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Living in Germany: five types of insurance you should know about

Maybe you’ve heard a German say, ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing’. German culture places a premium on being well-prepared. But not only when it comes to the weather – could this cultural value have something to do with the world of German insurance?

Living in Germany: five types of insurance you should know about
Life happens. Being insured can help reduce the effect on your wallet. Photo: Getty Images

Insurance is a big deal in Germany. There are numerous social safety nets in place, but there are still more than a few things you’re expected to take care of on your own. It’s common for new arrivals to feel frustrated and overwhelmed when they try to figure out what kinds of insurance they need. 

To help demystify this aspect of living in Germany, here are five types of coverage you may want to consider.

Personal liability insurance (Private Haftpflichtversicherung)

Ask any German what the most important kind of insurance is, and soon you won’t be able to get them to stop talking about personal liability insurance – 80 percent of the population has it. Personal liability insurance covers the financial costs if you accidentally cause damage to someone else, their property or their assets. 

This type of insurance is so common in Germany that if you spill wine on someone’s trousers on a night out, the wearer may ask you to file a claim with your personal liability insurance to cover the cleaning costs. If your toddler draws all over a friend’s couch, even that friend might ask you to file a claim. It’s not considered rude here, or even a little weird. People simply tend to assume that everyone has personal liability coverage.

The good news is that personal liability insurance isn’t that expensive, especially when you consider that it also covers more serious cases, for example if you accidentally injure someone who becomes unable to work, leaving you financially on the hook for all their lost income. It also covers things like Mietsachschäden in a rented flat, which refers to damage to things that are part of the flat itself, like floors, windows, and doors. It even covers accidental damage to holiday apartments!

It’s always a good idea to be prepared for whatever life throws your way, especially when you’re living abroad.

You can protect yourself with a policy Getsafe in under fifteen minutes, as well as, manage and adjust via app in English

Contents insurance (Hausratversicherung)

Are you a renter or a homeowner? Then another type of insurance most Germans will recommend you get is contents insurance. Contents insurance covers your belongings within your home against insured risks. ‘Contents’ refers to things like furniture, electronic devices, and clothes. Think of it this way: if you turn your flat or house upside down, anything that falls out normally counts as contents. Insured risks are things like fire, storms, or burglary.

Say a water pipe in your kitchen bursts, your washing machine leaks all over your nice chairs, or you accidentally leave a lit candle unattended and cause a small fire in your bedroom. Contents insurance will cover the financial costs associated with the damage. 

It’s important to note that if you’re renting a furnished apartment, contents insurance doesn’t cover the furnishings that came with the apartment. They’re the landlord’s property, so they’re not covered by your contents policy.

Private health insurance (Private Krankenversicherung or ‘PKV’)

Whether you’re working or studying in Germany, health insurance is mandatory. The majority of people in Germany have public health insurance (Gesetzliche Krankenversicherung, or ‘GKV’).

Germany’s public health system is highly advanced, and you’ll be well looked after if you get sick or have an accident. However, if you’re a freelancer, or you’re an employee and earn over a certain amount per year (for 2023: €66,600), you have the option of taking out private health insurance instead.

Private health insurance gives coverage holders a greater choice of doctors, largely eliminates waiting periods to see a specialist and can ensure a single room if you’re hospitalised. It also provides access to a more diverse variety of procedures and treatments than public health insurance.

Income protection insurance (Berufsunfähigkeitsversicherung)

According to the Federal Statistical Office, one in four people in Germany will become unable to work in their current profession for at least six months in a row due to accident or illness over the course of their lives. A significant percentage of people who file an income protection claim are dealing with a mental health issue like depression or burnout. 

You’ll find that many Germans also have income protection insurance to prepare for this eventuality. Income protection insurance covers all your living costs, including regular bills and grocery costs, when you can’t work, giving you peace of mind so you can focus on getting better.

The younger and healthier you are when you take out income protection coverage, the more affordable it will be. It’s a worthwhile investment in an additional personal safety net. 

Getsafe offers access to a broad range of insurance policies in English, all through an easy-to-use app 

Dog liability insurance jumps in when Mr. Fluffy does something naughty to someone else’s stuff. Photo: Getty Images

Pet health insurance (Tierkrankenversicherung) and dog liability insurance (Hundehaftpflichtversicherung

Germans are pet-loving people, and if you’ve got a feline or canine buddy in tow, you’ll find yourself in good company. But the seriousness with which Germans take care of their animals can sometimes translate into hefty costs for their veterinary care.

Pet health insurance can be a worthwhile option if you’re a pet parent in Germany. Pet health insurance provides a wealth of benefits. Depending on the level of coverage you choose, you can cover surgeries, additional treatments and preventative care. Some providers also provide virtual 24/7 veterinary appointments when you’re travelling or it’s three in the morning.

If you have a dog, it’s also a good idea to get dog liability insurance. (For one thing, it’s a legal requirement in Berlin, Brandenburg, Hamburg, Lower Saxony, Thuringia and Schleswig-Holstein.) Dog liability insurance covers the costs if your dog accidentally damages someone else, their property, or another dog. 

The simple solution

Many German insurance companies have begun to offer specialised English-language services as the number of English speakers living and working in Germany increases. One of these companies, Getsafe, has gone further, providing all-digital, English-language insurance via app. 

