Many of us will pack some sadness and regrets when we eventually have to leave Germany, even though we may be returning home to loved ones and familiar settings.
The process of leaving this area can be viewed as a mirror image of your preparations for coming here. While you could just ignore proper procedure and simply depart, it would be very disrespectful of the country and town that hosted you. Moreover, it could cause nasty problems for you further down the line (for instance, if you qualify for a German pension and would like to collect it eventually).
You have to go to your local registry office (Meldestelle) and deregister as a resident. This is a fairly painless process, even easier than your first registration, though you will probably need to get a letter from your landlord confirming when your tenancy officially ends.
You will also want to deregister with your health insurance company (Krankenkasse), as your coverage does not end until you have done so. You may want to set the deregistration date for a short time after your planned departure, leaving you covered in case some last-minute health problem creeps up.
Until you are officially deregistered, your health insurance provider can keep withdrawing monthly fees from your account. Even if you leave and close your bank account without ending your health coverage, the insurance company can take legal action against you.
If you paid into the German pension system for a minimum of five years, you will be entitled to a pension when you reach a certain age. Before you leave Germany, you should sort out your personal pension situation with your employer or your own tax consultant.
You should also make sure that you have copies of relevant documents for any marriage or divorce that took place while you were in Germany, as well as the birth certificates of any children born here. Needless to say, it is much easier to obtain these documents while you are still here.
You should see to paying all outstanding bills before departing. While there is a clear temptation to skip out without paying, doing so could tarnish your reputation and even lead to legal penalties. It also hurts the standing of foreign residents who may come after you, as well as of the company that employed you. Some of the anti-foreigner bias that gets voiced here seizes upon cases where foreigners have departed without paying all their bills. You do not want to add to the validity of such charges.
Of course, in the bustle of relocation, it is easy to overlook an outstanding invoice. To avoid this situation, it is probably best to leave a certain amount of money in your bank account to cover any late-arriving charges. This is particularly true for the service companies that you have authorized to automatically debit your bank account with a so-called standing order (Einzugsermächtigung).
For example, it is possible that some utility, telephone or health insurance bills will roll in after you have left the country. Leave a sufficient amount in your account to cover these bills. However, you should also find out from these companies when they expect to issue a final bill, and then notify your bank that all standing orders are to end on a certain date. This prevents the companies from mistakenly billing you for services provided after you have left.
During your German stay, you have undoubtedly bought certain souvenirs and accoutrements for the home that are uniquely German or remind you in a warm way of your time here. Remember to pack these items carefully. And you may want to add to your collection before you go.
For instance, Central Europe is celebrated around the world for making the best Christmas decorations in the world, including the famous wooden nutcracker figures. You should consider making a shopping expedition to your local Christmas market during your last Yuletide season here and stock up on some of the wonderful Christmas decorations available here at bargain prices.
The same holds true for any clothing that you bought or may have fancied while you were here. A little tip here: the customs regulations of most other countries allow you to bring in clothing for your own personal use without paying additional duty. The best strategy is to remove all sales tags to give the clothing a nice worn-at-least-once look before stashing them in your luggage.
You will probably have forged a number of good friendships during your time here, as well as those relationships that Germans designate as "good" acquaintances. Make sure you bring back their addresses and other particulars so you can keep in contact. E-mail addresses are often the most enduring in these days of high mobility. Also, you might want to keep addresses and phone numbers of suppliers of special items that you could order and have shipped back to you, if such an arrangement makes financial sense.
Probably the most valuable thing you can take back from your time here is something that we do not need to remind you to take along: a huge cache of memories, rich experiences, wonderful times, insights into different ways of seeing and doing things - and maybe even the resolution to introduce some of the new ways you have learned here into your life elsewhere.