Being an Expat in Munich: A Guide to Housing, Jobs, and German Culture
Moving to Munich can be an adventure, but it’s not without its challenges. German culture can take some getting used to, from the language to the paperwork involved in setting up your new life.
13 min read
Munich is one of Germany’s most popular cities for expats, and its international community has been growing for several years. Why? Because the Munich metropolitan area is a key business hub, cultural center, and natural paradise, all rolled into one. So, it’s no surprise that rents in the Bavarian capital are the highest in the entire country.
It may not be known for its tropical weather or laid-back lifestyle, but make no mistake: There’s a lot to recommend about Munich (and Germany in general). Expats in Munich benefit from affordable education and a strong public healthcare system, not to mention some of the best job opportunities in all of Europe. Sure, mountains of paperwork and a tricky housing market can darken your mood faster than a German winter, but plenty of expats find Munich’s charms to be worth the extra effort.
With that in mind, let’s look at everything you need to know about being an expat in Munich.
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The expat community in Munich
Munich is a popular city for expats, very open and tolerant. On top of that, a healthy economy and job market are likely to make Munich even more attractive for expats in the coming years.
So, how many expats actually live in Munich? According to Toytown Deutschland , 12,200 of Munich’s residents are expats or foreign-born. That all adds up to a robust community of people to meet and interact with, and you should have no trouble finding bars and events that cater to the expat crowd. Toytown Germany is a good place to start, though most social-media platforms have groups and networks you can join that specifically cater to expats living in Munich. And don’t forget to explore one of the unique aspects of Bavarian culture: the beer gardens. Bring your own snack, order a cold drink, and enjoy the relaxing atmosphere in the shade of the trees. In summer, you can take a dip in the Isar river or take a trip to the mountains. And if rain clouds start to gather, you can head to the theater, a concert, or one of the many museums or art exhibitions. Plus, don’t forget about Oktoberfest, where every year the motto is: O’zapft is (literally, “it is tapped”)!
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Housing for expats in Munich
The housing market in Germany works a bit differently for renters than what you might be used to. For one, Germany has an extraordinarily high rentership rate for a developed country. In other words, lots of people rent here and buying a home is less common.
Because you may be interested in either renting or buying, let’s look at some key facts about how both housing options work in Munich.
The basics of renting in Munich
The outsized demand for rental properties means that the market in Munich can be especially competitive for renters, and you may need to consider living in a neighborhood that isn’t your first choice. The good news is that typical rental contracts are renter-friendly, and often offer long-term security and even rent control.
Before signing a rental agreement in Munich, make sure you’ll be able to officially register the address where you intend to live. This process is called Anmeldung — the German word for registration — and every person who lives in Germany is required to do it. It’s not too difficult — once you have all your registration documentation in order, you can apply for an appointment at your local Bürgeramt, or civic office, in Munich. Appointments can be difficult to come by, but try to do it at soon as you’re able.
Feeling intimidated? Many expats living in Munich have navigated all this confusion before, and you’ll probably feel like a pro in a few years’ time. Until then, check out our tips on how to rent an apartment in Germany, which includes the most important terms and information you’ll need to know.
The basics of buying a home in Munich
As we mentioned above, buying is not as common in Munich as it might be in other cities and countries across Europe.
In general, owning a home in Germany is not heavily subsidized by the government. As the Brookings Institution notes, certain items such as mortgage interest can only be deducted from your income taxes if you rent a home, as opposed to occupying it yourself.
Even though the average purchase price in Munich is around €9,500 per square meter, there are areas that are a little easier on your wallet, such as the Aubing-Lochhausen-Langwied neighborhood, where prices are about €7,900 per square meter. Buying a property is also more manageable if you opt for areas like Feldmoching-Hasenbergl, Allach-Untermenzing, or Ramersdorf-Perlach — especially in comparison to Altstadt-Lehel, which tops the table at more than €15,000 per square meter! In short, you need pretty deep pockets to own property in Munich. Plus, alongside the purchase price for the property, make sure your calculations include financing costs and any other costs you could incur with the purchase. These may include:
- Estate agent fees
- A property transfer tax (in Munich, it’s 3.5% of the purchase price)
- A notary and land registration fee (usually up to 2% of the purchase price)
- Other fees and closing costs
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The best places for expats to live in Munich
The most popular and desirable neighborhoods in Munich include:
- Maxvorstadt: This hip district is said to be Munich’s cultural heart and is especially popular among students, as the city’s three foremost universities have their main buildings here.
