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Please tell me about living in Germany

(35 Posts)
MummyPig24 Sat 01-Nov-14 07:00:07

Dh has been offered a job near Munich and we are seriously considering it providing the company will pay relocation costs and the pay is right.

We have 3 children, 7, 4 and 7 months. What is the schooling system like? Are there things you dislike about living in Germany? What are the good points? We would be renting a house, do the prices vary greatly between areas? Any info would be appreciated!

snowmummy Sat 01-Nov-14 08:16:24

Sorry, don't have any answers. Following your thread though because we're in a similar situation.

Lifestooshorttosleep Sat 01-Nov-14 08:27:03

We live in Germany, though not Munich, so I can't comment specifically on the area. In general though, I find it a pretty safe country to live in, jn that I have no concerns about being out late or letting kids out on their own. There's a fair amount of bureaucracy but there's always a process for getting things done. Shops are shut in Sundays, which takes some getting used to, but I like it. You can generwlly buy most products you'd be familiar with in the UK, though typically there's fewer malls and large grocery stores. High streets thrive due to this, which is good, but if you like the big range of choice from UK or US, then it's a change. Life's good here, we like it a lot. Feel free to ask me anything more specific if you want!

Polydora Sat 01-Nov-14 08:39:43

I've lived in Munich for eleven years. Both my children (now aged 5 & 3) we're born here. It's a brilliant place to live, and wonderful for children. To try and answer some of your questions:

Children start school at the age of six here. You above three options - German state schools, Private Bilingual Schools, International Schools.

German State Schools are the best option if you want your children to really integrate and learn the language, but it can be tough on a child if they have no German at all. Not you are thinking of this option, I would suggest getting German classes for your children as soon as possible. When they start school, they onyx do half days, and there is the option for post-school child care (called Hort).

Bilingual schools are a combination of German families that want their children to learn English, and international families. They use the immersion technique, where all classes are run jointly by a native German speaker and a Native English speaker. The quality varies - soon are good, some not so. They are difficult to get into, with long waiting lists.

There are two international schools (Bavarian International School and Munich International School). All classes are in English, so they are good for families who are here in the short-term, but it's difficult for children to learn German and integrate with locale children. They are good schools, but by expensive so it's best if your husband's employer pays!

From ages 1-3 children can go to Kinderkrippe (crèche), but they don't have to. Private Krippes are very expensive an difficulty to get into. People tend to register their babies before birth. But if you are slightly outside the city, it will be easier for you.

From ages 3-6 children can got to Kindergarten, and most children do go, even though they can legally stay at home until the age of six. There are bilingual kindergartens, state kindergartens and private German kindergartens. Costs vary, so your best off just Googling as most able their own websites.

There are not really bad places to live in Munich. It's a safe, civilised city with good transport links. But of course there are more desirable areas. Rents are universally expensive but again range, depending on locations.

What do I dislike? Hmmm...being away from family, bad customer service, not understanding everything (I speak German, but there are still days I feel completely out of my depth).

What do I like? So much - being close to Italy for summer weekend breaks, skiing every weekend in the winter, all the seasonal stuff - Christmas Markets, Oktoberfest, Fasching etc. watching my children grow up bilingual. Oh, and the amazing group of fried s I have made over the years here.

Sorry for the very long post. There aren't really short answers to your questions! Let me know if you want any more information.

Polydora Sat 01-Nov-14 08:40:37

Sorry about the typos. I should have reviewed the message before posting!

BasketzatDawn Sat 01-Nov-14 20:43:39

Munich is the dearest place in Germany to rent, I think - and most do rent as buying property is unusual anyway on the mainland of Europe.

No personal experience. A friend who moved there had all her children in an international school. They liked it. The fees were eye watering though.The children did learn German in school and I get the impression it was an important part of the curriculum. I'd think they teach it better than in the UK - and they will start earlier and use native speakers. And English was certainly the language of the playground - a few German families used the school but that was because they wanted their Dc to be bilingual.

My friend reckoned her English-speaking life was such that she could get by without speaking German, which was a shame as she wanted to learn. She found things like banking and shops hard though till her German was better. But in Munich and area there are lots of courses if you do want o learn/improve German.

