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Germany: Furniture and Household Goods
After finding a new home and getting the necessary utilities connected, you’d probably like to go on a shopping spree. Most expats haven’t really settled in until they have purchased the necessary furniture and household goods, such as electrical appliances, linen, and kitchenware. However, when it comes to household goods and furniture, in Germany and elsewhere, there’s the one question that every expat on the move sooner or later has to face: To ship or not to ship?
Shipping or Shopping?
Despite some import and customs restrictions, importing personal-use items to furnish your home in Germany should usually not be a problem (unless they are all brand-new). Nevertheless, you may want to keep the costs for shipping furniture and household goods at a low, especially if your employer covers them only partially or not at all. Therefore, when you consider having your household goods and furniture delivered to Germany, you should take the following aspects into account:
- The German electricity standard is 220 Volt – 50 Hz and German plugs and wall sockets conform to the so-called F-plug and C-plug patterns. You might therefore need to buy a transformer and an adapter to keep using your electrical appliances.
- It is hard to find spare parts for many non-European household appliances in Germany.
- Washing-machines and dishwashers take in cold water first, then heat it inside the machine. If your own appliances rely on hot water straight from the tap, they won’t work in Germany.
- Furniture and household appliances from non-European countries rarely fit the spaces allocated for them in German housing. For example, freezers, beds, and even windows are, on average, smaller than in North America..
All in all, it is probably easier to just take smaller household goods to Germany, such as kitchenware and personal belongings, and to leave your furniture at home.
If you are from a non-Christian country and feel attached to your holiday decorations, you should also take them with you. Since public holidays in Germany are very much rooted in Christianity’s religious and cultural practices, it may be difficult to get your hands on a menorah or a Diwali lantern. However, as far as household items and home decorations for Christmas are concerned, the traditional Christmas markets will take you to arts-and-crafts heaven.
Where to Shop
If you need to purchase furniture and household appliances for your home in Germany, there is a wide range of shops to choose from.
You can buy furniture, lamps, carpeting, etc. at global and national chain stores that are found in lots of major cities across Germany. Of course, there are many smaller regional and local furniture stores (Möbelgeschäfte) as well. In all of them, you’ll have to pay an extra delivery fee if you cannot transport the furniture yourself. In case you need to buy a new kitchen, the sales assistants will help you plan it and get it installed too. Since kitchens are very expensive in Germany, comparing offers from different stores is a must.
Household appliances can be acquired from an electrical appliance store (Elektrogeschäft). The most well-known shop brands in Germany are Media Markt and Saturn, although small family-owned businesses may offer better customer services. Ladders, tools, extension cords, wallpaper, paint, and other DIY equipment are available at every building supply or hardware store (Baumarkt), no matter whether it’s called Bauhaus, Obi, Praktiker or Toom.
In comparison to other countries, German shops have limited opening hours. Even chain stores in large cities close no later than 8 p.m. It is in fact against the law for shop-owners (with certain exceptions) to sell their merchandise on Sunday. Furthermore, while you have the right to return damaged goods within a certain time period, you always have to show the original receipt in order to do so.
In order to protect your home and your belongings, especially if you own valuable items, such as expensive hi-fi equipment, you should definitely consider getting adequate insurance coverage. So-called buildings insurance or property insurance for homeowners covers any loss or damage to the physical structure of the house or flat itself. Contents insurance (Hausratversicherung) covers any theft, loss or damage of your household goods. In any case, if you are worried about fire, theft, water damage, or vandalism, you should contact an insurer for further information.
If you have a Hausratversicherung, you should keep a regularly updated list of all items of your most prized possessions in case of theft. It makes sense to insure your household goods for their full actual value and maintain a current inventory of furniture, clothing, home entertainment equipment, jewelry, antiques, artworks etc. If your possessions are damaged or stolen, get in touch with the insurance company immediately and file a report. To find out more about insurance in Germany, read our guide article on the topic.
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