Starting over – a new beginning in Germany
As an American, I grew up hearing stories about how families left everything behind from overseas for a better life in the States. Never would I have imagined, I would do the same thing as my 10th great-grandmother did when she left Germany to move to the United States.
In 2019, I started researching and planning on how to relocate as an expat to a different country where I felt my family would be safer. Grab a cup of coffee or tea and join me as I explain how my family of 3 sold almost everything and left on a one-way flight to Frankfurt with only our luggage.
How did I get to this point?
In 2018, I left my job as a children’s librarian to stay home with my son and start finding a way out of Texas. At first, we started looking at other states, like Colorado, to find a more open-minded place to call home. I landed an interview at a public library attached to a high school. I was so excited – until the library manager talked with me about school lockdowns and the need for active shooter training. I had already attended this kind of training twice for the previous libraries I worked at. My resume even listed active shooter training under the training section.
At this point in the interview, I really realized that it wasn’t just Texas that had a problem with guns- it was a nationwide problem. So I started to research countries to move to where we could raise our son without having to worry as much about the idea that he might not come home from school. At the time, he was 4 and wouldn’t start kindergarten for another year. I spent many long hours researching our options. There were countless sleepless nights and an immeasurable amount of stress.
To be honest, reading and trying to understand how to get into countries as an expat was extremely overwhelming as there were so many different clauses and rules that I did not always understand, and I was often unsure if these countries were the right fit for our family.
At first, it was really important to move to a country where English was the first language spoken – or at least commonly spoken by locals. Somehow each of those options did not pan out for us, so we had to broaden our criteria for where we would choose to relocate.
Germany became an option when we discovered how as a culture they raise their children to be independent, mass shootings are few and far between, we would no longer have to worry about going into debt for an emergency visit to the hospital, the work-life balance is significantly better compared to the US, the cost of living was cheaper than what we had to deal with in the States.
How did we do it?
I often hear from people in the States who want to relocate to another country, but they can’t because they have too much debt and can’t afford to leave. Yes, I will admit a move overseas is not cheap, but it is possible. I get a lot of questions asking how we did it. So, today, I wanted to share just how we did it.
I can thank Marie Kondo for this process. I used to hold onto everything. In this process, I really had to let go. We sold almost everything. After selling our car and almost everything we owned – we put a few things, like family heirlooms and furniture, in a small storage unit to ship over when we were settled in. We did all of this in 7 months, and we made around $15,000 dollars from selling our stuff. Clearly, this was very helpful in covering the costs to relocate to Germany.
During this time, we also had to understand what processes we would need to go through when we arrived. We had to plan our budget, figure out freelancing in Germany, find work, learn the language a little, find a place to stay when we arrived, and understand the German school system. I have to be honest, it helped having someone in Germany to help with navigating all of this.
The only thing I could think of during all of this was the worst thing that could happen would be arriving and things not working and we would have to return. We had 90 days to stay in Germany before we needed a residence permit, so in some ways, it helped me to see it as a test run during a long vacation. It was really hard to say goodbye to our family and friends, but we put all of our cards on the table and took the leap. It helped to know we had a backup plan for returning to the States if things did not work out.
2 years later…
It has not been all cupcakes and rainbows since we arrived. We had a lot to adjust to here. Learning the language has been challenging, and understanding the complexity of the bureaucracy has taken a bit of patience. But, overall, our new life in Germany has brought many positive changes.
The top one for me is how the quality of life changed for our son. I stopped feeling the need to be a helicopter mom here, and I quickly saw just how much more he was able to thrive here. In Germany, it is very common for young children to walk alone to school or go with friends to play on their way home from school. Now, he is more independent and he gets to explore the world more freely.
I also got to experience what it is like to have a medical emergency and not go into debt for a hospital stay when I had to have emergency surgery and stay 3 nights in the hospital. I was shocked when the medical bill came in from the hospital and I only had to pay 10€ per night! You read that right! After surgery and a hospital stay – I only had to pay 30€! This would have cost thousands of dollars in the States!
I have also been able to travel throughout Germany without breaking the bank, and I really loved being able to go see where my family lived before they sold everything to look for a better life in America. For me, it is somehow poetic how things have come full circle 10 generations later – my family left almost everything behind to move to Germany for a better life. There is not one doubt in my mind that coming to Germany has been life-changing in a very good way. I look forward to becoming more integrated and hope to eventually own a German passport.
Sometimes it helps if you have someone on the other side of the pond helping you navigate the ins and outs of immigrating to Germany. We can help you in your journey here at relocation consulting so that you thrive in Germany! We know firsthand what it is like to go through hurdles to make magic happen. A simple call with us could be the very step you need to take to start your journey. We can answer your questions about visa and residence permits, vocational training, studying in Germany, freelancing or starting your business in Germany, schools, and housing.
Leaving everything behind can be a scary and uncertain process, but it can also be an opportunity for growth and self-discovery. By embracing the unknown and taking a leap of faith, we may find a new sense of purpose and direction in life.