If you’re moving anywhere new, it’s unlikely to be a walk in the park – and it can be easy to underestimate the colossal length of the organisational checklist that comes with relocating abroad. Sometimes you just can’t prepare for everything, and you’ll wish you’d known some of the things before you got there! So with a little help from some fellow expats, we’ve put together a quick guide to help your transition to Germany go without a hitch.
Suss out the costsSomething that may either seem obvious or not even cross your mind at all is the salary to cost of living ratio. Food shopping may cost more or less than at home, housing won’t cost the same, transport won’t be the same. All of these things add up to make a big difference: without doing your research it may turn out that you have far less (or far more!) money left over at the end of the month than you first presumed, so be prepared and don’t allow anything to take you by surprise.
Don’t assume anything as a given and check before you move. You’re going to need time to visit banks and schools so make sure your employer (if you’ve already secured a job) is willing to give you time to do these little important errands when you first arrive. A lot of banks in Germany aren’t open on weekends so you may need to free up a morning here or there to sort out your ‘life-min’. If you haven’t already found a job, make sure you look into the qualifications required in your field of choice since not all employers will accept a foreign degree!
Steering towards a successful transition
Another little detail that might be easily overlooked when moving to abroad is the acquisition of foreign formal documents like a driver’s license. If you have a driver’s license from your home country – it can be exchanged for a German license during the first few months of your residency, but this time period depends on where you’re coming from. Some countries (and US States) have less comprehensive agreements with the German authorities so it can be a little more complicated so make sure you check this in advance! If you do not follow the necessary procedures to exchange your home license, you may end up having to do the full driver’s course which is time consuming and very expensive.
Learning the lingo will go a long way
It may seem a little obvious, but learning the German language as a means of integration really is an important tool. If the locals identify the fact that you are making an effort to communicative via their native tongue then they will actively help you to develop your understanding of the language whilst it will also help you to gain their respect: a good way to start is to take into account that you’ll need to adapt to your new country, don’t expect it to adapt to you! Current expats suggest on our Hints & Tips pages that you start off small, even something as simple as buying your groceries at the local shop in German, build up a relationship with the clerk until you’re in a position where you actually refuse to speak in English. Challenging yourself will go a long way!
Avoiding the bubble
A phrase that pops up regularly in tips from our expat friends as something to avoid, is the ‘Expat Ghetto’ Syndrome – perhaps more widely known as the ‘expat bubble’. I’m sure you can imagine where this is going, but it really is important that once you arrive and settle in Germany, you don’t shy away from submerging yourself into the local community. We know that it’s far easier to meet fellow expats who are in the same boat as you and speak the same language, but no great adventure ever started by taking the easy route. Get involved in local charity work, invite your neighbours over for a barbecue, don’t avoid the community – be the community. In the style of Robert Frost, take the path less travelled by and throw your prejudice aside.