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Moving from Germany to the USA: print version

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Thousands of Germans move to the United States every year, including 5,000 academics alone, who often find much more attractive work and research opportunities in the United States than in their homeland. Going to the US for an extended period of time is in most cases an exciting, interesting, and enriching experience. This is especially true if the new job is reasonably secure and the financial framework is right. In order to make the move to a foreign country at least smoothly, you need all kinds of specialist knowledge, the real scope of which you fortunately have little idea at first. After moving to a foreign country, you have to be up each In the practical area of ​​life, start learning from scratch: when opening a bank account, taking out insurance, buying a car, paying bills, filing tax returns, visiting a doctor, registering a child for school. Even through supermarkets and department stores, you are at a loss at first, because the product range is unexpectedly foreign. Although so many people go to the US every year, there is often a lack of exchange and it is easy to get the feeling that you are the very first person to have a migration experience.

This book is intended to provide some relief by summarizing a wealth of information and insider tips on the subject of "Moving to the USA" in a compact form. The user-open form of publication was chosen very specifically, as this book owes its special value to individual experiences, which should continue to flow here. Solid additions to the book are useful to everyone and are therefore always welcome.

Since the foundation stone was laid in November 2005, many Internet users have contributed helpful individual hints to this book. The initiator and lead author writes from her own experience, because she has already undertaken the adventure “Moving from Germany to the USA” twice: the first time in 1998, when her husband was invited to the Lawrence Berkeley Lab in Berkeley, California as a visiting researcher for a year; the second time in 2000, when her husband was offered a research position in industry in New York State. The author has a doctorate in film history and media studies and writes on the Internet at Nickname "Style flaw".

Arrange matters in Germany

What you have to arrange in Germany before you leave depends on what you are leaving there and whether you plan to return in the foreseeable future.

Home ownership

If you own a house or a condominium and only want to move abroad temporarily, you have to weigh up whether to buy a sale makes sense. This is countered by the fact that, in the event of a sale, it is hardly possible to make the German authorities plausible that, despite the move, you will continue to have a foothold in Germany and practically spend more time there than abroad. For example, if you deregister completely, you lose all entitlement to child benefit, for which there is no compensation in the USA. Parenting periods spent abroad cannot be counted towards the German pension insurance. This hits particularly hard those women who temporarily give up their own work for their husbands' work abroad and use the forced break for a baby year.

If you want to keep your property you have to weigh up whether you want a Rental worth it. This generates additional income, but also carries the risk of costly and nerve-wracking complications, for example if a hastily selected tenant turns out to be a defaulting payer. If you are looking for a temporary tenant for your house, you might be well advised to first submit your rental offer to the international institutions in your city, e.g. B. foreign cultural institutes, language schools, etc. Such institutions often employ employees who only come to Germany for a year or two. In this way you not only ensure that the tenant has an income, but also have an additional contact person with the employer in the event of problems.


Who has been a Private health insurance has to consider whether it is worthwhile to conclude an expectancy contract so that after returning to Germany you do not have to join as a new customer under unfavorable conditions. Members of statutory health insurance will definitely be accepted there again after a stay abroad. However, caution is required with some health insurance companies that limit the entitlement time.

Many insurance policies taken out in Germany (e.g. life insurance) can be used when you move "taken" abroad become. However, it is essential to have the provider confirm in writing that the policy will not lose its validity after moving abroad. Otherwise, you may continue to pay contributions, but will not receive any benefits in the event of damage. A verbal promise is by no means sufficient, since when you follow up it often turns out that promises made prematurely on the phone will not be kept after all. Maintaining German insurance contracts can be very profitable under certain circumstances, for example with term life insurance, which can be taken out in Germany under much more favorable conditions than in the USA. But you should make sure that the policy is valid worldwide. The insurance coverage should be valid in the USA.

Since, once you have left Germany, it is hardly possible to do another one there take out new insurance, you should generally consider which insurance you might still be missing. It is especially worthwhile to have a Occupational disability insurance ponder. If you move to the USA, you may fall out of all social security systems that you have previously had. You can take out disability insurance in the USA, but probably on less favorable terms. It may also make sense to buy insurance in Germany that will help you make ends meet in the (possibly very costly) case of losing your American job.

Anyone who has or is planning to have children should also think about a Term life insurance do. You shouldn't forget that in the event of an accident, there is also a survivor employed Parent is dependent on additional income in order to be able to buy care and education services that were previously provided within the family as a service.

As one can already learn from television advertising in the USA, an entire industry of lawyers there lives from helping people to get their rights who have also been disappointed by their insurance after a claim. If in doubt, insurance contracts should be concluded in Germany.

