Very basic tips for an American Moving to Germany

(including information on bringing in dogs)

 
Please note that I moved back to the USA in April 2009.

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I have a page of Germany-related sites that each provide much more detailed information than what is below. This list below is just of the most helpful, very basic things that you should know when moving to Germany, particularly if you have never lived abroad or traveled much in Europe (which I certainly hadn't) and particularly if you are taking dogs.

I have NO information AT ALL regarding employment in Germany! Please do not write me for such advice. Go here for OFFICIAL information from the German government on working in Germany. But do NOT write me re: employment information.

    FOR PEOPLE

  • Get 10 passport photos made ASAP. You will need:
    • two for your passport (if you don't have a passport already)
    • two for the German consulate (for your 30-day VISA, which you file for LONG BEFORE you get to Germany)
    • three for your permanent German VISA, which you or your company will file for when you get to Germany
    • the rest for needs as they arise: if you need a student ID, if you need to apply for a visa to visit another country outside of Europe, etc.

      Of course you can get more made when you get to Germany, but your first months will be crazed, and you probably won't have time. So save yourself a big headache and get 10 passport photos made ASAP, BEFORE you go to the country.

    The rest of this advice may not apply to you if you are coming over through the US military. Please don't write me and ask whether or not a military person or family has to do all of the following steps -- I have NO idea. Contact someone with the military for such information, and search the web for sites especially for family-members of military people serving abroad.

  • Confirm with your employer in Germany or the university where you will study in Germany that they will help you with your visa needs, and what kind of visa you will receive (both type and for how long). If they won't, or if their support will be limited, then go to the web site for the German embassy in the USA and read the visa requirements and process carefully , and follow the directions precisely .

  • Find the web site of the nearest German consulate to you in the USA (for instance, mine was in Houston, Texas, because I lived in Austin), and read the visa application information carefully. Don't trust the visa application form on the Web site to be the latest, however, unless you call the consulate first and confirm that it is, indeed, the latest, proper form.

  • Ask your employer or the university where you will study in Germany when they will send information about your employment or university registration/studies to the German consulate nearest you; it should happen at least once month before your departure from the USA. Confirm with them when they actually do this. Your German employer or university MUST do this for you to get an extended visa! Have your employer or the university in Germany copy you on any material they send the consulate, and tell the employer or university to send you confirmation that the information has been sent (and, again, if you are looking for a job in Germany, I CAN'T HELP YOU so don't email me and ask for help).

  • Go to the nearest German consulate in person three weeks before you go to Germany and after your employer or university in Germany confirms to you that they have sent your information to the consulate. If you cannot go in-person, call the consulate and get EXACTLY the right information on how to proceed (don't rely on their web site information). You will need to give them two passport photos, a look at your actual passport, and a processing fee (so take cash, in small bills -- they won't take checks or credit cards, and have trouble making change). Make sure your employer or university has given the consulate information about your employment or studies BEFORE you contact the consulate!!

  • Tell every person you know that you are moving to Germany -- co-workers, friends, family, neighbors. You never know where it will lead. I have met many friends-of-friends here because I let so many people know I was moving here (and it's how I found a completely furnished apartment -- the rarest of rare things -- in Bonn, a mile from where I worked, before I even arrived here).

  • Explore on the Internet as much as you can about the town you will be moving to, and the towns nearest it. I found so many great resources online that helped me know what to do before I came to Germany, and to know what to do once I arrived. PLEASE, before you write me with a question, read through these sites first.

  • Buy a detailed travel book or two about Germany as well; I strongly recommend Lonely Planet Germany. The web is great, and as noted above, you should use it, but even the most reliable and durable and lightweight laptop or PDA just isn't as durable and reliable as a paper BOOK when you are traveling. PLEASE, before you write me with a question, buy and read Lonely Planet Germany (or whatever detailed travel book you go with) FIRST. It will give you information on electrical plug-ins, safety, holidays, customs, and on and on and on. My Lonely Planet Germany saved my life oh-so-many times. Now, even my German husband uses it when we go somewhere in-country.

