Discover the Kiel Region

8 min read
13 Jun 2024

elcome to the Kiel Region! Situated in Schleswig-Holstein, Northern Germany, the region is about 90 kilometers (56 miles) north of Hamburg. Due to its strategic location on the Baltic Sea, the capital, Kiel, is primarily known as a maritime city and famous for hosting the annual Kiel Week (Kieler Woche), one of the world’s largest sailing events. Kiel also plays a significant role in Germany’s naval history, is home to the German Navy, and has a rich maritime heritage.

The Kiel Region has a growing startup scene focused on maritime technologies, renewable energy and digital innovation. While it may not be as well-known as startup hubs like Berlin or Hamburg, the Kiel Region is home to innovative companies and research institutions that drive entrepreneurship and innovation. Some notable companies and initiatives include the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, which focuses on marine science and technology, and the Cluster of Excellence “The Future Ocean,” which brings together researchers and industry partners to address global ocean challenges. The region also offers a supportive environment for startups and innovative projects, especially those related to its maritime and technological strengths.

Photo by Marvin Radke

Before you arrive

Before you arrive in the Kiel Region, you must understand the visa requirements and work permits you might need based on your nationality and purpose of stay. If you’re planning to visit Kiel for a short stay (typically up to 90 days within a 180-day period) and your country has a visa-free agreement with Germany, you generally won’t need a visa. 

If you plan to work in the Kiel Region, you’ll need a work visa (Arbeitsvisum) or a residence permit for employment purposes. The specific requirements and application process will depend on your qualifications, job offer and the type of work you’ll be doing. Additionally, Germany has a Freelancer Visa for freelancers and self‑employed individuals, which might suit many digital nomads. This visa allows you to live and work in Germany as a freelancer, provided you meet certain criteria, such as valid freelance activity, sufficient funds and health insurance.

Remember, visa requirements and immigration rules can change, so it’s always a good idea to check the latest information from the German embassy or consulate in your home country or the official website of the German Federal Foreign Office ( 

Photo by Marvin Radke

Insurance and taxes

In Germany, health insurance is mandatory for all residents, including foreigners living and working there. This ensures that everyone has access to necessary healthcare services. There are two main types of health insurance in Germany: statutory health insurance (Gesetzliche Krankenversicherung, or GKV) and private health insurance (Private Krankenversicherung, or PKV). Freelancers, self-employed individuals and certain high-income earners may opt for private health insurance. Private health insurance offers more flexibility regarding coverage and benefits but can be more expensive than statutory health insurance.

If you’re freelancing in the Kiel Region, register with the tax office (Finanzamt; and obtain a tax number (Steuernummer) before invoicing clients and conducting business. To register with the tax office, you must fill out the taxation questionnaire form (Fragebogen zur steuerlichen Erfassung). This form collects information about your business activities, expected income and other relevant details. You can download the form from the Federal Central Tax Office’s (Bundeszentralamt für Steuern) official website or pick it up at your local Kiel tax office.

If your annual turnover exceeds certain thresholds, you may also need to apply for a VAT identification number (Umsatzsteuer-Identifikationsnummer) and your tax number. The VAT identification number allows you to charge and collect VAT on your invoices and report VAT to the tax authorities.

Remember to keep all your tax-related documents and records organized. As a freelancer in Germany, you must file regular tax returns and possibly pay quarterly advance tax payments. Consult with a tax advisor or accountant familiar with German tax laws and regulations to ensure compliance and optimize your tax situation.

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Opening a bank account

Opening a bank account in the Kiel Region as an expat can be relatively straightforward, especially with several banks offering services tailored to English speakers. Deutsche Bank ( and Commerzbank ( offer English-speaking services and have branches in Kiel where you can speak with English-speaking staff. They offer a variety of bank accounts tailored to different needs, including current accounts, savings accounts and expat accounts, and their online banking platforms are available in English, making it easier to manage your finances online.

Additionally, N26 ( and Revolut ( are digital banks that offer services in English and are popular among expats and digital nomads. They have various account options, including free basic accounts and premium accounts with additional features. Their mobile banking apps are in English and offer a seamless banking experience with features like instant notifications, budgeting tools and easy international transfers.

You’ll typically need to provide a passport or national ID card, proof of address (rental agreement or utility bill) and proof of income or employment (employment contract or recent pay slips). Some banks may require an initial deposit to open an account, so be prepared to deposit a certain amount when opening your account.