By the way, do not expect a provider in the USA for a good, high-performance one Legal protection insurance to be able to find. Lawyers who are knowledgeable in the area you may be seeking advice make extremely good money for their expertise and certainly won't work for the few dollars insurance is willing to reimburse. A consultation appointment with a contract lawyer for an American legal protection insurance company can easily turn into one of the most disillusioning experiences of a European stay in the USA.

To this entire chapter I would like to add that insurance is sometimes offered as "incentives" by the employer and, in the case of good companies, sometimes far exceeds the European standard. On the other hand, one can also be confronted with the tough social reality of the country, which by far exceeds the European standards. So you should take your insurance with you as "entitlements" and only give up when it is clear whether you really want to stay in the USA forever!

Notice of termination, notification of relocation, communication

You should also not forget to terminate all service providers (telephone, electricity, etc.) in good time and to unsubscribe from newspapers and magazines. For a moderate fee, you can apply to Deutsche Post to have the post forwarded. This service is offered either for a period of 6 or 12 months. The best thing to do is to apply two to three weeks before the move. Nevertheless, it is useful to ask a relative to provide their mailbox as a German correspondence address. Even after moving to the USA, you will possibly correspond again and again with institutions or private individuals in Germany who do not send letters abroad for cost reasons or simply out of ignorance.

The toll-free German 0800 telephone numbers cannot be dialed from the USA via the normal telephone network. If you have fast Internet access in the USA, you may be able to work around this problem by using VoIP (Voice over IP) telephoned. 0800 numbers can also be reached in this way.

It is safer, however, to inquire about an alternative number before moving. Otherwise, in the USA, you may not be able to contact the subscriber who has always been called on an 0800 number up to now. The same applies to those numbers that are also subject to special charges within Germany. If you dial such a number from the USA, it can happen that your American telephone company not only charges you dramatically high fees with the information that a satellite connection was used, but also blocks your telephone connection for your "protection".

Pension and old-age provision

Before you leave Germany for a long time or even forever, you should contact the Pension Insurance Institution get in touch and get one there Request for account clarification put. The account clarification is a free service provided by the pension insurance institution that you do not have to use, but which has advantages for you. Firstly, the documents are right there where they belong and cannot be lost when you move. Second, by clarifying your accounts, you can be certain whether everything is okay with your annuity papers or whether something is still missing. In fact, if your pension insurance statements are incomplete, you will probably want to deal with them as soon as possible. If you return to Germany later and you are required to have pension insurance again, you can then definitely continue to pay into the German pension insurance - regardless of whether you have clarified your account in between or not.

Pension entitlements that have already been acquired in Germany will be retained even after moving to the USA. When the pension entitlement is reached, the German pension is also paid to the USA by bank transfer or check. A German-American pension agreement also ensures that a period of payment into the American pension insurance (Social security) can be offset against the German payment period if this is not sufficient for entitlement to a pension. The reverse is also true. However, parental leave periods that were spent outside of Germany are not taken into account.

Just like in Germany, you should definitely have sufficient in the USA private reserves think. Statutory and company pension schemes are hardly sufficient for a comfortable retirement in the USA either. You can find several on the English-speaking Internet retirement calculatorswith which you can calculate how much money you have to put aside each month if you want to have a certain amount of wealth at your disposal in retirement.

Visit to the doctor and vaccinations


In the interests of your own convenience, you should take the opportunity to go to the doctor and dentist again before moving in order to have a thorough check-up and immediate prescription of any medication, glasses, etc. that are due. If you can afford it, the medical care in the USA is no worse than in Germany, but after your move you will have so much on your mind that you will be glad if you did not become familiar with the special features in the first few weeks the American healthcare system. Quite apart from that, many items that are available on prescription in Germany are difficult to obtain in the USA, even with a prescription. This concerns z. B. fashionable glasses. (How do you recognize a German abroad? By the socks he wears with Birkenstock sandals and the designer glasses.)

You should also get any dentures that are due before you move. It's even more expensive in the US than in Germany.


To enter the USA as a tourist, you do not need vaccinations or a health examination. A health assessment and vaccination status update is required to obtain a visa.

His Children But you are doing a favor if your vaccination book shows all immunizations that are also recommended in Germany at the time of the move. In the US, both schools and care facilities such as B. Day Care Centers only admit children who have received all the usual vaccinations. Although some vaccinations may be required that are not necessarily administered in Germany, such as the one against chickenpox (Chickenpox). Missing vaccinations can of course also be made up in the USA, and in some cases they are even given free of charge by the local health authorities. The regulations as to which vaccinations are required and who pays them vary from place to place, and unfortunately the form and quality of the vaccines are just as different. Another difference to Germany can be the time of vaccination. For example, if the vaccination regulations in the USA say the vaccination must be after the third birthday, but the child received the vaccination before the third birthday, then it is considered to be unvaccinated. Nobody denies that there is vaccination protection, but the school gets a worse rating if it has unvaccinated children. The school will therefore exclude these children from school after a certain waiting period in order to prevent a bad evaluation by the school authorities. Depending on where you are moving, it is really better to have all useful vaccinations already done in Germany. Due to the inadequate health care in broad sections of the US population, it is unfortunately much easier to contract diseases that have almost been eradicated in Germany, so vaccinations are much more important than in Germany.

