7 tips for how to feel at home as an expat in Germany

Published on May 23, 2023

Young female expat overlooking the Spree in Berlin at sunset

Did you know that Germany is ranked as the hardest country for expats to start a new life? No wonder many of us find it difficult to call Deutschland home. After almost 20 years as an expat in Berlin, I have learned how to tackle my love-hate relationship with my new home country.

Dealing with the wait

On Saturday mornings, the queue at the bakery across the street from us looks like an image from communist times.

I have to wait at least an hour every time I go to the doctor, even when I have an appointment.

Before our daughter was born, I had to start looking for a hospital to give birth at, months in advance.

Why does everything take so long??

According to Internations Expat Essentials Index 2023, expats in Germany are united in their criticism of two topics in particular: the country’s backward attitude towards digital connectivity and its snail-pace internet.

A recent client of mine said he is about to give up and return to his country of origin.

He came to Berlin two years ago, managed to get an apartment and a job, but getting a spot for his son at a kindergarten seemed impossible!

Finding housing, a spot for your child in a kindergarten or school, or even registering your child for swimming lessons all involve long waiting lists.

All local bureaucracy, like opening a bank account or getting a residence permit takes forever. Even shopping for groceries after work involves long queues.

So what can we do about it?

Accepting what is

One thing I learned for sure: Fighting against a system you can’t change gets you nowhere.

It will only leave you frustrated and resentful.

If you’re longing to feel more integrated and at home in Germany, you need to let go of the idea that people will approach you with a smile when you need their help!

You moved to a country that feels old fashioned in many ways, a country with people known for their lack of a sense of humour.

And you CHOSE to move here for a different reason, right?

What was the reason you moved to Germany?

I moved to Berlin to live with the man I had fallen in love with. I stayed because we love the vibrancy of the city.

When I get frustrated that things take forever, I remind myself that it’s my choice to live here. I came because there was something here that I couldn’t find in my country of origin.

Along the way I have found a few things that have helped me feel more at home in Germany.

7 ways to feel at home in Germany

  1. Cultivate patience. As there will be long waits at most of your appointments, including at the doctor’s office. Be sure to block out more time than you think you’ll need. Bring a book or some work with you to use the time while waiting.
  2. Decide to be friendly. People working at restaurants and offices might not always smile at you, but if you show friendliness, there is a bigger chance they will treat you a little better.
  3. Create a network. When you struggle to find your way through the jungle of bureaucracy, it’s useful to have a network of other expats and locals to turn to for advice. Join groups on social media to start with.
  4. Get to know your neighbours. It can save you a lot of time if you can just knock on one of your neighbours’ doors and ask a question. Surely there is something you can help them with in exchange.
  5. Learn the language. You come a long way if you can communicate with people on the street, in shops, in offices and institutions. You don’t have to speak or write perfectly, but showing an interest in speaking their language opens many doors.
  6. Make friends. If you find it hard to make German friends then look for friends from the expat community or from your native country. Sharing similar experiences can help you to not feel lonely. 
  7. Ask for help. If you have struggled for a while with bureaucracy and need help, contact Archer Relocation. If you struggle mentally, check out my offers as a coach and psychotherapist. I’d be happy to connect.




Share this:

I’m Katarina

Welcome to my blog, where I share real-life stories and offer valuable and practical tips for how to achieve fulfillment without burning out.

By signing up to receive my journal, you agree to receive emails from me. You can opt out at any time.

Learn how to break free from overthinking to feel healthy, happy and confident – the easy waywith my free guided journal.

Learn how to break free from overthinking to feel healthy, happy and confident – the easy way – with my free guided journal.