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As some of you may be familiar, I started my blogging journey as ‘Indian Girl in Germany’ to document what moving to Germany from India would feel like, and after spending a year on that story, I have since then evolved to narrow my focus to travel and marketing, two things I’m extremely passionate about. That is the blog you’re reading right now.
I am often asked by friends and strangers alike, what are some of the reasons why moving to Germany might not be the right move for you. I cannot say for everyone, as I have spent the majority of my life in India, and hence can only provide a strong comparison of factors that I think may sway your decision in a critical manner.
I have talked about some harsh truths of living abroad and why it is not for everyone here, but in this write up I’d focus on why moving to Germany from India in particular may not be the best decision for you.
#1 Do not move if you cannot survive without Indian Food.
I have lived in Germany for about two years now, and I still cannot get over the fact that I do not have access to good Indian food on a regular basis. I think growing up in India spoils you forever, especially because no amount of amazing exotic food in the world will ever replace your favourites back home. You will struggle to find the same in Germany, and even if you live in big cities such as Berlin or Munich, finding a restaurant that fits your budget and has an authentic taste and stocks your favourites is still quite a substantial task.
I live in a city of about half a million. I have found exactly 1 Indian restaurant out of the maybe 5 or 10 that exist, that comes closest to what I would say Indian food tastes like, and even that not always so. Indian or Asian stores may stock up on some ingredients, but definitely not all, and since I do not love cooking, I still find it hard to encourage myself to prepare a two hour dish from scratch except on weekends or when I host a dinner.
#2 Do not move if you need to see your family once every month or quarter.
Moving abroad long-term is not for the faint hearted. If you’re lucky, you’d be able to see your family and friends twice a year, but more often than not it would be once a year or even once in two years. I spend an average of €1500 each time I fly back home and each time feels shorter than the last due to clashing schedules, limited holidays, and the fact that your family and friends will have a differently evolving life too.
I have lived in 4 countries and moved across 8 cities in the last 5 years, thus making me a bit more accustomed to going long periods without seeing my loved ones. The longest has been a year, and let me tell you it was one hell of a long god damn year.
You will also realise that each time you go back, a lot has changed. Some friendships and relationships will evolve and grow stronger, some will get weaker with time passing and some people will just disappear forever. This is not only a growing up phenomenon, but hits twice as hard once you have lived abroad a considerable time. After all, even if the time zone didn’t create a pain in the ass, you still are only 1 person and how many people can you realistically stay in touch with?
Germany is not a community centric country and you will find it very hard to crack into existing friend circles or groups, except when it is other international expats. Germans are not known to include you in their circle easily and even if so, do not expect the friendships to play out the same way as they do in India. It will take time, effort and significant understanding to build friendships here, and if you only move for work you will find it much harder to make friends.
Make sure you are prepared to be alone a lot and often and know how to deal with that.
#3 Do not move if you are not able to or not willing to learn German.
I felt the same way when I arrived to Germany while going for lunch with German colleagues as I did in Kerala with my Malayali colleagues. LOST and LONELY.
I do not understand some people who decide they would like to stay in a new country for 5 or 10 years or even forever, and make no effort what soever to pick up the language besides basics. No one expects foreigners to speak at a native or fluent level, but even if you can participate in basic discussions, you would be much appreciated and integrate much faster in a new country. This is no more true for Germany as it is for anyone in India who ever moves to a state where the majority speak a language you don’t.
Thankfully, for me I really do like the language and even if I find one hour in a week, I take the time to speak or learn German. I never thought what my proficiency level was as I haven’t taken classes for more than 2 semesters due to lack of time, and I still cannot respond as fast as I could in English or Hindi, but if I am able to sit at an all German speaking table and follow 80% of the conversation, that is enough.
Why move abroad at all if you are not willing to put the effort to pick up the local language?
#4 Do not move if you have never lived alone for longer than 6 months by yourself.
As said in my article on how living in Germany changed me.