If you do not want to have your children vaccinated, you have the option of having one in some areas Religious Exempt to get, this one offers itself in cases where one Medical Exempt is advisable because it is much easier to obtain and depending on the location this Exempts need to be renewed regularly. Children without a present Exempt are otherwise sometimes simply vaccinated at the school's series of vaccinations (which is also available in some areas).

Timely vaccinations may also be recommended for Women who want to have childrenwho are going to the US for an indefinite period. For permanent contracts, many American employers help their overseas employees and their families apply for one Green card. This is more convenient for employers than repeatedly having to apply for visa extensions for their employees. Part of the application process is an examination by a public health officer, who checks the applicant's vaccination records and can, according to his own professional judgment, order vaccinations.In the best case scenario, you only need to get an overdue tetanus vaccination, but sometimes a vaccination against hepatitis B is ordered. Many women are particularly reluctant to undergo this vaccination during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.


This chapter deals with important papers that you need to take with you from Germany.

Anyone who cannot or does not want to maintain a place of residence in Germany after moving to the USA must officially deregister. The Deregistration confirmation should be kept very carefully because you will need them again and again later, e.g. B. if you apply for a new passport at the embassy.

You and all members of your family must have yours to enter the US Passports with the glued Visa. Before you apply for the visa, you should make sure that the passports are valid for at least as long as the visas. If you stay in the US for a long time, your German passport will eventually expire. You then apply for a new one at the German embassy responsible for you. For this you need, among other things, biometrically readable passport photos (if you follow the guidelines meticulously, you can take them yourself with a digital camera, color printer and quality photo paper) and various papers (if you bring originals, the employee will make copies of them) and you have to visit the embassy personally by appointment . The main details are presented on the embassy website; if anything is unclear, it is definitely advisable to call the embassy. Bring enough cash (dollars) with you to the appointment, as credit cards are not accepted. Since the processing time is several weeks, you have to decide at the appointment what should happen with your old passport. If you no longer need it, have it invalidated in the message. If you still need it, keep it and only have it validated or destroyed when the new passport is ready. You can either collect the new pass in person or have it sent to you for a fee.

In the case of married couples, the inactive partner is usually granted a visa without any problems. At unmarried couples If one of the partners gets a work visa, the non-working partner can apply for a B-2 tourist visa, which however only allows a maximum stay of 6 months in the USA. The embassy must also be convinced that the partner really only wants to enter the country temporarily.

You don't need a green card or American citizenship to live in the USA. The number of Germans who get a green card via the lottery route and thus move to the USA is very low. However, many expats who have entered the country on a visa first acquire the green card after a few years, and later perhaps also acquire American citizenship. More about this in the chapter on civil rights and obligations.

You need one even less in the USA Identity card. There is no compulsory registration there and that is why citizens usually do not carry any other papers with them other than their driver's license. Most Americans don't even have a passport. In individual cases, during a police check it can still happen that people who identify themselves as foreigners have to show their immigration papers. When traveling within the US, it is therefore not a mistake, passport or Green card always to have in your luggage. However, you do not need to carry these documents on your body at all times.

A German Driver's license is valid in the USA without restriction. If you are staying in the USA for a long time or want to buy your own vehicle, you should get an American driver's license as soon as possible for practical reasons (e.g. to be able to take out cheap car insurance).

However, there is another important reason to get an American driver's license as soon as possible or to carry your passport with you: Depending on local legislation, the seller can expect severe penalties, including the loss of his license, if he alcohol gives to minors or if they are in a bar where alcohol is served. Since the owner has domiciliary rights and is liable in case of doubt, he can decide to "card" each guest (this is the colloquial term for the question of an ID) or to only accept identification documents that he knows himself (US driver's license , Army ID, passport etc). In individual cases it can therefore happen that a man with a full beard and gray hair is not allowed into a pub because he only has a German driver's license with him. Discussion is pointless in this case, as controls are carried out that can occasionally cost a bar owner his license.

Foreign exchange procurement

Credit cards are even more widespread in the US than in Europe.

