The Complete Guide to Moving to Berlin (for EU citizens)
Moving to another country is fun and exciting but it also can spark thoughts of endless paperwork and plenty of wasted time lining up for appointments. This step-by-step guide by LifeX will help make your transition to Berlin as seamless as possible.
In this guide, we will provide you will all the information you should know about:
- The initial steps
- Mobile carries
Part 1: The initial steps
1. The prerequisites
🏢 Get a signed employment contract
A signed employment contract is the entry point to Berlin and Germany for most people.
This step is primarily up to you. We just want to emphasize that a signed employment contract is (usually) the first step to getting all the necessities of relocating/integrating to Berlin done with ease.
🏡 Get a valid long-term rental contract
As a first priority, you need to secure a long-term rental contract in Berlin. This enables you to register your permanent address and get your German registration certificate.
How to find an apartment with a long-term rental contract in Berlin?
How to find an apartment with a long-term rental contract in Berlin? Check out these popular websites for finding apartments and rooms in Berlin:
- Facebook group: Berlin apartments rent & sell
- Facebook group: Flats in Berlin
In case you're a young professional you might find LifeX coliving apartments a great fit. You can find more about LifeX on our homepage.
2. Get registered ("Anmeldung")
Within 14 days of moving into your new home in Berlin, you will need to register your place of residence and receive your Anmeldebestätigung (Registration certificate). This piece of paper will be one of the most important documents in your new life as a Berliner (person, not the doughnut).
What you need to bring:
- Your passport or ID
- Anmeldung Formular (Registration Form)
You can fill out the form in advance, or pick one up at the Bürgeramt office when you go for your appointment. You will need to fill out the German form, but here is an English version to help.
- Wohnungsgeberbestätigung (Landlord Confirmation)
This document can only be signed by your landlord or the person giving you the apartment including the main tenant of the property (the ‘Haupmieter’). At LifeX we provide all our members with this document on the check-in and also by request.
How to apply and register your Anmeldung?
You will need to make an appointment at the Bürgeramt, the office that processes all civil registrations. It is not compulsory to go to the Bürgeramt in your area, you can select the one that is most convenient for you. Find a full list of Bürgeramts here.
There are three ways to make an appointment:
Go to this website and try to book in advance as these appointments can be hard to get. If you can’t find an available appointment we suggest refreshing the website every morning around 7:00 am for any openings due to cancellations.
- Pop in
You can go to the Bürgeramt without an appointment, and wait in line for your turn. We suggest getting there early to beat the queues!
You can also call and book an appointment. However, if you don’t speak German, we wouldn’t recommend it. Instead, you could ask a German-speaking colleague or friend to sit in on the call or make it for you.
What happens next?
For any additional information and hints click here - use Google Translate to help you.
Once you register your address, your registration will be processed immediately and you will be sent your tax ID number within two weeks. These two documents are essential for getting established in Berlin. You can now open a bank account, sign a phone contract and get settled in your new city.
3. Set up a bank account
Now that you have your Anmeldebestätigung it is time to get a German bank account. This will help you get settled and do regular things such as paying for a gym membership, go shopping, set up automatic withdrawals for rent and pay bills.
How to open a German bank account?
- "Normal banks"
There are a number of large banks to choose from, they include Commerzbank, Deutsche Bank, Dresdner bank, Postbank, Sparkasse and Volksbank. We suggest booking an appointment with a financial advisor at a few different banks and seeing which bank best suits you. Make sure you take your passport/ID and Anmeldebestätigung to your appointment in case they need you to fill in any paperwork.
At this stage, Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank are the only banks to offer online banking in English.
- Modern bank - N26
N26 is a relative newcomer to the German Banking scene. N26 is an online bank that allows you to quickly and easily sign up via their app. Even better, the entire application process and all online banking can be done in English. We highly recommend N26 as they are one of the only banks that allow you to open an account before you’ve received your Anmeldebestätigung. Therefore speeding up your administration process, and allowing you to get settled even faster!
