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MOVING TO GERMANY

The trip back home that helped me put my Berlin woes into perspective

Life moves on without you. This is not a pleasant thing to come to terms with when you move, let alone to another country. But it’s a fact for all of us who have left somewhere and returned to where we came from.

The trip back home that helped me put my Berlin woes into perspective
Glasgow. Photo: DPA

Let’s rewind a few months to when I visited Scotland from Germany in March, desperate for a chippy and the premium experience of staying in a home with a dishwasher and a washing machine.

For the most part, one week in my native country was the perfect break, and I was delighted to be back. I was one plastic cup of wine away from belting out 500 Miles as we flew over my old city of Glasgow.

Yet, the home which existed in my memory was not the one reflected on a quick trip home.

Despite the relatively short amount of time, Glasgow was different. I was entirely out of the loop with new developments in the city, from which new places had opened and which of my beloved haunts had closed.

Sure, these things didn’t affect me; I wasn’t there permanently to feel the impact of a rapidly gentrifying city. But it still made me melancholic to see that I had become simply a visitor.

READ ALSO: Reverse culture shock – the troubles of leaving Germany for home

Then there were the people. Many of them had moved on to pastures new of their own. Whether they were university pals who had new jobs elsewhere or family members juggling their own responsibilities, I couldn’t make plans that smoothly slotted into their lives the way I once did.

More troubling to me was the realization with the same people that many of us had set off on different courses. During one particular catch up, a friend mentioned she had started saving for a house deposit, with a view to becoming engaged soon. With such a prospect so unthinkable to me in my current circumstances in Berlin, it was clear we suddenly had less common ground.

Despite having only relocated a few months prior to visiting, I was baffled by how much life had changed at home, and how I no longer seemed to fit into it.

Such changes that take place while you’re away can feel unsettling, particularly after your first go back. Personally, I was a little disappointed.

But life at home becoming irreversibly different is the inevitable truth which will actually benefit your move abroad. That isn’t to say it doesn’t feel difficult to accept at the time. After all, the difficulties can feel personal, particularly with old friends and family. They all saw your Facebook airport check-in, right?

Yet one of the most positive progressions you can take in your new life is accepting that the life you left behind will never be quite the same. Struggling to adapt to your new surroundings, suspecting that life at home continues to be unflinchingly good without you, probably only makes the situation worse.

In fact, that trip home marked a turning point in my own struggles with adapting to life in Berlin. I love Scotland dearly, but it just wasn’t the same. The trip served as a much-needed reminder to stop pining for my old home and start investing in enjoying my new one.

As I have written before, I struggled with depression when I first moved to the German capital. But when I returned from the UK, I found myself appreciating the parts of Berlin that I’d overlooked. From being able to cycle or rollerblade freely on the streets, to the overall considerably more efficient public transport – that time to experience the less ideal parts of home also gave me a sense of fondness for my new city.

The alcohol licensing laws in Scotland were also a shock to return to (no alcohol can be purchased from supermarkets after 10pm). In Germany, citizens are actually trusted enough to drink their alcohol responsibly at any time of day.

That visit also highlighted just how much German was becoming naturalized into my vocabulary. At the merest touch of shoulders in a cramped train, my first response was a flustered “Entschuldigung!” Is there a better sign that you are more settled in your new country than you realized?

FOR MEMBERS: How German has fuddled up my English (and how I’ve dealt with it)

Besides, Scotland will always be there. That’s why I’m debating making another trip back in the summer (Germany just doesn’t do “chippy chips”). But this time around, I’ll be okay with the fact that the place I left behind won’t be the same one I’m coming back to. It won’t be like old times. But that doesn’t mean it’ll be bad.

After you move abroad, life moves on without you – your friends, family, the street you lived on, the haunts you frequented. And that’s the best outcome you could wish for.

Your life won’t sit at a standstill, restricted of opportunity to evolve and grow. Instead, it’s a sign of the inevitable: life moves onward whether you’re home or away. No matter how your former abode changes in the meantime, your life will no doubt take its own course too.

