Moving from California to Germany

Moving from California to Germany

Feb 12, 2024

Are you considering moving from Golden State to the Land of Deutsch? Well, buckle up because embarking on an international move is quite the adventure! From adjusting to a new lifestyle and culture to grappling with the cost of living and even the weather, there’s a whole checklist of things to consider.

Fear not! With a bit of prep and planning, you can glide through the transition and move from San Diego, CA, to Germany with ease. So, dust off that passport and get ready for a whole new chapter in the land of sausages, beer, and everything in between. But before that, have a look at this California to Germany expat guide.

Moving from California to Germany: The Ultimate Relocation Guide

Get a suitable visa

When moving from California to Germany, sort out the visa hassles first. Do you plan to stay in Germany for more than three months? Get yourself a suitable visa to comply with German immigration regulations.

Depending on the reason you are moving, you can apply for a work visa, study visa, job-seeking visa, self-employment visa, EU Blue Card, family reunion visa, and more.

You can apply for a permanent resident visa if you have already lived in Germany for five years or more. A work visa, on the other hand, lets you stay in Germany for four years. An EU Blue Card will provide you with permanent residency after two years, provided you are collecting a salary of €41,041.

You can apply for a visa after reaching Germany or before your move. If you want to apply for a visa before traveling to Germany, you have to visit the German consulates in the US in person. When moving from California, you will have to meet with the German consulate general in San Francisco.

Familiarizing yourself with the cost of living

Be ready to convert pounds into dollars every time you are at a grocery store or out shopping. One euro is equal to 1.08 US dollars; does that mean the cost of living in Germany is higher than in California? Not necessarily!

In fact, living in Germany is 58.2% cheaper than living in California. Except for transportation and clothing, buying groceries, paying for restaurants, childcare, housing, and entertainment are actually cheaper in Germany by a good margin.

Thus, even if your salary is slightly lower than what you’re accustomed to in California, you can still translate into a comfortable lifestyle as a California expat in Germany.

Navigating the cultural differences

As a California expat, it’s vital to understand the cultural differences between Germans and Americans. Both cultures are definitely miles apart, and having a rough idea about them can help you act accordingly. Some of the quick takeouts you should know about are:

  • Germans are more organized, punctual, and efficient and have a high sense of orderliness. Americans, on the other hand, are more carefree and have a laissez-faire attitude.
  • Driving in Germany is taken more seriously. Don’t feel discouraged if you don’t clear the German driving test on the first attempt.
  • Dinner in Germany tends to unfold leisurely, with long stretches of time between courses. It’s customary to enjoy a generous half-hour break between each starter and the main course. Contrasting this, American dinners typically wrap up within an hour or so.
  • Germans are said to be more forward and direct in business settings. Unlike Americans, they do not like to beat around the bush and provide honest (sometimes abrupt) opinions.
  • Germans may get offended sooner.
  • Do not expect good customer service in Germany. Customer service in Germany may turn out to be way below average, especially for Americans who even go overboard with apologies for better service records.

P.S: You might not notice all these cultural differences, but while exploring, expect surprises as diverse as bratwurst and apple pie; we’re sure you’ll enjoy the ride! 

Find suitable accommodation in advance 

Having a place to stay will make the California to Germany relocation less dreadful. Hence, it is a wise idea to consider researching the German housing market.

Are you looking forward to buying a property or living on rent? Are you getting premises as part of your job? What is the security deposit? Is your accommodation in close proximity to hospitals, schools, hangout places, and public transport?

According to an estimate, housing in Germany is 37% cheaper than in California. This means that if you have extra savings and are moving to Germany permanently, you can even consider buying a property here. It’s also flexible for a foreigner to buy a property in Germany.

Understand the legal and tax implications

Taxes for California expats in Germany can be hard to comprehend. As a California expat in Germany, you will still have to pay taxes to the federal government as a US citizen, no matter where you reside. As a US citizen, you will also have to disclose your assets held in foreign bank accounts. You can get in touch with a good tax expert who will help you avoid double taxation through some of the ethical tax laws.

Moreover, taxation in Germany is considered higher than in the USA. A California expat living in Germany for more than six months has to pay taxes in Germany. Germany has four tax slabs: 0%, 14%, 42%, and 45%. There are standard tax deductions available in Germany that can help you save tax. Similarly, US expats can also save by filing a return with the IRS.

For more information on such rules, you may have to seek the help of a tax-expat professional.

Know about getting around in Germany

Public transport in Germany is considered one of the best in the world. Also, another fun fact is that around 80% of Germans use bicycles for quick trips as compared to just 15% of Americans.

Nonetheless, for long-distance travel, public transport in Germany is robust; just like BART in California, Germany has S-Bahn (city rapid rail) and U-Bahn (subway, metro, and tube). Tickets are multilingual, and an S-Bahn ticket can be used for buses, trams, and U-Bahn when purchased within 2 hours.

Schooling and education in Germany

California expats moving to Germany with their kids or for studying purposes need to understand its education system.

All public institutions in Germany provide free tuition to international students pursuing undergraduate and master’s programs in English. Homeschooling isn’t allowed in Germany, and attending school is compulsory for kids below 16 years.

After grade 5, there are three academic tracks: grades 5–9, grades 5–10, and grades 5–12. There are also international schools in Germany that teach as per the American high school diploma curriculum.

Take care of moving logistics

Giving equal attention to the logistics of moving is just as crucial as settling in a new country.

People usually face relocation challenges brought on by hiring a poor moving broker. Therefore, research well before booking your moving company for an international move. Furthermore, you should also pay attention to moving cars and automobiles, utilities, and services. Customs clearance should also be considered to avoid unnecessary delays.


  • Is my American driving license valid in Germany?

Any international driving license is valid for up to 6 months in Germany. Thereafter, you have to pass a written and driving test to get a German driving license, valid for up to 15 years.

  • What is the climate like in Germany?

Germany has a temperate climate, with average monthly temperatures varying from 10 degrees C to -3 degrees C. It experiences moderate rainfall throughout the year.

Get Moving Now!

If you are looking for an experienced and reliable San Diego international mover, Atlas Allied has got your back. We are here to make your international move from California to Germany a success. Contact us today to get a moving quote.

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