizens and residents maintain a good quality of life and motivate family life. Some of the benefits you are entitled to as a German citizen or resident are:

  • Excellent healthcare system: According to the World Health Organization, Germany’s health care system ranks in the top 25 worldwide. It is mandatory for everyone who lives in Germany to be insured. Depending on their income, a person can choose to be publicly or privately insured. We wrote a review on TK (public health insurance) and on Ottonova (private health insurance).
  • Paid sick leave: You are allowed to take paid sick days from work to rest and recharge. Every employee gets up to sick weeks of paid sick leave.
  • Unemployment benefits (Arbeitslosengeld): If you lose your job after a year of working in Germany, you can apply for this benefit. You will receive monthly financial assistance from the government for up to a year or until you find a new job. The amount you receive is around 60% of your last three salaries.
  • Maternity leave (Mutterschutz): Most working pregnant women are entitled to up to 14 weeks of maternity leave – at least six weeks before and eight weeks after childbirth. 
  • Parental leave (Elternzeit): New parents can take up to three years off work to look after their kids. The time can be split between the two parents. This is an unpaid leave; however, parents can apply for a parental allowance to receive financial support from the government.
  • Parental allowance (Elterngeld): Parental allowance is between 300 and 1.800 euros a month. The amount depends on the income the parents had before the child was born. This allowance is available to new families who take parental leave or work a maximum of 30 hours a week.

Pro #8 – πŸ³οΈβ€πŸŒˆ Same-sex marriages are recognized

Since October 1st, 2017, same-sex marriages became legal in Germany. This was a big step forward towards equality and openness. Homosexuality is generally accepted in Germany. My wife and I have never felt discriminated against.

Pro #9 – 🏰 It’s a beautiful country

Germany has so much history and places to explore. You can travel to the north, explore the German beaches, or go to the south and explore the Alps!

Germany is known for its cute towns, countryside, and castles. So much so that rumor has it that Walt Disney got inspiration from a German castle to create the iconic Sleeping Beauty Castle. An article from Insider shares all the details of this story.

Neuschweinstein castle in Germany

Pro #10 – πŸ– Number of vacation days

By law, German employers need to give a minimum of 20 vacation days to their employees! Some employees give more. I get 30 vacation days!

And if you combine your vacation days with the official national holidays, you can get even more days off work.

Pro #11 – πŸ’Ό Job security

Firing people in Germany is not like we see it in the US movies, where one day you arrive at the office, your boss fires you, you pack your things, and walk out of the building with a box filled with your belongings.

Once you get a job in Germany and are past the probation period, usually 6 months, it is tough for your employer to fire you.

Employers need to have real reasons to let you go. These reasons need to be foolproof as any employee can sue the company for firing them unfairly. And trust me, a company does not want to deal with this type of lawsuit. In case you do get unemployed at some point, you may have access to extensive unemployment benefits in Germany.

Read Our Related Guide

Unemployment Benefits in Germany

Pro #12 – 🀝 Work ethics

Germans are famous for their efficiency, reliability, and punctuality, especially when they are at work.

The work environment, however, will depend entirely on the culture of the company. In some companies, Germans will sit in front of their screen and work all morning, take a lunch break, keep working in the afternoon, and leave at 5 pm.

Other companies, usually younger ones, have a more social and friendly environment where NERF guns are welcome, and chit-chatting is also ok. As long as you do your job correctly, it’s all good.

Pro #13 – 🚰 Good tap water

Most of Germany has excellent tap water. It is such good quality that you can drink it directly from the tap. In some cities, like in Dusseldorf, the tap water may have too much limescale. However, by buying a water filter like this one, you can still enjoy some fresh tap water.

Read Our Related Guide

Can you drink tap water in Germany?

Pro #14 – 🍻 Able to drink alcohol in public

If you drink alcohol, this is a cool thing. If not, skip this one πŸ™‚

It is quite common, especially in summer, to meet friends at a park or any other nice outdoor place and have some beers. You can either bring the beers yourself or buy them from a kiosk. A kiosk is a small shop that sells coffee, cigarettes, snacks, sweets, cold beer, and some hard alcohol.

You can also just meet a friend after work and have a walk with a beer in your hand, without having to put it in a brown bag or anything. 

If you enjoy a beer in public, remember that there is Pfand on the bottles, so you should not throw them in the trash but rather leave them next to it so a collector (Pfandsammler) can take it. We wrote a whole guide about Pfand in Germany and a complete Trash Guide to help you understand this better.

Drinking alcohol in public in Germany
Two bottles next to a trash can in Germany

Pro #15 – πŸ– BBQs at parks are allowed

During summer, friends meet at parks and BBQ! Everyone brings different things to put on the grill and enjoy a meal together. Supermarkets sell one-time BBQs during the summer months, or if you are a real pro, you bring your portable BBQ from home.

Pro #16 – πŸ₯¨πŸΊ Excellent bread and beer

Do I need to explain any more? The quality of the beer is top-notch, award-winning, and just plain delicious – if that’s your thing.

