My Journey As An Expat In Germany, And Why I Started This Site
I remember it well. August 1998.
I was a 20 year old Modern Languages student about to embark on my 3rd year of my Bachelors degree, which entailed spending a year in German-speaking country.
I packed my life into 2 suitcases.
There was no Easyjet or Ryanair. Nobody really had a mobile phone except those who needed one for work. No Facebook, no Meetup and certainly no Tinder. Networking back in the day was not as easy for a Billy-No-Mates freshly landed in a strange country.
I had decided to work for a year as a Praktikant (intern). I wanted to avoid falling into the trap of doing an Erasmus year at a German university, spending all of my time in the Irish Pub with other English speakers. I had one year, with no distractions, to stand out from my classmates and turn around what were fairly average grades into graduating with a decent degree.
My employer was located in a village 15km outside of Dresden. A small branch of a southern German company making sensor technology, who expanded into the East shortly after reunification. No expats or folks my age at work.
Deepest, darkest, former East Germany. Only kids under the age of 18 had learnt any English in school since the changes brought about through German reunification. In short, I was thrown in at the deep end. I had to improve my German through pure immersion.
The first 6 months were probably the toughest I’ve experienced. I earned the equivalent of €500 gross a month, which even then wasn’t very much. I was homesick, winter was setting in, I had no money to travel and I struggled to meet people with similar interests.
I was incredibly reliant on the kindness of flatmates, work colleagues and their friends and acquaintances when it came to “getting stuff done”. It could easily have been different if I hadn’t had the good fortune to have helpful people around me. I knew nobody when I arrived.
Reminiscing this little story helps me realise how grateful and lucky I was back then for having a helpful boss and a friendly flatmate to prevent a shitty situation from being a lot worse.
8 years later, when I moved to Germany this time around for career reasons, I would have been screwed if I didn’t speak German. Again, having no contacts here to rely on for help when I first arrived, I had to figure stuff out myself. Like most employers, HR were not very helpful in guiding me through what I needed to do to get settled, other than providing some much appreciated financial assistance for relocation expenses.
My saving grace was being able to speak the language and having some understanding of the cultural nuances of life in Germany that I had picked up during my year as an intern in Dresden. That was my “unfair advantage” I guess. Many who are in a similar situation now as I was in back then don’t have that.
Which leads into how Live Work Germany came into being, and how we can help you.
Through telling this story, I know how great it would have been to have somebody take care of all the supposedly simple but also very time-consuming issues and problems you encounter as a newcomer in a foreign country.
Germany, with its sometimes infuriating bureaucracy and over-complicated ways of doing things, likes to hit us with roadblocks from time to time when we least expect them. Especially for non-German speakers, dealing with this can be hard.
It’s easy – but also very risky – to bury your head in the sand and hope these issues will go away. Trust me on this one, they won’t.
For all the confused expats in Germany, we are here to help you.
Talk to us to find out how.
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