Living in Germany... not something I ever thought I'd say. Life is a funny thing, I say to myself while admiring the sunset from my balcony, in Germany. My life as an expat started many, many, many years ago when I left home to pursue my studies abroad. I never returned, but instead, I transitioned from an international student to an expat. My life was pretty settled in the UK. I met my husband, established our companies there, got our citizenships and became full-fledged Brits - is that even a thing?
A couple of years ago we moved away from the UK and tried to find our new home. We settled in Portugal for a while, lived in Spain with its pros and cons, then in Japan for as long as our visa allowed before moving to Budapest for a year. Budapest was an easy choice as G speaks Hungarian, so we thought it will make sense to at least have a base for a while. However, living in Hungary turned out to have its own issues.
As we didn't want to renew our tenancy contract in Budapest, we started thinking of new options. We were ready to settle down somewhere and have the same life as we used to have back in Britain. We wanted a permanent home in a civilised country. We wanted efficiency and rules which make sense and we wanted to feel comfortable driving our car. Of course, we wanted good food and good weather, but we realised we might need to compromise. After all, no place is perfect, right? So... how in the world, did we manage to pick Germany of all places in the world? How did we end up living in Germany?
Living in Germany - our expat story - Contents
How did we end up living in Germany
As previously mentioned, we didn't quite plan to move to Germany. In fact, Germany was very low on our list. Mainly because every single time we went on a road trip and stopped in a German city we weren't very impressed. Not because the cities weren't pretty or nice enough, but because they didn't feel like home, we didn't have 'love at first sight'. There are places in the world which make you feel like you belong and we were yet to find a German city which had that.
However, last year in July, we got invited to visit Hamburg. As we didn't want to fly, we arranged for a road trip instead. We needed a place to stay for one night on the way so we decided to pick Dresden. It was roughly halfway between Budapest and Hamburg so it seemed like the right place for us. We got in touch with the tourism board and decided to go ahead and create a campaign for Dresden as well. We stayed for two nights in Dresden. We didn't think much of it before we arrived, but we honestly had the time of our life. We absolutely loved it.
It was also last year that we went on a 2-week road trip around Norway. Since we loved our time in Norway so much, we started considering Norway as a serious contender. On the list was also Canada, given it was an English speaking country with really nice people and amazing nature.
Still, how the hell did we end up living in Germany? After lots of consideration, just before our contract ended in Budapest, we decided to check out Dresden again. We thought it ticks all the boxes for us. We initially laughed at the idea. Can you imagine us, living in Germany? But the reality is, the more we looked into it, the more excited we got. In fact, we are now wondering how come we didn't consider Germany in the first place.
We started looking for short term rental options. We thought we can try Dresden for a month and see if we still like it as much. Then, we can continue our quest to Norway or Canada, or simply find a long term accommodation in Dresden. Good, bad, who knows? If we don't try we'll never know.
We found this amazing Airbnb for a month which was in the location we loved the most in Dresden. Pure luck, if you ask us. Almost as if, the stars were already aligning for us...
P.S Our landlady's mother has this incredible Airbnb listing in Croatia. You should check it out. It's located in Istria, which is a really cool place in Croatia. From there you can also take day trips to Venice. Also, if you are new to Airbnb, use this code to get €39 towards your first trip.
Moving to Germany
With our temporary accommodation in place, we packed our bags and drove for 7 hours from Budapest to Dresden. February was a crazy month for us. We visited Romania at the beginning of the month, then worked on a campaign in Ottawa, Canada. We fell in love with Canada and knew that we can always revisit our Canada plans if Germany doesn't work out.
We also sold our Ford Focus and bought a brand new car so we can do more road trips around Europe. The idea was to get an automatic car so we can drive easier. We also wanted to invest in a larger car with a bigger boot capacity so we can move countries and transport all our stuff in one go. Then, of course, since we drive so much, we wanted a safe car. We wanted a car which is easier to drive and has a lot of safety features built in. And so, we bought 'Jupiter', our Suzuki S-Cross.
We packed our stuff within one weekend. We are so used to packing it takes virtually no time to organise our things. We loaded the car and eagerly waited to start our new experiment in Dresden, Germany.
The move itself was not too stressful. We literally parked the car outside of our house, picked up the house keys and that's it. We were in. We are so grateful we live in an era where these transactions are possible. Finding a house online, booking it in advance for a whole month. It's pretty incredible.
After just a few days - we loved the house so much - we decided to extend for three months. We thought, hey, it will be good to have a base for a little while and three months will give us the right time to decide what's our next move.
Darling, should we live in Germany?
The question came after a couple of pints. And the answer was: YES! We should!
