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Living in Munich

A comprehensive guide about living well in Munich

Are you preparing to relocate to Munich? The green city by the River Isar will surprise you with its great quality of life. To make the most out of life in Munich, you need to take care of the practical issues, too. Our Relocation Guide helps with info on leisure, healthcare, schools, and transportation.

Need to move abroad? Organizing an international relocation is not something you should do on your own. As expats, we understand what you need, and offer the the essential services to help you move and live abroad easily. Contact us today to jump start your move, and begin the preparations with our free relocation checklist.

Life in Munich

  • Munich has a lot to offer in terms of free-time activities, whether you are sporty or prefer to see cultural sites.
  • There are many hospitals and doctors’ surgeries dotted across the city; it will be easy to find one who speaks English, or possibly even your own language.
  • The Bavarian education system enjoys a very good reputation in Germany, but there are also many international schools in the state’s capital.
  • Whether you live in the city or commute, you can be sure to rely on a strong transportation network.

Most residents living in Munich appreciate the city’s extraordinary quality of life. In the Mercer Quality of Living Survey 2016, Munich ranked as the fourth most attractive expatriate hotspot around the globe for the fourth year in a row. Only Vienna and Zurich are other German-speaking cities that can pride themselves on better results.

In terms of safety in Munich, the highest single risk factor is petty crime, such as pickpocketing. Although, you will be pleased to learn that pickpocketing is much less common in Munich than other large European cities such as Paris and Barcelona. Another minor risk is violent crime under the influence, i.e. drunken assaults, often in the bar and club scenes or during beer festivals. However, this should not deter you from paying a visit to the world-famous Oktoberfest or to explore Munich’s nightlife. Living in Munich, most party-goers enjoy their beer or cocktail in peace and quiet.

Many Choices for Theater and Music Buffs

Don’t assume that the Oktoberfest is the be-all and end-all of leisure activities, though! Life in Munich has far more to offer. For instance, the city has many theaters and concert venues. While most performances at the Residenztheater, the Kammerspiele, or the Volkstheater are in German, there are some foreign-language drama groups, often aimed at expats. Also, the Cinema — Munich’s most popular English movie theater — offers live streams on special occasions from venues such as the National Theatre in London and the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

Of course, music transcends all languages and nationalities. There should be something to cater to the musical taste of everyone living in Munich. At the Opera House you can enjoy high-brow works by classical composers. Lovers of musicals and operetta might prefer the Gärtnerplatztheater or the Deutsches Theater. Also, there’s always a pop or rock concert going on somewhere. International or national stars like Linkin Park and Sportfreunde Stiller fill the large venue at Olympiahalle while more intimate performances can be enjoyed at Zenith or Muffathalle.

An International Cinema Scene

Life in Munich does not necessarily come with a language barrier for cinema lovers. There’s one cinema — aptly named Cinema Munich — that shows mostly Hollywood films in the original version. Every Thursday, most German newspapers include an additional cinema feature on the event calendar for the upcoming week, including reviews of the newest films. Watch out for OV (original version) and OmU (original version with German subtitles).

Of the dozens of cinemas in Munich, most of them concentrate on US American and European productions. Fans of art house movies from other countries needn’t despair, though. Check out the Munich Film Museum or attend a premiere at the Munich Film Festival (an annual event in late June / early July). If you’re looking for a bit of fun, the Museum Lichtspiele is an insider tip for everybody living in Munich. This cinema’s midnight screening of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is a cult event running on a weekly basis since 24 June 1977!

Endless Options in the Countryside

Outdoorsy expats living in Munich can find a very useful database for sports enthusiasts on the official city homepage. It is only available in German, but you need just a smattering of the language to use the feature:

  • Type in the German word for the sport you’re interested in (e.g. Fußball for football).
  • Select the name of the neighborhood where you want to exercise (e.g. Au-Haidhausen).
  • Decide whether you prefer a club (Verein), a commercial venue (kommerziell), a program organized by the city of Munich (München), or a club or commercial venue outside of the city (Umland Verein or Umland kommerziell).

Once you click on Angebote suchen (search for offers), you’ll be provided with the contact details of available venues for your favorite sport.

Alternatively, you can join one of the many gyms addressing the needs of fitness fanatics. Another advantage of life in Munich is its location. The Alps are only a daytrip away. When the gym seems a little claustrophobic, grab a pair of sturdy hiking boots and hop on the next train to Garmisch or Berchtesgarden. For example, the sight of the Eibsee — a dark-blue mountain lake — in the afternoon sun may be among your most treasured memories of living in Munich.

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Healthcare in Munich

Prospective expatriates will be glad to hear that Munich has a number of good to excellent medical facilities. What is more important, access to affordable medical care in Germany is fairly easy. The country has a comprehensive national healthcare system.

The majority of the German population is covered by the public health insurance scheme, while others who have high incomes or are self-employed opt for a private insurance provider. Since having medical insurance has become a legal obligation, the number of people without a health insurance plan is rather low. 

