Probable move to Germany and I have SO MANY QUESTIONS
September 8, 2017 8:44 AM   Subscribe

It's looking like there's a very good possibility that I will be transferring to my company's home office in Munich, Germany by the end of the year. We would be there for 3-4 years. I have never been out of the US for more than 1 day. I have a bazillion questions inside!

Some background info: currently live in Atlanta, Georgia with my husband and cat. I plan on taking both with me. Move would be end of November at the earliest. Both my local branch and the home office agree and support the transfer, the main hiccup is that they need to agree on details (including who pays for what).

Would getting a book like Germany for Dummies be helpful? Most of the internet resources I can find are not helpful: they're either trying to convince me to come to Munich or they're telling me things like "change your address" or "find a mover", things that I would do if I was moving to an apartment down the street. If you know of websites with better information please share!

Logistical questions:
- I'll probably be getting a European cell phone and number but is it even possible to keep my US line too? currently have sprint
- will my iPhone even work over there or do I have to get one with the right country code?
- I have student loans and credit card debt. How does that work when I will be getting paid in Euros? Do I keep a US bank account and transfer money between to pay my US bills?
- the electrical outlets are different, right? should I bring any of my electrical stuff (hair dryer, electric razor, etc.) and get a converter or just buy new once we get there?
- I've never had to take my cat on a plane before. He didn't do very well for the first leg of our move from Dallas to Atlanta a few years ago. How do I get him ready for this? Can the vet prescribe something to knock him out for the trip?

Living questions:
- what's the apartment renting process like? is it much different than the US where you pretty much just apply and pay the money?
- are most apartments cat friendly or will that be hard to find?
- if I can afford it, is it worth it to get a furnished apartment? (we plan to leave most of our stuff in storage here in the US)
- can you suggest good apartment sites?
- am I going to have to use one of those washer/dryer combos that I've heard no good things about?
-do apartments usually have swimming pools? (that's pretty standard here in the south)

Visa/Government stuff:
- I have seen a list of visa requirements for workers, but do spouses have the same requirements?
- would a state level misdemeanor disqualify someone someone from the visa process?
- I see that there is a health requirement, my husband has back issues, would that cause issues with getting a visa?
- Not that we are the kind of people who cause trouble, but what are some things that can get us deported once our visa is approved? I have no idea how the laws are different, and I'm probably just overthinking this, but I don't want to do something that's legal in the US but not Germany.

Munich questions:
- Office is located near the English gardens. Is it going to be very terribly expensive to live near work?
- I'm hoping we can go without a car entirely. I've heard the public transportation in Europe is good. How about Munich?

Travel in Europe:
- we want to go to every country in Europe while we are there. What's travel like between European countries? Will they stamp my passport book?
- I've heard the train system is very good in Europe. How much coverage does it really have? Could we go to every country by train?
- How different are the regions in Germany culturally/geographically/etc.?

Culture questions:
- we currently speak no German, and even though we plan to learn, I don't know how much we'd really get in 3 months. Do very many people speak english? Am I just going to be confused all the time?
- I don't want to be an offensive American! What are some ways to offend in Germany that are different than the US? (we are already the kind of people that are on time, so we're good there)

Homesickness:
- We watch ALOT of TV. Will I be able to get my US shows? I don't think I can go without watch the Americans final season next year! Is there some kind of expat satellite package or something?
- Big football fans too. I understand that Germany is quite a few hours ahead and my husband is willing to watch the game at 2am. Will there be any sports bars that are open then and showing games?
- Is there much american food over there? I am definitely going to try all the German food I can but sometimes I'm going to want a Big Mac, you know? Just a little taste of home.
- WILL THEY HAVE DR PEPPER????


What am I leaving out? I don't really need lists of things to do and see, we will have plenty of time to figure it out when we get there. I'd just like to know what to expect and what I need to start researching now so we are prepared to go.
posted by LizBoBiz to Travel & Transportation around Munich, Germany (41 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
I can't tackle all of your questions because I'm sure things have changed since we lived there in 1999, but, here goes.

- the electrical outlets are different, right? should I bring any of my electrical stuff (hair dryer, electric razor, etc.) and get a converter or just buy new once we get there?

That's up to you, but I wouldn't pack anything more than I had to if I were you, so I'd buy new once you get there.

- if I can afford it, is it worth it to get a furnished apartment? (we plan to leave most of our stuff in storage here in the US)

Yes? Can you live without most of your stuff for three years? Do you want to have to sell anything too big to come back with you?

- am I going to have to use one of those washer/dryer combos that I've heard no good things about?

Our apartment (the first floor of a multi-family) had a full sized washer and dryer in the basement. YMMV.

- Office is located near the English gardens. Is it going to be very terribly expensive to live near work?

Depends on what you consider "near." The English Gardens is lovely and it's an awesome part of town. It's probably going to be expensive to live there.

- I'm hoping we can go without a car entirely. I've heard the public transportation in Europe is good. How about Munich?

Munich public transportation is to DIE FOR. We only had one car while we were there, which my husband used to drive to work near the airport. I LOVED public transportation in Munich. LOVED IT.

