Expats moving to Germany with kids can look forward to enjoying many benefits once they overcome the initial challenges during the transition.
Moving to any country with children is a big decision and one that can pose many challenges, as well as advantages. For expats moving to Germany with kids, there are several key hurdles they should be aware of. This will better prepare them for the transition. But once they overcome these, they can enjoy many fantastic benefits while raising children in Germany.
The first step: applying for residence visas
Naturally, one of the first things to consider when moving to Germany with kids is arranging residence visas for family members; that’s if your nationality requires it. If you or your partner are entitled to live in Germany, for instance, your children are also entitled to a temporary or permanent residence visa. Similarly, if your kids are citizens of a member state of the European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA), they don’t need a visa to enter Germany and can live and work there freely.
However, if your children are citizens of a country that is not in the EU or the EEA, they will generally need a residence visa to enter Germany. To obtain one, they must be under the age of 18 and not be married, divorced, or widowed. If you are a single parent, you can also apply for a visa for your children. However, you will need the consent of the other parent who is entitled to custody.
Citizens of Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Switzerland, the United States, and all EU countries can also apply for their residence permits after entering Germany without a visa.
If you have a baby while living in Germany, your child will automatically obtain German citizenship if either parent is a German citizen. If, on the other hand, you are not a German citizen, but hold a valid right of residence at the time of birth, your child will also be granted a residence permit. You can find out more about this in the Residence Act.
The positive German parenting style
Once parents have sorted residence visas for themselves and their children, they can enjoy settling into family life in Germany. Fortunately, Germany is generally considered to be a great place to raise children. In fact, a 2020 study by Asher and Lyric ranked Germany as the seventh-best country in the world to raise a family. This was based on six key factors, including safety, happiness, cost, health, education, and time.
One of the main appeals for expat parents is the German parenting style which encourages children to be self-reliant throughout childhood. Generally speaking, German parents strive to prepare their children to be independent as adults. They view the family home as a place to nurture a child’s individuality and aspirations; yet, without ‘wrapping them in cotton wool’, so to speak.
Essentially, children in Germany are treated more like adults. As a result, men and women will greet and speak to them as such. Interestingly, most youngsters move out of their parents’ homes when they go to university or become financially independent. This is good news for parents hoping to enjoy some well-deserved freedom after raising their children.
A great range of international schools
Another major benefit of moving to Germany with kids is the German education system. Germany ranks relatively well with regard to education levels. According to the 2018 OECD/PISA survey of standards among 15-year-olds, the country ranked 20th in the world in reading and mathematics, and 16th in science. Furthermore, the report revealed that German students feel a strong sense of belonging at school and experience low levels of schoolwork-related anxiety.
The German education system consists of many quality local schools as well as a number of private and international schools that cater to expat children. While most students in Germany attend local schools, for free, many expats consider an international school to ease their child’s transition. After all, these allow students to continue their education in a familiar language and curriculum.
Most international schools in Germany also have small class sizes, excellent facilities, and high educational standards. These factors all help to attract expat parents. While international schools in Germany are mostly privately run, there are a few that are part of the public system. You can find out more about this in our article on international schools in Germany.
The challenges of childcare
If you are moving to Germany with young children, you will need to brace yourself for the reality that securing a place for your child is not always straightforward. While paying for childcare may be getting easier, kindergarten access can be difficult.
Although there is a central enrolment available through the city council, there are no available places until the start of the school year. This could mean that you have to wait several months, until the last minute before term starts, for confirmation that your child can even have a place.
For many expat parents in Germany, this can be extremely frustrating, especially for working mothers. After all, there is no institutional childcare system available to provide quality childcare that covers a full-time working schedule. That said, many expats report that German kindergartens are much better and cheaper than in their native countries. They are also known to be well-organized and well-staffed.
To look for local daycare services, check your area’s Youth Welfare Office (Jugendamt). Ask friends, neighbors, and colleagues for recommendations. When choosing where to apply, consider the location, the child-to-minder ratio, and whether the staff speaks English. It’s also important to check the opening hours and whether food is provided. You can find out more in our article on German preschool and daycare options.
A huge variety of family attractions
Aside from education, one of the main concerns parents have when moving to Germany with kids is being able to keep them happy and entertained. Fortunately, there are numerous family attractions and fun things to do with kids in Germany. In fact, you are spoilt for choice.
For one, Germany is home to several huge, popular theme parks, including Euro-Park, LEGOLAND, Movie Park, and Phantasialand. These offer an impressive number of rides, attractions, and shows to squeeze into a day or weekend trip. Most of the rides are also categorized into different age groups, meaning you can choose the most suitable ones for your kids.
Germany also boasts a huge array of museums, many of which appeal to children. The Chocolate Museum in Cologne, Haribo Factory Outlet, and Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg are particular family favorites. Aside from its museums, Germany is also home to several stunning fairy tale castles. The most famous of these is Neuschwanstein Castle which inspired Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle. A road trip along the famous Fairy Tale Road (or Märchenstraße) also makes for an unforgettable family outing.
An abundance of child-friendly facilities
Although expat parents have their concerns and gripes about the way things are done in Germany, the country is very much geared towards family life. As a result, there is a great infrastructure for children and many children-friendly facilities on offer.
Many British expats actually report that having children in Germany is much easier than in Britain because facilities are generally set up for them. For instance, in contrast to the UK, where few restaurants have much to offer children and pubs often explicitly keep them out, German establishments are extremely child-friendly. Many bars and restaurants even provide big play areas and special menus for kids.
Many German cities also have Kindercafes (children’s cafés) and MutterZentrum (mother centers). These are drop-in zones with play areas and facilities that enable parents and children to interact and socialize with others.
Germany also has an easily accessible network of child experts, child massage therapists, and so on. There are also many second-hand shops that sell babies’ clothing and toys, helping parents to save money on much-needed items. A quick Google search will throw up some promising results.
The child-friendly nature of Germany also applies to public transport throughout the country. Many expat mothers praise the high quality of the bus, tram, and train networks. They claim that these are far more child-friendly than in some countries. Of course, this helps a great deal when getting out and about with the little ones.
Generous welfare payments
Finally, one major incentive to have children in Germany is the generous financial support that parents receive from the state. This is due to the government’s concerns about the declining birth rate in Germany and the demographic future of the country. After all, Germany’s birth rate is below the EU average; 9.4 births per 1,000 inhabitants against an average of 9.5.
According to figures released by the Federal Statistical Office (Destatis), some 778,100 babies were born in Germany in 2019; a drop of 9,400 compared with the year before. Germany’s total fertility rate (TFR), also sank from 1.57 to 1.54 during this period.
As a result of these concerns, the German social security system offers parents generous welfare payments; especially when compared to most English-speaking countries. Families and single parents can benefit from various benefits, tax allowances, and deductions.
For the first two children, for instance, parents can get €204 per month in Kindergeld (child benefit). There is a higher rate of €210 for a third child and €235 for any further offspring. The child benefit is paid monthly and the same amount is paid to everyone, regardless of the parent’s income.
A tax-free child allowance may also be granted to parents under certain conditions. Furthermore, parents can also make further tax savings by deducting their expenses for childcare and school fees; up to €4,000 and €5,000 a year, respectively.
The government’s continued concerns regarding Germany’s declining birthrate means that state support for parents is likely to continue to improve. With so many incentives, both financially and culturally, it’s fair to say that Germany is a desirable place to raise children.