On the surface, moving from Canada to Germany seemed like a simple enough task. Germans are pretty similar to Canadians, right?
When reality hit, I allowed (ha!) myself to become overwhelmed with the anxiety and concern of what do I need to do? When you move somewhere in Germany, you have 14 days to register at the Bürgeramt for an Anmeldung – and if you don’t? Well, let’s just say I didn’t want to find out. I had already read in a number of different blogs, social media groups, and German websites, that this process happens once you have a document from your landlord verifying that you do actually have an apartment in your name. I know there’s a way to do it during temporary stay if you find a sublet or something, but that’s another story that I don’t know the answer to.
I had stayed in Airbnbs for two months, 9 weeks to be exact, when I first went to Leipzig, Germany in the Fall of 2017 to scope out the city, take some intensive German language courses, and search for a place to live. I found an apartment, so being back in Canada between Christmastime and St. Patrick’s Day gave me time to figure out some of the basic necessities for moving to Germany. Even with this list and the frequent research, I still wasn’t fully prepared, how could I be?
I wanted to feel like I knew some information about how to get a bank account set-up, where to buy furniture, how to get internet, how to get a cell phone plan. Side note: unless you do pre-paid phone cards or take over someone’s internet contract, you’re going to be locked in to a two-year contract. There are ways to break contract, but you have to prove that you are no longer in the country, or somewhere that internet/phone provider doesn’t reach (but that’s again another story, one that isn’t my reality…yet). I lurked the internet for blogs on what people’s preferences were for tech providers and banks, I asked German friends what they use and why, and I came to the conclusion I wanted to follow in the footsteps of the Germans I know – they live in the country, so do as the locals do.
Reality strikes again! Arriving in Germany: you reeeeeeaaaaalllly need a bank account for almost anything! You cannot get a monthly plan without a German bank account, you probably can’t buy furniture off a German website, without a German bank account; the list is long. Circle back to the beginning where I note that you need to register in the city ASAP – you can’t get a bank account without first having done this. You’re welcome. German bureaucracy: 1, Me: 0. It happens a lot.
Rewind back to the feelings and mixed bag of emotions preparing to move to another country where English is not the dominant language, and to a city in the East, where English is not nearly as prevalent as in the West. “This is what I want”, I often remind myself, “personal growth comes from challenging yourself in new and different ways”.
The final two weeks before departure were distressing to say the least. Selling furniture, organizing pickups and deliveries of furniture and household items to friends and family, packing up what to move across the ocean, printing important documents, going over again-and-again what documents are necessary, trying not to spend money on impulse purchases, trying to eat what’s already in the fridge and cupboards, finding time to say farewells. This all takes more time than what’s planned for. If you’re a procrastinator like me, you find yourself thinking “why didn’t I do blank earlier?” “how on earth am I going to get all of this stuff done before I leave?”
Family and friends, the strong community of support: Love and appreciate them. I can say with complete honesty, I am quite doubtful that I would be on this exciting life adventure had I not had the love and support of those closest to me. I am extremely grateful that I have the opportunity to move and live abroad in another country and explore new cultural experiences. With all of this, comes hardships: saying the auf wiedersehen’s, and I am a fairly social person, so this was time consuming and emotionally taxing. I consider myself to be self-reflexive and I reflect a lot on past experiences and how I have been shaped to be the current/present self. I am an emotional basket-case with the most joyous emotions and moderately depressing ones. I logically know that I’m not really far from any of these people, I will see them again soon, digital technologies make it so that we don’t even have to miss each other’s faces. Even with all of this, the missing of being in someone’s actual physical presence is hard. Make time for those see ya later’s.
Needless to say, prepare for the unexpected, prepare to be unprepared. I learned a long time ago that no matter how much you plan for and try to be prepared for, life will always change things up on you. Keep those thoughtful and kind people close, as you fill your picnic-basket up with emotions of concern, fear, anxiety, happiness, excitement, regret, wonder, pride, and whatever else. Plan out some of the life basics. I recommend TransferWise as a low-fee transfer website when you’re planning to do some international transfers. And I was successful with getting an N26 online bank account. Depending what country you’re going to, N26 is totally worth it as it’s free and comes with a debit/MasterCard, you can withdraw funds at certain participating stores (ie. REWE and Penny grocery stores in Germany). Recommended to also get a traditional German bank account to have a generic EC card in case, some older stores won’t accept a debit/credit card.