4. Tax number
Your German tax ID, Steueridentifikationsnummer, is unique to you and it is the number the Tax Authority (Finanzamt) uses to identify you.
Luckily, this doesn’t require another appointment. Your Steueridentifikationsnummer is processed at the same time as your Anmeldebestätigung at the Bürgeramt. This number is issued by the Finanzamt and will be posted to you approximately two weeks after you register your address.
The Steueridentifikationsnummer has the format "12 345 678 901". This is the number you pass on to your employer to make sure you are in the correct tax bracket.
German income tax
Taxable income of less than €9,169 is tax-free for a single person (€18,338 for a married couple). Beyond this threshold incomes, up to €14,255 for a single person (€28,510 for a couple) are taxed with a rate progressively increasing from 14% to 24%. Incomes from €14,256 (€28,512) up to €55,960 (€111,920) are taxes at a rate of 24% to 42%; incomes from €55,961 (€111,922) to €265,236 (€530,652) are taxed at 42%. Incomes over €265,327 for a single person and €530,654 for a married couple are taxed at 45%. In addition to this, there is the “solidarity surcharge” of 5.5% of the tax, to cover the continuing costs of integrating the states of former East Germany.
Part 2: Culture
Berlin is home to over 3.5 million people. With a turbulent past and a storied history, Berlin continues to reinvent itself. The city buzzes with activity, from art gallery openings to international beer festivals, and a world-renowned party scene this city has something for everyone.
Germans love beer, and it is an essential part of German life, in fact, beer is cheaper than water! There is even a special day dedicated to beer, Tag des Deutschen Bieres, which falls on April 23rd each year. Berlin plays host to the world's longest beer garden which runs 2.2-kilometre stretch from Strausberger Platz to Frankfurter Tor. Here, you can try beer from over 2000 beer brands.
You can get by speaking English in Berlin – but we recommend being able to understand and speak some basic German such as thank you, danke and please, bitte. That said, if you'd like to stay in Germany for a longer period you might want to try and learn the German language. Thanks to the high number of foreigners moving to Berlin, there is a great selection of language schools to choose from including GLS German Language School, Volkshochschule, or Expath. Most schools will offer you a free trial course so you can see if the class works for you. Alternatively, we suggest getting your basics up to scratch with language apps such as Duolingo, Babbel or Memrise.
- Plan your Sunday
Sunday is a day of rest, and Berliners take this very, very, seriously. Almost all stores close on a Sunday. This includes supermarkets, so you could very easily end up without any milk or bread if you don't plan accordingly. Some restaurants and bars will also close on a Sunday, so be sure to check the opening hours beforehand. But, all is not lost as Berlin is full of flea markets such as Boxhagener Platz, Fehrbelliner Platz and Marheinekeplatz. Spend your Sundays with new friends strolling through stalls searching for vintage clothes, homewares and more.
- Events & activities
Cee Cee is an online weekly newsletter showcasing all Berlin has to offer, including the latest restaurants and cafes as well as cultural activities such as museum openings and all-night dance parties. Exberliner is available in print and online. This website will tell you what’s happening in Berlin as well as more general feature articles on Berlin. Time Out Berlin lets you know what’s on in Berlin, as well as things you might have missed in your own city/neighbourhood.
- Cash is (still) the king
Yes, we all love to pay for everything with our credit or debit cards nowadays. Well, apparently, not so much in Berlin. Merchants in Berlin still often don't accept anything other than cash, so be prepared to always carry a bit of cash on hand.
Part 3: Climate
Berlin is an exciting city with four distinct seasons; a beautiful spring, a hot summer, golden autumn and chilly winter. Unfortunately, Berlin can also be a rainy city. Pack your umbrella and a raincoat, it’ll help when you’re traipsing between obscure bars!