- Neuhausen: This leafy green district is particularly prized by families with children — it’s the perfect pick if you like peace and quiet.
- Westend: Also called Schwanthalerhöhe, this district boasts an active cultural life and is close to the Wiesn. That means you'll be just a stone’s throw away from Oktoberfest. Plus, lots of expats live here.
- Schwabing: This district attracts lots of artists and liberals, giving Schwabing a unique flair. It’s also home to plenty of hip bars.
- Glockenbachviertel: If you’re part of the LGBTQIA+ community, you’ll meet plenty of like-minded people in Glockenbachviertel. Plus, this neighborhood has lots of restaurants, leaving gourmands spoiled for choice.
Finding a job in Munich
We’re many decades removed from the Wirtschaftswunder (“economic miracle”) of the 1950s, but the German economy continues to hold strong relative to many other European countries. Burgeoning industries such as finance and tech make Munich an especially attractive place to look for work, and companies such as BMW, Siemens, and Allianz are headquartered in Munich and seem to always be looking for local talent.
The problem for some can be, well, becoming a local. If you’re a non-EU citizen looking to move to Munich for work, you’ll likely need to find a job and company to sponsor your resident permit or visa application. Ideally, you’ll do this before you move, though Germany does offer a job seeker visa that allows some skilled foreign nationals to stay in the country for a certain amount of time (usually six months) while they search for employment.
Of course, finding a job is only one part of the challenge in Munich. You’ll also probably want a job that pays well. So, what’s a good salary in Munich? According to ERI’s Global Salary Calculator, the average base salary in Munich is €56,600 per year, which works out to an average hourly rate of €27. This is higher compared to the average base salary across the rest of Germany, which is €49,428 per year.
If you’re looking for a job in Munich, keep in mind that a place can seem more or less expensive depending on how much money you’re bringing in. If you can, you may want to negotiate a salary that matches or exceeds the average salary for Munich.
The cost of living in Munich
Living in a big city like Munich doesn’t automatically mean that you’ll save more money. People who live in Munich tend to earn higher salaries than their suburban or rural counterparts — but they also tend to pay more for essentials such as rent and food. Rents in Munich are higher than in the rest of Germany, too: You’ll be handing over an average of €1,335.98 per month for a two-room apartment in the city center. Taking public transport and eating out are also comparatively expensive, and current levels of inflation have made this even worse. One thing that can help ease the strain on your wallet: In Bavaria, it’s normal to bring your own food to a beer garden. That way, you can enjoy a cold drink without spending a fortune on food. And in summer, you can soak up the sun on the banks of the Isar or jump in the river for a swim.
Keep in mind that the cost of living in Munich includes not only essentials but also activities that let you really explore the local scene. If you’re looking for a quick way to balance your major expenses, check out our 50/30/20 calculator, which is designed to help you split your income among three major categories: basic necessities, disposable income, and savings/debts. Or, you could input your specific expenses into our monthly budget calculator to get a clearer picture of your monthly spend.
Healthcare in Munich
If you live or work in Munich or anywhere else in Germany, health insurance is mandatory. Most Germans and expats living in Germany opt for statutory health insurance, which is financed primarily through shared employee and employer salary contributions.
The monthly contribution is generally around 14.6% of the gross salary, although a cap applies for those who earn more than the maximum contribution amount. Since freelancers and other self-employed workers don’t have an employer to split the contribution with, they typically have to pay the full cost of their insurance.
You may also have the option to purchase private health insurance from a number of different companies, in which case your costs will vary depending on the type and quality of insurance you choose.
Check out our full guide on how to get health insurance in Germany, which includes everything an expat living in Munich needs to know.
Education in Munich
Here’s a bit of good news if you’re planning to study abroad in Munich as an expat — statutory tuition fees in Germany don’t exist! Whether you’re German, European, or from anywhere else in the world, you can study at most German public universities without paying tuition. (Of course, there can be exceptions.) You should reckon with other small fees and costs, though — and the high rent prices in Munich. Still, it’s a great place to study, in part to renowned local universities such as:
- Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich: This is the fifth-largest university in Germany, as well as one of the oldest. The beautiful main building is located in the Maxvorstadt area.
- Technical University of Munich: It’s the largest technical post-secondary institution in Germany and one of the leading universities in Europe. The central campus is also in Maxvorstadt.