We were happy. We were finally, excited about the place we lived in. After we settled in our short term flat, we invited our landlords for a couple of beers. We thought it will be nice to get to know each other better. Ultimately, these people needed to know we are not some weird criminals, but just a happily married couple, responsible and reliable. To be fair, if I'd rent out my house, I'd like to meet the people in question. Trust goes a long way.
So we met our landlords who live downstairs. Ok, what are the chances that they are young, nice and really cool? They were friendly, they spoke perfect English and they were a laugh! In fact, we got on so well, we now meet on a regular basis. It's awesome.
And so... we decided to extend our stay yet again. And now, we are officially staying for at least one year.
Since we already worked in partnership with the tourism board here, we thought it would be nice to ask them out for a cup of coffee. It's always good to put a face to the name and we thought we should let them know we are here if they need help with any marketing - we are shameless.
We arranged for a meeting and got to meet two of the lovely people working for the tourism board. And so, we made new friends. We later met with the representative and his girlfriend - this time strictly outside of work, as friends - which was pretty great. For the first time since we've been married, we feel like we can meet like-minded people and establish friendships.
Everyone is eager to introduce us to their friends and make us feel included. It's a wonderful feeling. We actually feel like we belong. And we started having a social life again, not something we had for a long time due to our constant nomadic lifestyle.
Dresden started to feel real. Started to feel like home. We love our flat, love our neighbours, love our landlords, love our friends. What's going on?
Living in Germany
So we are here for at least one year. The way things are going, we are seriously considering putting down roots here. So far, this place exceeds all our expectations. We also know Germany is not for everyone and we are bracing ourselves to face some upcoming challenges.
For example, we know we will need to go through a lot of bureaucracy to register ourselves as residents should we actually decided to move here permanently. We know that we need to probably incorporate a company here once the UK completes Brexit (argh, so silly). We know that we need to register our car here and change the number plate and swap our driver licences to a German one.
All these things take time and they can't be done from one day to another. But then, in exchange, we'll be part of a new community, within the European Union.
And then, there is the language issue. We don't speak German but the more we hear it the more we want to learn it. We want to be part of the community and be able to discuss with others in both English and German. So this is something we are looking into. Taking German classes is also a new way to have fun. Both G and I love the idea of learning a new language and in doing so we'll have a new hobby.
But it's not all easy. We are newcomers here and we have a lot to learn. For example, we didn't know we need to display a device which shows the time when we arrived at the free supermarket car park, so we got ourselves a fine. No doubt we will have ups and downs but we are excited to face them together.
What is living in Germany like?
Well for one, we get to see the word "dick" on our potatoes so that's a win. And every single time we take a turn we are being wished a good "fahrt" - so hard not to love the Germans. ("dick" means "thick" and "fahrt" means "journey" in German.)
Silly jokes aside, we enjoy our life here. We finally feel great. We love living in Germany and really love interacting with German people. We like Germans and we feel like we are somehow very similar to them.
We like the weather. We missed the four seasons. We missed sunshine and snow and like the idea of having four season wardrobes. We enjoy the beer garden culture, we also like how crazy outdoorsy everyone is here. Night and day, rain or sunshine, there are people on bikes, people running, parents playing with their kids, old people taking the dog out for long walks. Everything here feels normal, human, with emotions. Not everything is transactional and robotic.
When we ask people if they speak English, they always get a bit shy and we all have a laugh. We all have a good time. We are humans who try to communicate. We didn't feel rejected, nor we felt unwelcomed because of language barriers.
And then, there is the silence. Oh, Germans love their silence and to keep quiet after dark. This is so important here. We absolutely love this and honestly, it's something we really missed about the UK. People are considerate and quiet. Again, we are certain it's not always like that, or it doesn't apply to the whole country. But it does apply to the place we now call home, and it's pretty magical.
The supermarkets have international food so I managed to get back to my cooking routine. Our flat comes with a huge balcony so we can enjoy our coffee with a view. There are rules and regulations in place and we love that. We love respecting the rules. We also love that we can finally do proper recycling - crazy we know!
Of course, we have Amazon and 'one day delivery' for everything we need. We have supermarkets everywhere. There are pedestrian-only paths, and bike lanes and bike paths. During the summer, we are going to have lots of festivals so we already know it's going to be great.
We love the little quirks and we actually enjoy the German way of living. We are glad we didn't listen to other expats who claim Germany is not a great place to live. We believe, if it's done right, this place is magic.
So what happens next?
Well, we are sure it's not going to be always easy, so we will keep this post updated with some of the hardships of living in Germany. Like registering as a resident or opening a bank account. In the meantime, we are just going to enjoy our new life here.
Do you live in Germany? How is life in Germany for you? Let us know in the comments section below.