How and Why to Volunteer in Germany

Thought about volunteering? Here's an overview of voluntary work in Germany.

by Juliette Wyss, January 2, 2018
voluntary work germany

You want to volunteer and are currently thinking about your different options? Sure, you could go to any country in Africa or South America, but what about Germany? No, we're not kidding or totally crazy. There are, in fact, many reasons to volunteer in Germany. 

First of all, they could use some extra hands. Many refugees from Syria and Africa are heading to Germany and volunteers have been at the forefront of helping the overwhelming amount of people in need. Moreover, did you know that in some parts of Germany, one child out of four depends on government support?

Secondly, it is your perfect opportunity to volunteer in a safe country. Many people are worried for their own safety when volunteering abroad. Germany however is one of the safest countries on this planet and you don’t have to worry too much about your own well-being.

Moreover, what better opportunity to freshen up your German? Many volunteering opportunities only ask a minimum of German knowledge, so here’s your chance to get more involved with this fascinating language.

Additionally, Germany is super centrally located in Europe and offers the best possibilities to take a weekend trip to another country on the continent, whether Spain, Sweden or Croatia, you can be there in less than 5 hours, take your flight on a Friday evening and get back on Monday and head directly to work.

Finally, Germany is known for its innovative and fresh ideas. Especially Berlin is famous for its flourishing start-up scene, thus there are many possibilities to help creating a new project and be part of an amazing growth. Also, your own perspectives and ideas are warmly welcome, just as much as you are.

Having said that, you might think about jumping on the next plane and get over here. But before you do so, you should organize several things beforehand. 

First of all, you should check if a BFD or a FSJ, meaning either a Bundesfreiwilligendienst or a Freiwilliges Soziales Jahr, is your cup of tea. Those are two options for voluntary work where you can work and get food, accommodation and some pocket money in return.

However, there are certain conditions to a BFD or a FSJ: 

  • you must have finished your mandatory school years
  • you must be able to work at least 20 hours per week
  • you have to work for at least 6 and max 24 months
  • you can’t be older than 27 years

Also, the programs are meant to enable volunteers to learn more about a possible vocation in the social sector. So if you’re not interested in a possible career in the social sector, you shouldn’t apply for this option, but follow the next few steps.

1. Choose your city

Germany has many cool cities that each offer different cool opportunities. Check out the flair of each of them before deciding which city you’re moving to. If you like the big city live and alternative culture, then you might be really happy in Berlin. If you prefer a bit of glamour and shopping, you probably feel at ease with Munich. Here’s a test you can take that tells you which German city you probably appreciate the most. If your city is Berlin, you should definitely read this article about cool volunteering possibilities in Berlin.

2. Find a voluntary job

As soon as you know where you want to work, it's time to start researching. Our jobs page has some voluntary opportunities, which you can check out. Otherwise we'd recommend having a look at vostel.deBetterplace or There you will find a wide-range of volunteer opportunities in diverse causes. 


If you can’t find anything that suits you, try finding a program between your country and Germany that allows you to work as a volunteer or search at specific organisation you can imagine yourself working at.

3. Get a visa/working permission

Don’t forget to apply for a visa in case you need one. Don’t worry too much about a short time visa if you’re from the EU, but check your conditions anyway, especially if you intend to stay longer than 90 days. IF you want to make sure you apply for the right visa, get in touch with your future employer, he or she should be able to inform you about the kind of visa you need. To get further information on the different visas you could get, check out this website.

4. Book your flight

Nothing easier than that. If you are on a tight budget, check for the cheapest offer on websites that compare different flight offers and get the best out of your money. Also, make sure you arrive at least two days before your service starts, so you get time to get rid of your jetlag and can get to know the city already a bit in advance.

5. Get a living space

This might be a really tricky one, as living space can be quite rare in some cities in Germany. Therefore, start looking for a place to live at least one or two months in advance, just to be sure. There might be different housing possibilities. You can either join a shared flat for the time being or get your own little studio in the heart of town. Of course you can also find a hostel or couch-surf, whatever fits you best.

Here are some websites you can use when looking for a place to stay:

6. Pack your suitcase

Remember to pack your toothbrush and socks!

7. Catch your flight

Be at the airport in time.

8. Enjoy!

Some wonderful times are ahead of you! Get to know a new culture, new people and make the world a little nicer for everyone.

You have worked as a volunteer in Germany and want to tell us your story? Send us an e-mail!

Originally published March 3, 2017