Ten Tips on How to Painlessly Relocate to Germany

Have you ever thought of moving overseas? And ask yourself: how to relocate to a new country such as Germany? Is it easy? What do you need to do and to bring with you?

Using my own experience in relocating to Germany, I give you ten tips to answer these questions. Including recommendations as to what you will need to do before leaving your own country and once you arrive in the beautiful green Germany.

1) Residence Permit (visa) versus Tourist Visa

The first question you must ask yourself is how long do you want to stay in Germany: is it a short stay? Less than 3 months? Or a rather long one? If you decided to stay more than 3 months, then you will need a residence permit (visa). Why? Because your tourist visa is good only for 3 months.

2) How to get the Residence Permit?

After you have arrived in Germany, you have three months to get your residence permit. The documents you will need are the following:

-valid passport, one per person -proof that you have a place to live -proof that you can support yourself and your family (if applicable) financially -proof of health insurance -proof of marriage (if applicable) -Medelschein -sometime, birth certificate (specially for the children) -pet’s passport and vaccine certificate

Have these documents with you on your arrival; DON’T packed them in a suitcase or in a box “somewhere”. I must insist on the fact that these documents need to be the original ones.

3) What is the Medelschein?

It is a document that shows that you are registered at the city hall. You have to go to the city hall of your place of residence to get it. It is usually very easy and fast to get: you’ll need your passport and a proof of where you stay. You need to bring this document along when asking for a residence permit.

4) What to bring?

If you are relocating to Germany for many months, you will no doubt want to bring clothing and other personal items with you. Basically, bring with you what you think will be difficult to find oversea (such as peanut butter and maple syrup!). But remember, Germany is a very civilize country and being more of less in the center of Europe, it is very easy to go from there to just about anywhere else on the continent!

Also, take in consideration that it will take weeks for your belongings to arrive if you ship them overseas. So, better to ship them ahead of time and keep a good quantity of clothing and necessary items to bring with you on the plane.

5) Learning some German

Before leaving your country, you might want to learn a bit of German. Indeed, it is NOT in our experience that English is being spoken everywhere in Germany or in the rest of Europe for that matter. On the contrary, outside of big touristic cities such as Frankfurt and Berlin, few people do speak it. They might understand it, but with difficulty. So, if you’re here for the long run, better take a course or two.

6) German culture

While learning the language, why not try to find more information about the country and its culture? Germans, like everyone else, have their own way of doing things and it would make it easier on you to know a bit about them before coming. The link below takes you to a web-site where you can find all kind of info about the country and its people.

7) Your new house in Germany.

What are you looking for? A house? A condo? An apartment?

In the city? Or in the country side? Don’t forget that in Germany, public transport is very efficient and goes just about everywhere, even in small towns, and that housing outside big city center is less expensive.

You may want to start looking before coming, as vacancies are limited in European cities in general. There are many agencies that offer to help you find a place to stay, but they do charge a fee to the owner as well as the tenant.

Another important point about is housing furnished versus unfurnished. You see, in Germany they really mean unfurnished. That is: there is no furniture of any kind. Not even a bathtub or a toilet in some cases and certainly no kitchen closets and counters. Nothing.

So, unless you’re there for quite some time and like renovating, you might want to look for furnished.

8) Bank

As you can not pay your bills with checks (they don’t accept checks anywhere), you will need to open a bank account to transfer money from this account to the companies from which you buy services. It is relatively easy and straight forward. There are many kind of bank transfers and if you are interested to learn more about this issue go to banks on the link below.

9) Pets

Although there is no longer a quarantine require when bringing your pet to Europe, there are certain rules to follow.

Your dog or cat most have had its vaccines against rabies at least 30 days before departure and NO more than 12 months before entering German territory. You will of course need proof of all vaccinations, to be presented at the border on your arrival. So, best to have them with you at all time during the trip. Another important point: Pets in Europe must now have an identification number, either as a tattoo that can be easily seen or as a microchip and their own passport issued by a vet.

10) Shops and business hours

Most stores (including pharmacies) are closed from Saturday afternoon 1 or 2 p.m., until Monday morning in Germany. So, if you arrive on a Saturday, you might have to eat at the restaurant for the next two days. Which is a good way to explore your surroundings in search of a different restaurant each meal!

Welcome to Germany! Willkommen!

Deciding to Relocate – Some Tips With the Tough Decisions

When making the decision to relocate, there are many complicated factors to consider. You may be leaving friends, family, and a job you love behind. You could be moving from a big city to the suburbs, or countryside and encounter a new world you’re vastly unfamiliar with. Maybe you’re married, and this seems like a great move for your spouse, but you’re wondering what’s the benefit for you, besides accompanying your spouse?