- we want to go to every country in Europe while we are there. What's travel like between European countries? Will they stamp my passport book?

Easy for Schengen countries. Super easy. If you're driving, you'll go through a checkpoint and they'll probably just glance at your passport as you drive through. No stamps. If you're flying, you'll probably have to go through the non-native-passport-holding line and you'll get stamps. But it's all easy.

- I've heard the train system is very good in Europe. How much coverage does it really have? Could we go to every country by train?

Pretty good coverage. Probably could go to every country by train, but that's an awful lot of time on a train. Airfare used to be cheap in-between cities in Europe. I can't vouch for that now.

- we currently speak no German, and even though we plan to learn, I don't know how much we'd really get in 3 months. Do very many people speak english? Am I just going to be confused all the time?

Most Germans speak English and even though they'll tell you that they only speak "a little," you'll be fine most of the time. Learn the language, though. You'll be there for three years, so immerse yourself. Watch lots of German TV, especially the news. Listen to German radio. Take classes when you're there.

- Is there much american food over there? I am definitely going to try all the German food I can but sometimes I'm going to want a Big Mac, you know? Just a little taste of home.


There are McDonalds. There are other American fast food places. There are American sections in some grocery stores.

- WILL THEY HAVE DR PEPPER????

Probably. But you'll pay for it.

When were were there, there was an expat magazine that I just can't remember the name of right now. Anyway, it was in English and it was really great. There were listings for expat groups in the magazine; I'm sure you could find all of that stuff online now.

The best piece of advice I can give you: pack a LOT lighter than you think you should. You can have stuff shipped later. Arriving in a foreign country where you don't speak the language with 10 bags is not fun. Ask me how I know.

Congratulations! I loved Munich!
posted by cooker girl at 9:09 AM on September 8 [2 favorites]


You'll need to figure out if your phone is unlocked and GSM ready. If it is newer it probably is GSM ready. Sprint can unlock it for you.

If you want to keep your number you can but you'll pay for it. Sprint (as of a few years ago) had a vacation plan but it won't last for years. I would transfer your number to t-mobile and go with their cheapest plan if you merely want to hold the number. Then set up Google Voice so that you can still get calls. This is a lot of work for moving for a few years though.
posted by k8t at 9:17 AM on September 8


As far as your bills, the easiest thing may be setting up your address at a trusted family member's house.

International bank transfers can be a pain. You'll want to really investigate this.
posted by k8t at 9:19 AM on September 8


For kitty - investigate bringing a cat to Germany asap. You'll likely need all her records. You may also need to quarantine her.
posted by k8t at 9:21 AM on September 8 [1 favorite]


The best piece of advice I can give you: pack a LOT lighter than you think you should. You can have stuff shipped later. Arriving in a foreign country where you don't speak the language with 10 bags is not fun. Ask me how I know.

This a thousand times. I moved to Germany for a year in 1991, and I easily took twice as much as I needed. If you're on the fence about something, I wouldn't bring it. They have stores there.

Obviously, things have changed a lot since I was there, but I kept an American bank account and used it to pay my student loans. It was helpful to have my US mail forwarded to my mother - if you can have a contact person in the US, that will make things easier.

Also, I did get yelled at my first day by a grocery store clerk because I didn't know I was supposed to put a price tag on my bananas before I brought them to the front of the store. But in general, people were super kind and understanding, and I was complimented on my atrocious German many times. But I had a lot of trouble with things like banking at first. Will you employer have someone assigned to helping you out? That made things much easier for me.
posted by FencingGal at 9:22 AM on September 8 [1 favorite]


For TV watching - one way to deal with this is to use a VPN service. You're basically tricking your device into thinking it is in the US and then using Hulu or whatever with Roku or Apple TV. I don't know what the NFL streaming situation is though. I personally liked using a VPN router so that all my devices were always on it. However, lots of expats I know use a VPN on an iPad and then stream it to an Apple TV.
posted by k8t at 9:25 AM on September 8


One difference that surprised me - Germans don't drink tap water. I'm not sure whether it's safe to drink, but once I found that out, I only drank bottled water. (This also means that if you've arrived on an extremely hot day in July, you will not be able to find a drinking fountain.)
posted by FencingGal at 9:25 AM on September 8


So jealous! Start here. Much of it written with refugees in mind but good info in any case. Have a wonderful adventure!
posted by evilmomlady at 9:25 AM on September 8


Hi, congrats on the offer, sounds fun! I am a US'ian abroad, so can speak to some of your questions.

