When Sven and I first decided that I would move back to Germany with him, most of my thoughts on the topic were super idealistic. But reality set in quickly after I began thinking about the details.
The process of deciding to quit my job, part with 80% of my belongings, say goodbye to my family and friends, and basically uproot my entire life was challenging by itself. Actually doing all of those things wasn’t easy either.
But with a lot of planning, embracing a jam-packed schedule, and coping with a little bit of stress, I managed to get myself to the other side of the ocean without having a nervous breakdown. Now that I’ve arrived, I’ve realized that getting to Germany was really only the first leg of the journey. Moving is one thing, but settling into a new country comes with its own set of challenges. In general, things have gone really well for us. But as with any major life event, there have been a few unforeseen woes amidst the exhilaration of change.
It’s been almost a month since I arrived on a one-way ticket. Things have been coming together quickly I feel. I’ve become a registered resident of Hamburg (a “Hamburger”) and have received my Meldebestätigung (a very important document you’ll need if you ever move to Germany ). I’ve also been assigned a tax identification number, registered for a bank account (with N26), setup a German phone number (and finally got it working!), signed up for German language classes (with the Deutsch Akademie), joined a sports club, and received the huge shipment of all my belongings (handled by UPakWeShip).
Considering that we had the Holiday Season and a trip to Greece sandwiched between my arrival and now, I think it has been a relatively smooth transition.
Yesterday, I picked up a bike – my new primary means of transportation. In two months from now, I’ll (hopefully) be granted my freelance visa. And half a year after intensive studying, I’ll (hopefully) be semi-fluent in German. At least these are the things that I expect will happen. But as I’ve discovered, there are bound to be several unexpected aspects. So today, I thought I would share a few that I’ve already encountered since my move.
Three Things I’ve Learned Since Moving To A New Country
When I first sat down to write this post, the original title was “Three Things I’ve Learned Since Moving To Germany“. After going through my list however, I feel like these things are applicable regardless of where you move. Especially if it’s a transoceanic move.
– 1 –
Daily tasks require more capacity.
When you move to a new country, everything is a little bit different. Things that would normally be second-nature require more of your mental capacity. As you adjust to new norms, daily tasks such as paying the cashier, checking the temperature outside, ordering a coffee, and even walking down the sideway (and remembering not to stand in the bike lane) demand a little bit more from your brain then normal. Everyday is a continuous learning experience and acclimating takes time.
Simple tasks can be super draining at first. You might need to adjust your self-expectation levels in the beginning until you get the hang of everyday stuff. You might reach your daily limit a lot early than you’re used to. This is ok and this is normal. Give yourself more time, try to get some extra rest, and don’t be too hard on yourself.
– 2 –
Not speaking the language is very difficult.
Moving to a new country and not understanding the language is overwhelming, exhausting, and isolating. It’s easy to feel alone, even in a room full of people, when you can’t understand the conversation. It’s frustrating to not be able to express your needs. It’s embarrassing to always have to ask, “Is English ok?” when you’re out running errands and need some assistance. It’s fatiguing to be the only non-German speaker in a group of people who are all speaking English simply for your sake.
Existing in a world where everyone around you adjusts to make up for your inability is emotionally overwhelming. On one hand, you’re filled with feelings of appreciation and relief (I’m thankful everyday that Sven comes from a country where most of the people speak my native language). On the other hand, it’s hard to not feel bad about yourself. You feel needy, you feel incompetent, you feel like an outsider – no matter how nice and accommodating people are. It’s a hard situation to navigate through. But remember, you’re not the first person to be in this situation. With time and a lot of practice, words and understanding will come to you. (I remind myself this ten times a day!)
– 3 –
A new environment can make you feel like a new person.
Or maybe you just discover more about who you really are when your environment changes. Everyday is a opportunity to learn something entirely new about yourself. You become more aware of your needs and your limits when everything you’ve grown accustom is suddenly different. Some discoveries can be surprisingly positive; others can be shockingly negative.
You learn about your ability to cope with stress when you step out of your comfort zone. You discover a new appreciation for things which you might have taken for granted when they are no longer present in your life. In the same way, you develop a value for the newly discovered aspects of life you weren’t aware of until now. It feels a little bit like growing up again. What’s even more exciting is that you have an opportunity to leave your negative attributes behind. You become a new person by default as a response to the change, and you have a chance to reimagine the type of person you want to become. Everyday there’s something new to discover, and you yourself are no exception.
As Sven and I navigate through this new season of life together, I hope to continue sharing some of the personal details. I myself have gained so much value and insight from other individuals who have shared their similar journeys of an international move on the internet. As a blogger, I also want to contribute my experience in hopes that I can pass on some helpful insight or tips on the matter.
All the best,