Temperatures usually range from 20°C to 30°C in the summer and the city’s residents regularly flee the city to take a dip and keep cool in the nearby lakes. The winters can be cold with temperatures hovering around 1°C. January is the coldest month of the year so if you don’t like the cold it might be a good time to book a weekend away.
No matter the weather, Berlin is a vibrant city where there is always plenty to do!
Part 4: Healthcare
The healthcare system in Germany is one of the best in Europe. Health Insurance is mandatory in Germany, so it is important you get this sorted as soon as you have registered. Here are a few things to know:
Health Insurance is mandatory in Germany. The insurance you sign up for will primarily be based on your employment situation and income. All employees, whose gross monthly income is less than 5,063 EUR a month (2019), must register for GKV (public health insurance). If you earn over 5063 EUR a month, you are eligible for private insurance. Your employer will typically take care of registering you with a German health insurance company and can help you if you have any questions.
German Health Card
Your insurer will give you a krankenversichertenkarte (health insurance card). You take this to every doctor, dentist and specialist appointment to be scanned. The krankenversichertenkarte holds all your important data such as; name, date of birth, address and health insurance information.
Finding a GP
You will need to find a Hausarzt (General Practitioner) as your regular doctor. They will then make a referral to a specialist such as a cardiologist or a neurologist if required. It’s important you can communicate any health problems clearly to your doctor. For English speaking doctors in Berlin click here. We recommend also checking with your embassy for a list of doctors who speak your native language. Note: If your health insurance doesn’t cover all the costs, you will receive a bill in the post within a few days.
German Dentists are considered some of the best in the world and known for their meticulous attention. Public health insurance will only cover some dental treatments; unfortunately, the rest you will need to pay for. German dentists are among the most expensive in Europe. If you are under the age of 18, you do not have to pay for a dentist.
EU-wide healthcare coverage
As an EU citizen, you are entitled to medical treatment if you unexpectedly fall ill during a temporary stay in another EU country. This is a healthcare card that covers you for short visits to other EU countries as well as Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, or Switzerland. You do not need to apply for the European Health Insurance Card, and it is automatically printed on the back of your German Health card, as long as you have insurance.
Part 5: Transportation
Getting around in Berlin is a breeze thanks to bike lanes and an extensive public transport system helping get you from A to B. In our opinion, unlike other big cities, there is no need for a car in Berlin.
Biking as a means of transportation
With over 500,00 daily bike riders, biking is a popular mode of transport for many Berliners. There are over 300 biking routes and you can ride to most parts of the city in around 15 - 20 minutes. If you need to buy a bike we suggest not purchasing anything too fancy, to avoid it inevitably getting stolen. You can purchase bikes from flea markets and through Facebook Marketplace.
Public transport in Berlin
Berlin has three main forms of public transport; U-Bahn (Underground), S-Bahn and the bus network. The U-Bahn has ten lines and over 150 stations to help you get across the city. The U-Bahn is easily recognizable thanks to its yellow carriages. The S-Bahn is the railway system and has 15 lines and 170 stations spanning across Berlin. The bus network services areas that aren’t close to the underground or train. Undercover transport officers patrol the different modes of transport so always purchase a ticket or monthly pass.
Part 6: Mobile carriers
There are lots of mobile phone providers to choose from with most offering contracts and prepaid options.
Prepaid phone carriers
The perfect ‘pay-as-you-go’ option. These plans typically don’t require any paperwork. You can purchase them and top-up your account online or in stores such as Electronic stores, kiosks, gas stations and most supermarkets. The four main providers are: Lycramobile, Telekom, Vodafone and o2.
Contract phone carriers
Once you have your Anmeldebestätigung, and a German bank account, you can consider getting a contract from one of the following providers: Vodafone, T-Mobile, o2 and 1&1.
Must-have "local" apps
BVG to navigate the Berlin Transport System and purchase tickets. Citymapper to help you map your route across the city including the best bike paths to take. Google Translate to help you translate any German text to a language of your choosing. And of course, N26 for modern banking solutions.