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Driving in Germany

Driving in Germany

Germany is known for its highways. On many routes, there is no speed limit. The highway network stretches all over Germany and you can quickly get from one city to the next (if there are no traffic jams). Whether you have your own car, rent a car, or use car-sharing, having a valid driver’s license as an expat in Germany is definitely a big advantage.

Driving in Germany with a foreign license

If you come from an EU or EEA country (European economic area) country, your driver’s license is valid until the expiry of its term of validity.

If you come from a third country, your foreign driver’s license is valid for 6 months. The start of the period is the registration of a residence in Germany. A translation must be included if the license is not in English.

To continue driving in Germany after 6 months, the foreign driver’s license must be exchanged for a German one. The process depends on the country in which the license was issued. In some cases, there is no need for a theoretical or practical exam. For example, when the minimum EU standards for driving tests are given.

If you are from a country where an exam is required, you need to pass the driving theory and practical test. The good thing is, you don’t have to take theory and driving lessons. You can decide on your own if and when you want to absolve the test.

Steps to get a German driver’s license

1. Choose the driver’s license class

In Germany, we have different driver’s license classes depending on what kind of license you want to achieve. Here is a rough overview of the different classes:

  • A / A1 / A2 / AM / Mofa / B197: Motorcycle driver’s license
  • B / B96 / BE / B197: passenger car driver’s license
  • C / C1 / C1E / CE: Truck driver’s license

2. Prerequisite for the driving test in Germany

When registering for a driver’s license you have to fulfill some requirements.

  • ID or passport
  • Biometrical passport photo
  • Eye examination
  • First-aid course

3. Choose the right driving school in Germany

In Germany, there exists a variety of driving schools. It might be difficult to choose one if you don’t have any references. Project Expat can help you to find the right driving school for you. Check out our driving school service partners here.

Once you have chosen a driving school, you will receive a training plan and training materials. You may need to attend a certain number of theory lessons before you can take the exam.

The practical training consists of several driving lessons with a driving instructor. Night and highway driving are also included. Depending on your driving behavior and experience, you may have more or fewer driving hours.

4. Getting your driver’s license

The practical driving test takes place with your driving instructor and an examiner. If you pass the test, the examiner will issue you with a temporary driver’s license. Then you can get your permanent license at the traffic authority.

Tips for driving in Germany

Manual cars

When renting a car, most of the time you still get manual models. So, remember when booking to choose an automatic one if you feel more comfortable with it.

Autobahn

Germany is famous for its Autobahnen or motorways. There is generally no speed limit on highways. However, restrictions often apply when the roads pass cities. Therefore, always keep your eyes open and observe the speed limits. Furthermore, always drive in the right lane. You can pass other cars by using the left lane.

No drinking and driving

For novice drivers in the probationary period and drivers under 21, the limit of 0.0 per mille (0 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood) applies.

The general blood-alcohol limit for driving is 0.5 per mille (= 50 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood, or 0,05%). Drivers who endanger traffic must expect to be punished from a blood-alcohol level of 0.3 per mille.

Watch out for pedestrians

In German cities, the speed limit is reduced to 50km/h. Often only 30 km/h is allowed to take pedestrians into account. If there is a pedestrian zone you are often not allowed to drive at all or only at walking speed. Here pedestrians have the right of way.

Driving a car in Germany has many advantages. On the one hand, you can explore the country very well by car and can reach even smaller villages and remote sights.
If you live in Germany for a longer period of time, a German driver’s license is indispensable. With a car, you can make your everyday life easier in many ways.

At Project Expat, we are happy to assist you in finding suitable English-speaking driving schools.

Do you want to buy a car and need a car insurance? Check out our service.

We from Project Expat are happy to support you with our network of excellent English-speaking partners until you feel more comfortable in the German language.

Explore our service categories here.

Learning German

Learning German as an Expat

Often the move to another country is very stressful. You have many things to organize and want to find a nice new home. With the stress of moving, there is often no time to focus on learning German. But studying the local language is vital for a successful integration.

In this blog article we will show you why it is important to learn German and how you can easily get started.

