What exactly is an expat?

When you move to Germany, you might be called many things: a foreigner, an immigrant or – more likely – an expat. But what exactly does this term mean?

Who qualifies as an expat?

The word expat is short for expatriate, which is in turn derived from the Latin terms ex (meaning “out of”) and patria (meaning “native country”).

The Oxford English Dictionary defines an expat as “a person who lives outside their native country”. So, if you were born in the USA and decide to move to Germany, you will become an expat.

Differing use in English and German

As you will see during your time in Germany, some English words have been borrowed and inserted in the German language – but the meaning doesn’t always stay the same.

Instead of referring to anyone who lives and works in a foreign country, in Germany the word “expat” is now in common usage as a word to describe any and all native English speakers living in Germany.

What is the difference between an immigrant and an expat?

A difficult question – and one without a clear answer. There is considerable debate in both English and German spheres regarding the use of the two words. The Local, an online magazine popular among English-speakers in Germany, sets out the issues in detail here.

What do new expats in Germany need to know?

Starting life in a new country is an exciting time and you are sure to find your feet quickly in a country as open and welcoming as Germany.

Healthcare and insurance are what we know best – so here are our top tips for moving to Germany.

  1. Health insurance is mandatory for everyone living and working in Germany. You will not obtain a residence permit or visa without it.
  2. What treatments you can receive and how long you have to wait depends in large part on whether you choose public or private health insurance.
  3. Depending on their income, expats can often access special insurance tariffs for which native Germans are not eligible. To find out more about ottonova’s special Expat tariff, click here.


Under the private health insurance system, every family member needs their own individual policy, and the cost (premium) is calculated based on each person's health and age when they enroll. Because of this, children's premiums are typically quite affordable. To insure your children in private health insurance can have a lot of advantages. Read more in our article about private health insurance for families!

If you are eligible for private health insurance and you are in Germany on a visa or a limited permit, we can offer you the Expat Tariff up to five years.

ottonova is fully regulated by the BaFin and therefore fulfilling the requirements (§ 257 7Abs. 2a Satz 1 SGB V and the § 61 Abs. 5 SGB XI) for you to be able to apply for a visa with your ottonova insurance, which also includes our Expat tariff of course.

ottonova for Expats.

You have so much to do when moving to Germany, don’t let your health insurance slow you down. Let ottonova make your life easier.

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