Becoming a digital nomad in Germany

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Updated 2019-08-28 08:19

Being a freelancer or a digital nomad are two sides on the same coin. They both mean working from your position of choice, but the first means sticking to one geographical location, while the latter means not being bound to a specific place. One of the most attractive destinations altogether is Germany, as the largest country in Central Europe, known as the land of opportunities, and an excellent geographical position. Germany is bordered with Denmark, Poland, the Czech Republic, Austria, Switzerland, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, and the Netherlands, and is a great source of innovation, startups and influencers.

Why Germany?

What attracts travellers and freelancers to Germany are the country’s character that brings together high tech culture, a vibrant start-up scene, a broad range of artist projects, exciting nightlife, and quaint old-world charm. It, thus, comes as no surprise that the country’s capital, Berlin, has been featured in Tim Ferris’s famous 2007 bestseller “The 4-Hour Work Week” as one of the best places for the working nomad lifestyle. The cost of living in some cities like Munich, Frankfurt or Hamburg is quite high, but so is the quality of life. Germany is an international hub, and therefore is an excellent strategic place for freelancing or starting your own business.

To start working effectively, you will need a coworking space. Germany offers a large number of facilities to work remotely (second in Europe for the number of coworking opportunities) and many cosy coffee shops. Usually, you can find good quality and fast Internet and a large friendly community of like-minded nomads. Being in the middle of Europe, Germany is ideal for most international travellers and a very convenient destination, easy to get to and easy to continue exploring other countries from. Finally, it offers a great variety of things to see locally — from modern urban attractions and historical sightings to beautiful natural landscapes and picturesque old towns.

Best cities to work from

Berlin has the most significant number of co-working spaces in Germany and the second biggest in Europe (after Barcelona). With a pronounced start-up ecosystem, co-working spaces are a big part of the city’s culture — as are a large number of work-friendly coffee shops. One of Berlin’s coffee shops, St. Oberholz, was where the popular streaming app SoundCloud came to life. Another important company founded in Berlin is the bank N26, which offers revolutionary and straightforward banking, which is spreading fast through Europe and further. There are many nice places to work in Berlin, such as Betahaus, Wework, Sankt Oberholz, Launch/CO, Spott Box, ESDIP Berlin, Ahoy!Berlin, and some centres for collaborative practices such as Factory, Co-Up, and Agora.

Bavaria’s capital and one of Germany’s economic powers, Munich is most suited for experienced and high-earning nomads due to its rather expensive lifestyle. Despite the more upscale setting, Munich offers a laid back urban atmosphere with a many of foreign visitors. Finding a co-working space can require some luck. However there are plenty of cosy options as well as great business centres for working, such as IDEA KITCHEN, Impact Hub, Work Republic Lost Weekend, Café Lotti, Staatsbibliotek am Gasteig, Palais an den Oper, Theresienhof, and many others.

Leipzig is the largest city in Saxony and another popular nomad destination. Some say the city is what Berlin used to be about a decade ago — and by this, they mean the abundance of remote working facilities — but the city's nomad community is still in the budding stage. On the leisure side, Leipzig offers interesting sights and vibrant nightlife. Some of the best co-working spaces in Leipzig are Raumstation Coworking, Basislager Coworking, Chaos Coworking, Basislager Coworking, Raumstation Coworking, sekretär coworking, chaos coworking, and Heimann & Friends.

Hamburg is also a very nice option for freelancers and digital nomads. It is a vibrant city, which has a fair amount of English speakers, and relaxed and open-minded people. The city is located close to Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden and offers easy possibilities to visit, as well as to visit within two hours by train some other German cities like Berlin, Hannover, and Kiel. Some co-working spaces in Hamburg are Mindspace, Wework Hamburg, Code Working Space, Design Offices, BAZE Business Center, BEEHIVE Hamburg, Community studio Fette Höfe, and many others.

Living in any of these German cities has many pros, but also some cons, like finding accommodation. Prices, even for a studio, tend to be on the high side, and legal restrictions have significantly limited the choice of apartments on Airbnb. Travellers are recommended to brave the less familiar online resources such as WG-gesucht for better deals, especially for long term rentals. Besides joining groups on social networks or asking friends for help and information can be helpful.

The Internet and co-working spaces

Germany offers the average Internet speed of 18.8Mbps. However, free Wi-Fi access is limited. The Störerhaftung law states that any Wi-Fi network provider is liable for all the illegal activity taking place on the network, which significantly limits open wireless networks in cafes and coffee shops — something that most freelancers have come to take for granted. With that said, there are over 33,000 Wi-Fi hotspots spread across 300 German cities provided by decentralised organisations.

As one of the most developed nomad destinations, Germany knows no shortage of co-working spaces, and whether you are in Berlin or in Leipzig, you are sure to find a space to fit your budget and schedule.

Leisure activities in Germany

Germany offers a fascinating mix of leisure activities to explore: from the modern hip art galleries of its large urban centres to the old architecture of quaint smaller towns. Stretching from the Alps to the Baltic Sea, there is a wide variety of natural beauty to discover when travelling beyond the country’s cityscapes. This can be seen in the mystical charm of the Black Forest (Schwarzwald) and Lake Mummelsee to the breathtaking mountainous landscapes of the Bastei and the freshness of Lüneburg Heath woodlands.

What to know before arriving

As a member state of the Schengen Agreement, Germany offers visa-free travel to the residents of all other Schengen member states. If you come from a country that is not allowed visa-free travel, you will need to apply for a Schengen Visa — a great thing about it is that with the Schengen Visa you will also be able to visit 26 other countries (member states of the Schengen Zone) visa-free.

 Useful links:

Free Wi-Fi hotspots in Berlin
Germany Official Travel Portal

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