This piece was written for Enchanted Serendipity’s Expat Series by Susanna from Wandering Chocobo Blog.
My life from the outside appears to be a fairy tale.
Every time I talked about my upcoming adventure my audience would declare their envy. I had found what so many out there want: true love with someone in a far off land and the opportunity to leave it all behind for love and a new life in Germany.
Before we decided to commit. My partner, (an Australian) and I (an American) did long distance with long romantic weekends, but we both had a good life right where we were. So, why would one of us, both strong independent people, give up what we had for each other and make a new life?
Even through I was the envy of many, I heard many stories of people moving for love and regretting it all. One story that haunted me in particular was that of a woman who followed her love to China where he was offered a job. With nothing to claim as her own, a non-removable wedge was driven between them. The more stories like this I read the more scared I would become. I had never lived with a boyfriend and I have never lived in a small apartment in a big city and now here I was about to set off to experience all these firsts with a boy I had known for only a year, and headed abroad.
Making The Move For Love
My partner had an amazing job offer in Germany, so it was the natural answer for me to quit mine and sell my things and move over as well- but I was determined to establish my own sense of identity and life in my new home.
I think one major piece of advice I can offer anyone considering moving overseas for love, is to not let love be the only thing you move for (as romantic as it sounds). The first week or two with him was very hard to focus on creating an independent life. I cried a lot.
All I could think about was the freedom I left behind: my car, my friends, my family and everything I owned. I was scared to be honest. It created a lot of tension between my boyfriend and I.
He was so happy to finally be with me and I just sat there crying. He took it personally, even through it was an inner battle I was fighting. I told him I needed him to let me grieve and part with my past in order to focus on our future. Just in the last few weeks of writing this, our relationship has come to a steady and happy place and that’s because I worked really hard to create a life for myself in Germany.
Focusing On What I Wanted In My Expat Experience
I started by promising myself I wouldn’t just settle for a job, to have a job. I decided to pursue my passions. I knew if I picked up the first job offered to me at a café I would be miserable. My biggest complaint about working my life away back home was I never had time to write. So, I now dedicate at least an hour a day to writing and I let my boyfriend know when I need my space to go off and write.
I enrolled in intensive German classes, since a goal of mine was to always be fluent in another language. That keeps me busy and gets me out of bed at a decent hour every day. I have also met some amazing people in my class. This gives me a group of friends separate from my boyfriend and his friends.
I also spent extra money to move my snowboard with me. Snowboarding is my therapy and having it allows me the freedom to take off to the alps on my own. I also spend a lot of time hiking and exploring surrounding areas.
Jumping Through Hoops To Live In The World’s Best Country
Germany has been in the news a lot lately as the new golden land. Recently rated the best country to live in along with free college education and amazing health care, many want-to-be expats turn their attention on Germany. The benefits are worth it, but it’s not quite the walk in the park many might assume.
But I went through many hoops I was not prepared to go through. German health care is known for being one of the best in the world. Despite that, it’s all very complicated in terms of public vs private. In order to pay for it I had to open a German bank account, since most places only accept bank to bank transfers to pay for things (including my German phone plan.) With some money in the bank I turned my attention to the free German education I heard so much about.
I was excited to look into going back to school, since I had thought about continuing my college education for several years, but the thought of crippling debt often turned me off. I began furiously researching ways to obtain my masters degree, for free. First I had to write to my alma matter to get certified copies of my diploma and transcript. From there I realized that very few degrees were taught in English, so my options were very limited. On top of that, in order to apply for a student visa I would have to open another bank account, this one a locked student bank account with a large sum to open and a limit on my monthly spending. I decided this option might not be for me, since I was in Germany to pursue my passions and not spent another 4-6 years in school.
So I began to look at other visa options as my 90 day holiday visa came closer to ending. If I wanted to stay longer I would have to apply for a resident visa, which could be as a student, worker or looking for work visa. I became more and more stressed out. Every website I read had different information on it and after several trips to the KVR about my visa options, I was more confused than ever as to what visa to apply for. Every option was vague in description and required a lot of money and paperwork. I finally was able to apply for a “looking for work visa.” With plans to be here close to 3 years and no plans for marriage I have a feeling I am going to be dumping a lot of stress and money into visa applications. My hope is to soon become self employed.
Adjusting To Life In Germany
Life in Bavaria is much more different than I would have anticipated.
Munich is a very quiet town where everyone keeps to themselves. Shops are closed on Sunday and are only open for 8 hours a day. Walking down the street no one looks at me and says hello. People keep to themselves. I feel very safe and comfortable here, which is great, but I also feel very alone at times. It’s a running joke among expats in Germany that the only time the Germans looks at you is when they’re staring at you on the U-bahn.
The biggest culture shock for me is how conservative Munich is. Bavarians are known to be risqué in private, but in public things like high heels, short skirts and funky eclectic clothing are frowned upon. As someone who has always dressed a little uniquely and as someone who is loud and proud I often feel out of place. The good thing about Bavaria though is with all the celebrations, such as Oktoberfest (and copious amounts of beer) there are opportunities to socialize on holidays.
Even with little struggles to fit in, overall my experience has been great.
Aside from the visa stress, the awkward stares on the U-bahn and living in a small apartment with a man I met a year ago I am very happy with my decision. Overcoming the difficulties, my relationship is stronger than ever and I’ve learned a lot about myself.
I am a well versed traveler and always considered myself very outgoing, but moving overseas has challenged me in a good way, and left me feeling exposed and vulnerable for the first time in my life.
The key for me is the ability to laugh off many things, like when I go to the store looking for Quinoa and come home with strange white German sausage!
If you enjoyed this piece, be sure to check out Danielle’s story about being an American expat in Italy and South Korea!