What to bring
Moving to Germany is an exciting prospect and, if you’re lucky enough to have this opportunity, you’ll probably wonder what to take and what to leave behind. When preparing your packing list, there’s many important things to consider:
You can take your car without having to pay import tax, although non-EU cars must comply with German standards, often requiring modifications to brakes, tyres, headlights, emissions and rust levels.
Germany enjoys a temperate climate, similar to Britain, North America and parts of Asia with pleasant summers and colder winters so living in Germany needs a range of clothing that’s warm, lightweight and waterproof. If you’re planning on exploring Germany’s many tremendous ski resorts, it’s a good idea to bring suitable clothing for this too.
If you need medication or use certain health products such as contact lenses or orthopedic items, bring about 3 months’ supply with you. Although these are readily available in Germany, it can take time to register with a Doctor or Optician.
The best advice says that it’s really not worth shipping over large household kitchen appliances to Germany. Not only are they costly to ship, but also they’re likely to need rewiring and/or fitting with a transformer to get them to work. Goods that run on a battery (e.g. cameras, PCs, laptops, tablets) and which can be plugged in to the mains using an adaptor are, however, suitable to take.
If arriving from North America, your mobile is unlikely to work, since most North American mobiles are incompatible with the German GSM system and mobile frequency. It may be best, therefore, to get a new phone once in the country.
Although the electricity standards are the same in Germany as in much of Western Europe, South America and Asia, North Americans are likely to face compatibility issues since they have a different voltage and plug sockets, which means that many common appliances (e.g. TV) are unlikely to work.
The German electricity network runs on 220-240 volts, which is double the 110-volt system used in Canada and the USA. Don’t even attempt to plug these devices into the German system, as they’re likely to be damaged beyond repair. Anyway, North American wall sockets take flat pins whereas German sockets take round pins.
If you decide to use adapter plugs to overcome this problem, these are easy to source and can be bought fairly cheaply but they don’t, however, overcome the voltage problem. Even though many modern electrical products have a multi-voltage design, this needs to be checked rather than just assumed.
As an alternative, a transformer will allow 110-volt appliances to be used in Germany. Transformers are available in two different types, one for devices that have a low wattage (e.g. radios, electric razors or any appliance running on less that 50 watts) and the other type (more heavy and expensive) for appliances using a higher current, e.g. irons, and TV sets.
Even using a transformer isn’t a foolproof solution, since the current in most of the Western world is 60 cycles. German current, however, is 50 cycles, which isn’t always a problem unless the device is using a clock or timing device, which then won’t work properly.
It’s almost futile trying to take a television set to Germany if it’s not compatible with the PAL system that Germany operates. This is found in South America and Western Europe so a set from the US, Canada, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, and the Philippines that use the NTSC system just won’t work. France, Russia, and Eastern Europe use SECAM TV, which needs a PAL or multisystem TV and the benefits of a multi-system are that NTSC DVDs and or videos will play, if you take these over with you.
If you’re a keen cook and moving to Germany from Canada or America, be aware that Germany uses metric grams and litres as measuring units as opposed to imperial, with temperatures expressed in Centigrade rather than the North American Fahrenheit. On that basis, you’ll probably find a conversion chart useful, along with a new measuring cup or jug!!