Your most important "baggage" includes money. You can use your German Credit card use - the most common is the VISA card - but your German bank will charge you a foreign surcharge for this, which you should ask for beforehand in order to be able to switch to a cheaper provider if necessary. Expect to be able to use the credit card much more frequently in the USA than in Germany, e.g. B. also in the supermarket, in the post office or at the doctor's. You are only dependent on cash for small items such as fast food, parking machines, etc. With your German EC card with the “Maestro” logo, you can also use ATMs in the USA. Automated Teller Machines) Withdraw money. ATMs can be found not only in banks, but also in many shops. However, the fees associated with a transaction are often substantial.

Obtaining an American credit card is more difficult than paying with a German credit card Cash. Although you can withdraw money with your German credit card at almost all American ATMs, you have to expect very high fees. Opposite to have cash with you Travelers Checks the advantage of being insured against theft. A better alternative for small to medium amounts is that Cashback-Function that is offered in almost all supermarkets: If you pay by credit card, depending on the chain, you can claim back between 50 and 200 dollars free of charge in cash at the checkout.

A cheap solution is to set up an account in good time with a certain German bank that is closely related to an American bank, such as B. Bank of America. With the Bank Card of this bank you can withdraw dollars from your German checking account at the ATMs of the American sister bank at a reasonable exchange rate and without additional fees. If you set up an account with the American Citibank after your move, you can also use the American Bank Card to withdraw euros from the American account in Germany. Also find out what it will cost you to transfer money from your German Citibank account to your American Citibank account. Also ask what it costs the other way around, because if it works one way, that doesn't mean it can work the other way too. Basically, expect that international transfers are very expensive. In addition, the bank's employees often have little experience with this.

The cheapest way to move money back and forth between Germany and the USA is currently (2020) the peer-to-peer service TransferWise. The exchange takes place here at the cheap interbank spot rate and the fees are significantly lower than what a bank would charge. Very large amounts (e.g. in the higher 5-digit range) cannot be transferred all at once, but you can then simply transfer the money gradually in daily portions. In order to use TransferWise, it is not necessary that both accounts are your own; Transfers from or to the accounts of friends or family members are also possible. Authorities and companies, however, have so far hardly participated in the service.

Another way to exchange dollars for euros cheaply is available to you later when friends and relatives visit you in the USA. Conversely, your guests are then faced with the question of how they can get cheap Euros Vacation dollars should exchange. You can then offer your relatives dollars at the official exchange rate (interbank spot rate) and, because neither bank earns a share, both have a price advantage.

Even without regular international money transfers, it may make sense to maintain a bank account in Germany. The need to have a German bank account can arise sooner or later for a variety of reasons. By the way - once you have given up your place of residence in Germany, you cannot set up a new account there!

What to take with you

File folder and hole punch (US standard)

This section covers items that are not commercially available in the United States.

Article according to DIN

DIN standards apply to Germany - the USA has its own industry standards. This applies to electrical items as well as z. B. for paper goods. American writing paper has the format instead of DIN A4 format Letter (21.6 x 27.9 cm). File folders do not have two, but three rings. The systems are not compatible. Anyone who does not want to switch to the American standard during a temporary stay must bring hole punches, folders, etc. from Germany.

Speaking of paper goods: are you one of those old-fashioned people who still stick photos in albums? The thick, non-self-adhesive photo albums widespread in Germany, in which thin separating sheets prevent the front pages of the pictures from sticking together, are not available in the USA.

Metric articles

Unfortunately, when you move to the United States, you are also leaving the blessed world of metric systems. The United States uses inches, feet, yards and miles instead of meters. Scales do not indicate grams, but ounces and pounds. Liquid is measured in liquid ounces and gallons. Thermometers show degrees Fahrenheit. If you are not good at mental arithmetic, it is better to have things like a clinical thermometer, bathroom scales or a folding rule in your luggage. Motorcycle wrenches and passionate do-it-yourselfers often complain that metric tools (wrenches, drills, etc.) are difficult to obtain.

Video and DVD devices

The mains voltage in the USA is 120 volts and 60 Hz. In the USA, therefore, you usually cannot do anything with network-dependent electrical appliances that you bought in Germany. This problem is dealt with in detail in the chapter on electricity.

If you have a video or DVD collection in your luggage, you can also consider taking a playback device (including transformer) with you. Videotapesthat have been recorded or purchased in Germany have the European color standard PAL, which is not reproduced by American playback devices; in the USA the NTSC standard applies. Devices that can play both standards are available both in Germany and in the USA, especially online retailers (Multi system VCR). However, these are more expensive than regular VCRs, and if you have cassettes that are in Great longplayMode, you have to make sure that the new device can also read this mode.

