This month we speak to Ned, who hails from London with Irish and German parents.
As part of an ongoing monthly series where we do a regular expat blog interview, this month we explore some of the difficulties faced by foreigners when they come to Germany to study, as well as some of the many advantages of Germany as a destination for university education. Spoiler alert, the dreaded bureaucracy gets mentioned quite often!
Expat Blog Interview: Ned, From London To Leipzig
Ned made the move from London to Germany to go and study in Leipzig.
First of all, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Sure, I’m twenty years old, I’m from London. I basically just finished my A levels and I thought, uni in the UK… you know…£9k a year even before all your living costs, and I knew that was ridiculously expensive. I couldn’t really fathom it. In total, I think it’s about £56,000 in total that it will put you in debt. It just felt like a tax on living, on everything I would earn in the future. This felt unfair, unjust, however you want to put it.
This lead me to other alternatives. I’m half German, half Irish, so my mom knew there were cheaper ways to study abroad. Here in Leipzig it’s…I think €216 a semester. That was the main reason for being here, but there were other reasons. I was tired of things being so expensive in London. I used to come here to Germany and I knew things were cheaper here. Which is important when you’re a student!
Yeah, that’s very important! So you mentioned the cost of uni in the UK, and having strong connections to Germany through your family. Could you already speak German when you moved out here?
I could speak German, yeah. I was fluent before I came here. Well, perhaps not fluent, but I’d spoken the language since I was young. My mom spoke it at me, and I used to speak English back, but I think it sort of saved itself subconsciously. And that wakened itself when I came here. But there was definitely a struggle in learning the language to a point where I was so fluent that people wouldn’t know I was from another country. Which it has gotten to now, luckily.
Wow, that’s good. Everyone can still tell that I’m foreign, but I get asked if I’m Dutch quite often. I guess that’s a compliment though considering how good at languages they are!
But yeah, I think one of the things that, if you read Twitter, or read the expat website forums, as far as I can see, the biggest challenge for most people is the language. All the things that spring from that: dealing with bureaucracy and how things tick in the workplace, or even more social aspects like dating. All those frustrations seem for the most part to stem from not being fluent in the language.
So, when you first got here, other than things being cheaper than in London, what was pretty much as you expected it to be, and was there anything that took you by surprise, even though you were familiar with the city through family connections?
I had a lot of things that I thought Germany was going to be. Not all of which were particularly true. I thought that the people were more open, which isn’t always the case, although I have met people who are extremely open. But generally, I think Germans are not as open (edit: as the British). And I thought oh, it will be easy registering at a university…
I didn’t really know that German bureaucracy was such a thing. To my distaste it was pretty bluntly shoved in my face. And that wasn’t very nice. I tried to get my English A-levels translated over to the German equivalent grade, and it was a nightmare. To be honest after a year and a half I still hav