Settling in: Our tips for moving to Hamburg and feeling at home quickly
Considering to take a job in Hamburg or already got the signed contract in your pocket? Congratulations, it's gonna be an exciting time! But moving to a new city or even a new country can also present you with challenges. We've got you covered with the most important information about living and working in the gaming industry in Hamburg. Welcome to our beautiful Hansestadt Hamburg!
Many practical tips are also available on sites such as Handbook Germany, Make it in Germany, and specific for Hamburg the Hamburg Welcome Center - for a smooth preparation, we recommend to check those out as well.
In this guide, we share our tips on:
- How to find your new home in Hamburg
- Getting around in the city with public transport
- Navigating the formalities of your relocation
- Making use of the universal healthcare system in Germany
- Relocating to Hamburg with your family
- Learning German
- Making new connections with fellow game-makers in Hamburg
The housing market in Hamburg - like in almost every major city around the world - can be competitive. But don’t worry, we have a few helpful tips for you on how to find a nice, affordable home:
- Broaden your search radius: The first impulse is probably to look for apartments near the city center, but Hamburg has very good bus and train connections - so it's well worth to look around Hamburg's suburbs as well to find a home in a less dense and more affordable neighbourhood.
- Check the internet and newspapers: The well known real estate websites like Immowelt.de, Immobilienscout24, Immonet, wg-gesucht (for shared flats) and ebay Classifieds are a good starting point, and you can find a great list of helpful links and resources at hamburg.com. But you should also keep your eyes open on more unconventional avenues - especially older landlords still put their ads in the newspaper, for example the Hamburger Abendblatt or the MOPO that you can buy at many convenience stores and kiosks.
- Use your network: It's even more important to activate your contacts for you as the best flats don't even get advertised. Ask around at work and make it clear that you're looking for a place to live. Maybe someone knows someone who knows someone. And some companies even offer company housing.
Furnished apartments are rare in Germany, don't let this irritate you. Most German apartments also require you to bring or buy your own kitchen, so you might want to look out for apartments where you can take over the kitchen from the previous tenant.
Also take care of a German bank account early, because some landlords want to see a Schufa (credit score) report, which is difficult without an account. Also, you should ask a friend or a colleague to help you write a well-crafted message in German to approach possible landlords with.
Once you’ve arrived in your new flat, don’t forget that you have to register officially in Germany. You can make an appointment online.
You won’t need your own car to move around the city. Hamburg has a great public transport system, and we will give you a few tips on how to get to your destination. And if the car is still your preferred means of transportation after that, here is the first tip: Find out early if your driver's license is also valid in Germany and how you can exchange it for a German driver's license.
The Hamburg public transport system is called HVV. Ask your company whether they provide you with an HVV subscription. You should also download the HVV app, which is available in English, and you'll find it super easy to get to your destination by public transport.
You can also look at car and scooter sharing services: Miles, Share now, Tier, Emmy etc. or go around with bike rentals: StadtRad has rental bikes in most destinations and as a Hamburg resident, you can even use their bike for free for 30 minutes per ride.
It's almost a stereotype: Germany is known for having quite a few regulations, and let's be honest - Hamburg is not much different. But you do not need to worry, it’s easier than you think and in Hamburg you get easy and fast help.
There's even a special service for expats and skilled professionals from abroad: the City of Hamburg's Welcome Center will help you find your way around. Their website is an excellent resource on how to navigate the formalities of your relocation quickly.
Here's some of the most important tips for you:
- Get a German bank account as soon as possible. Many banks let you register online. Here’s an overview of what to be aware of.
- Also remember to take care of your official Residence Permit and the registration of your place of residence. Information about this is available at the Hamburg Welcome Center. Most likely your employer's HR team will also be able to assist you with those.
- The German tax system is quite easy for employees, most of it works automatically after you have registered for a residence permit and through your employer. Nevertheless, here are some basics about the tax system for you, so you can come prepared.
Health care insurance in Germany is mandatory - and it’s affordable for everyone. Normally, you will join a statutory health insurance, where you and your employer share the cost, but private insurance is also possible depending on your income. You can get more information here. As soon as you arrive in Germany, you should register with an insurance company. You can also ask your HR department for tips and help.
Many doctors and pharmacists speak English, you can use the local doctor’s association database to search for English-speaking doctors of many different specializations.
EU citizens are free to choose their place of residence within the whole EU, and of course you can also move to Hamburg with your whole family as a EU citizen. In general, it's possible to bring family members from non-EU countries and there are special opportunities for skilled professionals. There are different requirements for this depending on your nationality, visa status etc., which you should inform yourself about in detail, for example here on the websites of the City of Hamburg or with the help of your new employer's HR department.
Schools & Kindergarten: Germany has excellent public schools with classes in German. If you want, there are also private, international schools in addition to the public ones, where, for example, classes are taught in English. Help in finding a suitable school & information about the public school system can be found here, and more information about kindergartens can be found here.
Most people in Germany also speak English, so for the start, you can manage well with English. For the long-term stay, however, it will help you to learn German. You can do this, for example, through the following programs:
- Courses of the Goethe Institute: https://www.goethe.de/en/spr.html
- Hamburger Volkshochschule (adult education center): https://www.vhs-hamburg.de/german-courses
- Private Providers
You can also ask your employer if they recommend or subsidize certain courses, or even pay for them partly or even in full.
To make yourself at home in the gaming industry in Hamburg we have a few helpful starting points for you:
- You can take part in the Indie Treff, a meetup of indie devs and people interested in games, taking place every three months.
- You can meet even more people from the Hamburg games industry at the Gamecity Treff, which we organize several times a year, up to 250 people per event.
- You should definitely join the official Gamecity Discord to connect with other people from the gaming industry online. We’ve already got more than 1,000 members from Hamburg and all over the world.
Overview: Links in this article for deeper reading
- Handbook Germany: A guide with essential tips on housing, childcare, work and health.
- Make it in Germany: An official website for professionals planning to live and work in Germany, with information about working, studies, visa and living in general.
- Hamburg Welcome Center: On this site maintained by the City of Hamburg, you can find all the basics you need to know to start a life in the Hanseatic city. For example:
- Your first important steps to take when moving to Hamburg
- Info on taxes and setting up a bank account
- Moving with your family for EU and non-EU citizens.
- Childcare / kindergartens If you’re looking for a trustworthy place for daily care of your children, this is your place.
- Online housing ads:
- Simple Germany: advice on how to prepare for a residence in Germany, with a focus on the general credit protection agency.
- HVV App: The local app for public transport system which also enables searching for routes, buying tickets and purchasing subscriptions.
- Goethe Institut: The Goethe institute offers a variety of German classes and many of them are free of charge.
- VHS Hamburg (city-run adult education center): The department of VHS Hamburg’s German as a foreign language will enable you to take part in German classes.
- Gamecity Treff: Our meetup for Hamburg's games industry
- Indie Treff: The Indie Treff website provides you with information on the latest and upcoming appointments.
- Gamecity Hamburg Discord server: Our community for games industry people from Hamburg and beyond, with over 1.000 members.
Photo credit for the picture used at the top of the page: Mediaserver Hamburg / Christian Brandes