Why is learning German useful?

Studying German for a good work experience

If you are an expat living in Germany, having a good command of English is often sufficient in your professional life. But besides professional discussions, private conversations and small talks among work colleagues are often spoken in German. In order to connect and get to know your colleagues better, it is vital to have a basic knowledge of German.

Some employers support their foreign employees with internal language courses or subsidize courses at German language schools.

Discover extensive professional German language courses here.

Some foreigners do not have a permanent job in Germany yet and are just in the application phase. Here it is even more important to learn German. It is a great advantage if you have a basic knowledge of German for job interviews. This way you can stand out from other applicants and show your interest in the country and the language.

Learning German to get along well in everyday life

Even if German is not necessarily required in a professional context, you can benefit from German skills in everyday life. For example, at the checkout in the supermarket, for bureaucracy matters, parent teacher conferences, and other events. Many Germans have little knowledge of English or feel uncomfortable speaking in another language. If you learn German, you can accomplish many things more easily.

Furthermore, if you want to volunteer or work in a club, learning German is important. You can make new friends and attend in sports activities more easily.

Social aspects

The sooner you start learning German, the easier it will be for you to participate in society and lead a self-determined life in Germany. Besides the German language, values and culture are also important to know. Almost all German language schools teach both – language and values.

How to start learning German?

You can learn German in different ways. If you already have a full-time job, you will probably only have free time to learn in the evenings or on weekends. There are evening and weekend courses, intensive courses and now a wide range of online courses. Have a look at our language partner Goethe Institut.

Furthermore, you have the opportunity to complete various German exams. According to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), we distinguish between the following levels:

  • A1 and A2: This level is aimed at language beginners with no or very little previous knowledge.
  • B1 and B2: As an advanced language student, you will expand and deepen your knowledge and will be able to communicate independently in your job and everyday life after graduation.
  • C1 and C2: After completing the highest level, you will have German skills comparable to a native speaker.

Learning German is not easy for many foreigners. This can be due to various reasons. Learning a foreign language alongside a full-time job can be very tiring. You often must take care of your family on the side, leaving little time for learning.

But the effort is worth it. You will quickly notice that with time and practice, you will get better and better and will be able to establish social contacts in a way that would have been difficult without German language skills.

Are you eager to start right away with your German classes? See here our partners for language services.

We from Project Expat are happy to support you with our network of excellent English-speaking partners until you feel more comfortable in the German language.

Explore here our service categories.

Berlin the German Capital

Everybody knows Berlin or at least has heard of it, which is why many expats in Germany prefer moving to Berlin when starting their stay in the nation. This city has become increasingly popular worldwide in recent decades since the fall of the Berlin Wall, both as a tourist destination and a place to settle down. This is true not only for Germans but for people from all over the world. These facts have led to Berlin’s international cosmopolitan flair and charm. This internationality can be seen not only when you stroll through Berlin’s streets, but also when you are looking for a restaurant. Even the art scene presents to its audience artists from all over the world. The Berlin International Film Festival has been one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world for decades. One could continue this list endlessly, but everyone who comes to Berlin has his/her own preferences that are important to him/her. Berliners themselves have become accustomed to living in a multicultural society. For example, Berlin is home to the largest Turkish community outside of Turkey.

In addition to this modernity, you can always find small retreats that offer you peace and relaxation. Every district and every neighbourhood is strongly influenced by its inhabitants, and thus, they are all different. For instance, you will find variety in what the pubs and cafés have to offer and their designs. Something you will find in every district in Berlin is Spätis. Spätis are small shops that sell goods to customers until late at night.

Living in Berlin

Moving to Berlin means learning the special vocabulary for Germans as well as for foreigners. As mentioned above, Späti is one of them. Another one would be Schrippe, which is a word for bun. Fisimatenten describes the word excuses, and meschugge is another word for crazy, for instance. Everybody has to get used to them. One must also know that Kiez is the word the district one lives in. What everyone should take into account is that rents in Berlin have gone up quite a bit. This means you should have enough on your hands time to search and find a suitable apartment. It is also helpful to concentrate on one or two neighbourhoods to get insider tips to make an informed choice. For instance, an insider tip could be about regular viewings, which usually involve a massive crowd of people that reduces your chances of seeing the property correctly and evaluating its condition. These facts await someone in everyday life of Berlin.

