What to do when you arrive in Germany
Whether you're wisely planning ahead or have just arrived and are in a panic, here is a step-by-step guide about what to do when you arrive in Germany for your year abroad...
1. Health Insurance
As you have to pay for any sort of healthcare in Germany, you will need to have health insurance. You might be covered by the Deutscher Ring Scheme if you are on the Erasmus scheme. If not, it’s probably worth checking them out at www.deutscherring.de.
If you’re not offered any sort of accommodation through your job or university, try www.wg-gesucht.de for searching accommodation in large towns or cities. Also be sure you notice the difference between ‘warm’ or ‘kalt’ rent – ‘warm’ and you get heating and other bills thrown in, ‘kalt’ and you might get a nasty surprise.
Once you have an address, you have to ‘anmelden’, or register, a word you will get to know quite well. Somewhere in your town there will be an office designed especially for this - it’s a legal requirement to register when you start living somewhere new. It’s quite simple, you just have to go along once you’ve got your lease, with your passport, rental agreement and a reason for being in the country! You’ll then be given what is called an “Anmeldebestätigung”. Hold on to it! Later you might have to register at a type of foreigners’ office, but you should be sent a letter about this.
4. Bank Account
You’ll also need this form to set up a bank account. Sparkasse is a good bet, and you’ll probably want a Girokonto or a current account. If you’ve got a job or are working as a teaching assistant, they’ll want to know your details so you can get paid! It is also pretty easy to set up a standing order for rent if that is how you choose to pay it. Simply go into a bank armed with the correct vocab, your Anmeldebestätigung, your passport and address and they will be happy to help! Once you get your cash card, be sure to only go to cash points run by your bank or you’ll run up hefty charges!
If you plan to do a lot of travelling within Germany, it’s probably worth investing in a Bahncard. Check out www.bahncard.de, or pop into one of the travel centres at most stations to see which one would work for you – BahnCard 25 gives you 25% off most tickets and BahnCard 50% makes most tickets half price. If you are registered at a University, you will probably also get free travel within your county!
6. Mobile Phone
It’s also probably worth getting yourself a German mobile phone, if only for the costs you might run up on your English phone! Either take a handset with you and buy a sim-card or ask for advice at a local technical shop.
7. TV Licence
If you’re going to get yourself a TV or radio, check out www.gez.de for how to go about getting a licence.
Remember: When you leave don’t forget that all these things need to be undone, as it were – so remember to de-register and cancel everything!