Daily life

Living in Europe | Access to the culture of the host country/language courses, Banking | Germany

On the following pages you will find information which is especially useful for incoming researchers. Please note that we cannot cover all the issues of everyday life in this context. For additional information please refer to the links below.

If you are staying in Germany for an extended period, are receiving a regular salary or fellowship and have to pay rent, it is a good idea to open a current account at a bank at the earliest opportunity. You can open a current account at a bank or "Sparkasse" (savings bank). To do so, you will need to present your passport or identity card and confirmation from the "Einwohnermeldeamt" (Residents’ Registration Office) that you are registered. Some banks will also require you to present your residence permit from the "Ausländeramt" (local Immigration Office) and/or your German tax-id number. There are hardly any differences between the banks in respect of the services they offer, but there are differences in the charges you have to pay, so you should be sure to check in advance. You will generall be issued with a debit card called a "EuroCheque-Karte" (EC card) for your current account which will allow you to draw cash from a cashpoint (ATM). This service is free if you use cashpoints belonging to your own bank but incurs charges if the cashpoints are maintained by other banks. Most banks are open from Monday to Friday between 8.30 am and 4 pm.

Transferring money abroad can be expensive. You should enquire about the conditions at your own bank at home in advance and possibly choose a bank in Germany that cooperates with your bank at home.

Apart from cash, many shops, restaurants and firms accept debit and credit cards. Smaller sums, in cafés, for example, are usually paid in cash.

In addition to social security policies, optional private supplementary insurance schemes can also make life easier and ensure you do not run into any unexpected costs while staying in Germany.

Private insurance schemes may be considered as an alternative or addition to social security schemes, if

  • there is no relevant statutory insurance scheme or
  • you wish to obtain insurance cover over and above the level of social security benefits.

Depending on your individual circumstances, it is worth considering carefully whether such schemes are necessary and should be purchased. 

Some insurance policies that you may want to consider:

  • Third-party liability insurance
  • Accident insurance
  • Legal advice insurance
  • Household contents insurance
  • Supplementary dental insurance

Information about these and further insurance policies and what to consider while making a decision can be found on the German Association of the Insured (Bund der Versicherten) website.

All electrical connections in Germany cater for 220-240-Volt/50-Hz a/c mains and European standard plugs. You may require adapters and transformers for electrical equipment you bring with you.

Europe’s Emergency Number 112

Regardless in which European country you are, in case of an emergency you can always dial 112 to reach police, the fire brigade or an ambulance. When calling the number, you will be forwarded to the particular service in your region. In case you call from a mobile phone, your location can sometimes also be detected.

The number is toll free in all EU member states from both mobile phones and landlines. Even if you are using a foreign mobile phone with roaming, calling 112 remains free.

When calling 112 in Germany, the employees in the emergency call centres speak German, English and in border regions also the languages of the neighbouring countries.

Important information for the rescue:
  • Who are you?
  • Where did the emergency happen? (address, floor,...)
  • What happened?
  • How many people are affected?
  • What injury / affection does the person have?
  • Wait for queries!

Further information can be found on the web page of the European Commission "112 in Germany"

Visit the website of the German National Tourist Board to learn more about the delicious variety of German cooking and find out which food and drinks Germans especially enjoy.

Germany is a country with many holidays. Some are national holidays while others are only observed in certain German states. Businesses, universities and governmental offices are usually closed on holidays while public transportation usually operates on the Sunday schedule.

Further information on German holidays can be found on the website of the Federal Ministry of the Interior.

The Federal Ministry of Transport and digital Infrastructure provides a comprehensive overview as well as multilingual fact sheets concerning driving licence categories, validity of foreign driving licences as well as an information on fines and penalties in Germany.

The website of the U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Germany offers tailored information for US citizens in Germany.

In-depth information (in German) can be obtained from the General German Automobile Club (ADAC).

Germany has a good public transportation system. You can easily get almost everywhere you want to go by train or bus, tram or underground. Lots of towns also have a thorough network of bicycle lanes – if you enjoy cycling, it can be a useful alternative to public transport.