Germany’s Public Healthcare System

If you work as an expat employee in Munich and earn up to 56,250 EUR in gross annual income (as of 2016), you and your dependent family members will automatically become part of the public healthcare system. Insurance contributions do not depend on your age or any pre-existing conditions, but on your income. As of 2016, they amount to 14.6% of your gross income, half of which is paid by your employer. The rest is deducted directly from your monthly salary and transferred to the insurance provider.

Kassenpatienten (patients covered by the public healthcare system) also have to make co-payments on some medical services. For prescription medication, they have to pay 10% out of their pocket, usually between 5 EUR and 10 EUR. As of 2010, every day in hospital costs them another 10 EUR for up to 28 days in a year. They generally have longer waiting times, and some healthcare services are excluded from reimbursement, like glasses for adults or many forms of dental care. Therefore, some Germans top up their public healthcare plan with a supplementary policy (Zusatzversicherung) from a private company.

Private Health Insurance in Germany

High-income employees, civil servants, and many self-employed people have private health insurance. However, most of these groups can still choose to become members of the public healthcare system instead. When you opt for a private insurance plan, be aware that your contributions vary greatly, depending on gender, age, and pre-existing conditions. If you should be unable to join the public healthcare plan for some legal reason, every private company has to offer you a basic policy. In this case, you pay about the same as the comparative public healthcare plan would cost — and only get the same treatment, instead of the usual perks for private patients.

Medical Facilities in Munich

Hopefully, you’ll have a great time in Munich and stay in very good health. In case you do need medical assistance, however, there are some numbers it may be useful to know by heart, which we have listed below.

Emergency Services

  • 110 (police)
  • 112 (fire fighters, ambulance, or police across the EU)
  • 089 – 19 240 (poison hotline in Munich)
  • 116 117 (nationwide number for medical non-emergencies outside of regular office hours)

The Munich portal also lists a variety of useful numbers depending on what medical situation you find yourself in, including dental emergencies and pediatric specialists. If you are suffering from acute or severe pain, don’t hesitate to go to the accident and emergency department (Notaufnahme) of the nearest hospital instead.

Public Hospitals

Munich’s largest hospitals are:

Doctors

Usually, you don’t go to hospital right away. You see your family doctor first, who might give you a referral to a specialist or a clinic, if necessary. Ask your new colleagues or neighbors which physician in the neighborhood they prefer, or contact your general consulate in Munich for a list of medical service providers who speak your mother tongue. Since Munich is a very international city, you have a decent chance of finding such a doctor.

Childcare and Education in Munich

The first rule of the German education system is that there is no German education system. Confused? The explanation is actually rather simple. As Germany is a federal republic, its 16 states are semi-autonomous in some areas. Education is one of them. Therefore, the school system differs greatly between Munich and Hamburg, which makes moving within Germany somewhat complicated for families with kids. The following description applies to the Bavarian school system, but not necessarily to that in, for example, Berlin.

Preschool Applications Are Competitive in This City

Most preschool kids aged three to six attend a Kindergarten, run by the municipal administration, a private organization, or a religious association (mostly the Catholic or Lutheran Church). Unlike state schools, kindergartens are not free of charge. Monthly fees can vary greatly depending on whether you choose to send your child to a public or private kindergarten, or even a specialized one, with fees ranging from around 100 EUR to over 1,000 EUR a month. Younger kids are looked after at a nursery or daycare facility. However, demand for childcare exceeds supply in the Greater Munich Area. Quite a few mothers even apply for a place before they have given birth.

Would you like to send your kid to a bilingual or foreign-language daycare or pre-school? There are several private associations in Munich that organize nurseries and kindergartens for English-speaking, French, Italian, and Spanish children. Some international schools also have facilities for toddlers and pre-school kids.

Four Years of Primary Education

For children in Munich, obligatory schooling begins at the age of six or seven, depending on the kid’s birthday and his or her individual development. In the fourth (and last) year of primary school, you may notice some parents beginning to panic. Their child’s academic progress — i.e. their grades in math, German, and social studies — now decides which type of secondary school the student may attend.

This system has often been criticized as selective, stressful for ten-year-olds, and biased against kids from working-class or immigrant families. Still, it probably won’t change any time soon. So, according to the child’s report cards, there are three kinds of secondary school to choose from.

Various Options for Secondary School

The Mittelschule (formerly called Hauptschule) offers mandatory basic education in grades five to nine, preparing students for vocational training. Nowadays, its reputation has suffered a considerable decline, and it is often snubbed by families with an academic or upper-middle-class background. Partly as a reaction to such criticism and prejudice, most Mittelschulen in Munich offer a voluntary tenth grade. Graduates can thus take the exam for a more advanced secondary certificate, the mittlere Reife.

Normally, the mittlere Reife is the school-leaving certificate offered by the Realschule. The latter includes grades five to ten of secondary school and forms the basis for commercial training. The kind of secondary school supposed to prepare graduates for university is called Gymnasium.