  • Buy a "how to speak German" CD set, and start listening to them ASAP. Learning even just five or 10 basic words and phrases before you arrive will help you SO MUCH ("thank you," "please," "excuse me/I'm sorry," "where is...," "do you have...", "My German is not good," etc.). Also, buy a small German phrase book that you can carry around with you easily (Berlitz and Lonely Planet have terrific pocket-sized phrase books), AND a German-English/English-German dictionary. Even if you will be on short-term assignment and don't plan on really learning the language, you will need these things (I took my dictionary with me to museums, for instance, to help with descriptions; or to stores if I'm was looking for something specific).

    I did not listen to my "how to speak German" CDs before I moved, and I deeply, deeply regret it. People are so much nicer and helpful to you in Germany if you know even just those five aforementioned phrases in German. I could have made my life so much easier if I'd listened to them even 20 minutes a day for the two weeks before I left.

  • Keep a mailing address in the USA, even if you are selling your house. Ask your parents, siblings or a really close friend if they would be willing to be your "permanent" address in the U.S. and periodically receive mail for you. I kept a P.O. Box back in Texas, which a friend maintained for me; she forwarded my mail from there, deposited checks for me, let local officials know that, no, I could not serve on jury duty, etc. You must have someone in the USA doing these things for you.

  • Keep a USA bank account or credit union account open. If your current bank or credit union doesn't allow online banking, look for another bank or credit union and transfer your money to a new account. Online banking is SUCH a blessing for people living abroad... you will need it to pay any bills you have back in the USA (storage, insurance, credit card, etc.).

  • Keep a USA credit card open. Charge things to it occasionally and pay it off quickly. This will keep your credit score high. If you close all your accounts, don't be surprised when you move back to the USA and can't get a car loan, home loan, credit card, etc.

  • Clothes: if you are only taking a few bags, however large, then concentrate on taking winter clothes (sweaters, thick socks, etc.), and anything that works well in the rain. Take shoes you like to walk in and don't mind getting wet. Leave the t-shirts and sweatshirts with ads and slogans and logos on them at home (well, take a *few*), unless you really, really want to broadcast you are from the USA at all times, or won't have enough clothes to wear otherwise. Plain t-shirts and sweatshirts are a much better idea. I found Germans to rarely dress as casually as Americans, and as I like to blend in, I tried to do the same. I bought my summer clothes in Germany after I moved.

  • Pack one of those all-in-one tools, like a screw driver that comes with six different heads and could fit in your purse. Take a swiss army knife too. These two items will come in very handy as you put together furniture and open boxes. But remember that these must be in your CHECKED luggage (cargo), NOT in your carry-on luggage. Yes, you can buy such in Germany, but you will be so happy to have such right away, without having to go track such down in your first days in the country.

  • Your priority upon getting to Germany is going to be finding a place to live. If you can make any kind of arrangements beforehand, GO FOR IT -- such as a friend in Germany sending you a list of apartments to look at, and contact information for these apartments, before you arrive. Your best bet: going to Germany a month or even TWO before you actually move there and finding a place to live.

    Apartment search companies in Germany are very expensive. It's rare to see "for rent" signs in windows in Germany. And apartments usually come completely unfurnished (no kitchen cabinets, no stove, no closets, sometimes no floor). So budget plenty of time and money to deal with this.

  • Money:
    • you usually CANNOT get American coins exchanged for Euros, except at the airport.
    • banks and money exchange places in Germany are closed on Saturdays and Sundays, and for lunch every weekday.
    • many banks will not allow you to exchange money there unless you have an account there
    • If you can, get some Euros before you arrive (your bank will have information). If not, get some cash at the airport when you arrive from an ATM.
    • Most American ATM cards work in Germany! ATMs are everywhere in Germany, and you get a very decent exchange rate when you make a withdrawal! Again, get some cash at the airport when you arrive.
    • Travelers checks are best used at banks, to get Euros, NOT for buying things (most places won't take them).

  • If you are an avid or even occasionally reader, take plenty of reading material in your native language, and make arrangements for English-language books to be sent to you from friends in the U.S. if the local German train station book store doesn't have a good selection of English books (the larger the train station, the better the English book selection) and you don't know how to order English books from Amazon.de. Some bookstores carry English books, as do some Oxfam stores. Many bookstores will order specific titles for you, in English. Or you can go the e-book route, of course.