Years ago I lived in northern Germany and knew a British family who used the state system. The children were bilingual but had begun with almost no German. I don't know why they went in the first place. I knew the children once they were teenagers and they were very integrated. If you wanted to go down that route, I am sure you could find extra tuition in place like Munich which is so very cosmopolitan.

MummyPig24 Sun 02-Nov-14 09:42:47

Thank you very much for the replies. We are still waiting on info about wages, relocation costs etc. I really hope it all happens though as I think it's a fab opportunity.

MummyPig24 Sun 02-Nov-14 14:48:15

I've thought of a couple more questions if you don't mind. Do you work? Do they have a tax credits system in Germany? At the moment Dh works and I have been a sahm for 7 years, with a few cleaning jobs in between DCs 1 and 2 and we get some housing benefit and tax credits. Obviously Dhs pay would need to reflect the loss of this money. How do you go about taking pets? We would probably have to re home our guinea pigs but I really wouldn't want to leave the cat. When you moved, did you fly or drive? Did you take your car or sell here and buy new there?

mausmaus Sun 02-Nov-14 14:58:13

housing benefits - probably not applicable to you as newcoming foreigner. you will be expected to make do with your earnings

tax credits - you will not receive much from the state. child benefit yes and there are certain things that are tax-deductable but often the effort (tax lawyer) costs as much ( or more) than the savings.

ChilliMum Sun 02-Nov-14 15:02:26

Hi, we are not in Germany butt we lI've in France on the German border so I can't answer any of your technical questions but we go a lot to Germany as it is a really child friendly country, lots of great parks and family friendly activities and restaurants.

We moved to France when our children were 1 and 6. They went straight into the state school and have had no problems picking up the language. I have friends in Germany and from what they tell me the school system is very child centric and supportive.

We brought our dog with us (and back and forth at Christmas). We got a pet passport in the UK before we left and then registered with a vet here once we arrived. No problems.

We have never regretted our move, has been a wonderful adventure. Good luck in whatever you decide.

Archfarchnad Sun 02-Nov-14 15:41:49

Hi Mummy, I've lived in Germany almost my entire adult life, so can't help you with things like coordinating a move because I only acquired a family here! And I live in northern Germany too, which is culturally incredibly different to Bavaria.

My DC go to a bilingual state school in a system that is unique to Berlin. It's worked brilliantly for them in enabling them to speak and write both languages equally well. The problem in a German-only school is that their written English will not improve at the same rate (potentially a problem if you move back to the UK before they finish schooling), and German teachers of English often find it difficult having native speakers in their classes. I would only recommend an English-only school for families who are staying a year or two at most, and even then it's a great pity not to use the opportunity of picking up another language.

Bavaria seems very, very traditional and conventional to me, I would find the Catholicism quite oppressive. Do they still have the crucifixes in every classroom? But this is probably my pro-Berlin prejudice coming out. Munich is a lot more expensive and 'posh' than Berlin, also more sophisticated and Italienate - and I'd love to live so near the Alps.

Generally Germany is a great place to bring up kids. Society is less constantly fearful of bad things happening (drives me crazy about the UK these days) and gives kids more independence. There seem to be more parks and family-friendly facilities, prices for children's activities aren't so extreme. On the other hand, there's more concept of 'it takes a village to raise a child', and if older people see your kids doing something they don't like, they well well make disapproving comments. For instance putting shoes on a seat on the train or burping in public. DH was once told off quite vigorously because DD1 wasn't sitting straight in her sling as a baby. We call it the 'little old lady police'.

The airport is to the north of Munich, so make sure when you're looking for accommodation that you're not under the flight path.

Tax credits don't exist as such, and housing benefit only for very low earners. You will get 184 euros child benefit per child (in fact I think it's slightly higher from the 3rd child onwards). If your DH works but you don't you will be put in tax class 3, which allows a non-working spouse to offload some of their tax allowance to their working wife/husband. This also permits you to get your health insurance paid for along with your DH, as long as you choose gesetzliche insurance, not privat. Your children will also be insured free of charge. In this tax class you are allowed to do a small amount of work - I think the monthly income limit is 400 euros - it's called geringbeschäftigt - without losing the benefits.