Bread is just as good. You have so many varieties! When I’m away from Germany for too long, I have to confess that I miss the German bread.

Pro #17 – 🏎 The Autobahn

The world-renown Autobahn is a thing. I must clarify, though, that not all of the Autobahn (German for highway) has no speed limits, it’s just some parts of it. But when there are no speed limits, it’s cool to drive it when you have a great car.

Pro #18 – πŸ”’ Everything is insured

Germans love insurance! On average, a 30-year old might have up to 7 insurances! That is crazy, right? There is even insurance in case you are a victim of a phishing email scam.

The most important one, which almost every German has, is the personal liability insurance (Hapftlichversicherung), which covers the costs you might have if you accidentally break someone’s belongings or cause an accident.

We have a whole section about insurances. Make sure to check it out if you are on the lookout for any.

Pro #19 – πŸ’Ά Prices already include VAT

Unlike the US, all the prices you see online and in any shop already include the VAT (consumption tax). 

It has happened to me a couple of times in the US that I’m super happy to find something for an x amount of dollars, and end up paying more than I had hoped for at checkout.

Pro #20 – 🀫 Forced quiet times

On Sundays, almost everything is closed. The only things open are some small local shops and the gas stations. Sunday is a day of rest, quiet, and peace. No one is allowed to vacuum, use the washing machine, or do home repairs. The same rules for Sunday apply every day after 10 pm.

You might get lucky and have friendly neighbors who won’t mind you vacuuming or turning your washing machine on Sundays πŸ™ˆ . 

To me, this is a pro, as it forces us to take some time to rest and recharge. 

Pro #21 – πŸ“ Geographic position 

Traveling in Germany and Europe is super easy. You can simply cross borders with a car or by air. 

On a road trip my wife and I did in 2020, we drove from Dusseldorf and stopped in the south of Germany, Austria, Croatia, and Slovenia. We were able to explore three new countries within two weeks. Where else do you get such a fast and easy change of culture and country? Only in Europe, baby!

Pro #22 – πŸ‘€ Everyone follows the rules

Germans love their rules and follow them. I think that Germany works so efficiently because people abide by the rules. If you don’t, you will get caught and will get into trouble.Β 

16 cons of living in Germany

Con #1 – β˜”οΈ Weather

Weather in Germany can be tough to get used to. Winters are long, and sunny days feel like very little compared to the grey and gloomy days. During the winter months, the sun goes down at like 4 pm. Depending on where you live, you can experience consecutive days of snow or rain.Β 

Con #2 – πŸ₯΅ No air conditioning

As I mentioned in con#1, the sunny and warm days are few compared to the cold and gloomy ones. This is why I think Germans justify not having AC anywhere in Germany – which is most office buildings, public transportation, hospitals, and flats.

However, during summer, temperatures can sometimes be over 30Β°C for several days in a row. Very quickly, every single place starts to feel like hell, and without any AC, it can sometimes be really tough to cool down.

Con #3 – πŸ–‹ Bureaucracy

Old processes and bureaucracy – that is so German. Generally, any official process needs some forms, tons of appointments, and a lot of time.

Due to the bureaucracy, the digitization of services has been challenging in Germany. To the extent that private companies have been formed in an effort to simplify long processes for people. This is the example of dasElterngeld, an app designed to help new parents file for parental allowance (Elterngeld). With the help of the app, a family can file for parental allowance in 30 minutes. Without the app, it can take them days!

Con #4 – ⏳ Getting internet at home can be a long painful process

This has to do a bit with con#3 – bureaucracy. If you are moving to a shared apartment (WG), most likely, a flatmate already has an internet contract, and you won’t have to worry much about it, except for paying your monthly share.

If you are renting an apartment by yourself, you will need to get an internet contract under your name. Depending on the cables installed in your building and the provider you choose, the process can last a few days or weeks. I’ve met people who have had to wait up to 6 weeks to get an internet connection at home.

Read Our Related Guide

Best Internet Providers in Germany

Con #5 – πŸ€·πŸ½β€β™€οΈ Flats are rented without a kitchen

Oh boy, if you are new in town, this one will come as a shocker. Apartments are usually rented out without a kitchen; this means that new renters need to consider buying a new kitchen as part of their costs when renting an apartment.

If you are looking for an apartment, make sure to check if the kitchen is included. Most likely, it is not. It is quite common that the previous renter will take the kitchen with them to install it in their new flat. 

Don’t ask me why, but that is how apartments are usually rented out in Germany – without a kitchen. 

Con #6 – β›ͺ️ Hidden governmental fees

Two fees might not make sense to you in Germany:

  • Church tax: All German citizens or residents that officially belong to certain religions pay church tax. Sometimes new residents unintentionally agree to pay church tax during their registration process (Anmeldung). We wrote a whole guide about church tax in Germany, so make sure to check it out and assess for yourself if you should / want to pay this tax.
  • TV and radio fee: Everyone who lives in Germany needs to pay the Rundfunkbeitrag – which is a broadcasting fee of 17,50 euros a month, which is non-negotiable. You will need to pay for this whether you watch local TV shows and listen to local radio or not. Albeit the reason for this fee is good. If you are interested check out our guide on the German radio tax.