  • Even if you have a TV, the only English-language station you will get is probably CNN International (and BBC International if you are lucky; and MSNBC if you are REALLY lucky). Look into cable packages after you arrive, for more English-language selections (especially if NCAA basketball is important to you). And if you bring DVDs, remember that you have to have a special DVD player to play American DVDs (region 1), so take one of your USA DVDS to the store with you here in Germany and test any machine you want to buy BEFORE you buy.

  • More than likely, you are going to end up with a completely unfurnished apartment. In addition to trying to buy a kitchen, I strongly suggest you buy a TV soon after you arrive. Particularly if you are going to Germany alone, or will be alone for long periods of time while your spouse is at work. It will go a long way at keeping loneliness at bay. Make sure the video player plays US videotapes, and the DVD player plays region 1 DVDs.

  • Get a map of your city as soon as possible. Any hotel should be able to provide this to you. If not, then go to the nearest tourist information center, train station or bookstore. Get one that shows bus and train lines. If you can find one that shows bike paths (usually available in bike shops), all the better.

  • Find a German friend who will call Deutsche Telecom for you to make arrangements for your phone service, or find the nearest Deutsche Telecom office and go for an in-person visit (you will be able to find someone who speaks English this way, and get better service). And don't even think you are going to have a home phone, let alone home ISP connection, anytime in the first two-four weeks you are there. Maybe not even the first month. Deutsche Telecom is slower than molasses in February. You do have other phone and ISP options besides Deutsche Telecom in Germany, but if you don't speak the language, you may have a very hard time with them.

  • Leave your electronics at home. Sell them or give them away or put them in storage. Buy your electronics here (lamps, CD players, cell phone, etc.). It's cheaper and easier -- the electrical currents and plugs are all different here. The only electronic devices I could advise bringing are your laptop computer, your portable hard drive, a new digital camera or an MP3 portable player if you already own such.

  • If you bring a computer to Germany (and I suggest doing this ONLY if you have a laptop -- otherwise, buy one here), you will need (and you can get these in Germany easily, at Woolworth's or Globus, for instance):

    • an electrical adapter, to allow you to plug your computer in to an electrical outlet (you don't need anything specifically for a computer, as long as you are plugging it all into a surge protector).

    • an adapter for analog phone lines. You need either a TAE-F or TAE-N. Actually, it's better to get both! They are less than five Euros each. Or you can get an adapter that has both of these inputs, plus "Western" style outlet to plug in your computer as is (so you can plug in more than one thing to your phone line at once). And it's a good idea to take a piece of paper with TAE-F and TAE-N written on it (even if a salesperson understands English, they may not understand what you mean by a phone line adapter).

  • A note about electrical adapters: while they are very easy to find here, they don't fit "funky" plugs. For instance, my iPod electrical wire does not fit any European electrical adapter; luckily, I can power it up by plugging it into my laptop. Plugs in Germany are often round and sunken, as are their adapters, and that means that, for instance, most cell phone power cords will NOT fit into an adapter. That's yet another reason to leave the electronics behind and just buy new ones here.

  • Your best bet regarding taking your music is to have such on the Cloud and on your laptop, HOWEVER, note that countries have funky laws about downloading - you could end up in Germany and find that they don't allow you to access your music online because of piracy laws. If you take CDs, put the jewel cases in storage; buy CD notebooks, that allow you to put CDs in sleeves. I came to Germany in the era before iPods, and brought 150 CDs reduced down to two simple notebooks that I brought in my luggage (no jewel cases). I'm so glad I did! Listening to "my" music helped tremendously in adjusting to my new home. Germans listen to a lot of American pop music, so leave the rock classics and dance stuff at home -- you will hear plenty on the radio or be able to buy here. I brought lots of country and western, old time, blues and indy bands, because they are very hard to find in Germany.

  • MAKE FRIENDS. Yes, you've heard again and again that Germans can be polite but distant. But many are quite friendly and social (particularly during Carnival!). Social, community and activity clubs abound in Germany, for every activity and interest, and many welcome English-speakers. Also, befriend all the other expatriates you work with or live with, regardless of where they are from. They are in the same boat as you, and are usually quite happy to welcome you into their circle of friends. If you don't work with expatriates, then frequent stores and restaurants owned by such. Look on the Internet for American movies shown in original form in your area -- that's a great way to meet other English speakers.

