Finding My Feet In A New City
Picture source: Wikicommons
My expat experience began on a road trip as I was moving from Georgia to Seattle. It was a pleasure seeing all the new and fascinating American locales, but so much time alone can be dangerous. I left each city thinking “That was cool, but not as cool as Berlin.” This slowly morphed into “Man I wish I were moving to Berlin instead of Seattle,” and somewhere around Minneapolis I finally landed at “Well…why aren’t I?” With no real answer to that question I reached sunny San Francisco, turned back east, booked a flight to Berlin, and one month later I was here- no plans, no contacts, and no satisfactory explanation as to why other than “I wanted to see what would happen.”
I guess I hadn’t really thought through exactly what kinds of challenges an expat faces when he relocates point blank. Work in Germany doesn’t immediately present itself. Apartments to rent don’t fall from the sky. The work permit application process left me spinning, but you have to start at the bottom, so I became a frequent visitor of the ausländerbehörde- or work office. On my third visit in as many days I got turned away for “filling out the wrong form” and, left with no other recourse, cried right there on the front steps. “What have I done”, I thought. “No one is helping me”.
It didn’t improve company morale that I had already moved four times in a two month period; friends of friends of friends offered temporary abode. One night I found myself sitting in the beautiful apartment of a complete stranger who was out of town, leaving me to man the fort. Everything in it was so foreign, so personal to someone else, and I realised just how flighty I had been with my concept of home; how loosely I had held on to where I came from. I tried to imagine a time in the future when I would have my own floor to walk on, and a bookshelf to hold my own books. The more time I spent trying to find these things the more I realised what it takes to get them: command of the language, time devoted to searching through what is a notoriously internet-unfriendly city, and most importantly personal connections. That night it all struck me as so unapproachable. I felt like the only boy in the world.
That is until one small website start-up I came across who decided to take a chance on a suitcase kid and hire me on as a “marketing intern”, all because I said I wanted to learn. That was the day that Berlin really started for me.
Ironically, this website turned out to be the one site I had been hoping to find all along! The company’s mission is to unite lost internationals like myself with the businesses and services we need to get our life going. Apart from the myriad resources available for apartments, jobs, sports, etc., the team opened up my world personally. The two founders- Mario and Anja- genuinely take care of me here; we cook, play ping-pong, and watch the snow fall from our office in Mitte. At our monthly events I’ve met fellow internationals with whom I’m building good friendships, not to mention the business contacts. Had I not stumbled upon this job early on in my Berlin career who knows how long I would have floundered around trying to establish myself? The warmth with which they welcomed me and all expats has already forged strong loyalty, and let me feel like I’m on my feet again. I’m very lucky, but most important to remember is that my success is not exceptional. If I can do it, literally anyone can.
About the author
Grant Parker is a 24-year-old writer, traveller and avid gymnast currently setting up shop in Berlin, Germany. He writes two personal blogs, studies SEO and computer programming, and has been working for g1obals.org since October.
You can check out his other writings at http://apply.g1obals.org/blog and http://grantparkertumbler.tumblr.com/ or tweeting at @gparker546