City Registration in Düsseldorf: Where to go and what to do

Germans are well known for their bureaucracy, and as a foreigner living here you will interact with it, and learn to successfully navigate it. Registering yourself as a resident of the city where you live is one small piece of that bureaucracy, and becomes a necessity if you want to be more here than a tourist. While Germans are typically very private people, city registration is one of those things where they surprise you on how invasive they allow government to be for the sake of streamlining the rest of the bureaucratic process. As an American I was shocked that I had to confirm to the authorities who I was and where I lived. While not very private, it is one of the easiest and most important things to be done upon arrival. If you fail to take this simple step, many other things you have to accomplish become either very difficult if not impossible. REGISTER AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!

In Düsseldorf, this is very easy. You simply need to take your passport, a copy of the lease from where you are living and a completed registration form down to the Einwohnermeldeamt. Here in Düsseldorf this is located on the ground floor of the Bürgerbüro located at Willi-Becker-Allee 7, which you can find on the back side of the Hauptbahnhof. You do not need to make an appointment but will need to go during their normal open hours as listed below.

Mon, Tues 7:30-16:00
Thur 7:30-18:00
Wed, Fri 7:30-13:00

Moving to Düsseldorf: Where Should I Live?

Are you going to be moving to Düsseldorf? Do you have no idea where to live? Having been in the same situation I understand how it can be difficult to sort through so many opinions online to try and find the best area for you and your family to call home. The most important thing for you to know is that Düsseldorf is a city that has an outstanding quality of life, regardless of where you live. However, fine tuning where to you live to your tastes and expectations makes things that much better.

When I moved from Leipzig to Düsseldorf, I was fortunate that I had a week to run around the city and see where things were. After walking miles and checking out more flats than I wanted, I realized this approach was utter chaos. That was when I asked a good friend of mine, and a native Düsseldorfer, where I should be looking, and more importantly, where should I be avoiding.

Based upon his insights and my experience here is a list of best areas of Düsseldorf for different personalities and situations.

Single, trendy, looking for adventure:

1. Bilk: Bilk has one of the highest population concentrations in Düsseldorf.  Inside of Bilk you will find a bunch of internationals as well as many students attending the University of Düsseldorf, making the area one of the more vibrant of the city. A cool underground scene coupled with a great nightlife make this area prime for those without a bedtime. Additionally, here you’ll find plenty of green space available to enjoy, including the Volksgarten and Südpark. The most desired location in and around Bilk is Die Karolinger, a cool street lined with trees that has a small canal running down the center.

2. Mediahafen: The area surrounding the Mediahafen is one of Düsseldorf’s most up and coming areas, and the change that has occurred here over the last few years is very evident.  Architecture is one of the highlights of the area, and includes buildings designed by notables, such as Frank Gehry. Additionally, as the name insinuates, the Mediahafen is home to a bunch of German media companies, and drives that type of resident and lifestyle.  Cool bars, restaurant and clubs abound, which not surprisingly draws a young crowd with the average age of a Hafen resident being 34.

Family, kids in school, immediate comfort required:

1. Kaiserswerth: Being that the International School of Düsseldorf and a large percentage of English speaking expats are located in Kaiserswerth, this is an easy pick for the family moving to the city who want to find a community that is easier to fall into. Although Kaiserswerth is technically not in Düsseldorf, it is only a 15 minute train ride on the U79 from the center of Kaiserswerth to the center of Düsseldorf, making this an ideal location for folks who are here for a short time and have kids who will be attending ISD.

2. Oberkassel: Located on the opposite side of the Rhine (Rhein) from Düsseldorf and home to the one of the only movie theaters in Düsseldorf to show current releases in English, Oberkassel is a popular place for expats to call home. Because the west side of the Rhein was not bombed to same degree as the east side, it is easier to find Altbauwohnungen (old classical style apartments) in Oberkassel than elsewhere in the city.  There are a large number of English speakers that live in Oberkassel, and public transportation is easy with great connections to Düsseldorf’s city center via the U74 or U75 to Heinrich-Heine-Allee.

