Moving to a new country brings such a unique plethora of emotions. The adrenaline rush from making your smartest or stupidest decision of a lifetime, the teary goodbyes, the fear of failure or of beginning all over again, the excitement of unseen landscapes and all the amazing(read: exhausting) paperwork you need to churn out and process to finally get there. Moving to Germany is no different. Without further adieu, here are some things I feel one should know besides the obvious stuff, before you jump into a plane/train/spaceship and get here.
Rules are meant to be followed
As is well-known across the world, Germans religiously follow rules. This creates for an insanely predictable mechanism that almost never breaks down. The trust in the ecosystem here as well as in public institutions is totally worth the hype. If you’re from a country where you easily flout rules and regulations, you will not have a good time here. The downside to this ‘process driven’ economy is that everything takes its own sweet time. A simple thing such as opening a bank account could take one or two weeks. A simple request for your income tax ID might take 4 weeks. However, at the end of the day stuff just works.
Stores do not open on Sundays
As a student worker, my weekdays are just round the clock crazy. Cooking, cleaning, washing, working and studying take up the majority of my time. Since, Sundays almost all supermarkets are closed, with the obvious exception of million plus cities, I have to spend all my Saturday doing multiple rounds of grocery shopping. This is particularly not fun, when you want to spend your weekend with loved ones or work-out or take any other time out just for yourself.
On the bright side, this means i do absolutely nothing on Sundays. If i cannot get food, or say buy a book, I am probably just going to laze around and eat left-overs in my pajamas. Germans think this is great since everyone deserves a full day of rest, the people working at the supermarket are human too. But this makes for one hell of an inconvenient week.
Labor is highly valued
Shared with other developed countries, or lets say most developed countries, as a worker you are inherently highly valued. The jest of why this is so, is because if you stopped working, you would stop contributing to the tax+social security+pension+insurance system, which means basically the mechanism of the young people working to pay off the old folks’ pension would simply go Kaputt. Even if the government could fund public expenditure on old reserves, it would be hard to fuel the entire pension system without the working class. Since everyone making more than €450 a month has to compulsorily contribute to this, it does not matter what you do, who you are or where you are. You are important. Period.
Home Delivery? I beg your pardon?
Along the lines of labor being highly valued, comes the question of how are you valued. Minimum wages although not the highest in the world are significant enough to not engage in home-delivery of goods or services. Big cities would ultimately have more flexibility when it comes to this, but on average you have to do everything by yourself. I repeat, everything.
If you’re moving from a developing country such as India or Brazil, not only will you find this highly inconvenient but a major culture shock to adapt to.
Want to order a study table? Great, if we bring it to you, you got to make it yourself. Piece by Piece.
I spent one entire day building a single chair from Ikea. It was not funny at all. I suck at building stuff, why is some one else earlier in the supply chain not doing this? Why is there not affordable ready-to-use furniture? Especially when every friend of mine has the same table anyway. It’s not like I custom designed this chair and hence the effort of putting it together was totally worth it. I love Ikea. (this is not a sponsored rant, clearly). But i swear on some one’s God, i hate building/assembling furniture. I was not raised a carpenter/wood assembler or whatever else I need to be and sometimes stuff I assemble just doesn’t work. Have I mentioned, my Ikea mirror is about to fall anytime now?
Customer Service is non-existent
While service on average is excellent, such as the cashiers at supermarkets have the fastest goods-scanned-to-billing-time in the world; if something goes wrong though, you are screwed. I tried to cancel or find a way to get my ID verified for a simple credit card I ordered online, and I kid you not, it took me legit two months to figure out how to pay back my balance and cancel the card. This involved multiple angry letters exchanged between me and the bank, multiple ID proofs rejected at the Post office, and many useless phone calls that offered no help in both German and English, and then finally somehow I got to the head of the service who understood what my problem was and could help.
I will not name the bank or the service, but you get the point. At first, I thought it must be not fluent German, but when I spoke to other friends who had also lived in different countries confessed having the same problem.
There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing
If there is one thing you MUST do, when you move from a warmer country to Germany, please extensively analyse future weather reports. I spent all weekend locked up in my flat because going out meant wearing 4 more layers of clothes and embracing for -15 degrees weather. Nope, not even my Himalayan bones can handle that wind or weather.
There is nothing more that I miss more about India than it’s weather and food. Nothing. I have written tips on how to survive the German winter.
Health Insurance is a real thing
The one thing that is definitely amazing in Germany is how holistic and efficient the health insurance is. Doctors are scarce and appointments take as long as everything else in Germany, but once you get there it’s all smooth sailing. Except for cosmetic surgeries/medicines, and exceptional health incidents you are covered for pretty much everything. However, you pay a lot for this system to work as well. As a student you end up paying a subsidized €90-100/month depending on your provider. As a full-time worker, you end up paying about 14.6% of your salary (split 50-50 between you and your employer), which is frankly quite a lot. My friends in Canada tell me a different story, with a much lower overhead on insurance, but well. You cannot have everything.
Personal Time is Sacred
If you want to call/text/email people on weekends who are not your close friends or team-mates, do not expect a timely response. Personal time is exactly that. Personal. For one’s own self. This is perhaps one of my favorite things about living in Germany that you can just take time for yourself, and absolutely no one would judge you on that. This doesn’t mean you fall off the wagon and disappear from work for a month without informing anyone. But pre-decided free time, is free time. No one should bother you during the same unless there is an emergency. Expect to be mostly undisturbed before and after you leave work, weekends and holidays.
Apart from this you can find, some of my personal commandments of living in Germany also highly helpful. I moved here a year and half ago and I am not going back anytime soon.