The Gymnasium teaches students from grade five to twelve. In the final grade, they have to take the German high-school exam (Abitur). This sort of secondary education places a higher emphasis on foreign languages, especially English, French, and Latin; it often caters to students with particular academic or artistic interests (sciences, social studies, humanities, arts, music, etc.) who plan to continue their education at university.

In addition to the three basic kinds of secondary school, there are a variety of other schools available. Most of them are supposed to make sure that a student from Hauptschule can later receive a Realschule-style education, or that someone who didn’t attend a Gymnasium can go on to university or a polytechnical college after all.

Education for Expatriate Children

The above-mentioned public education system can, however, have some disadvantages for expat kids. The language in the classroom is German, and grades in German as a subject play an important role in the academic selection process. If you plan on staying in Munich when your kid attends the decisive fourth grade, this might have repercussions for the kind of school he or she will attend later on. Furthermore, expat kids with parents on a short-term assignment might not be bothered to learn German at all if they’ll leave again in 12 or 18 months.

On the plus side, the public education system in Munich is free, and students from state schools in Bavaria tend to achieve relatively good results in international assessment studies. For expat families who consider settling in Munich, local schools may be a suitable and cheap option.

International Schools in Munich

Those who can afford paying high tuition fees and who prefer to send their kids to an international school fortunately also have several options in the Munich area.

Further Information

Transportation in Munich

First Stop: Munich Airport

Fortunately for expatriates, Munich is a well-connected transport hub in Southern Germany. If you come from outside Europe or overseas, you will arrive at Munich International Airport, about 30 km north of the center of town. With about 41 million annual passengers and direct flights to dozens of countries, it is Germany’s second busiest airport.

The only disadvantage is that there is no express connection to the city center. Unless you are extremely exhausted or in a terrible hurry, you should save the expensive taxi fare, though. The S1 or S8 suburban trains will bring you to the main train station in about 45 minutes. In September 2016, a  single ticket for the journey between the airport and city center cost 10.80 EUR — 10.40 EUR if you end up using a strip ticket of which you will have to validate 8 strips.

However, if you are planning on at least one more journey by bus, tram, subway or suburban train on the same day, a single day ticket is your best bet: for the entire public transport network in Munich, such a day ticket costs 12.40 EUR. If you are traveling with company, a single day group ticket costs 23.20 EUR and is valid for up to five people, with children under six riding for free and kids between 6 and 14 years of age counting as half a person.

Commuting and Exploring Germany by Train

The central train station (Hauptbahnhof) is located in the heart of town, serving as Munich’s main transport hub. Since it offers international connections to other European cities, especially in Southern and Eastern Europe, expats from Venice, Budapest, or Paris could arrive in Munich via overnight train if they prefer not to fly.

Every morning, lots of people commute to Munich from places such as Augsburg, Freising, or Landshut by train. If you are among them, ask at the ticket counter of the station for information on discount commuter passes. The homepage of the German railway company Deutsche Bahn has a journey planner and plenty of foreign-language info on cheap regional tickets and the German rail pass. However, further details concerning commuter travel are only available in German.

Munich’s Top Local Transportation Network

Public transportation in Munich includes buses, trams, underground lines, and suburban trains. If your home, your office, or your kids’ school is located near an underground (U-Bahn) station, you’re in luck. This is probably the most convenient form of local transport. Buses can get caught in traffic jams, and trams and suburban (S-Bahn) trains can be delayed by rough weather, especially in winter. However, it’s still a well-developed network, even though residents of the rural hinterland may rather rely on their car.

Public transportation runs from 04:00 until the early hours of the morning. The last journey times will depend upon the day of the week but when the rest of the network stops, four trams and 14 bus lines provide an all-night service across parts of the city. If your journey is not covered by these lines, you will have to call a taxi. The two main taxi providers in Munich are:

  • Taxi-München eG: Telephone +49 (0) 89 21 610 or +49 (0) 89 19 410
  • IsarFunk: Telephone +43 (0) 89 45 0540

If you need more information on the public transportation schedule or fares, please

  • visit the MVG homepage,
  • ask at one of the three local customer service centers (in the underground stations of Marienplatz, Sendlinger Tor, and Hauptbahnhof) or one of the smaller info points found at major stations across the city, or
  • call +49 (0) 800 344 22 66 00.

Frequent passengers should definitely enquire after the Isar Card, a monthly pass for various fare zones.

Driving in Munich

If you would rather drive your own car while living in Munich, have a look at our guide on driving in Germany for an introduction to road conditions, driving licenses, and importing or registering a car. You can also contact the Kreisverwaltungsreferat (if you live in the city) or the Landratsamt (for rural residents). They provide further information on driving permits in Germany, as well as import regulations for motor vehicles.

Their contact details are as follows:

Further Information

Do you want to relocate? If you have never moved abroad, the process will be overwhelming, and if you have, you know the burden that lies ahead. Whatever stage you are at, InterNations GO! can help you with a complete set of relocation services, such as home finding, school search, visa solutions, and even pet relocation. Our expert expat team is ready to get your relocation going, so why not jump-start your move abroad and contact us today? Best to start early!

Updated on: September 15, 2016

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