Living in Germany: five types of insurance you should know about
Maybe you’ve heard a German say, ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing’. German culture places a premium on being well-prepared. But not only when it comes to the weather – could this cultural value have something to do with the world of German insurance?
Insurance is a big deal in Germany. There are numerous social safety nets in place, but there are still more than a few things you’re expected to take care of on your own. It’s common for new arrivals to feel frustrated and overwhelmed when they try to figure out what kinds of insurance they need.
To help demystify this aspect of living in Germany, here are five types of coverage you may want to consider.
Personal liability insurance (Private Haftpflichtversicherung)
Ask any German what the most important kind of insurance is, and soon you won’t be able to get them to stop talking about personal liability insurance – 80 percent of the population has it. Personal liability insurance covers the financial costs if you accidentally cause damage to someone else, their property or their assets.
This type of insurance is so common in Germany that if you spill wine on someone’s trousers on a night out, the wearer may ask you to file a claim with your personal liability insurance to cover the cleaning costs. If your toddler draws all over a friend’s couch, even that friend might ask you to file a claim. It’s not considered rude here, or even a little weird. People simply tend to assume that everyone has personal liability coverage.
The good news is that personal liability insurance isn’t that expensive, especially when you consider that it also covers more serious cases, for example if you accidentally injure someone who becomes unable to work, leaving you financially on the hook for all their lost income. It also covers things like Mietsachschäden in a rented flat, which refers to damage to things that are part of the flat itself, like floors, windows, and doors. It even covers accidental damage to holiday apartments!
It’s always a good idea to be prepared for whatever life throws your way, especially when you’re living abroad.
Contents insurance (Hausratversicherung)
Are you a renter or a homeowner? Then another type of insurance most Germans will recommend you get is contents insurance. Contents insurance covers your belongings within your home against insured risks. 'Contents' refers to things like furniture, electronic devices, and clothes. Think of it this way: if you turn your flat or house upside down, anything that falls out normally counts as contents. Insured risks are things like fire, storms, or burglary.
Say a water pipe in your kitchen bursts, your washing machine leaks all over your nice chairs, or you accidentally leave a lit candle unattended and cause a small fire in your bedroom. Contents insurance will cover the financial costs associated with the damage.
It’s important to note that if you’re renting a furnished apartment, contents insurance doesn’t cover the furnishings that came with the apartment. They’re the landlord’s property, so they’re not covered by your contents policy.
Private health insurance (Private Krankenversicherung or ‘PKV’)
Whether you’re working or studying in Germany, health insurance is mandatory. The majority of people in Germany have public health insurance (Gesetzliche Krankenversicherung, or ‘GKV’).
Germany’s public health system is highly advanced, and you’ll be well looked after if you get sick or have an accident. However, if you’re a freelancer, or you’re an employee and earn over a certain amount per year (for 2023: €66,600), you have the option of taking out private health insurance instead.
Private health insurance gives coverage holders a greater choice of doctors, largely eliminates waiting periods to see a specialist and can ensure a single room if you’re hospitalised. It also provides access to a more diverse variety of procedures and treatments than public health insurance.
Income protection insurance (Berufsunfähigkeitsversicherung)
According to the Federal Statistical Office, one in four people in Germany will become unable to work in their current profession for at least six months in a row due to accident or illness over the course of their lives. A significant percentage of people who file an income protection claim are dealing with a mental health issue like depression or burnout.
You’ll find that many Germans also have income protection insurance to prepare for this eventuality. Income protection insurance covers all your living costs, including regular bills and grocery costs, when you can’t work, giving you peace of mind so you can focus on getting better.
The younger and healthier you are when you take out income protection coverage, the more affordable it will be. It’s a worthwhile investment in an additional personal safety net.
Pet health insurance (Tierkrankenversicherung) and dog liability insurance (Hundehaftpflichtversicherung)
Germans are pet-loving people, and if you’ve got a feline or canine buddy in tow, you’ll find yourself in good company. But the seriousness with which Germans take care of their animals can sometimes translate into hefty costs for their veterinary care.
Pet health insurance can be a worthwhile option if you’re a pet parent in Germany. Pet health insurance provides a wealth of benefits. Depending on the level of coverage you choose, you can cover surgeries, additional treatments and preventative care. Some providers also provide virtual 24/7 veterinary appointments when you’re travelling or it’s three in the morning.
If you have a dog, it’s also a good idea to get dog liability insurance. (For one thing, it’s a legal requirement in Berlin, Brandenburg, Hamburg, Lower Saxony, Thuringia and Schleswig-Holstein.) Dog liability insurance covers the costs if your dog accidentally damages someone else, their property, or another dog.
The simple solution
Many German insurance companies have begun to offer specialised English-language services as the number of English speakers living and working in Germany increases. One of these companies, Getsafe, has gone further, providing all-digital, English-language insurance via app.
Companies like Getsafe recognize that international workers in Germany don’t want to deal with piles of German paperwork. That’s where the app comes in. It makes it easy for users to buy, manage and adjust their coverage and file claims 24/7, all from their smartphone.
Living in Germany may become one of the grandest adventures of your life. But as the Germans know, it’s always good to be prepared, just in case something should go awry. Luckily, being prepared is easier than you think.
This content was paid for by an advertiser and produced by The Local's Creative Studio.