Bought in Germany DVDs cannot be played on American devices either. DVDs have a region code. Devices that can play both European and American DVDs (Code Free DVD Player) is available from online distributors in Germany as well as in the USA. They are a little more expensive than normal devices. The manipulation (hack) of a device, as it is described in detail on relevant websites, is risky (loss of warranty for new devices) and not possible with every model.

It is better to buy separate devices than to buy a combination device (code-free DVD player + switchable video device). Then later, if one of the two functions breaks, you don't need to throw the whole expensive thing in the trash.

Bought in Germany Audio cassettes and CDs can also be played on American devices without any problems.


If you take bedding (pillows, duvets) with you, you must think of an adequate supply of covers. American pillows measure 51 × 76 cm, and you won't find any suitable covers for your 135 cm wide duvets, especially not with a stylish design.

In the USA, synthetic or quilted blankets are used (comforter, quilt) covered with a sheet (flat sheet) are loosely placed and usually also serve as a bedspread. Covering these blankets is neither intended nor possible. This principle has its advantages, but can be very impractical for small children, as they tend to mess up their blankets. The American mattresses, which by the way are thicker than European mattresses, come with fitted sheets (fitted sheets), which are available in all sizes. Sheets and pillowcases are made of woven cotton or a cotton blend and occasionally also in beaver quality (cotton flannel) available. Allergy sufferers can cover their mattresses with one enclosure protect against mite colonization; Pillows and blankets are fully washable anyway.

Down duvets and beds with feather replacement fillings are far less common than in Europe and are therefore only available in a small selection and only in specialist shops. Sleeping in cool rooms is uncommon in the USA, and the heating systems do not allow the temperature in individual rooms to be reduced at all. One distinguishes between down comforters and feather beds. The dimensions of the latter correspond to a German feather bed, but are significantly heavier and do not serve as a blanket, but as a mattress topper that provides warmth from below cares. Matching covers (feather bed covers) is often only available via online mail order. The lighter ones are more common down comfortersthat are actually intended for covering and in their dimensions a normal one comforter corresponding. H. are longer and wider than European comforters; matching covers (duvet covers) is there where you can down comforters can buy. When purchasing feather beds and mattress toppers of any kind, it is extremely advisable to pay close attention to the size (in inches), otherwise wrong purchases are almost inevitable.

American mattress sizes Format (cm) Format (inch) Further information
Twin size 99 × 190 39 × 75 Extra Long (XL): + 5 inch
Full size 137 × 190 54 × 75
Queen size 152 × 203 60 × 80
King size 198 × 203 78 × 80
California King Size 183 × 213 72 × 84

In addition to the bed sizes listed in the table, there are the less common formats single, Double, Western King and Eastern King. For toddler cots you need the size Crib. Matching blankets and sheets are available for all standard mattress sizes. The pillow size also depends on the bed format, the most common are the formats default (51 × 66 cm), Queen (51 × 76 cm) and King (51 × 91 cm). Special formats are Euro (66 × 66 cm), Travel, boudoir, Throw and Neck roll. Most pillows are filled with foam; besides, however, one often finds feather pillows (down pillows). When buying a second set of bedding, it is advisable to go to one of the countless sales (sales) waiting.

Thick living and sleeping blankets made of virgin wool or dralon are also difficult to obtain in the USA. Fleece blankets made of synthetic material are used extensively as bedspreads in the USA, but are much thinner and cheaper than corresponding German blankets.

Household items

Unfortunately, you often only notice which household items are typically German and not available in the USA after moving. This group includes: B. Eggnog (boiled breakfast eggs are not seen that often).

Another typical problem item is cutlery for children, especially children's knives. Children are encouraged to eat independently at an early stage - especially with Finger food, which supports the development of fine motor skills - however, table manners are generally less formal in the USA than in Europe and American children learn due to the great popularity of the Chinese fast food the use of chopsticks often earlier than the use of a knife and fork.

The stackable folding boxes made of plastic, which are popular in Germany, are also not available or are only available at highly inflated prices. If you bring such a piece with you to go shopping and perhaps even unfold it in front of the cashier's eyes, you may be amazed.

For solvent-based adhesives such as those available in Germany (Uhu, Pattex etc.), it is best to look for them in drugstores (Walgreen's etc.) or the tool and hardware departments (Hardware and Tools) of large department stores.The "SureHold Multi-Purpose" adhesive available there is based on acetone and roughly corresponds to the local adhesives mentioned at the beginning. On the other hand, glue sticks and child-safe school adhesives are available everywhere in the bottle, as well as superglue (Super glue) and super quick drying Rubber cement for poster presentations are no problem.