Logistical questions:
- I'll probably be getting a European cell phone and number but is it even possible to keep my US line too? How long will you be living abroad? I know some people that have done this but usually only if they are away for a few months. They either switch to a very-low rate plan, or "park" their number. I didn't do this as I figured any US calls/contacts would be via Skype/email/etc. It has worked fine for me.
- will my iPhone even work over there or do I have to get one with the right country code? Yes, if it is unlocked. You will just need a German sim card.
- I have student loans and credit card debt. How does that work when I will be getting paid in Euros? Do I keep a US bank account and transfer money between to pay my US bills? Yes, you can transfer money from an EU account to a US account. I haven't figured out a way yet to pay directly out of my overseas account, so use PayPal or Transferwise. Having a US account is nice as well for when you're back home, need to receive checks, or do US-online shopping.
- the electrical outlets are different, right? should I bring any of my electrical stuff (hair dryer, electric razor, etc.) and get a converter or just buy new once we get there? Yep, toss it all. The outlets are different and the current is different so razors and other small electricals will get fried. You can purchase combination adapter + converter units, but I had not great luck with these. Computers are fine as they can handle the higher voltage in the EU. If you have a printer, I'd leave it in the states as well. It will be very expensive to bring over and the paper is a different size in the EU. I would recommend bringing as little stuff as possible, as you'll find lots of things are sized differently (e.g., rooms are smaller, beds are a different size so you can't get the right sheets, etc.)
- I've never had to take my cat on a plane before. He didn't do very well for the first leg of our move from Dallas to Atlanta a few years ago. How do I get him ready for this? Can the vet prescribe something to knock him out for the trip? You should check with German immigration/animal import authority, your vet, and the airline you choose. There are likely very explicit guidelines for how to do this, what shots are needed, etc. We flew Virgin and it was $$$$ but worth it to feel that our pet would arrive safely. We did this a couple of years ago, but we were told that sedation was prohibited for flying, as it can suppress the animal's breathing.

Visa/Government stuff:
- I have seen a list of visa requirements for workers, but do spouses have the same requirements? I am guessing you are both US citizens. I would talk to your company's HR and international offices, as they should have information about this, and should be the ones to be arranging your visa, and hopefully your spouse's. You should also be able to find information online (see here). I would also check with your employer on how quickly they think your visas will be processed--a November move is less than two months away and immigration paperwork and take quite a while.
- would a state level misdemeanor disqualify someone someone from the visa process? Definitely check the guidelines above and/or speak with an immigration lawyer. Most countries' immigration applications will request a full disclosure of criminal history and home state/federal background check, so this may come up.

Travel in Europe:
- we want to go to every country in Europe while we are there. What's travel like between European countries? Will they stamp my passport book? It is generally easy and cheap to travel between European countries, especially if you plan ahead. You might be able to find a cheap flight from Munich to Barcelona for $100 round trip, or even less. Passport stamps depend on your passport and travel. If you are flying within Schengen, it is like travelling within the US so you will not be given new stamps. However, if you fly out of Schengen (say, Germany -> UK), you will receive a stamp.
- I've heard the tr
ain system is very good in Europe. How much coverage does it really have? Could we go to every country by train? The trains are very good in many countries so you can see lots of the continent without air travel. Depending on advance planning and time, though, they can be expensive. I have mostly flown as it's often considerably cheaper and faster.


Culture questions:
- I don't want to be an offensive American! What are some ways to offend in Germany that are different than the US? (we are already the kind of people that are on time, so we're good there) I can't speak to German experience, but one important thing is to avoid being loud and bragging/comparing with the US. Every person of course is an individual, but in my experience, a bit of humility and embracing the difference--rather than ridiculing it--goes a long way. e.g., living spaces are often a bit smaller in the EU than in the US, so not complaining about how cramped things are will get you far. Also, avoiding comparisons of other things you perceive as "better," like washer/dryers, etc. And of course, the stereotype that some people have of Americans being loud, boorish, poorly read, consumeristic, ignorant, militaristic, Trumpians is one that is nice to avoid.


Homesickness:
- We watch ALOT of TV. Will I be able to get my US shows? I don't think I can go without watch the Americans final season next year! Is there some kind of expat satellite package or something? You can still subscribe to Netflix and HBO now but they will have different licensing and packages than in the US. We watched Americans for free on Amazon but couldn't figure out how to find other shows. Lots of other expats use VPNs to stream US channels.
- Is there much american food over there? I am definitely going to try all the German food I can but sometimes I'm going to want a Big Mac, you know? Just a little taste of home. There are certainly McDonalds in Germany, but the flavors (from what I hear) often taste different than in the US. But you will have currywurst so you are lucky!
- WILL THEY HAVE DR PEPPER???? There may be stores that cater to US expats but it probably won't be available in shops.

Other tips: IIRC, a Mefite posted a similar question within the last year about moving to Germany, so you might want to check the archives. For immigration stuff, I found the boards at www.expatforum.com to be helpful for basic questions (but of course not a substitute for legal advice). I've also found Facebook expat groups helpful--there's likely one for Munich and/or Germany.