 

Must Visit

Now, let’s talk about sightseeing in Berlin. It is almost impossible to mention all spots one should visit after moving to Berlin. But after a while, everyone will find the sights they are interested in. Therefore, we will mention only the really famous ones everybody should visit. Remember that this list is not a rating of the sights but is just a list.

  1. Der deutsche Reichtstag

The German Reichstag is an impressive building and the seat of the German parliament. Its architecture, history, and awe-inspiring view from the roof or the dome are already something exceptional that everyone should have seen.

  1. Die Berliner Mauer

A gigantic wall ran right through Berlin until reunification, dividing the city into East and West Berlin. Even today, you can see parts of it along the 7-kilometer-long Wall Trail. The path starts at Potsdamer Platz and ends at WarschauerStraße. On the way, you pass the permanent exhibition “Topography of Horror”, where you can see the wall in its original form and cruelty combined with personal stories of people who were affected.

  1. Das Brandenburger Tor

The Brandenburg Gate was a component of the Berlin Customs Wall. It was built under Frederick William the Second and completed in 1791. On it, there is the Quadriga. In the chariot pulled by four horses is Victoria, the Roman Goddess of victory.

  1. Der Fernsehturm

The TV tower is the highest tower in Germany that stands tall at 368 metres. It is located at the Alex and, of course, offers an incredible 360-degree view over the entire city. The most beautiful view is during sunset, when the city is bathed in a beautiful light.

  1. Der Gendarmenmarkt

Gendarmenmarkt is Berlin’s most beautiful square. It is located between three large buildings. In the centre is the Concert Hall of Berlin. On the sides, you can look at the German and French cathedrals. The market is a place to linger with exciting and interesting restaurants and cafés.

  1. Die Museumsinsel

The Museum Island is part of the Unesco World Heritage Site, where you will find several museums such as the Bode Museum, the Old Museum, the New Museum, the Pergamon Museum, and the Old National Gallery. The best way to learn about the exhibitions hosted here is to search online.

  1. Die Spree

Last but not least is the Spree. To experience Berlin from the water is something very special as a boat trip is totally worth it. Most of the sights of Berlin can be viewed from the Spree. In addition, there are several landing stages where you can leave the boat or get back on. It’s a very relaxing way to visit the sights after moving to Berlin.

 

Typical Food

The topic of food in Berlin is a difficult one to discuss. Not because there is not enough excellence related to it, but you do not know where to start with your recommendations.

When you think of Berlin and traditional food as a German, you automatically have to think of currywurst and kebab. The city is full of currywurst stands and kebab stalls. the traditional dishes don’t correspond to the German mainstream, but are still worth a try. But of course there are also delicious, old dishes cooked according to grandma’s recipes. Berliners love boulettes with potato salad, false rabbit, a meatloaf stuffed with egg,. But there is also a false Heinrich, which is nothing more than bratwurst with false sauce and mashed potatoes! Who of course wants something special must try quite clearly Königsberger Klopse, They are an East German specialty. It consists of Frikadellen in a Beschamelesauce with capers.  Since Berlin still has the reputation of being poor but sexy, simple dishes are of course still preferred. Potato soup with sausages is just as popular as liver with apple, onion and mashed potatoes. For those who like it meaty, it must be Kassler with sauerkraut, fierce and crude. However, it is a dish that corresponds to the basic idea of our capital, keep it simple.

Cured pork knuckle with pea puree, is another Berlin specialty worth trying.