Personal care and groceries

You can make it easier to settle in by taking a supply of everyday products with you that you don't want to change brands: z. B. toothpaste, cosmetics, aftershave, perfume or hair shampoo. The brands common in Germany are mostly not available in the USA. It is particularly difficult for many US migrants to get used to American paper handkerchiefs, which are only half as thick as German handkerchiefs. If you feel the same way, you can ask your loved ones in Germany, who may be sending you birthday and Christmas parcels regularly, not to stuff the voids in these parcels with newspaper but with handkerchiefs.

Coffee lovers should also take a supply with them, because German imported coffee is very expensive in the USA and American varieties take some getting used to for the German palate. If you - looking for something familiar - still want to test your way through the American varieties, you should try mildly roasted varieties such as. B. Start Colombian coffee and make sure that it is very finely ground. Those who have an Aldi Grocery Store in their neighborhood can consider themselves lucky. In addition to German coffee and German chocolate, there are also German wines and Wernesgrüner beer in many states. In some regions there is the Trader Joe's chain, which, also belonging to the Aldi Group, carries a large number of international items, especially German beer. Although in the USA, in addition to the well-known national brands, there is a vast number of local brands Micro-brews is traded, German migrants often get used to Mexican beer more easily than to American products.

In general, one can hardly find any branded product familiar from Germany in American supermarkets. This will be particularly painful if you are used to working with small aids in the kitchen, such as certain sauce powders and spice mixes. This market segment also exists in the USA, but the products are tailored to American tastes, which differ considerably from German consumers. If you want to try local products, you can z. B. with the manufacturer McCormick begin, whose products often come relatively close to German expectations.

When importing larger quantities of food or consumer goods, the American customs regulations must be observed in any case.

Many supermarket foods are genetically modified in the USA and do not need to be labeled for this purpose. Natural foods are offered under the designation "organic".


In some cases, it makes sense to stock up on medication. Medicines, v. a. Non-prescription-only ones are often considerably cheaper in the USA than in Germany, but run under different trade names, so that you usually have to look for a product that contains the active ingredient you want. For some drugs that are “only” pharmacy-only in Germany (e.g. lactulose), you need a prescription in the USA. Conversely, some drugs are over-the-counter in the USA that you would not get in Germany or would only get on prescription (e.g. inhalation preparations containing adrenaline for asthmatics). Also take into account that z. B. Cough syrups are made for local consumers and your children may not be particularly keen on taste. Natural remedies and homeopathic preparations are also difficult to obtain - especially outside of large cities.


It is also difficult to find well-designed yet affordable clothing made from natural materials. The American clothing market is inundated with cheap synthetic materials, and families with children who value cotton and wool items will find solidly made pajamas, bathrobes, underwear, tights, ABS socks, winter hats, slippers and shoes in particular as problem items. The sleeping bags customary in Germany for babies and toddlers are also not available. If you are moving to a region with cold winters, don't forget to bring a lambskin bag for the stroller. People will marvel at it and envy you for it.

Since fabrics - including fabrics made from natural materials - are comparatively inexpensive in the USA and are offered in a large selection, it is worthwhile to the move, possibly the purchase of a sewing machine. Even problematic items such as terrycloth bathrobes (or new covers for European bedding you have brought with you) can be easily and cheaply procured yourself. A large selection of sewing patterns is also offered, but the sewing instructions are not necessarily easy to read due to the special vocabulary. To get an impression of which handicraft items are also commercially available in the USA, you can z. B. study the website of market leader Jo Ann Fabric.

Design country USA?

You can find electrical installations of exquisite taste in many American homes. This is a combination of a toggle switch and a rotary dimmer.
Standard light switch that is sold in many combinations (toggle switch, dimmer, socket), but always with the same design.

What strikes one who has not been to Germany for a long time: Everything is so chic and modern. The people, their hairstyles, their glasses, their clothes, the shelters at the bus stops, the chairs in the cafes of the shopping centers, the inner-city bakeries, the train station halls, even the furnishings in the ICE wagon: everything is modern and of solid quality, Pleasant, tasteful, cleverly coordinated in terms of color, everything unmistakably bears the signature of an expensive designer. Even with detergents and cleaning agents, foodstuffs and medicines, an entire industry of specialists is obviously concerned with the constant improvement of smell, taste, texture and appearance. One starts to ponder that choosing an appropriate profession would probably have made you a career in Germany and not live abroad today.