Also, I would ask your employer about moving costs and subsidies. I pared everything down to two suitcases and mailed couple of boxes, but when you add in the flights, pet transport, etc., the actual day of moving alone was a couple thousand dollars for just one person. I would also clarify whether your spouse will be permitted to work and what sort of support system/life your spouse will have. Is he in a field that requires language skills, professional registration, etc.? Will his credentials transfer, or will he be starting over in an entry-level/unskilled position? As a trailing spouse, I found the move way more difficult than my spouse, as he slotted right in to his job and life while I was home trying to sort out furniture and a job for myself. He is incredibly supportive but it was a very difficult transition for me. I would start researching these things right now so you can prepare. Hope this helps!
posted by stillmoving at 9:27 AM on September 8


p.s.: I've travelled a bit in Germany and people appreciated my attempts to speak German, so definitely definitely try. Most people will speak some English but I wouldn't want to ask them to do it for me every day. Get on Rosetta Stone or DuoLingo now so you can start getting some basic phrases down.
posted by stillmoving at 9:29 AM on September 8 [1 favorite]


Congratulations! This will be fun for you, so don't worry.

You can keep your US line, but it will be insanely expensive to actually use it. Most expats I know have two sim cards, one for the US and one for Europe.
AFAIK, you can use the phone, but that may have changed since I tried last.
I think you have to keep your US account and transfer and that can be a bit complicated to set up, but I'm sure your new German bank will be helpful.
Generally, buy new appliances for convenience. For expensive stuff, like laptops and iPads, you'll still need a converter.
Ask your vet for some tranquilizers for your cat, its a long journey.

I don't know the specifics of Munich apartment renting. You should really ask your employer, they might have some contacts. Swimming pools are very rare, but Munich is charming in many other ways, and I think people swim in the river. Prices are relative, but I think you should be able to find something within biking/public transportation distance from Englisher Garten.

As cooker girl said, public transportation in Munich is excellent, and you will not need a car except for going on trips into the Alps (not really even then). Munich is a plane and train hub for a huge area including all of the Alps, Northern Italy and Southern Germany. You can go everywhere, and it will be great. Within the Schengen area, you should technically be able to travel freely everywhere. My advice is that you always carry a passport. An American passport is fine everywhere, you'll just be waved through.
German regions are distinct, but the most independent and unusual region is Bavaria.

You will be fine with English and being yourselves. Learning some German polite phrases will do you good.

About TV, I don't really know. There seems to be sportsbars, but they might be for soccer fans. There are McD's and Burger King and some upscale American style restaurants, and some supermarkets have sections with American goods.

Finally: you won't get deported.

On preview: FencingGal is right about the water, it's really a thing. The tap water is fine, but Germans are really into water. So you can drink the tap water if you like it, but if you invite Germans, you must have bottled water
posted by mumimor at 9:30 AM on September 8


FYI, people speaking English. I lived in Mainz, which is smaller than Munich, but I definitely could not rely on people speaking English. For instance, no one at my bank branch spoke English, which made things very tough at first. And when I had to buy bus tickets, the clerk did not speak English. In my experience, grocery store clerks did not speak English. So really focus on learning as much German as you can before you go. There are lots of youtube channels for working on German. A lot of people speak English, which is great, but don't go in expecting you can count on that.
posted by FencingGal at 9:36 AM on September 8


Grias Di!
1. So, you should know, it snows in Bavaria in the winter. Like, frequently. I commented to a co-worker "wow, it snowed again today" because I was living in Alabama and he just responded "Yes, it's winter."
2. Schnitzel shares a common ancestor with chicken fried steak.
3. Electronics with a plug-in adaptor (most computers, cell phones, etc) that convert the wall AC power to something else are likely to be OK to use with just a plug adapter. The adapter will show what input voltage it can take.
4. Your beer food groups are light/dark (helles/dunkel) crossed with regular (default) or wheat (weizen). They are all good choices. Light beer is low alcohol, and they have radler (mix with "lemonade") and colaweizen (wheat beer mixed with Coke, I shit you not).
5. I spoke a little bit of German, but frequently people responded to me in English.
6. Bavaria is the Texas of Germany, and Texas is the Bavaria of the USA.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 9:43 AM on September 8 [1 favorite]


Adapters. For iPads, iPods, cell phones, ebooks, and laptops, you need adapters, which fit over your plug and change it to fit into a wall outlet, not converters. Adapters are very inexpensive, buy several when you get there.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 9:44 AM on September 8


You might enjoy Wanted Adventure - a YT channel run by an American woman living in Germany. She deals a lot with cultural differences in a humorous way.
posted by kariebookish at 9:47 AM on September 8 [2 favorites]


I'm so jealous!

You want to get started on German early. It is weird in that it is a relatively close family member to English but it has retained a case structure which will seem almost totally foreign to you. Basically, there's two major ways to indicate word function in a sentence--through its place in a fixed word order, or through changing the word itself somehow to mark its function. English does (almost always) the first. Classical Greek does the second. German, helpfully, does both. So, the word "the" not only has different forms for three genders and two numbers (as you might be familiar with from French or Spanish), it also has four different forms reflecting the function of the noun it's modifying. It will look different in the phrase "the man is going to New York" than in the phrase "I hate the man." It takes a little time to get your head around if you've never worked with a language like that before.
posted by praemunire at 10:12 AM on September 8


Apartments don't usually have swimming pools, though yours might.

Washer/dryer combos are generally not as durable and reliable as two separate machines.
posted by Omnomnom at 10:21 AM on September 8


As for keeping your US number, there is the Magic Jack. I love mine! It's a little converter thingy you can buy either at Walmart or through their website. The current price is about 35 bucks. When you buy it, you get a free one-year subscription.