Single or Family, I want a nice centrally located place to live:

1. Düsseltal: My personal favorite area, and where I choose to live, Düsseltal is probably more relevant for marrieds with kids, but is close and connected enough that a single who wants a little more quiet would find this area perfect.  The area is very walkable and centers around the old zoo which was destroyed during WWII and is now a park. Shopping is easy to come by with most things centered on Rethelstraße, and transportation connections to the train station, airport and city center are frequent and easy to get to. Fewer foreigners live here and while most people speak at least some English, you may find it useful to know some German.

2. Pempelfort: Closer to more things than Düsseltal, but not as much green space.  Otherwise the two are very similar.  You can find really great deals on flats in Pempelfort, but some areas are a bit more interesting. If I were to move to Pempelfort, I would look for a place in the area of Nordstraße, which is well connected to the city center, good shopping (food and fashion), and is just a short walk from the Rheinpark and Hofgarten.  Same as usual, public transportation options are great in this area of town.

Where should I avoid:

I would avoid the following areas, not for safety reasons, but rather because I think there are better options available that are more convenient and will afford you a much better lifestyle while you are here :

1. Flingern Süd: It is a ways from most things, and really there are nicer areas to live.  Most importantly, I would try to avoid the area around the Henkel headquarters.  There are nicer places in better areas that are not that much more money, you just have to keep an eye out.

2. Unterrath: Two reasons not to live here. First it is much harder to get to on public transportation and connections are much more difficult. Secondly, you are close to the airport, so expect flight traffic all day long.

Ultimately, you can live anywhere in or around Düsseldorf and be safe and happy.  Regardless of where you decide to live, your outlook on the experience will drive how you look back on your time spent here. Enjoy your stay and know that this is a great liveable city with an outstanding quality of life, and each little corner has something great to offer.

Why City Registration is Important: Banking in Düsseldorf

As a newcomer to Düsseldorf, the city registration process is one of the most important initial interactions you need to have with the local German Bureaucracy. There are several reasons why you need to just tough it out and head down to the city to register yourself as a resident.

The first and most important reason is, as a foreigner in Germany, it can sometimes be difficult to set up a bank account. As we all know, money makes the world go round, and when we embark on our extended international journey, having access to the local banking system becomes a necessity. Whether it is to have an account to pay your rent from, or, to simply being no longer willing to have to pay international transaction fees every time you use an ATM, if you are here for any extended period of time you will be dealing with a German bank.

While German law does not prohibit banks to open accounts for foreigners, many banks simply don´t want the headache that comes along with having a foreign account holder unless they feel the value outweighs the cost. One simple way to demonstrate this is by showing a banking institution a copy of your City Registration. If you have gone through the trouble of registering, the thinking at the bank is that you will be in Germany long enough to have high enough customer lifetime value, and therefore be worthy.

Obviously, there are some banks that are easier to deal with than others, and unlike in the US, a personal recommendation from an existing client can help make things easier. There are several branches of Deutsche Bank, Sparkasse and Commerzbank around town that deal with us foreigners enough that they are usually able and willing to help a new local get things going. From personal experience, the Deutsche Bank at Kaiserswerther Straße 239 deals with a lot of foreigners and is really very helpful.

One thing to note if you are an American moving to Düsseldorf, after the passing of The Patriot Act, and subsequently, Dodd Frank banking reform in the US, any banks that conduct any business inside the US have new customer reporting requirements. One of the impacts of these reporting requirements is that for those clients who live overseas and/or have overseas assets, both domestic US banks and non-US banks must report your overseas banking activity. Because the rules are very complex, and costly for banks to provide proper reporting on, many US expats are finding it more difficult to open an overseas account and also keep their US based accounts open while they are overseas.

This is a big topic, as it has impacts far beyond simply opening a bank account and brings into question taxation of foreign income, etc… Rather than delve into this any further, below is a short list of articles that can start you down the rabbit hole if you are interested.

Forbes: FATCA Makes Foreign Banks Report Americans

Find your Fix: US citizens can not open account with overseas Forex brokers

AARO: Americans Abroad are Denied Access to Banking and Investment Opportunities