Expat’s Guide

Are you thinking of making Germany home?  I hope you love the experience.  It’s certainly been one of the most incredible things for me.  Here you’ll find a compilation of many of the posts on Making This Home that address various tips you might find handy.

The goal in putting together this roundup is to give you a sense of comfort.  I know you’re scared.  I know you’re also excited, right?!  I hope  my experiences and knowledge help make the transition all the better for you.  Trust me.  It is soooo very worth living abroad.  I’d do it all over again.  So much of who I have become is because of my journey as an expat.



Documenting Your New Life

I keep a home journal about Berlin and our apartment.  I want to remember how we live here.  Everything is different – from the sights to the tastes and smells.

You can flip through some of the pages from my book here or shop for one of your own.

A Day in Berlin

The best example for living in the city is over at the Berlin Tour page.  It’s the best overview of a day in Germany that I can offer – from brief history to transportation and what really starts becoming important at the end of the day: where to find dinner.

Culture Shock

My husband (Martin) and I hop between the United States and Germany like two blue-eyed frogs.  Here.  There.  Here.  There.  I get culture shock every time.  Little differences pop up each time we move, and they sure make life interesting.  If you feel stuck in any move to Germany or back home (especially back home), please know YOU ARE NOT ALONE.  Forgetting English?  Done that.  Staring like a lost puppy?  Yep.  These posts just happen to be some of the most popular for my readers around the world.  Hope they help:

Culture shock : Going home to the United States

Culture shock in American suburbs : German friends visit us in the US

Culture shock : Moving back to Germany

Culture shock : Going home to the United States ~ Take II

German Homes

Most homes – regardless of if you’re buying or renting – don’t come with kitchens or lights.  Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?  Germans prefer to get nicer things that they can take from home to home, which is kind of crummy for people moving from overseas.  So make sure you know what your house will include.  We stayed at a hotel our first night since we didn’t have sheets and pillows, let alone a bed.

Over time, you’ll manage to set up a home.  IKEA is a wonderful place to start because taxes in Germany can feel like a killer.  Be aware that it can take time for furniture to arrive and internet to be installed at your house – we’re talking months in many cases.  We ordered our internet service and bed before we left the US.

(our apartment kitchen after a serious remodel)

Tips for creating and understanding your German home:

Understand the German Recycling System

Create a Kitchen Recycling Center

See Those Funny Things in Your Kitchen?

Set Up a German Filing System

Make American Chocolate Chip Cookies

Pick a German Washing Machine

Stop Junk Mail

Detox your home like a European

Make affordable international telephone calls

Document your really unique adventure

Understand the Water Meter

Unexpected Problems You’ll Encounter in Setting Up Your Home

Know the Quiet Hour Laws

Keep Utility Bills Down (power costs 3x more in Germany than what we paid in the US)

Find the Right Energy Efficient Light Bulbs

A List of Things You’ll Wish You Brought from Home

Find vanilla in Germany

Make your own lemonade

A really good Mexican restaurant in Berlin!

Warning: You’ll start forgetting English

Find joy in the little I’m-so-lost moments

German Life

Expat Humor

What’s life in Europe if you can’t laugh about your experiences?  These moments still have us rolling.

Oops!  Obviously this business owner doesn’t know English

Blondes have more fun here, too

Oops. The mailman hates me now.

Half-pigeon/half-crow birds in the city

A Bad Menu Translation – Dare You to Try This Fish

Holidays and Seasons

Germans really know how to embrace the little moments.  From farmers markets in the streets to festivals with roasted nuts and local foods, I think you’ll love finding what Germany has to offer.  Everything is so seasonal, beyond anything I’d ever experienced before.


January and February:

Kinder transportation – so stinkin’ cute

Make Crescent Winter Cookies

March and April:

Easter weekend & what to expect

Window shopping


Celebrate Autumn in Europe

Bake homemade applesauce

Visit fabric markets


Make Simple Hot Apple Cider

Festival of Lights – Berlin

Buy Season food (like Halloween cheese)


Celebrate St. Martin’s Day

Create your own expat Thanksgiving


Wishing for a piece of home?  Everyday things you won’t find in Germany

Visit Christmas Markets Part 1Part 2

Make German Christmas Cookies

Learning German

Confession:  I could sort of, kind of count to 10 when we moved to Berlin.


If you don’t already know German, consider waiting until you get to Germany to learn.  If you take a quick course before you move, it might help.  More than likely, the class will revolve around what people want to know as tourists.  You know – what to pack for European vacations and what kind of weather to expect in June.  My course in Colorado involved conversations about the ice cream flavors and the bread, but not how to speak a word to the clerks – hence my ability to count to almost 10.

But that’s okay.  When you take German classes in Germany, you are studying every time you step out of the house.  Older people probably won’t speak English.  When you confront younger people, the bigger problem is actually getting the chance to speak German!

There have been many days when I have pretended NOT to speak English just so I could practice German.

Learn German in Germany.  It’s is a fabulous place to learn.  Here’s a rundown of why learning right here in Germany is so amazing.

Technical & Legal Issues

Because this blog focuses on home, I’m afraid I can’t offer many resources on things like employment, detailed taxes and laws, visas, or other more technical things.  If you have questions on these topics, I’d suggest contacting your embassy.  Everything you need from German government websites is readily available in English.  We have found that a lot of issues may be easier to take care of once you’re in Germany, so don’t stress out about trying to know all the answers before you move.


You’ve got a great adventure ahead – the type so many dream of experiencing.  I hope you can love and embrace it as much as Martin and I do.

And don’t forget – give me a shout if you’re ever in Berlin!