Brined eggs are a traditional dish and are a standard offering in Berlin’s pubs. They are hard-boiled eggs that have been pickled in a strong saline solution and thus preserved. Rollmops is herring fillet with a filling of onions and gherkins rolled into it. The rollmops is held together by two small wooden sticks. It is not eaten with cutlery, but put into the mouth as a whole and is a traditional part of the hangover breakfast. Teltower Rübchen are special turnips that come from Brandenburg and are eaten both raw and steamed.For dessert, we recommend once the famous Berlin air, a cream served with raspberry sauce or the Berlin pancakes. As a drink you have to try a Berliner Weisse with shot. This is a wheat beer, which is served either with raspberry syrup or woodruff. It is probably common worldwide, one could still list numerous dishes that are typical of Berlin, if you move there, you will in the course of time, certainly get to know one or the other curiosity of the local cuisine. Have fun tasting!

 

Restaurants

What you should definitely try, however, are currywurst and kebab, which are the traditional takeaways in Berlin. Since everybody prefers a different kind of food, it is hard to say which restaurant is the best of its kind. But Borchardt must be mentioned. For 150 years, it has been located at the Gendarmenmarkt, boasts of a long tradition, and is very popular among celebrities and politicians. Its food differs from many others, and it actually has something to appease everybody’s palate.

Another interesting place is ClärchensBallhaus. Established in 1913, the restaurant offers fresh food, which is a combination of traditional dishes with modern influences. Another interesting fact is that they offer dance classes and concerts as well.

Spindler is also a restaurant you should try after moving to Berlin. The cuisine at Spindler is modern, French-inspired, and cosmopolitan. It is positioned directly on the Spree River and offers good food and a fantastic view at the same time.

Cafe Botanico grows all the vegetables they use themselves. Moreover, the pasta is homemade. The farm-to-table restaurant with its own 1,000 square meter permaculture garden in the middle of Berlin works sustainably and with a consistent low-waste approach. The target group here is guests of all kinds who come by not only because the food is organic or fair but because it tastes good and makes them feel good.

Tisk is an old German word for table. The two chefs come from East and West Berlin. They want to combine and present traditional Berlin cuisine with flavours and spices from around the world. The Tisk has an open kitchen, which lets you watch your dishes being prepared. Berlin also offers several food markets where one can eat throughout the whole day. You will just have to keep your eyes open though when you visit these food markets after moving to Berlin.

 

Public Transportation

The fact that Berlin is extraordinarily large in terms of area has ensured that public transport is very well developed. Public transport in Berlin consists of a rapid transit system with S-Bahn and U-Bahn trains as well as RE and RB trains. Politically limited mainly to the eastern half of the city, there is also a large streetcar network. In addition, there is a citywide bus network, so that citizens can cope with everyday life well and quickly. The only drawback is the BER. The Willy Brand Airport was supposed to open in 2011, but the opening was ultimately postponed to 2020 due to faulty planning and exploding construction costs. Today, 46 million passengers a year can use the national and international flight routes. It is precisely these special exceptions that make Berlin endearing and special.

 

Dialect

The Berlin dialect is something very special. An important tip for new Berliners is not to try to speak it yourself. It will always sound funny and disturb Berliners. The people of the capital are known for their cheeky Berlin snout – in one situation or another they like to say something casual. This should not be taken too personally, because you just talk frei Schnauze. That means they don’t mince words and get straight to the point. In the course of time, you will get used to it and be able to classify it correctly. The most important proverbs and terms will now be listed here. Icke stands for I, for example, that you should know as a tourist or expat.

Dit is mir schnurz piepe! means that the matter is not important to the person. Nu aba ran an de Buletten! stands for the fact that one really has to tackle something now.

Dit find ich Knorke means I think that’s great!

Pass ma uff Keule! In Berlin, Keule stands for brother or buddy – “Pass ma uff Keule” means something like “Watch out” or “Listen up, friend”. You should also pay attention, because the warning is not meant to be too friendly.

Keene Haare uff’m Kopp, aba ‘n Kamm inner Tasche! No hair on your head, but a comb in your pocket! A phony, an impostor or a braggart can be aptly described with this saying from Berlin jargon.

Regarding the dialect, one can also only say that it is a real challenge for everyone. This is true not only for expats, but also for Germans who decide to move to Berlin. One can only say that everyone who comes here needs a lot of patience to learn and understand this unique dialect. Good luck!