You attach the converter to either a phone jack or the computer with an internet connection and you have a fully functional US phone with its own US number. I am paying a few bucks a year for a vanity number (they let you pick the area code) and I am getting unlimited calls with the US (and it's free for people who call me).

I chose to plug it into my landline but by getting a separate (free) Magic Jack app, all the calls also ring on my cellphone so I can pick up whenever. The app lets me send and receive text messages to/from US numbers. I use it mostly in my home country but I've also used it in Germany. So, I only carry one phone but I am using it as both a US phone and a local phone (it has a local SIM card in it).

In some cases, you can use ("transfer") your existing US phone number as your Magic Jack US phone number, but even if for some reason it's not technically possible in your case, you just give your friends your new "US" number. You can pick a vanity number with any area code you wish.

More info here:
posted by M. at 10:57 AM on September 8 [1 favorite]


The forums at Toytown Germany have a lot of information.
posted by melissasaurus at 11:24 AM on September 8


You might enjoy Wanted Adventure - a YT channel run by an American woman living in Germany. She deals a lot with cultural differences in a humorous way.

While I initially found her a bit overwhelming, I have now been watching her videos since kariebookish posted the link. She has a lot to say, and has a great energy.
posted by mumimor at 11:30 AM on September 8


Dr. Pepper in Germany
posted by blob at 11:41 AM on September 8


"- I've never had to take my cat on a plane before. He didn't do very well for the first leg of our move from Dallas to Atlanta a few years ago. How do I get him ready for this? Can the vet prescribe something to knock him out for the trip?"

FWIW, my cat found air travel less stressful than car travel (although the airport waiting parts were not so great, and they make you take the cat out of the carrier at security so either have a harness or Hold. TIGHT.). Definitely start now researching the vaccine and quarantine requirements for bringing your pet into the country. On the airplane, the noise and vibration of the plane seemed to sooth my cat (I think he thought it was purring noisily at him), and, bonus, unless you have the loudest cat in the world, nobody will really be able to hear him even if he's complaining once the plane's engines are on.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:59 AM on September 8


Re cat: check on requirements asap. There may be timing requirements with regard to rabies vaccination and ways to minimise quarantine if that's an issue.

Sedation is not recommend for flights as that type of medication can have erratic effects at altitude. Luckily our cats didn't seem terribly bothered by it; they flew pressurised cargo Sydney to California and back a-ok. If you want, spraying the carrier and new apt down with Feliway will help. Leash training now is not a bad idea at all. Upon arrival she will likely want a litter box and something to eat - a packet of crunchies from home, dish of water, and... somehow a litter box. Maybe you can line your suitcase a small clean plastic tray and bring a very small packet of litter. (One of our cats "held it" the entire 14 hr flight, ymmv!) Also, line the carrier with a puppy pad so if she does go in transit it's contained.

Good luck!

(There's a bunch of house hunters international on YouTube - lots of Germany episodes. You can peek inside some apartments and get some nice locale shots.)
posted by jrobin276 at 12:16 PM on September 8


Hi, I live in Munich. You should join the Facebook group lmbb (little munich black book) they can answer all your questions and you don't have to be a mom. No, don't expect to be able to speak lots of English. Houses and flats are super competitive to get, and pricy. Get your company to do that for you, seriously! Don't try to do it yourself. culture shock could be huge. They are different here. I enjoy smiling and saying hello and orderly lines in grocery stores and it's a complete killer when you can't get that here. People love Munich and I can understand why- it's beautiful, has great public transport, great restaurants and the alps... but WOW it can be tough... and I've heard most expats I ever met say the same thing. (Get help with your internet hooking up company, they can get up to all kinds of tricks here, not connecting you and refusing to send people out and then cutting you off and cancelling but you still have to pay- it happened to us and a few friends) and bring any medicines you like- here you'll just get offered an herbal remedy. You're expected to suffer!
posted by catspajammies at 1:12 PM on September 8 [1 favorite]


Ps- when you rent here (unless furnished) you will be responsible for "getting your kitchen" this is often another area full of shenanigans as the previous tenets will try to sell you their kitchen, which you may or may not want. But expect it to come up. Also you'll need to supply all your own lighting fixtures. It's crazy isn't it!?
posted by catspajammies at 1:21 PM on September 8 [1 favorite]




" and... somehow a litter box"

Disposable litter boxes with litter included (peel back the label), A+++ would travel with again. You can get them hella cheaper at Petsmart or whatever, and individually rather than in 5-packs. Those were part of our hurricane evacuation supplies, and what we've used when moving etc and having to do an overnight with the cats at a hotel or something. They work good for getting you through 1-2 nights! They're small and don't hold a ton of cat poop/pee, but they hold 1-2 nights and can see you through until you can get to a pet store.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:37 PM on September 8


Unfurnished apartments are just that unfurnished - no light bulbs, no kitchen, no white goods. If you're taking over a lease you may reach an agreement with the previous tenant that they sell you their kitchen. Apartment buildings are extremely unlikely to have a swimming pools - people use the local communal pools to swim or the river.