 

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For members

BREXIT

EXPLAINED: How can Brits visit or move to Germany post-Brexit?

Many Brits may be considering spending time in Germany or even moving for work or to study. Here's a look at the rules.

EXPLAINED: How can Brits visit or move to Germany post-Brexit?

The Brexit transition period ended on January 1st 2021, but it’s been a turbulent few years with Covid-related restrictions, which mean many people may not have travelled abroad since then. Here’s what you should know about the rules for travelling and moving to Germany post-Brexit. 

Can I visit Germany from the UK on holiday?

Absolutely. But you do have to stick to certain rules on how long you can stay in Germany (and other EU countries) without a visa.

“British citizens do not require a visa for the Schengen Member States, if the duration of their stay does not exceed 90 days within any 180-day period,” says the German Missions consular service in the UK. 

You can find a full explanation of the 90-day rule from our sister site, The Local France, HERE, along with the Schengen calculator that allows you to work out your allowance.

READ ALSO: Passport scans and €7 fees: What will change for EU travel in 2022 and 2023

Note that if you were living in Germany before January 1st 2021, different rules apply. People in this scenario should have received a residence permit – known as the Aufenthaltstitel-GB – from the German authorities, which proves their right to remain in Germany with the same rights as they had before Brexit. 

READ ALSO: Reader question: How can I re-enter Germany without my post-Brexit residence card?

Can I move to Germany from the UK after the Brexit transition period?

Yes. But if you are coming to Germany to live and work, you will need to apply for the right documents, like other so-called ‘third country nationals’. All foreigners from outside the EU who want to to stay in Germany for more than three months have to get a residence permit (Aufenthaltstitel). 

As we touched on above, citizens from some countries (including the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, Japan, Israel, New Zealand and Switzerland) are allowed entry into Germany without a visa and can apply for a residence permit while in the country. You can contact the Foreigners Office (Ausländerbehörde) in your area to find out how to get a residence permit.

You’ll need various official documents, such as a valid passport, proof of health insurance and proof that you can support yourself. You usually receive your residence permit as a sticker in your passport.

Passengers wait at Hamburg airport.

Passengers at Hamburg airport. Brits coming to Germany have more things to consider after Brexit. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Markus Scholz

Germany has a well-documented skilled worker shortage at the moment so there are work permit options to consider that may suit your circumstances. 

For the work visa for qualified professionals, for instance, your qualifications have to be either recognised in Germany or comparable to those from a German higher education facility. 

You may also be able to get an EU Blue Card. This residence permit is aimed at attracting and enabling highly qualified third-country nationals to live in the EU. 

It comes with benefits, including the right to to request and bring family members to the country, and shortcuts for applying for permanent residency. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How German citizenship differs from permanent residency

When applying for a Blue Card in Germany this year, you have to earn a minimum gross salary (before tax) of €56,400 – down from €56,800 in 2021. 

In so-called shortage occupations (Mangelberufe), where there is a high number of unfilled positions, the minimum gross salary is €43,992 – down from €44,304 in 2021.

Shortage occupations include employees in the sectors of mathematics, IT, natural sciences, engineering and medicine.

If you want to come to Germany from the UK to study then you also need to apply for a visa. For this you may need proof of acceptance to the university or higher education institution of your choice and possibly proof of your German language skills.

Check out the useful government website Make it in Germany for more detailed information, as well as the German Missions in the UK site, which has lots of info on travel after Brexit, and on visas.  

What else should I know?

The German government plans to reform the immigration system, although it’s not clear at this stage when this will happen. 

It will move to a points-based system, inspired by countries like Canada, where foreigners will have to score above a certain threshold of points to get a residence or work permit.

This scoring system will be set by the government, but it will include factors like language skills, family connections to the country, specific qualifications or work-related skills, or the amount of money in your bank account.

Keep an eye on The Local’s home page for updates on the changes to immigration laws. 

Have you moved to Germany – or are thinking about moving – after the Brexit transition period and want to share your experiences? Please get in touch by emailing [email protected] 

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