  • Walk every day (even if you don't have dogs). Walking is a German custom, and it is the best way to enjoy your new home. Walk around the building you live in, walk around your neighborhood, choose a street to walk down as far as you can and back. Explore, explore, explore! You will find groceries, restaurants, cafes, pet stores, dry cleaners, electronics stores, wine and beer shops, bike shops -- and lots of fun things you weren't even looking for. Sunday is the most important walking day in Germany. If you walk at the same time every Sunday, you will become a fixture, and Germans will be much friendlier to you -- they might even try to have a conversation.

  • Pick a cafe, a pub, or a restaurant to visit regularly. Make it your hang out, particularly if the folks you work with aren't very social. You can sit at a table and read over a cup of coffee or beer all day if you want -- it's quite normal here. Having a regular hang out will help you feel a part of the culture, and may even lead to a friendship. Personally, I find that the best hangouts are the places owned by expatriates, regardless of what country they are from (one of my favorite places is a restaurant owned by a Pakistani family here); they see you as one of "them," and the Germans who go there will probably speak excellent English and be more "open."

  • People are people the world over -- most are very kind and are happy to help a person in need. If you need help, ask. If that person can't or won't help, ask someone else. In Germany, you may end up asking four or five people before you find someone to help. But just keep asking, if you have to.

  • Keep a journal! Send lots of postcards! Take lots of photos! Share this incredible experience with family and friends back home! It will make you feel better about what you are experiencing as well.

  • If you get out every day for a walk, have reading material, have something to watch or listen to after work, and get into some kind of regular rhythm every day, you are going to be FINE. And once you get Internet access, you can listen to American radio shows, read USA news, e-mail all your family and friends regularly, etc. The Internet in particular will make your transition easier (particularly if you are moving alone, or moving because of your spouse's job or studies).

  • Questions about employment, taxes, voting while abroad, etc., are NOT things I can answer! Please visit this page of Germany-related sites and visit those sites to find what you are looking for.

 
    FOR DOGS

  • Dogs brought to Germany directly from the US do not go into quarantine if you have all of the paper work verifying vaccinations. In addition to carrying all this paper work on your person, attach the paper work in some way to the dog crates as well. And make sure it is in both English and German.

    For most of the rest of the EU, the same should apply, but doesn't always. For instance, even though the United Kingdom is in the EU, they have different animal import laws than other Western European countries (much more strict and inflexible, to the point that I strongly, strongly, strongly urge you NOT to fly through the UK with your pets). YOU need to check first! Check with your country's embassy in the EU country you are going to, with the country's embassy in your own country, AND the customs office for whatever country you are moving to. Don't limit yourself to just one source for your information! And don't ask me, because I don't know anymore than I've put on this page.

  • EU countries, including Germany, are becoming VERY strict about certain breeds of dog. Check with your country's embassy in the EU country you are going to, with the country's embassy in your own country, AND the customs office for whatever country you are moving to, regarding any possible breed restrictions. I got this email in March 2006 from a friend: "Remember the woman from my uni who was trying to bring her dog to the UK via Atlanta? Terrible story to tell! Turns out that her dog 'looks fierce' (Bulldog-Shepherd cross or something) so would have been put down upon entry into the UK because of the shape of its jowls! Good thing they found out, days before the poor pooch was scheduled to be on a plane!"

  • There have been some changes as of January 2012 regarding bringing pets into Germany. Nothing too huge: your pet has to be microchipped before the most recent rabies vaccination (otherwise, you have to get another one), and you have to fill out very specific forms, one of which has to be verified by your local USDA office within a specific period before your trip that "proves" your pet has been vaccinated and microchipped. There are two web sites, this one from germany.info, a private company, and this one from the USDA. And then there's this from the EU. These forms and changes are VERY new - if you call a consulate office or USDA about them, don't be surprised if they have no idea what you are talking about. If you have taken a dog or cat into Germany from the USA since January 1, 2012 and you feel there is any information missing from these pages, or that need to be better emphasized, please contact me.

