You won't be in Germany long before you've acquired a tidy little pile of new official documents, but you won't be able to stay here long unless you bring a number of documents with you. Passports are, of course, absolutely essential, and you can't do anything without them. It's also advisable to include any academic records as well as letters of recommendation from previous employers. Sure, you may have a job already waiting for you when you arrive here, but there's always the possibility that you'll want to switch or be offered a better position with another company while here, and those academic transcripts and written testimonials will make getting a new job so much easier.
It's likewise helpful to bring along financial records of every breadwinner in the family for the last three years at least. This can facilitate certain tax or other financial issues you may have to deal with during your first year or so here in Germany.
Germany was once famous for its inflexible shopping hours, but much has changed over the past years. Retailers are now free to set their own opening hours Monday through Saturday (shops are still closed all day Sunday). But what has emerged in this liberalized environment is a patchwork of opening hours. Most supermarkets close at 8 p.m., but certain chains such as Rewe and Tengelmann are now open to 10 p.m. Shopping malls in the Rhein-Main region tend to be open to 10 p.m. only Thursday through Saturday. And cities are permitted under German law to allow shopping on Sunday in four days a year in combination with special festivals. And none of this applies to the four weeks before Christmas, when most shops and shopping malls stay open late every night to cash in on the holiday season.
If you're planning to drive a car while in Germany, there are some documents that are absolutely necessary. One is your personal driver's license, without which you'll be treated like a novice and be required to take expensive driving lessons that start from the basics (for more information about the tricky business of transferring non-EU driver's licenses, click here). For automobile insurance purposes, it's strongly advised that you get an official letter from your current insurer certifying how long you've been driving without an accident or major traffic violation. This will allow you to get the best deal on what can prove to be rather expensive insurance coverage over here.
You'll also need certain documents if you want to have any chance of bringing your pets into the country. As Germany has established different requirements and regulations for different countries in allowing pets from those places into Germany, your best bet is to consult your local German embassy or consulate about the rules pertaining to your situation. They'll tell you if you have any hope of bringing your pet along and what specific documents might be required to make this possible.
Having a pet can make you feel more settled in your new home. There are many shelters ("Tierheime") in Germany that offer animals for adoption. To search for shelters, go to the national animal protection site. www.tierschutzbund.de/tierheime/
While some employers will give you an advance on your first month's salary, often you have to wait until the end of your first month at the job before seeing that cash flow in. That's why it's good to bring along a certain amount of financial resources: a bit in cash, any credit cards you might have, and the rest can be withdrawn at any Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) that displays an international PLUS sign. See separate section on Banking & Finance.