Expat Essentials

Laura Kaye in Berlin: The collected wisdom from my years as a British expat in Germany

(Editor’s note: British expat Laura Kaye documents life in Germany for Dispatches. Putting together our list of the 5 best post-Brexit countries for British expats, we realized her collective posts – covering everything from having a baby to getting along with German neighbors – are a great reference for anyone considering relocating to Deutschland. Check them all out below.)

Considering Germany to avoid the Brexit brouhaha? Let’s talk about the bottom line.

On average, the cost of living is marginally lower in Germany than in the United Kingdom, and the difference becomes much starker once we compare larger cities. Whilst housing prices have been rapidly increasing in the German capital of Berlin in recent years, they pale in comparison to the enormous expense of living in London. And even increasingly pricey Munich and Frankfurt are considerably more affordable than the British capital.

German residents also benefit from a fantastic healthcare system, generous social security benefits, paid parental leave for both mothers and fathers, heavily subsidised (or even free) childcare in some states, and free university education.

A caveat to note here is that whilst Germany does offer a great deal to potential new residents, many areas of the country are somewhat struggling to cope with the demand of a growing population, particularly in rapidly expanding cities.

The current kindergarten “crisis” in Berlin, and apartment shortages in most larger cities are common topics of frustration in expat forums. However, this is hardly likely to come as a shock to former residents of the UK, who will already be familiar with the UK’s own (arguably more severe) housing shortages and strained public services.

German culture isn’t so different from life back home in the UK. So after managing to get to grips with the German language (good luck with that), Brits aren’t in for any major culture shocks. And luckily, it’s relatively easy to get by in large cities speaking mostly English.

As a Brit myself, compared to life in the UK I’ve found that Germany is on the whole:

• more family friendly;

• more “work-life-balance” friendly;

• considerably greener.

Those who enjoy leaving work in a timely fashion to take the kids out for a bike ride in the local park will not be disappointed.

Whilst it may not promise the year-round sunshine of Southern Europe, Germany offers British expats security and a high standard of living for a reasonably low price tag. So dig out your practical clothing, dust off your old bike, get to grips with recycling, and move the whole family to Germany.

Here are the links to my Dispatches posts since 2016, which you can use as an instant expat reference for life in Germany:

Liebe deinen Narchbarn: Getting along with your German neighbors

* Having a baby in Berlin Pt. 1: Medicine, rather than modesty, is the aim of the game in Germany

Having a baby in Berlin, Pt. 2 Learning German whilst pregnant so we’re not ‘those expats’

Having a baby in Berlin, Pt. 3: A Berliner is born, and the German benefits you need to know about

• Laura Kaye in Berlin: The expat’s essential guide to the German integration course, Pt. 1

‘What have I gotten myself into?’ Laura Kaye’s tips for the integration course’s German 

Laura Kaye in Berlin: Everything you’ll ever need to know about the Kita application

Everyone loses – employers, families and kids – as Kitaplatz waiting lists grow in Berlin

Laura Kaye in Berlin: Broken Kita system leaves parents frustrated, stressed

Berlin’s struggling Kita educators are underpaid and overwhelmed


+ posts

Laura Kaye is a freelance writer, researcher and editor. Her work focuses on social and development issues, parenting and family life.

Originally from the Wirral in the United Kingdom, she is a serial expat now happily living in Berlin, Germany.

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