When you don’t mind German bureaucracy
Needless to say, German bureaucracy is notorious for being complicated. This means though that it's a victory in itself when you not only conquer it, but actually come to enjoy it.
Natalie Gorelova told The Local this moment came when the foreigners’ registration office accepted her work visa documents.
“Bureaucracy is tedious in Germany but if you do everything right, you’ll eventually get there,” the 32-year-old Berlin resident said.
Dealing with the German authorities was a “relief” compared to the nerve-racking experiences she’d had in countries like China and Russia where there was “very little clarity and guidelines” and a lot of money involved regarding visas.
“I liked the structure; it made me comfortable and I knew I’d be in for the long run,” Gorelova added.
When you feel at home in a particular German city
Anand Raj says he hasn't had a eureka moment when he knew he’d settle in Germany per se, but since he moved to Düsseldorf in 2014, he hasn’t felt the need to pack his bags anytime soon.
“The city has a nice flair to it that I love and makes me feel at home,” Raj told The Local, adding that there are a lot of interesting events and tons of authentic restaurants by the river Rhine.
“It’s not humungous or crowded with tourists like how it is in big cities like Berlin,” he added.
Pedestrians and cyclists relaxing by the river Rhine in Düsseldorf. Photo: DPA
…or just in Germany in general
When Nitro Biedermann made the move to Germany from the US over five years ago, he immediately sensed he would be staying for good.
“When I first arrived, it was different but in a good way. It just felt like home even though I'd never been to Germany before,” Biedermann said.
Ramon D'Avila similarly had no idea he would end up staying here for as long as he has. Like many other foreigners, his initial reasons for moving to Germany were practical; he was enticed by the prospect of a higher income compared to elsewhere.
But D'Avila says what's kept him here is likely “familiarity with the language and culture.”
When you start thinking and dreaming in German
As many newcomers who move to Germany can’t yet speak the local language, after investing time and effort into learning it, the feeling of getting closer and closer to being fluent can feel like quite an achievement.
After overcoming this hurdle, thinking or even having dreams in the German language is a clear sign for some that they’re in the Bundesrepublik for the long term.
When you feel ashamed for not adhering to social norms
It often takes a bit of time for foreigners to remember to return empty bottles to the supermarket in order to get money back for it – known as the German “Pfand” system.
Then there are others, like Munich-based Ciaran Fleck, who at one point realize they'll probably be sticking around for a while because they are so used to certain aspects of German society.
For Fleck, the mere act of having to ditch a Pfand bottle in certain circumstances is “shameful.”
“I also get the feeling of shame when I don’t go to the supermarket with my own bags,” he said.
When you get German citizenship
Another definite indicator that people are here to stay is when they successfully apply for German citizenship.
This is particularly true for those from certain countries, like Greg Larsen, who have to renounce their original citizenship in order to obtain a German passport. Larsen says his eureka moment came precisely when he made the decision to renounce his American citizenship.
“Most people who have kids want stability; once you have school-aged children and settle down, you’re not likely to move again,” Clermont said, adding that expat friends of hers with kids who left Germany ended up coming back.
When you realize how great the social system is
In terms of its social system, Germany stacks up much better compared to other countries; some readers, including Tracy McGhee Moede, have told us that their eureka moment came when they realized this.
“Due to pre-existing conditions, I would never be able to have health insurance at a price I could afford” back home in the US, Moede said. This was the moment she realized she wasn't leaving Deutschland anytime soon.