- Munich University of Applied Sciences: It offers a number of interdisciplinary study areas, including some that have a practical occupational component. The main headquarters of this top-tier institution are located northwest of the Munich main train station.
Getting around in Munich
As a major transportation hub, Munich is well-connected to the rest of Germany. This makes it an ideal jumping-off point for expats wanting to explore the country. Munich also boasts a modern network of trains, buses, and trams to get you around pretty much anywhere within city limits relatively quickly.
Whether you stay close to home or wander afar, transportation in Munich is quite affordable. Unveiled in 2023, the Deutschland-Ticket (D-Ticket) dramatically reduced the monthly cost of local transit in Munich and other cities across Germany. For only €49 per month, this ticket offers unlimited travel on local and regional public transportation. This can be a fantastic way to decrease the cost of living in Munich — as can buying a bicycle.
How you live and where you work will likely determine the best transportation option for you. In general, you can expect to pay more for transportation if you buy and own a car. As a major German city, Munich isn’t the easiest place to drive around, with lots of zoning restrictions and high fees for parking and traffic violations. If you need to travel long distances across the city for work or play, we generally recommend taking advantage of the Deutschland-Ticket. It’s popular for a reason!
Cultural differences in German and Munich
Munich is a big, multicultural city with lots of people living together in relative harmony — but that doesn’t mean German culture isn’t strong here.
Some expats have trouble adapting to the German way, which can seem extremely practical and “common sense” in some ways and random in others. For example, Germans are known for respecting rules, and crossing a street in Munich at a red light may get you a few stern looks. On the other hand, Germans are deeply superstitious about wishing someone “Happy Birthday” prior to that person’s actual birthday.
As expats everywhere will tell you, it may take some time to get used to the local way of doing things. Other things that expats find to be a bit jarring in Munich include:
- The chattiness of people from Munich: Whether you’re out shopping or relaxing in the sauna, you can easily end up entangled in other people’s conversations in Munich. Chances are, you’ll learn lots of information — some of it very personal!
- The Bavarian dialect: Even though very few people still speak the genuine Munich dialect, it’s still worth learning a few terms, like Obacht (watch out!), Pack ma’s (let’s go) or Schleich di (get out of the way!).
- Krapfen vs. Berliner: This popular jelly-filled pastry, usually eaten during Fasching, is called a Berliner in other federal states — but people in Bavaria refer to it as a Krapfen.
- Fasching vs. Karneval: And while we’re on the subject, Karneval (or Carnival) is known as Fasching in Munich.
- The intensely fast pace at which Germans bag their groceries. Also, the fact that most Germans bring their own grocery bags every time they shop.
- The relatively complex trash-sorting system, which includes bins for paper recycling, plastic and metal recycling, glass recycling, and general waste.
- The German language, which can be difficult to learn but is worth the effort if you want to make friends with locals.
- German honesty, which can seem quite blunt and cold to an outsider. Once you get used to it, though, you may appreciate it and even learn to love it.
Managing your money as an expat in Munich
If you’re getting ready to move to Munich, you may have some stress about how to keep your saving habits up in a different city and country. The good news is that N26 has you covered. With our fully online bank account, you can set daily spending limits to help you stay on track with your budgeting goals and use Spaces to create sub-accounts for different needs.
Oh, and speaking of bank accounts, you’ll want to get on that. Check out our guide to how to open a bank account in Germany for a full rundown of the process.
Is munich a good city for expats
Munich is a great city for expats. Alongside fantastic career opportunities and a relaxed beer garden culture, Munich has a wide range of theaters, museums, impressive architecture, and picturesque parks. Plus, it’s a multicultural and cosmopolitan city.
Where do expats live in Munich?
Expats in Munich live all over the place, but bigger concentrations of expats tend to live in international-friendly neighborhoods like Maxvorstadt, Glockenbachviertel, and Schwabing.
Can I live in Munich without speaking German?
You can certainly live in Munich without speaking or understanding German, but you won’t get a full experience of the local culture. You may also find basic tasks such as grocery shopping, filing your taxes, and getting around the city more challenging. With that said, many Germans in Munich have some knowledge of English and some public services are available in English, as well.
Is Germany friendly to foreigners?
Germans tend to be quite friendly to foreigners. Even so, it’s a good idea to go out of your way to learn the language and respect the local customs. Germans who see you at least giving it a try will likely be impressed and warm up to you more quickly.
Can I live and work in Germany if I have an EU passport?
Yes, you can live and work in Germany if you are a citizen of another EU country
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