Con #7 – 🌭 Traditional food is generally fatty

Traditional German food usually involves a lot of meat, potatoes, cabbage, and fat. If you are into this kind of food, then you’ll love it here. If not, then it might be difficult to get used to the traditional stuff. Luckily, there is so much variety in restaurants and food in the supermarket that you don’t have to eat traditional food if you don’t want to.Β 

Con #8 – πŸ₯Ί Hard to make German friends

A German guy once told me: ‘Germans are like coconuts, the shell is very tough, but once you can get through it, you will find a soft and sweet person. Once a German becomes your friend, they are a friend for life’. Boy is that accurate. 

Finding local friends in Germany is very tough. Don’t get me wrong, they could be very nice and polite, but just because you have a beer with someone a couple of times does not mean they are your friends. 

This is not only a personal feeling of mine, Germany ranked number 59 out of 64 countries in the InterNations Expat Insider in 2019 for the criteria’ finding friends’.

Read Our Related Guide

How to Make Friends in Germany

Con #9 – 🍿 Tough to find movies in their original language in cinemas

Finding a cinema that shows movies in their original language is quite an adventure in Germany. These movies are called OV (original version) or OMU (Original with subtitles in English), and few cinemas play them. We created the ultimate list of the best English movie theatres in Germany for you to check out.

In Dusseldorf, for example, only one cinema is known for showing movies in their original language. Usually, they are only available in 3D, and a ticket costs 15 euros (freaking expensive, if you ask me).

Con #10 – πŸ“ Contracts are long and hard to get out of

Almost every contract you sign with a service provider (internet, mobile phone, gym, insurance, etc.) is usually for 12 or 24 months. If you don’t cancel it on time, it typically auto-renews for another 12 months. If you want to quit any of your contracts, you need to do it with a three-month notice period before your contract end date.Β UPDATE: That luckily changed in 2022. You can now cancel or change contracts with a one-month notice period after the first 24 months.

Con #11 – πŸ™Š Germans complain a lot

Complaining is an art in Germany. Germans love to complain about everything. They see it more as providing feedback than simply pointlessly complaining about stuff.

Once you understand some German, you’ll notice how much Germans love to do this.

Con #12 – 🩺 Doctors and banks have funky opening hours

Neither doctors nor banks have consistent opening hours. The opening hours depend on the clinic or bank type, and they differ from day-to-day.

Most doctors’ offices are open from Monday to Friday. It is quite common for clinics to be closed on Wednesday and Friday afternoons.

Something similar happens with bank branches. Most banks are closed during lunchtime and open in the afternoon for a couple of hours. This is why we are so happy with an online bank like N26 (our review), which is 100% online and available almost 24/7.

Con #13 – πŸ€‘ Cash is king

If you are not used to having cash in your wallet, you will need to get used to carrying some. Cash is still a super common thing. Even with Covid-19, some establishments still don’t accept card payments at all.

Con #14 – 😲 Direct customer service

Some might swap the word direct for ‘bad’. However, I think that due to the efficiency Germans are used to, they are straightforward when dealing with you as a client, especially in public offices (post, immigration, etc.). This becomes more clear when you speak the language.

I have experienced some very nice and some very very rude customer service support in Germany. I think wherever you travel to in the world; you will always find friendly and rude people.

Con #15 – 🀳🏽 Bad reception

Mobile reception is not the best in all of Germany. You might have a mobile service provider who has excellent reception in your city. The moment you jump on a train or car and travel within the country, you get no reception or access to the internet. 

If you are searching for a mobile service provider, we wrote a whole guide about Germany’s best mobile providers to help you out.

Con #16 – πŸŽ„ Christmas is very quiet

This con is my own opinion. In Latin America, Christmas is a loud holiday. All the family meets, drinks, dances (sometimes), and eats until the early morning hours. The whole point of Christmas Eve is to wait for midnight.

So it was a shock for me to find that Christmas in Germany was so quiet. Traditional families go to church, followed by dinner with the closest family members, sing some classical songs by the Christmas tree, and are in bed before midnight.

It really is a silent night ⭐️.

Final thoughts

The pros of living in Germany definitely outweigh the cons. Depending on where you come from, some things in Germany might be shocking, while others will bring you a lot of joy. 

I’m sure if you give Germany a chance, you might also fall in love with this beautiful country.

Ready to pack your bags? Check out our guides on how to move to Germany and the best cities to live in Germany.

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About the Author

Jen Palacios is a researcher and writer at Simple Germany specializing in aiding international skilled workers to navigate the complexities of German life.

Jen brings a unique immigrant perspective to her writing. Beyond her professional pursuits, Jen is an avid learner with interests ranging from woodworking to web development.

She is committed to writing guides and producing YouTube videos for Simple Germany that provide practical guidance for internationals aiming to settle into life in Germany more smoothly.