Companies like Getsafe recognize that international workers in Germany don’t want to deal with piles of German paperwork. That’s where the app comes in. It makes it easy for users to buy, manage and adjust their coverage and file claims 24/7, all from their smartphone.

Living in Germany may become one of the grandest adventures of your life. But as the Germans know, it’s always good to be prepared, just in case something should go awry. Luckily, being prepared is easier than you think. 

Life happens, but Germans know the value of preparation. Getsafe allows you to sign up online and be protected within minutes – with everything in English

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STUDYING IN GERMANY

What’s it like to study abroad in Berlin?

Picking the right city to study abroad in Germany can be a tricky decision, and there are numerous factors to consider. Freya Jones shares her experience of doing a year abroad in the capital and explains why Berlin could also be the right choice for you.

What's it like to study abroad in Berlin?

Five months after moving to Berlin for my year abroad (a compulsory part of my German degree from the UK) the German capital is certainly a destination I’d recommend. 

Although it’s less “traditionally German” than many other corners of the country, and simultaneously more comparable to the blanket big city experience worldwide, Berlin’s unique history and culture make it a great place to explore – and unsurprisingly very popular with international students. 

Like all capitals, it has its pros and cons, so here’s what stood out to me during my experience so far.

Arrival

You’ve probably heard horror stories about the Berlin housing market, and from experience I can say they’re largely true. Finding an apartment here before moving to the city is notoriously difficult, and more expensive than in other parts of Germany. 

What you should bear in mind, however, is that unlike other German cities, Berlin doesn’t impose fines if you’re unable to secure a registration appointment within two weeks of arrival (three months if you already have a visa). This makes searching for a good WG, Studentenwerk, or other rental far easier post-arrival if your first stop is a homestay or somewhere else temporary. 

Blocks of rental flats in Berlin.

Blocks of rental flats in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Monika Skolimowska

Despite a recent wave of strikes and construction work, transport links in Berlin are still very strong. If you’re enrolled as a student during your year abroad, you’ll be entitled to a discounted pass for city transport, including a number of tram, bus and train options that run all the way to the city’s outskirts and even into Brandenburg (Zone C).

What’s more, direct trains from Berlin’s BER Airport make it more accessible than more remote locations in Germany when you arrive equipped with a year’s worth of luggage.

English

My German tutors in the UK were slightly concerned when I chose Berlin, because they didn’t think I’d have much opportunity to practise my German. Looking back, this worry wasn’t without cause, and if your primary goal is German language improvement, it may be worth considering somewhere more rural or less international. 

Unlike small towns I’ve visited elsewhere in Germany, where many people speak little to no English, it’s everywhere in Berlin. Because the international population is so large, new friends from any country are likely to speak it by default.

However, this can obviously be mitigated by signing up for German-only university classes, as I’ve done as an exchange student at Humboldt University, or finding a German language job. And on the flip side, if you’re here to study a discipline other than German, the ubiquity of English in Berlin has you covered.

READ ALSO: The top German cities for international students in 2024

Cultural Experiences

Unsurprisingly, Berlin offers no end of unique cultural experiences. For new arrivals, there’s plenty to fill your time with, and I’d really recommend “playing the tourist” for a couple of weeks while you settle in. 

Bucket-list locations include the National Gallery and museums on Museuminsel, the Berlin Wall memorial, the Brandenburg Gate, and the site of the Berlin airlift at Tempelhof. And beyond this, there’s never a shortage of things to do – walks around Tiergarten and the customary Sunday flea markets (Flohmarkt am Mauerpark being the most famous) are popular with visitors and locals alike.

A skateboarder performs tricks on Tempelhofer Feld

A skateboarder performs tricks on a former runway at Berlin’s Tempelhofer Feld, a popular meeting place in Berlin-Neukölln. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Christoph Soeder

Something I’ve also really enjoyed after being here for a while is noticing the small details which differentiate the former East and West Berlin sectors, such as different traffic lights and types of transport. While much of the architecture is admittedly stark, grey and not as pretty as other parts of Germany, the way in which present-day Berlin is a visible product of its recent history makes it a fascinating place to live.

READ ALSO: How do I get a student visa for Germany and what does it let me do?

Pros & Cons

Any culture shock inevitably comes with both positives and negatives, and these are a few which particularly struck me after moving to Berlin from the UK. 

Cons: many shops refuse to take card payment and only accept cash; all shops and supermarkets close on Sundays; there’s no guarantee of being let into a club or bar on a night out, and the traffic lights genuinely seem to conspire against drivers and pedestrians alike. (Also, the weather in winter really will destroy your soul, and this is a Brit talking…)

Pros: the quality of food is much better here than in the UK, and cheaper; the cost of alcohol is much lower; public transport is cheaper and more efficient than in London; work-life balance and mental wellbeing are taken very seriously; and finally, there’s a far less visible “class system” than in the UK, possibly due to the greater access and affordability of German universities.  (This is really nice, especially if you’re coming from a UK university where socio-economic prejudice is very common.)

READ ALSO: How to stay in Germany after graduating from a German university

Overall, Berlin has been a vibrant place to spend my exchange semester. Not only has it given me insights into the most significant shifts in recent German history, but it also offers the archetypal experience of living in a bustling, multicultural city. So while it’s distinctly different to anywhere else in Germany you might be considering, the variety of things to see and do in Berlin will keep you engaged for your full year abroad.

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