  • In addition to all of the official paperwork/certificates saying that the dogs have been vaccinated for rabies (and the date of that vaccination -- many European countries do NOT recognize two-year vaccines), you also have to have this information in GERMAN. Affix copies of papers that affirm this to the crate (I bought sheet protectors - the kind for portfolios -- and put the paper work in them, then taped them to the top of the crate). ALSO, keep a copy of these documents with you, on your person, at all times during the flight and in customs.

    I was lucky -- I had a friend of a friend who worked at a translation company that was willing to do this for me. It was very simple:

    English wording
    "The attached document certifies that this dog, Wiley, was vaccinated against Rabies on January 15, 2001. His vaccination was performed at Westgate Pet & Bird Hospital by Dr. Paul Brandt, DVM, in Austin, Texas."

    German translation
    Das beigefügte Dokument bescheinigt, dass dieser Hund, Wiley, am 15. Januar 2001 gegen Tollwut geimpft wurde. Die Impfung wurde von Dr. Paul Brandt, DVM, in Austin, Texas am Westgate Pet & Bird Hospital durchgeführt.

  • And in addition to the health certificate information, put a notice on the crate that says what your dog's name is, what flight he should be on, etc. For instance:

    English wording
    "This dog is Buster. He is flying with his dog brother, Wiley, and their owner, Jayne Cravens, from Atlanta, Georgia to Frankfurt, Germany. They leave the U.S. on February 14 and arrive in Germany on February 15 on a Delta Airlines flight. Once in Germany, a message can be sent to Jayne via [name of employer here, followed by phone number]. PLEASE TAKE CARE OF THIS BELOVED DOG!!"

    German translation
    Dieser Hund ist Buster. Er fliegt mit seinem Bruder, dem Hund Wiley, und seiner Besitzerin Jayne Cravens von Atlanta, Georgia nach Frankfurt, Deutschland. Sie verlassen die USA am 14. Februar und kommen am 15. Februar mit einem Flug der Delta Airlines in Deutschland an. Wenn sie in Deutschland ankommen, kann an Jayne eine Nachricht über die [name of employer here, followed by phone number] gesendet werden. BITTE PASSEN SIE GUT AUF DIESEN GELIEBTEN HUND AUF!!

  • Get a DIRECT flight from the U.S. to Germany, no matter how much driving that may mean for you before or after the plane ride. There are two reasons for this: (1) Your dog (or dogs) will be subject to the laws of any country you land in, even if they don't get off the plane. So don't even deal with it -- get a DIRECT flight! (2) You do not want your dogs to be on the plane and in their crates any longer than they have to be. And you will GREATLY increase the risk of them being harmed or lost if you have to change planes.

  • During warmer months, individual airlines have different embargo periods when they simply won't accept pets as checked luggage; if the weather is too hot on the day of travel at any airport your pet will travel through, they could refuse to let you bring your pet(s). So I suggest you don't try to bring your pets over in the summer months.

  • Make plans to drive to the city where your departure airport is with your dog(s) at least ONE day before you leave. This will allow you to give your dog or dogs many hours before the flight to sleep on their own beds, run around free from their crates, work off nervous energy, etc. To take a dog from a car after a long drive, and then put him or her in a crate for an overseas plane ride the same day, is cruel.

  • Contact the airline as early as possible -- even before you buy your ticket -- to make sure you have all of the necessary pet paper work for the trip, even if the airline has information on its web site and you think you know all there is to know. Also, ask them exactly where you should go at the airport to check in the dogs (which counter? And can your dogs be put in the crates at the counter rather than before you come into the airport proper?).

  • When you purchase your airline ticket, you will need to give the airline information about the weight of each dog, and the size of each dog crate.

    AIRLINE AND AIRPORT SUGGESTION: One person wrote me lauding Delta Airlines out of Atlanta to transport the dogs. One person wrote me a horror story about American Airlines out of Dallas in transporting dogs. So I went with Delta out of Atlanta. Delta Airlines and the Atlanta Airport were ALL that. I wrote Delta Airlines a love letter after I got to Germany. They were absolutely amazing. Ofcourse, YMMV.