Getting around

Thanks to its well-developed local transport networks and cycling culture, getting around the Kiel Region is convenient and efficient. The Kiel Public Transport (KVG; operates a comprehensive bus and ferry network that covers the entire region and surrounding areas. From Kiel Hauptbahnhof (, you can take regional trains to cities like Hamburg, Lübeck and Flensburg, as well as long-distance trains to destinations across Germany and Europe. Visitors can take advantage of the Deutschland ticket (, a nationwide pass that covers all local public transport (except ICE, IC/EC) for 49 euros per month. Additionally, you can use KielRegion Mobil’s app ( to find out what’s the best route for your journey.

The Kiel Region has a well-developed network of bike paths and lanes, making it easy and safe to cycle around. Several cycling routes and trails around the region, such as the Baltic Sea Cycle Route (Ostseeküsten-Radweg) and the Kiel Canal Cycle Route (Nord-Ostsee-Kanal-Radweg), offer opportunities for day trips and longer cycling tours.

Photo by Marvin Radke

Finding an apartment

Finding an apartment in the Kiel Region can be difficult, especially in popular areas or peak rental seasons. Expats and newcomers have several options when searching for an apartment, such as websites like ImmobilienScout24 (, WG-Gesucht ( and Kleinanzeigen ( Using a real estate agent can save you time and effort by providing personalized assistance in finding an apartment that meets your criteria. They can also help with negotiations, contract preparation and the rental process in Germany.

Language essentials

The official language in the Kiel Region is German (Deutsch). However, due to its international community and university, many people in the Kiel Region also speak English, especially in tourist areas, universities and among younger generations. Learning German can be challenging due to its complex grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary. However, with dedication, practice and the right resources, it’s possible to become proficient in German over time. Enroll in German language courses or classes to learn the basics and build a strong foundation. Try the Volkshochschule (VHS - consider hiring a private language tutor or teacher to provide personalized instruction and support. Websites like Superprof ( or Preply ( can help you find qualified language teachers or tutors in Kiel or online.

Photo by Thomas Grams

Where to work

Finding a workspace in the Kiel Region is easy, with several coworking spaces and coffee
shops offering free wifi for remote workers and freelancers. Popular coworking spaces include cobaas (, Fleet7 ( and Cowork Nord (, offering
modern facilities, meeting rooms and a vibrant community. For those preferring coffee shops, COBL at ( is many founders’ regional favorite. Before heading out, it’s advisable to check availability and consider membership options or day passes for coworking spaces.

Work Culture

In the Kiel Region, the work culture generally values professionalism, punctuality and efficiency. People tend to be straightforward and direct in their communication, prioritizing clarity and honesty. Regarding business meetings or negotiations, it’s essential to be well-prepared, stick to the agenda, and respect others’ time. Germans appreciate punctuality, so arriving on time or a few minutes early for meetings is considered respectful.

While socializing and building relationships are important in business, the focus is often on the professional aspect first. Small talk is common before or after meetings, but personal topics are typically not discussed extensively in a business setting unless the relationship has evolved to a more personal level. When invited to a business dinner or event, dress appropriately, be attentive to table manners and avoid controversial topics. Business dinners in Germany are often more formal and structured than casual social gatherings with the focus on business-related discussions even in a relaxed setting.

Photo by Marvin Radke

Starting a company

Starting a company in the Kiel Region involves several steps, from registering your business to managing finances and taxes. First, choose the right business structure: a Sole Proprietorship (Einzelunternehmen), the simplest form of business with no legal distinction between the owner and the business; a Partnership (Gesellschaft bürgerlichen Rechts; GbR), which is two or more individuals running a business together; or a Limited Liability Company (Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung; GmbH), a separate legal entity with limited liability for its owners. Next, register your business at the local trade office to obtain a trade license (Gewerbeschein). You must also register your business for tax purposes and obtain a tax number (Steuernummer). For certain business structures, such as GmbH or AG, you must register your company in the commercial register (Handelsregister).

Where to get business support

Starting a company in the Kiel Region requires careful planning, research and compliance with legal and regulatory requirements. Fortunately, there are several organizations and institutions that offer free or low-cost services to help entrepreneurs and startups. The local Chamber of Commerce (IHK; offers networking opportunities, business support and resources, and the Kiel Economic Development Agency (Wirtschaftsförderung Kiel; assists entrepreneurs looking to establish or expand their businesses in the region. StartUp SH ( offers free initial consultations and information on business planning, financing and legal requirements. And the Wirtschaftsförderung Kreis Plön (WFA; and Wirtschaftsförderung Kreis Rendsburg (WFG ;, which offer support for businesses expanding or relocating in the Plön district and Rendsburg district respectively. 

Want to know more about the Kiel Region? 

The Explorer Series: Kiel Region is a pocket guide that includes valuable local tips and interviews with local experts and founders.
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Written by Yessica Klein