You will probably have a free choice of health insurance, the rates differ slightly. Don't choose the AOK, they're shit. The Techniker has quite a good reputation.

re getting there: I know a few families from school who moved to Germany, and a few did bring their British car. Most sold up, flew over and bought a left-hand drive here. In all honesty, it's a real pain driving a right-hand drive in Germany, especially when overtaking. Fine for a holiday, but full time no thanks. I have little problem converting from one to the other (although the first hour in a car on the 'other' side I tend to grab for the gearstick on the wrong side).

Pets, hmm, would probably sedate cat heavily and fly, with cat in cabin if poss. It's a LONG drive from the UK to Munich, I wouldn't put a cat through that. Your cat will need to get the rabies jab when here (Tollwut) - don't worry, it's absolutely standard, ours has it too.

littlemonkeyface Sun 02-Nov-14 15:45:23

Hi

I am surprised mausmaus says you will not receive much from the state as Germany has actually a much more family friendly tax system than the UK.

Being a SAHM will actually pay off much more as your husband will receive your entire tax allowance against his salary and you and the kids will be covered under his public health insurance policy.

Child benefit is also much more generous than in the UK as you will get EUR 184 for each of the first two kids and EUR 190 for the third. And there are a lot more tax rebates than in the UK, e.g. your husband will be able to deduct a part of the petrol costs to and from work (there are loads of things that are tax deductible, but you would need to get expert advice as it is rather complicated).

mausmaus Sun 02-Nov-14 15:52:47

littlemonkey what I mean is there is no extra money coming in (apart fom child benefits) other benefits will be via the (incredibly complicated) tax system. and there you need to get your head around if it's worth is.

for example when I worked in germany (10 years ago) I drove to work and was in theory able to claim tax back per kilometer driven. but fillng the forms/consulting a accountant would have been mire exoensive than claiming...

BlingBubbles Sun 02-Nov-14 16:17:23

we moved to Munich last year from London and brought our cat and dog, we flew Lufthansa and only paid €100 for each animal, they went in the hold and were perfectly fine.

My DH's company gave us some money for relocation but it wasnt loads so DH and a few mates hired a van and drove all our furniture here while DD, the pets and me flew over.

Munich is a lovely city, especially if you like the outdoor life, every one bikes, runs and hikes in the mountains. Most people speak English, which helps a lot. My DD goes to Kindergarten here and loves it.

Munich is one the most (if not the most) expensive city in germany, but we came from london so it doesnt really compare to that. You get more space for your money when it comes to renting but be aware, most places dont come with kitchens and you will either have to put your own one in or buy the one from the previous tenant.... crazy- i know!!!

somethings will take getting use to, no shops open on a sunday still gets me, not all places accept debit cards and most people carry loads of cash on them, I never thought i would miss Tesco but I miss the ease of everything under one roof.

Overall its a great city and I think we made the right decision to come here, the quality of life in my opinion is way better than we had in the UK.

Good luck and please PM if you have any questions.

MummyPig24 Sun 02-Nov-14 17:29:13

Wow, thanks so much for that info. So helpful! Is the child benefit payment monthly? Interesting to know I could do a small amount of work. We won't have a decision about this move until the end of the year. It all depends on dhs current branch, but I am very hopeful.

MummyPig24 Sun 02-Nov-14 17:43:46

Oh for goodness sake dh has just informed me he has made a mistake, the location is nowhere near Munich, it's Dusseldorf! I despair of him sometimes. Still, the general info I have read here is very helpful.

BlingBubbles Sun 02-Nov-14 17:46:59

Yes the child benefit is paid monthly but it takes forever from when you apply! We applied last year in November and we only received it in July this year, they do however back pay you from when you apply. You must also make sure you cancel the child benefit in the UK and get a letter showing when it was stopped.

There are jobs here called mini jobs that you can do and basically you earn a maximum of €450 a month and won't pay tax on that. I think it may be 15 hours a week or something like that.

Lifestooshorttosleep Sun 02-Nov-14 18:17:32

The International School of Dusseldorf has a good reputation and runs (I think) the IB curriculum. You'd have other choices (Cologne or even Bonn) depending on exactly where his work location is. One of the advantages of being so far West is proximity to UK. From Dusseldorf you can be in Calais in about 4hrs, so easy for a weekend trip back. Also very close to Belgium and Netherlands for a change of scene and different shopping!