  • Get your dog(s) used to the crate(s) long before the trip! I'm talking MONTHS before. A suggestion: put the crate where your dog normally sleeps, and put the bed your dog normally sleeps on in the crate. Fix the door so it won't close (or just take it off altogether). Don't do anything to force your dog to go into the crate -- let your dog decide to go in on his/her own. That may take days (it took many, many weeks with one of my dogs, but it did happen). You can even make a retrieval game -- throw in a dog treat for your dog to retrieve a few times a day.

  • Get your dog used to walking on leash regularly! If your dog is used to just running around a back yard, you've got to start working with him/her on leash many, many weeks before you leave! There are many, many places in Germany for dogs to go on leash, but during your walk to and from these places, your dog MUST be on leash. Plus, a dog that is leashed trained is welcomed into most restaurants and shops in Germany.

  • Have you ever gone anywhere away from home overnight with your dog(s)? If not, get them used to this! Take some long day trips and short overnight trips with your dog(s). Bring his/her/their beds along and maybe a beloved toy. This will help them know that they are "home" whenever they are with you, regardless of where they are geographically. Even just two or three trips like this before you travel will help your dog -- certainly more than drugs. If your dog is used to camping with you, then your dog will probably do really well traveling to Germany with you.

    Two weeks before I moved to Germany, I put almost everything I own in self storage and moved myself, my dogs, and everything I wanted to take to Germany to Kentucky, to spend the time with my family. I didn't realize it at the time, but this was a wonderful thing to do to help in the transition of moving even further. The first few nights in Kentucky, they were rather restless; but by contrast, from day one in Germany, they were the entire time we were there.

    (FYI, Wiley passed away in 2003, and Buster passed away in 2006, both in Germany; the vets in Germany were wonderful and made all arrangements regarding the creamation of my dogs).

  • In the span of just five days, two different people wrote me to say that they had lost their dogs their first or second week in Germany - the dogs had gotten loose and run off from a yard or during a walk. So BE PREPARED for this potential tragedy BEFORE you arrive: (1) Have recent, printed photos of your dog that clearly show his or her markings, height, color, breed, etc. on your person during the flight, and available in case you need to put together a flyer to help find your dog. (2) Have a tag made that your dog will wear before he or she even boards the flight, noting YOUR contact information in Germany. (3) Have a flyer template already designed on your computer that has a photo of your dog, lists a description of your dog, offers a reward, and says how to get in touch with you, with room for additional information to be dropped in as necessary, that can be printed out and be ready for copying almost immediately. (4) Type the name of the city where you will be moving to and the word "tierheim" into Google; this will give you a list of dog shelters in your town. Bookmark all of the tierheims in and around the city where you are moving; this gives you a ready-to-use list of places to contact if your dog gets lost.

  • Get something that will provide the dogs water inside the crate during the flight. This has to be more than one bowl of water -- when the plane tilts after take off and before landing, the water will entirely spill out. Several people have recommended a large bowl of ice. Another person said
       
      You may want to try to use a large hamster type watering tube - a tube with a small ball in the end of a metal pipe. They are held in place with some wire and do not spill. Your dog can lick the ball in the end and get water when she needs it. We use a similar setup outside on our hose spigot, our dog learned how to use the device quickly.

  • Should you drug your dog for an airline flight? I checked all over the Internet and talked to my vet and, universally, everyone said NO!! Your dog needs to be awake and alert while he/she is in the crate on the plane. A dog has to be able to brace his/herself when the crate and the plane is moving and tilting. If you drug your dog, he/she won't be able to do that, and risks GREAT injury (even death). A better idea is to do all you can beforehand to get your dog used to the crate and used to traveling -- that's the best way to prep your dog for the plane ride, so he/she will know how to settle down.

  • Arrange to have transportation waiting for you at the German airport before you leave the USA! Vans are not really that expensive. Your employer should be able to provide you with suggestions and should be able to make these arrangements for you (but they may not pay for it; make sure you know who is going to pay for what). Any travel agent should also be able to help you. Make sure the transport company you use knows you are going to have a dog or two with you.

  • Call the airline two days before your trip to confirm that they have information about your dog(s). There is a maximum number of pets allowed to be checked on each flight and some people say it's first-come, first-served. That's why it's a good idea to confirm, again and again!

