Untouchable bees, the cult of sports, and Nur Deutsch — features of life in Germany
Human Resource Business Partner Nataliya Aliseiko shared her relocation experience especially for the Anywhere Club blog.
— In December 2020, my husband Maxim, my cat Johnsy, and I moved from Belarus to the small town of Hildesheim in Lower Saxony, Germany.
We didn't have any time to adapt. A week after our move, the lockdown began, and literally everything was closed in the country. We only had time to register at the place of residence, and buy something for Christmas and New Year.
Moving with a family is easier in the sense that there is always someone to rely on, consult, and make a decision with. And planning, of course. Relocation is a serious project. But it can be deconstructed into tasks and distributed by priorities, deadlines, and responsibilities. So, for example, Maxim was selling our car, while I was renting an apartment for us, and so on.
— Of course, for relocation planning, you must have a reserve of money. Many companies offer relocation packages, but they do not cover all costs, and this is particularly true in force majeure situations. In Germany, the most important point is housing. Finding an available and comfortable place used to be a challenging task in any region. It is especially difficult and expensive in Berlin and Munich. Now, the demand has increased even more. You need to prepare for very long searches and spending on Airbnb or hotels before settling into long-term housing. Apartments in Germany are mostly rented without furniture and equipment, so you need to budget for at least the minimal essentials to equip the apartment. You also need to consider that the lease agreement requires the payment of Kaution — a deposit in the amount of one or more monthly rental payments. We were very lucky that my husband's company paid for the services of a broker who, before we moved, found us a large and fully furnished apartment, the rent for which includes all utility bills.
Money will also have to be set aside for confirmation of a driver's license (from about 1000 euros).
— We did not experience a culture shock when we moved, since Germany is not an exotic country and, having been a tourist in most European countries, it is difficult to be surprised by things at this point. The Germans impress me personally, though, since they are law-abiding, calm, and friendly.
Yes, you need to learn a lot of laws (from the ban on killing bees to the observance of quiet hours in the evenings and weekends) and really follow them without cutting corners, but in most cases, you’ll understand why you are doing it.
Bureaucracy also exists on a large scale, but we were ready for this.
A surprising negative experience appeared after regular trips with Deutsche Bahn - constant delays of trains. As a result, it is difficult to plan transfers or guarantee arrival at a certain time. This does not fit in with the punctuality of the Germans and the characteristic Ordnung (order).
An important thing that I was not ready for - in Germany, not everyone speaks English, especially in the regions. Even at the migration offices, no one is obliged to speak English with you, and this is even more so for other services. Therefore, knowing German is the key to successful integration. It’s good to have basic knowledge by the time you move. I started studying with a tutor a month and a half before leaving, and a year and six months later I reached the B2 level. For IT specialists, this brings good benefits. Blaue Karte holders (holders of the residence permit for highly qualified specialists) can obtain permanent residence after 21 months of living in the country by presenting a German B1 certificate.
— We love cinema, theater, music, and travel in all forms. And there are opportunities for all of these things here. We go to the cinema with voice acting in English, we regularly go to Hannover and Hamburg to see theatrical performances, and after covid restrictions were reduced, tours of various groups and musicians have returned. Maxim recently attended a Nick Cave concert and, in October, we are going to see The Cure. In terms of travel, the wish list within Germany is simply huge. Not to mention other countries, which are much easier to get from Germany. Sports, and wandern in particular (traveling on foot), are elevated to cult status here. It's impossible not to get involved in it. We live near the Harz (mountains in Northern Germany) and almost every weekend we go hiking in these mountains, collecting stamps in a special book for travelers in this area (we meet the same tourists of all ages on the paths — from toddlers to very old people). We live near the North and Baltic Seas, where we like to travel often — to stay with a tent, swim, or just go to a fish restaurant or an aquarium. It’s also nice that, in a city of any size, there are exhibitions, concerts, and festivals, so it’s very difficult to get bored.
As for friends, we mostly communicate with them offline, oddly enough. In recent years, many have gone to different countries, and we perceive this not as an obstacle, but as an opportunity for travel. So, someone comes to visit us, or we go to someone, or we meet on neutral territory. A couple of weeks ago, we spent a weekend camping in Poland with friends, and right now my parents are here to visit us.
I work from home (and get a nice tax deduction for this and setting up a home office), and my husband goes to his office 10 minutes from our home. We are in different camps. I am in favor of flexibility and I can work from anywhere: coworking, cafe, home, or office. He values the separation of his work and personal life, as well as socialization with colleagues.
There are a lot of coworking spaces even in our town, from network to local ones. The price varies depending on the location, content, and modernity; ranging from 11 to 35 euros per day (a monthly pass, of course, is more cost effective).
— In order for your adaptation to be as comfortable as possible, you need to be open to everything new: pleasant and unpleasant. It is also better to know German or start learning it before you arrive.
Fortunately, there is a lot to watch and read about Germany:
- Russian site with a sea of useful information — www.tupa-germania.ru;
- YouTube channel — Deutsche Welle;
- A useful channel for learning German — Easy German;
- Funny but honest Radical Living channel; and
- Interesting experience of an expat from the USA — NALF.
— We really like it here, the country and the mentality fit our character and lifestyle. Moreover, being at home, you begin to miss Germany. But still, there is something that is missing here. Good coffee. Yes, it's hard to find really good coffee shops. But nothing can replace freedom of movement, travel, a sense of security, and safety.