As you struggle with the decision of whether to move, or, perhaps it’s why to move, I’d like to offer a great resource I’ve found when it comes to making big decisions. Debbie Ford, a Life Coach, wrote a great book called,”The Right Questions”. It offers some excellent strategies that can help with these decisions. (Note: I do not know Debbie or get any proceeds from her book! This is just an honest review of a book I’ve found excellent in trying times, and one that I’d like to recommend to you!) And, generally speaking, this is an excellent book if you’re not good at making decisions, or are confronted with a very difficult one and need some help.

In a nutshell, Ms. Ford suggests approaching difficult decisions with a core set of questions. I’ve summarized the ones I feel are most relevant to a relocation, but her book suggests a few others you might also find of use. I’ll distinguish between the “Expat” and “Trailing Spouse” where necessary.

1. Will this help me reach the future I am wishing for, or does it leave me stuck in the past? In other words – if you have a goal for yourself, or your family, will this move help bring you towards that goal, or, can you work together to create a new, joint goal for your family? This one is great to ask together, as a family, and also individually. Ms. Ford makes the point that decisions based on fear keep you rooted in the past, whereas those that you make to support your dreams give you a sense of empowerment.

2. Will this decision bring you long term fulfillment, or short-term gratification? Expat – does this move create a long-term, enriching experience for you (and your family) or is it something you’ll tire of after a few months? Trailing Spouse – consider the scenarios of going, and staying. Even if you have a great job that you’re giving up, is that job giving you enough satisfaction and money that you want to stay – or could there be new opportunity for you someplace else, if you were willing to try?

3. Am I doing what’s best for me, or trying to please someone else? Expat – do you really want or need this move (in a rough economy, the financial aspects may, of course, be the deciding factor) or are you doing this to please your boss or someone else? Trailing Spouse – are you saying “yes” to please your spouse, or “no” to please your friends and family? You may have a tougher time figuring out your own thoughts on this one, if you find yourself pulled in different directions by different family members. If that’s the case, take some time alone to devote to figuring out what is best for YOU in spite of what’s best for anyone else. Of course, you want to consider your goals, as well as those of your spouse/children in the process, but hearing your own voice amid all the others is key.

4. Am I seeing what’s right, or trying to figure out what’s wrong? Expat – when you get the opportunity, if you considered all the downsides, have you also considered the positive aspects of this move? For example, maybe there’s better education opportunities for your kids, or if you don’t know whether you can return to your present job after the Expat experience, maybe there’s opportunity for a new career path. Trailing Spouse – are you thinking only of everything you have to give up in this move, or have you considered the opportunities that could open up, and where those might take you?

5. Does this choice excite me, or deplete me of energy? This is a great piece to tune into – if you’ve made the decision to go, and feel excited, even though you have some fears and doubts, then you know you’re headed in the right direction. If however, the decision to stay/leave causes you to end up feeling drained, exhausted, and frustrated, it may be an indicator that something deeper than your conscious thoughts is calling for your attention.

6. Will this help me grow as a person, or will I use it as a way to beat myself up? This question is especially relevant if you decided to relocate and you end up disappointed. As the Expat, perhaps you end up disappointed with the work experience. As the trailing spouse, perhaps you don’t find the opportunities you thought you would. So, you have the choice, at that point, to beat yourself up, blame yourself for making a lousy decision, and either turn back, or be miserable. OR, you can accept that the experience didn’t turn out how you expected, and it’s not your fault. Then, you can decide whether to give up, or, truly take a look at the experience and decide if there’s something you can do to make it more joyful. Knowing that you hold the keys to your own empowerment allows you create the outcome you want, and that will make you truly happy.

7. Is this an act of faith, or an act of fear? This is so important, and really the core message of your decision. The choice to stay, or remain, will no doubt bring up fears, as change often does. It may bring up excitement, too. However, at the end of the day, if you choose to take, or turn down, this relocation opportunity out of fear, you will end up dis-empowered, and perhaps sabotage the experience. If, however, you act from faith, knowing and accepting that there may be hard times, you will open doors for yourself, and know that, even in the low moments, you’ll find a way forward.

Of course, there’s many points to consider beyond this such as education, health care, bureaucracy, cost of living, etc. But I offer you these excellent thinking points from which to start your decision process. I think the main benefit of asking these questions is that you get to realize this is a conscious decision, made by you. This in turn empowers you to take responsibility to make the experience the best it can be, even in the rough spots.

If you found these tips helpful, you might want to take a look at “The Right Questions” to learn more about this questioning process. You may also enjoy the tips and strategies about relocating successfully, offered in my How To Feel at Home Anywhere in the World report, and mp3 affirmation file available at culturetransition.com.