It probably depends on how cost conscious you are as to how competitive you'll find the process to get one and absolutely ask for a relocation agent who can help you find a place to live, can help open a bank account etc.

Tenancy laws are very different from a lot of Anglo-Saxon legal frameworks I've come across. You pay at least three months deposit and you have a much longer notice period when you want to terminate your lease but on the other hand tenant rights are much more protected. A lot of people live in their apartment for many years, even decades. My father has lived in the same building in a Munich suburb for almost 35 years.

Public transit is excellent. You'll get a season ticket for the zones you normally travel in.

Don't bother with adapters, just go to Amazon and buy a Europlug USB charger and buy a suitable power cable that plugs into the power pack of your laptop. Really cheap and adapters get old really quickly. You may still want one universal adapter for when you travel to the UK for example but I'd not want to have to use one every day. Unless the electrical item says it is suitable for voltage of at least 220v don't bring it. You can see that on the item or power pack.

If lots of travel is really high on the list consider ease of access to the airport/mainline train stations when deciding where to live. The airport is quite a long way out of the city and if the idea is to head out of work late afternoon to fly to say Madrid for the weekend it makes a difference how long it takes to get to the airport. Also relevant for flying home on the last flight on a Sunday evening that gets to Munich airport some time between 10-11pm..no, you don't want to take a taxi from the airport, that will easily cost more than the flight with a budget airline.

If you have nice bikes, skis or any other outdoor gear bring it. There is a good chance that your furniture is too big for smaller European living space but if you have decent sports gear that you like take it (assuming your relocation package will give you some options to bring things). Munich is full of nice outdoor spaces, near a bunch of lakes and near the Alpes so if you like the outdoors.....

As somebody who is from Munich I do like the analogy with Texas. Expect people to be very direct, no nonsense kind of folks. Not generally politically correct. Quite conservative in some ways but not in others. Christianity is strongly interwoven with cultural events and the calendar but NOT in a social/moral way, no preaching, little regular church attendance etc. Nobody in a shop will ask you how your day is going and initiate chitchat. Nor will people do that in queues or on public transit. There is a time and place to be sociable and these are not the times and places.

After two international moves my recommendation would be to spend a bit of time thinking about all the things you think you 'know', take for granted, assume. And then realise that in another country most things are going to be different, perhaps only slightly different, perhaps completely different. As long as you can be open minded and spend a lot of time just observing initially you'll be able to fit in more easily.
posted by koahiatamadl at 6:39 PM on September 8 [2 favorites]


Just to make the adapter-versus-converter discussion a little clearer:

A lot of modern electronic (battery-driven or otherwise low-voltage) items with transformers/chargers (like laptops, iPads etc. and some kinds of lamps) have a multiple-voltage input option. Look at what's in the small print on the charger unit etc., it needs to say that input is laid out for various voltages. The typical white square Mac-thingy, for example, says that input is ok for between 100 and 240V.
So for these items, it only matters which kind of plug you use, for the shape of the electrical outlet is different, but it does not matter that the voltage in Europe is 220V (instead of 110V).
Stereo components sometimes (but not always) have a small switch on the back to set for 220 Volt or 110 Volt.
So in these cases you need merely an adapter, that is, a plug that fits over the original plug and is shaped to suit the European outlet.

For all other appliances that are plugged directly into the wall, however, you will need a voltage converter that steps down the 220V that come out of the wall in Munich to 110 volt for which your appliance is wired. If you don't use one of those, your whole appliance will get fried, or (if any) its internal fuses will.
These converters are, of course, designed to fit into the european outlet at the input end, and have one or a bunch of US-shaped plugs on the output end where you plug in your appliance(s). (We've been using this thing for years for my wife's stereo, Clunky but reliable.)
posted by Namlit at 3:58 AM on September 9


Thanks for all the info! So helpful!

Yes my company will be taking care of the visa, I just wanted to know what to expect.

Spouse is a stay at home spouse so working for him is not an issue. He's much more interested in all the new fish he can catch.

I'm assuming that the company will also help with apartment hunting and moving costs (they did the same thing when they moved me from dallas to Atlanta.) I think they also help with language classes/software too. Luckily the language at the office is English.

When you say light fixtures, do you mean just bulbs or the actual covers and stuff? If you move apartments, how do you even know if the fixtures you have will fit the new place?

Medications: husband has a three level fusion. He's trying to get a spinal cord stimulator put in before we go (it was already being discussed but now there's more urgency to get it done ASAP). Will he be able to get care for chronic pain management?

I'm surprised by the bottled water. I thought they were more environmentally friendly. Is filtered water acceptable? I hate using all that plastic.

Cat is already leash trained but he's terrified of people so taking him out for security at the airport is going to be so fun /sarcasm

If Bavaria is the Texas of Germany, then this Texan should feel right at home!
posted by LizBoBiz at 7:28 AM on September 9


I'm surprised by the bottled water. I thought they were more environmentally friendly. Is filtered water acceptable? I hate using all that plastic.