Do not think of moving to Germany from India if you have never previously lived by yourself in a new city or country before for a period as long as at least 6 months. The reason I say this, is because going to student exchange for 3 or 4 months or even an internship all alone is NOT the same as long term living abroad.
You will find yourself with no one to depend on but yourself.
Want to go to the doctor? Go alone.
Want to get groceries? Go alone.
Want to travel on the weekend? Go alone.
Want to buy furniture for your apartment? Go alone.
You get the drift. Of course at some point you can take the help of new friends, but until that time you will have to do EVERYTHING alone. Even when you do have friends, not everyone will be willing to or able to help you the exact time you need help. Hiring people to help you move or relocate is expensive and you will not be able to do that on a monthly basis.
Prepare to do all the heavy lifting (quite literally) by yourself.
#5 Do not move if you cannot survive harsh and long winters.
Last year, I swear on all gods, I was SO unbelievably frustrated that the winter will just never end. For me, even autumn feels like winter as that’s how cold my hometown in India gets during the winter.
Prepare to embrace cold, dark, wearing 5 layers of clothes for longer than 6 months winter. The period of October until March will be COLD. Unless you are from the greater Himalaya region in India, you will feel it. And it won’t be pleasant.
The upside is that houses have central heating so only going out is a challenge. The downside is that when you go back to India in winter you will be freezing indoors big time. Well, you give some, you get some.
#6 Do not move if you cannot deal with the uncertainty of being jobless.
There are many reasons why you would like to move to Germany, and one of them could be with looking for a job or moving for one.
In either of those siuations, you still have to be comfortable with the idea that you may not find anything in the given period of time (normally 6 months with a job seeker visa and 18 months for German university international graduates). That period of time will suck up significant time, financial and emotional resources.
This uncertainty should in no way be taken lightly. When you look for a job in Germany, you are competing with the whole of EU as well as non-EU prospective applicants, with a non EU prospect having significant language and bureaucratic barriers.
If you’d like to find out more about how life in Germany could be, here’s my favourite go-to website: The German Way.
#7 Do not move if you do not have a back up financial plan in place.
Going on the reason above, moving to Germany from India whether for studies or work, you need to have a backup plan in place. Flat deposits, furniture, driver’s license costs and many other expat related expenditures can add up real fast. The bare minimum expected from the German embassy doesn’t even begin to cover these expenses.
If I would plan on moving to Germany from India, I would definitely have an emergency financial fund for 4-5 months of unforeseen expenditures OVER and above the bare minimum you need to show for your visa.
#8 Do not move if you cannot deal with the German speed of doing things.
I used to think Indian bureaucracy and red tape was slow and inefficient. While the German counterparts are way more efficient on average, they are even slower than Indian bureaucrats.
Opening a bank account and getting a card that you can actually use may take a month, if not more. Usual communication takes 1-2 weeks with any government organisation and if you have an urgent paperwork to take care of, start applying and sending your forms at least 4-6 weeks ago.
Everything is very SLOW and THOROUGH. Make sure you are prepared to deal with this struggle. Even if you find a job, it may take another few months until you receive your work-permit which can be a frustrating ordeal for people who are used to fast moving bureaucracy. Germany is not that country.
#9 Do not move if you cannot handle household work.
I leave the most important for the last. Expats who move from a developing country to a developed country are often used to having a lot of help with domestic helpers in their native countries. This is definitely NOT going to be the case in Germany.
If you are moving to Germany from India, you know exactly what I am talking about. You will have to take ownership of buying your own groceries, cleaning your own house, cooking your own food, taking out your own trash, building your own furniture, moving your own stuff and doing everything else related to your house by yourself. Prepare, understand and accept this truth if you plan to move to not have bad surprises or undue stress later.
With that said, I have learnt, experienced and grown so much from my experience of moving to Germany from India, and I would have it no other way. I just wish some one told me all of these things to make me more prepared for the biggest (literal) move of my life!