  • Your flight will probably be in the evening. So spend the day wisely -- take your dogs on long walks, give them lots of water, and let them get lots of energy out of their systems, particularly outdoors. Give them a big breakfast, but skip dinner altogether.

  • Get to the airport two and a half hours before your flight! Absolutely two and a half hours! You need all this time to deal with lines and confusions and missteps and additional paper work. And to make sure that, absolutely, your dogs will be on the flight with you!

    After arriving at the airport for my flight, I left my dogs in the van and went into the airport with all my luggage (my family was there helping me). We got everything checked in and confirmed what I should be doing before I brought the dogs in.

    If you can, walk the dogs one more time before putting them into the crates.

  • Make sure EVERYONE knows you have dogs on the flight -- the people checking you in at the gate, the captain, and the flight crew. Everyone. Don't worry about being annoying. Make sure the entire flight crew knows you have dogs on board, and that you are feeling anxious about them. This will make everyone more conscious about the dogs on board.

  • Your priority after landing is getting your dog(s)! Go to baggage claim and find out ASAP where you can be re-united with your dogs. Don't worry about getting your bags -- get your dogs! When you are re-united with your dogs, get them out of the crate, and get them water, IMMEDIATELY.

  • You've got to get your dogs and your baggage through customs all at once (I actually got customs to let me take the dogs out first, hand them off to a co-worker who was waiting for me, and then let me come back in -- THIS WAS A TOTAL FLUKE AND YOU WILL PROBABLY NOT BE THIS LUCKY). Customs won't let anyone in from the outside to help you. If you are alone (as I was), beg an airline person to help you manage all this through the gates.

  • As soon as possible, identify area vets that speak English and find one for your pet(s). Ask co-workers for recommendations. I asked my neighbors, and have ended up with two OUTSTANDING vets. One is, hands down, the best vet I have ever had in my life.

  • Ticks are, unfortunately, everywhere over here in the Spring and summer. You will have to check your pets frequently for them. But there's no heartworms here! Wahoo!

  • Everything you've heard about Germans and dogs is true -- they love dogs, and dogs are everywhere! Your dogs will totally dig it.

Also see: NOTE: The Safe Air Travel for Animals Act went into effect as of June 2005. It was spearheaded by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and introduced in 1999 by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.). The original bill stated that more than 2,500 dogs and cats were severely injured on planes and 108 died as a result to extreme temperature exposure during the late 1990s. Low oxygen flow can also harm and kill animals. The act means that airlines are now required to report how many pets are killed, lost or injured on their flights. Many activists and pet owners, however, say the law was amended to the point that it doesn't do enough to protect animals. The original bill required temperature- and oxygen-controlled areas for animals, as well as better trained personnel to handle the dogs, cats, and other pets before, during and after the flight. The amended bill just includes the requirement that airlines report all animal casualties. And it should be noted that airlines resisted the legislation.

At least this new tracking system lets consumers know which airlines have a better track record. Each airline will now have to publish data on exactly how many pets are killed, lost and injured each year. Airlines are required to submit reports only for family-owned animals. The reports will be posted online monthly at the Transportation Department Airline Consumer Report Web site. The ASPCA will also publish this data.

Airline information about flying with pets changes FREQUENTLY. Monthly. Weekly. It makes it extremely hard to link to airline information about pets -- which is why I don't. So you will have to look for such information yourself.

Please DON'T JUST RELY ON THIS WEB PAGE FOR INFORMATION ABOUT FLYING WITH YOUR DOGS. You need to investigate yourself! You need to call and confirm any information you read here. You need to do your own search on the Internet (country laws and airline policies change FREQUENTLY). You need to contact your country's embassy in the EU country you are going to, with the country's embassy in your own country, AND the customs office for whatever country you are moving to.

Never limit yourself to just one source for your information!

If you have more advice, I would love to hear from you. And thanks to everyone who has added to the aforementioned information with your helpful suggestions and firsthand experiences.

If you have a question that I haven't answered above, particularly any question about employment, PLEASE visit these Germany-related sites first before writing. You will probably find your answer there first -- I probably don't know (and let me reiterate -- I have NO information regarding employment in Germany!):


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The personal opinions expressed on this page are solely those of Ms. Cravens, unless otherwise noted.