Archfarchnad Sun 02-Nov-14 18:50:46

Oh Düsseldorf is nice, I've visited my friend there a few times! A bit further from the Alps, mind grin but as life says so much quicker - and cheaper - for getting to/from the UK. Düsseldorf is also a comparatively posh place with fairly upmarket shops (and big Japanese community, I recall), though not quite as expensive on rent as Munich, I think. Düsseldorf airport is quite large and has an easy train link to the city centre or to Cologne. The weather is also much milder than either Berlin or Munich - much more like the UK.

One more thing about child benefit (and thanks Bling for confirming that it's a bit more from 3 children onwards) - the default setting is that it gets paid to your DH via his earnings, but it is possible to circumnavigate this and get it paid straight to you if you want. Depends if you share a current account or not, I suppose.

Thanks again Bling - the mini jobs are what I was thinking off when I mentioned geringbeschäftigt (officially the name is geringfügige Beschäftigung). I didn't know that the amount has now gone up to 450 euros per month, and yes, the max weekly hours are 15. There's info on it here but obviously in German only.

"fillng the forms/consulting a accountant would have been mire exoensive than claiming..."
Almost everyone we know uses a tax adviser to do their declaration. We used to do ours ourselves when we were young, free and single, but since becoming a family it's far too complicated. I'm pretty sure not only does our tax guy save us a lot of hassle, he also saves us more money than he costs. For instance, there's a tax free allowance for each child called a Kinderfreibetrag (suppose that's equivalent to the British tax credits a bit). German tax offices are a bit more laid back than British ones - we always file our declaration horribly late and have never been fined once. Maybe that's just Berlin inefficiency though!

littlemonkeyface Sun 02-Nov-14 20:17:36

mausmaus You are right that the German system is very complicated and DH and I have not always taken advantage of all the allowances we are entitled to as we simply cannot be bothered with all the paperwork.

Having said that even if you do not take advantage of all the allowances I do believe that a family on a middle-income salary generally has a better lifestyle in Germany than in the UK (cannot comment on high-income salaries).

OP You will also not have to pay "Kirchensteuer" like most Germans if you are Anglican (Kirchensteuer is around 8-9% of income tax and charged on top if you are a member of the Protestant or Catholic Church in Germany).

littlemonkeyface Sun 02-Nov-14 20:34:59

And as Archfarchnad said, Düsseldorf is really nice. Most expats live to the northern side near the airport in Kaiserswerth and Wittlaer.

BasketzatDawn Sun 02-Nov-14 20:43:29

Have you looked at some of the expat sites - like Toytown Germany? You might get some more local and specific information and support.

I like the area round Düsseldorf, though I've not visited D itself since it was poshified. There are lots of lovely towns on the Rhine. The German in the north can be easier for learners to understand (than in Bavaria, I mean). You can travel quite quickly from London by Eurostar. it does involve changing in Brussels but I think is around 5 hrs from St Pancras to Köln. And the public transport around there is fab IMO.

MummyPig24 Tue 04-Nov-14 06:39:45

I will check that site out, thanks basketz.

ErnesttheBavarian Tue 04-Nov-14 06:50:06

I live near Munich and was about to reply, and luckily skimmed the thread and see it's now near Dusseldorf.

Fwiw, I love living in Germany. The health care system is fantastic, the facilities around us at least are brilliant. The kids have loads of freedom. Where we are, less than an hour from the alps and skiing every weekend in the season.

We have decided twice to move back, looked into houses, schooling and then decided we must be mad to consider it, and have now decided to stay put. We've even just bought out retirement flat, which, as we're both decades away from retirement will use it as a weekend place for the next 20 years or so. but I don't think we would ever return to England.

I went to Dusseldorf years ago, the first time I visited Germany. I had been brought up on 'Auf Wiedersehen, Pet' so was expecting a concrete jungle and lots of cranes, and was really surprised and impressed with how lovely a city it is.

My kids are all bilingual and we're all really happy here. Good luck.

ErnesttheBavarian Tue 04-Nov-14 08:34:25

blingbubbles whereabouts are you? Are you settling in ok? Are your kids in German or IS (nosey)

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