In the USA, cleaning agents do not smell like a meadow of flowers, but strictly like ammonia. At most, the lobbies in the high-rise office buildings are chic Financial Districts of big cities. In the domestic sector, the items that are offered in the shopping paradise for kitchen gadgets are the only exception to the rule that modern design is apparently not in demand by buyers. Compared to countries like Germany or Denmark, the USA is something of a design developing country. Many things - from cars to pencils - are expensive, but still made cheaply and often not particularly durable. In the case of clothing, furnishings and many consumer goods, one also gets the impression that manufacturers, in order to be able to offer consumers a low retail price in the face of tough competition, also forego innovative or modern design and prefer to fall back on very old hats. This applies to furniture as well as "unimportant" small items such as B. Light switches (of which there are only two standard models in all hardware stores in the country!). Even if you value precious, extravagant porcelain or table silver, it is better to buy it before you move. In the USA, digging deep into your wallet does not help with many articles - they simply do not exist.

Basically, however, the range of goods in the large American metropolises, especially around New York City and in California, is much wider than in medium-sized cities or rural areas and thus more accommodates European needs and habits. A search on the Internet is often worthwhile. Furniture stores z. B. that offer modern design can be found with keywords such as “contemporary”, “modern”, “scandinavian” and “import”.


You are likely to make a lot of new friends in the United States. Contrary to widespread German prejudice, Americans are not only sociable, but also hospitable and warm-hearted and will soon invite you to their home. Original little things are better than expensive, lavish guest favors, and if you have space in your removal goods, you can take a small supply of typically German items with you. When you think of “typically German”, please don't think of cuckoo clocks, dirndl dresses or stoneware beer mugs, because they are also traded in the USA. And you don't want to actively contribute to the already existing stereotype of Germans wearing traditional costumes, eating sauerkraut and drinking beer. Really interesting souvenirs are e.g. B. Sweets such as fizzy candies, fizzy powder, edible paper, love pearls, fondant, liquorice mixes, children's surprise eggs (!! Imports are prohibited in the USA and can lead to confiscation by customs and high fines), refreshment sticks, ice cream confectionery, Choco Crossies and marzipan: None of this exists in the USA. The famous pralines with the Piedmont cherry are also an interesting gift idea; Its manufacturer sells a praline of the same name in the USA, but it contains neither fruit nor alcohol. An alternative (if you want to give a gift to a diabetic, for example) are typically German writing tools such as fine ink pens, with which you can get many Americans excited. In the USA there are mainly ballpoint pens.

What not to take with you

Wardrobes are dispensable in the USA because the bedrooms are fitted with built-in wardrobes.

Most of them bought in Germany network-dependent electrical devices you can no longer use it after moving to the USA, because instead of 220/230 volts, the mains voltage there is 120 volts. However, there are also 230-volt connections for electric stoves and dryers, so that you can use these, if available, with a little tinkering to connect the German devices you bring with you. However, due to its scope, the problem of electricity is dealt with in a separate chapter.

Other items that are best to part with before moving to the US are cars and motorcycles. The argument against taking away is less the high effort than the American import regulations, which almost always require more or less complex technical modifications. The carrier will not accept the vehicle until the modifications have been made. Which If modifications are required for your vehicle to be exported to the USA, please contact the manufacturer; in some cases - with rare models, for example - not even that can help. Unfortunately, the American authorities offer no help at all. Occasionally, however, you can find a dealer who is willing to certify that the vehicle complies with American import regulations. Vehicles that are more than 25 years old usually do not have to be converted.

Incidentally, that also goes out German motor vehicle liability insuranceas soon as one moves away from the Federal Republic of Germany.

There are wonderful winter sports opportunities in much of the United States. The classic wooden ones popular in Germany Toboggan with narrow runners, however, are hardly usable. These traditional sleds are tailored to snow surfaces that are already well run in and heavily compacted. In the USA, you can find well-worn toboggan hills in big cities at best. Most of the time, you are dealing with untouched deep snow in which the skid sledge is hopelessly sinking. A cheap plastic sled like the ones available everywhere in the US usually does the best job.

If in doubt, get your big one before moving wardrobe from. American houses and apartments have spacious, often even walk-in, built-in wardrobes in all bedrooms (closets). There is often no space at all for large cupboards or even wall units. Even in living rooms, there is often no space for larger cabinets.

Meat and sausages of any kind are not suitable for import into the USA. This is a regulation that is extremely meticulously controlled. Same goes for Seeds and fruit.


American power plug and standard socket. The third contact is for the ground wire.

Instead of 220/230 volts, the mains voltage in the USA is 120 volts. Most network-dependent electrical devices bought in Germany can be used without tools such as adapters and transformer devices Not connect. Incidentally, ceiling lamps (especially for living rooms and bedrooms) should not be taken with you in the first place, because most apartments and houses have no connections for them. With the exception of utility rooms, corridors, bathrooms, kitchens and dining rooms, Americans mostly use floor lamps or ceiling washers that are connected to a socket that is in turn controlled by a light switch located next to the door.