They are big on recycling. You'll see about 4 trash cans in an office, and each one is for a different type of trash (paper, glass, plastic, food waste, I think). Lots of the bottled water comes in big glass bottles that presumably get returned or recycled.

"Fasching" is Mardi Gras, except they start earlier. (Oktoberfest is usually in September or early October.)
posted by Huffy Puffy at 7:38 AM on September 9


Another question, when you say no kitchen, does that mean just the appliances or the cabinet and sinks too? What are white goods?
posted by LizBoBiz at 8:25 AM on September 9


I lived in Germany for 3 years recently.

White goods = washing machine, refrigerator, stove, etc. I lived in Berlin and drank tap water the whole time and I didn't die. The water was pretty hard (it will leave calcium deposits on your sink) but it was fine.

Other things people haven't mentioned: you're expected to bag your own groceries in Germany and it helps if you bring your own re-usable grocery bags. Recycling is pretty serious business there. In my old apartment building, we had a row of trash/recycling containers in the courtyard: trash, green glass, brown glass, white glass, cardboard/paper, garden waste/compost, and some kinds of plastic. If you get it wrong, expect someone to correct you.

When you move into an apartment in Germany, the city usually expects you to register your address with the city hall within 3 months of your arriving there. They're really not pleased with you if you register later than that.

You can buy stuff from the American iTunes store wherever you are as long as you've got an American bank card. For football, I believe the NFL has an international GamePass that lets you watch everything. I don't know if that's within your budget, but it's an option.

When you file American taxes (which you have to do every year) remember that you have to declare all foreign bank accounts if you have ever had more than $10,000 total in those foreign bank accounts.
posted by colfax at 9:30 AM on September 9


Oh, also: a lot of glass and plastic bottles (at least in Berlin) have a Flaschenpfand, which is an extra fee you pay at the cash register that you get back if you bring it back to the store and recycle it, or if you bring it back to the bar after you've drunk it. So save your bottles and bring them back!

One other thing that took me a ridiculously long time to figure out: sales tax in Germany and in Europe is built into the prices you see on the shelves. It's called VAT (value added tax). You've probably heard that Europe is expensive, right? Well, it's because countries add the VAT to almost everything; that money helps pay for various social system. So for instance, the state sales tax rate in Georgia is 4%. The standard VAT rate in Germany is 19%. There's a reduced VAT rate in Germany for some foods and other necessities, and that's 7%.
posted by colfax at 9:44 AM on September 9


Nobody has said it (among all the super advice) so I will - it will be tough and isolating and at times just damn hard. Upsides - great beer, the alps right over there, Paris and the rest of Europe a 100euro round-trip flight away, and vacation time to take advantage of that.

Drink the tap water. This is the developed world. Some people prefer mineral water, some don't and drink tap water.

"No Kitchen" means you have to go to IKEA and buy a kitchen and then install (or have it installed) yourself. It's is a surprising and not all that welcome thing if you aren't ready for it. On the flip side there's almost no chance of getting kicked out of your apartment if you live there like a regular, half-boring person.

We brought half a container of personal stuff but wish we'd brought more when it was apparent we'd stay, after a year you will likely have to pay tax/customs on stuff you bring in. That said, a half-furnished apartment is kind of tough/empty. Plan carefully.

We watch US TV with a VPN and subscriptions to Hulu/Netflix/HBO. And the internet.

Don't expect people to speak english, even if they can they might not out of a sense of not wanting to embarrass you by the fact that their english is flawless and your German intermediate.

We have a friend who had some vertebrae in his neck replaced - he lives in LA and went to Stuttgart to have the procedure. It was 1/10th the cost, performed by the surgeon who developed the technique (if I recall.) Similarly I had arthroscopic surgery on my knee for a laughably small sum from the same surgeon who works for the local Soccer team. If you can, research your partner's surgery and the possibility of having it done here. True, if you have a cold they will prescribe you special teas instead of some kind of super OTC concoction - but the surgeons know their stuff.

It's a different place, history played out differently (note the absence of flag-waving - also, you will be asked to explain why you elected Trump) and people have different values and frankly, it's just not the US. A lot of the cultural furniture is the same, but otherwise it's all pretty damn different.

(Watch 'Tatort,' try and figure out why people like Football/Soccer (don't make a deal if you can't - 'Football' here is like football in the US - Very Important.) Do the things you enjoyed doing back home, marvel at the differences. It'll be great, and if not great, way different and cool.)(I hope you like beer...)
posted by From Bklyn at 9:53 AM on September 9


By "kitchen" I mean everything- cabinets, appliances- the lot. Often the previous tenent will sell you their kitchen but you aren't obliged to accept. (Although you probably should, for your own sanity- I've heard horror stories of people waiting ages for their kitchen to come and they hadn't anything to cook on, our Italian friends ended up buying a temporary cooker- stove top and oven) and for lights- I mean you move in and there will just be wires hanging from the ceiling. I think most fixtures can go wherever should you move, ours have. It can be a huge headache- just trying to mentally prepare you.
posted by catspajammies at 11:34 AM on September 9