"Deutsche Bahn" (German Rail) connects all the larger and many of the smaller towns locally, regionally and long-distance. "Deutsche Bahn" has a lot of special offers and deals. With the "BahnCard 50" and the "BahnCard 25" you can save 50% or 25% on the standard price of any ticket for a whole year. Furthermore, there are special discounts for groups and advance bookings. Buy your ticket before you get on the train. You can purchase tickets online, in the Deutsche Bahn app, at ticket machines or at ticket offices at the station. It is no longer possible to buy tickets on trains. Make sure you always have a valid ticket. There are ticket inspections on trains and buses, and travelling without a valid ticket (“Schwarzfahren” – fare dodging) might prove expensive. If you are embarking on a longer journey, particularly at the weekend, it might make sense to reserve a seat as some trains and routes can become very full.

There is plenty of local transport – buses, trams and underground – in Germany. Particularly in larger towns, during the day it is often quicker and easier to travel by bus or tram than by car. You can buy tickets at ticket machines on the platform or inside the trams and underground trains; in buses the drivers often sell tickets, too. However, what is true for one town is not necessarily true for another, so you should enquire locally. "Mehrfahrtenkarten" (multi-trip tickets) are cheaper than individual tickets and can usually be purchased at ticket machines. If you are staying in one place for a longer period and intend using public transport regularly, it may well be worth buying a weekly or monthly season ticket. They are available at the local transport company’s ticket offices which are usually situated near the railway station.

Taxis in Germany are relatively expensive and many people only use them in special situations – at night, for example, or when they have a lot of luggage. Prices are regulated. You are charged a basic price plus a charge per kilometre. All taxis have a metre which runs during the entire journey and registers the price at the end. It is usual to give the taxi driver a tip by rounding up the amount.

One alternative to public transport, especially for long journeys, is the "Mitfahrzentrale" (car sharing agency). Drivers who are going on long journeys often register their journeys at car sharing agencies and offer to take passengers. These offers are sorted according to destination and date, and you can find out about them online or by telephone. You pay a fixed sum based on distance to the driver directly. Please note that using car sharing agencies is at your own risk. The agencies themselves cannot usually guarantee the quality or reliability of the arrangement or accept liability.

Some airlines offer special rates on certain routes. You may be able to fly to other European countries at very reasonable fares and even within Germany air travel may be cheaper than rail travel. However, on domestic routes, you may not save time if you add the time spent getting to the airport and waiting for the flight. Most large towns have good connections to the nearest airports by public transport.

Like in other European countries, the German State charges a fee for the use of radios and televisions in order to finance public broadcasting stations ("Rundfunkbeitrag"). This charge has to be paid per apartment – regardless the number of persons living in one apartment and regardless which kind of radio and/or television is/are used. The charge covers all kinds of services offered by all distribution channels available (radio, television, computer). In case you move to Germany or you change places within Germany, you must register online or in writing via a special form that can be downloaded on the respective website of the radio and television licence fee agency.

"Deutsche Telekom" operates the telephone service in Germany. Apart from Deutsche Telekom there are now numerous other providers that might be more reasonable. Most firms offer various options and services, for example different telephone and internet packages, so it would be worth comparing offers. You can register or cancel a Telekom landline at "T-Punkte" (Telekom shops) which can be found in nearly every town. Charges for telephone calls vary significantly according to provider, time of day and distance. You can use cheaper providers on a call-by-call basis (by predialling a specific code) from private telephones. The differences may be substantial if you are phoning abroad. There are also a number of mobile providers offering different options and services. Most firms also have shops in the majority of large towns. Check on the minimal length of a contract before signing it.

Anyone who is registered in the Telephone Book is also traceable online. Alternatively, you can ring directory enquiries (this service incurs charges and can be expensive.):
  • For domestic telephone numbers: 11833
  • For domestic telephone numbers in English: 11837
  • For foreign telephone numbers: 11834

In the classified directory or so-called "Gelben Seiten" (Yellow Pages) you will find the telephone numbers of doctors, pharmacies, shops, restaurants, plumbers, electricians and many others.


Further Information about Germany

  • www.facts-about-germany.de
    "Facts about Germany" is a reference offering all sorts of up-to-date and reliable information about all aspects of modern life in Germany – be it business, culture, or politics. It has facts, figures and interesting information.
  • www.deutschland.de/en
    The Deutschland Portal is the central, non-commercial access to Germany on the Internet. It provides commented link lists in several languages, bundles the German Web offers of high-quality Internet portals and is the virtual international calling card for the Federal Republic of Germany.
  • Research in Germany
    In the section "Living in Germany" on the Research in Germany pages you will find a wealth of information about Germany.
  • Visit Germany
    Visit the Deutsche Welle website for details and recommendations on how best to discover Germany in all its variety.