Technical details

The normal mains voltage is 120 volts at 60 Hz. In newer buildings, 2 phases with 60 Hz are delivered, which differ in that their sine curve is 180 ° separated from each other (compare with three German three-phase phases of 230 volts each, which sine curves are separated from each other by 120 °). This means that if you do not connect a US phase to the neutral conductor (120 volts), but instead use these two US phases against each other, you get 240 volts at 60Hz. Large consumers such as stoves, tumble dryers or air conditioning systems are then charged with 2 Phases and possibly a fuse ground but without a neutral conductor connected to 240 volts. Simple German devices without much complicated electronics, e.g. vacuum cleaners (practically only one motor), can then be operated on 240 volts with 2 US phases. The simpler in structure and higher quality the device, the more likely the increased voltage of 10 volts does not affect the devices. Nevertheless, there is a likelihood that the service life of the device will be reduced because, for example, the 60 Hz of the vacuum cleaner, which occurs in the USA, also means a higher speed of the motor, which can be uncomfortable for its originally designed ball bearings, for example. Also, for example, simple standard refrigerators, neon tubes and other devices that practically only contain one motor without complicated electronics (hedge trimmer, drill, jigsaw, etc.) can be operated in this way.

Devices from Germany or Europe that use e.g. a timer (e.g. washing machine or dryer) will most likely not work, as these usually regulate the time measurement via the pending Hz. Of the power supply and these differ from 50 to 60 Hz. A frequency converter is then required here.

The lower voltage leads to higher losses during transport, because twice the current (compared to 230 V) has to flow for the same power. At twice the current strength, line losses are much more noticeable: The voltage at the socket depends heavily on the distance to the nearest transformer of the electricity company. Voltages between 102 and 132 volts can be present.

The frequency of 60 Hz instead of the European 50 Hz, on the other hand, does not mean anything fundamentally better, but has historical reasons. E-devices brought from Europe have no problems with the 60 Hz provided that a 120 → 240 V transformer is connected upstream. The only exception are some clocks (including alarm clocks, built-in timers, etc.), which derive their clock from the mains frequency and then proceed clearly.

In principle, it is possible to operate devices brought from Germany with an American 240-volt connection. However, suitable adapters cannot be purchased. Due to the higher maximum permissible amperage (20-40 amps), there may also be an overload in the German supply lines or power strips if the device brought with you is faulty (short circuit), so that two-pole 15-ampere fuses should be connected upstream.

The plug is either type A or B, while in Germany type C or F (also CEE 7/4 or Schuko plug) is used.

Switchability of devices

Before you sell everything you own in the form of electrical appliances without looking at it, you should check carefully whether this or that device might not be switchable after all. An indication of the voltage at which a device can be operated is usually attached to the rear. Power supplies can be switched over particularly frequently. Many computers can also be switched - v. a. Laptops and razors. Modern switched-mode power supplies often even adapt automatically (typical label: AC input: 100-240V 50-60Hz). For such devices you only need a new cable (see IEC 60320) or a plug adapter.The exchange or purchase of a suitable and intended power supply unit can also be considered.

Substation units and adapters

A distinction must be made between a converter for electrical devices and a transformer for electronic devices. The output of transformer devices is unfortunately so low that only individual devices can be supplied at a time. Transformer devices and adapters that are used to connect devices bought in Germany have to be taken with you from Germany. They are not readily available in the United States. It is even more difficult to find transformers that can be used to operate American devices in Germany (at 220/230 volts). You can get these transformers in well-stocked electronics and electronics stores.

Adapters and power strips

If you want to take several electrical devices with you to the USA that do not have a switchable power supply unit, a transformer (step up converter, converted from 120 to 240 volts) in the USA and connect a power strip with German Schuko plugs to it. You have to bring them with you, of course. Also note the maximum currents permitted for the cables here. Some adapters do not connect the protective conductor; this is dangerous because the device operated in this way is live in the event of a fault, conductive parts that can be touched.

For professionals in electrical engineering

Some devices have been designed for worldwide distribution. Devices with heaters, such as rice cookers, have two heating elements that are connected in series or in parallel, depending on the country of delivery. The Delon bridge circuit can be used for switched-mode power supplies. This is behind the 115/230 V voltage switch. In the same way, two phases of three-phase current, which is rare there, can be used for voltages of around 170 V / 60 Hz. It is very likely that you have the single-phase three-wire network (split-phase electric power) in the house and thus 240 V / 60 Hz. If you should use this, make sure that both wires together have a maximum of 16 A each via a pair on the switch coupled and thus jointly triggering circuit breakers are protected. Any measures of this kind require both legal and technical expertise and experience, as well as only suitable and approved material. Also observe the local regulations and the conditions of the insurance companies. Conversions where there is only the slightest doubt should therefore be avoided as a matter of urgency.