Oh- and it's true the water is very hard. My hair turned disgusting and I couldn't figure it out at all until I realized- now I do a vinegar rinse and it's back to normal but it took over a year of nasty hair to figure it out.
posted by catspajammies at 11:36 AM on September 9


Absolutely drink the tab water, the bottles have little to do with water quality. Historically, a lot of people have preferred carbonated water. Also, a lot of it will come in glass bottles that come in crates and you pay a deposit and are expected to return the bottles and crates to the vendor. You'll also pay a fee for all plastic bottles...so tab water is fab. And yes, hard water. Regularly treat your appliances that work with water with lime scale remover.
posted by koahiatamadl at 9:13 PM on September 9


American living outside the US, here (not in Germany but some of your questions are general enough that I can give my opinion):

- I'll probably be getting a European cell phone and number but is it even possible to keep my US line too? currently have sprint

It's possible if you pay for it, sure. I downgraded my T-Mobile plan to the cheapest they have and I pay for it - this works for me because (a) I go back to the US often and use it, and (b) I travel to lots of other countries and my T-Mobile plan works in most other places which is convenient for me.

If you want to keep your US number, you can look into either Google Voice or Fi rather than continuing to pay Sprint.

Side note: Google Voice is fantastic for calling and texting the US. Other options for keeping in touch (I use all of these): Whatsapp, Skype, Facetime, Facebook Messenger.

- will my iPhone even work over there or do I have to get one with the right country code?

If it's unlocked, it will work fine and you can just swap SIM cards.

- I have student loans and credit card debt. How does that work when I will be getting paid in Euros? Do I keep a US bank account and transfer money between to pay my US bills?

Transferring money between countries is doable but expensive. I've found OzForex and Currency Fair to be the best services. But yes, if you still need to pay US bills, you will need to pay out of a US bank account and if you don't have enough USD in your US bank account, you'll need to transfer some money over.

- the electrical outlets are different, right? should I bring any of my electrical stuff (hair dryer, electric razor, etc.) and get a converter or just buy new once we get there?

Voltages are different, too. Generally speaking (there may be and probably are exceptions), I've found that computing and phone stuff work fine in any country (e.g. I can charge my laptop and phone anywhere I go) but personal hygiene stuff needs to be bought new. My American straightening iron will cause power outages or fires or who knows what if I use it elsewhere. I had to buy a new vacuum. Etc.

Washer/dryers: my understanding is that dryers really aren't common in most of the world outside the US. People in most places wash clothes then hang them to dry. I have a washer/dryer combo unit but most of my friends only have a washer. And as for my combo unit, (a) as you've observed, it sucks, (b) it takes FOREVER - 1.5 hours for a wash cycle and 4 hours, yes 4, to dry, and (c) electricity is expensive. So I only use the wash cycle and I hang everything on the biggest drying rack I could find. And honestly, you get used to it, and it's better for your clothing. The exception is sheets and towels. Most people here hang those but I can't be bothered so I send those out to a laundry service so they'll come back folded and soft (towels get hard and scratchy if you hang them up).

TV: yes, most of your American streaming services will work but you may need to use them over a VPN. Even then, sometimes they're too smart (don't know about right now but Hulu wasn't working for me even over a VPN for a while). Amazon Prime Video works for me without a VPN, go figure.
posted by whitelily at 2:31 AM on September 10


One more comment: I saw a recommendation for transferring money between countries with PayPal. Absolutely do not do this unless you're not talking about much money. Their exchange rates are so horrendous it's nearly criminal. If you're transferring large sums (whatever that means to you), the rate makes a big difference. Shop around: Oz Forex and Currency Fair have been best for me.
posted by whitelily at 2:35 AM on September 10


I lied, I wasn't done yet - thought of some more things.

Re: furnished apartment: depends mostly on the price difference and your willingness to spend time/hassle on furnishing a new place (it takes longer than you think to furnish a new place completely from scratch...you need lots of things you wouldn't think of like hangers and scissors and masking tape). 3-4 years is a pretty long time to live in a furnished apartment, in my opinion. For one thing, it's likely to cost significantly more than an unfurnished place (but you'll have to verify this, of course, and factor in utilities if those are being paid by the furnished apt owner). Keep in mind that whatever you spend on furniture can be partially recouped later if Munich has a Craigslist-equivalent where people sell furniture. For another thing, I think most people get tired of furnishings and decor that someone else picked out. I didn't think I would, but after a year in a furnished place, I was starting to itch to have "my own stuff". Also, if you truly want the experience of living in Munich, living in a furnished place with someone else's stuff and someone else paying your utilities sorta makes it feel like a long-term holiday as opposed to living the way the locals do - just my experience, may not apply to you and your husband.

Oh, and: join an American expats group. Meetup.com should have one if they operate in Munich. You'll get tips from the group about lots of things, and invitations to things like American football game watches and Thanksgiving parties, etc. Meetup.com is generally a good way to make friends, too (they have groups for all sorts of interests and hobbies, not just expat stuff).
posted by whitelily at 3:25 AM on September 10


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