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LOVE

Looking to move to Germany for love? A few things to consider first.

After nearly twenty years living in Germany, marriage to a German, three children and a separation from the-said German later, there are some things I would definitely do differently if I knew then what I know now.

Looking to move to Germany for love? A few things to consider first.
Photo: Depositphotos/Maridav

And from my diverse group of expat friends in bi-cultural relationships, whether they have stayed with their partners or decided to go their separate ways, we have all travelled along the same rocky roads.

Being in a bi-cultural relationship on your partner’s turf is like being on a safari. It’s a thrilling and unique experience, but it gets you close up to life-altering encounters that can scare you to death.

SEE ALSO: Love in Germany: 1.5 million relationships are between a local and foreigner

The prospect of moving half way across the world for love, especially when you are in your twenties, seems romantic and exciting. The differences in culture, through the filter of love-tinted glasses, seem intriguing. But even if you have a fantastic relationship, it will stand numerous tests over the course of time you make Germany your home.

Here are a few pieces of advice I can offer for what to consider when moving to Germany for love:

Make sure you have some form of employment. Even if your partner has money or you came with savings, it is essential to have your own income source. You don’t have to work 40 hours per week, but you can find yourself quickly growing dependent on your partner when you have to rely on him or her for everything.  

If you can’t find a job, volunteer. Set up a schedule so that you have a balance for when your partner is working. Dependency, in the long term, can become a strain on the relationship. This has come up time and again over wine-commiserating sessions amongst ex-pats.

Learn the language ASAP, but do not change the language in your relationship. To understand Germans and the way they think, you have to understand the way they structure a sentence. Understanding the German language, its structure, and its idioms not only help you get into the German psyche but also creates a bridge to your future in-laws.

Speaking German, even if you speak to your partner in English (which I would strongly recommend, if it is the language you fell in love in), is another way to keep you from growing too dependent on your partner. You might feel inarticulate or people might treat you like you are deaf or of low intelligence (at least at first), but you have to get the language if you don’t want your partner to become your interpreter.

SEE ALSO: 10 reasons why you should date (or even fall in love with) a German

Integrate but by no means assimilate! As we have been seeing in recent headlines, some Germans think there is one way to fit in. With the influx of refugees in 2015, many Germans (not just the far right) have felt like their cultural traditions are being threatened. The country is growing not just in number but in diversity, and Germany is currently experiencing growing pains.

That said, do make new German friends but make sure you have some expats to be able to express yourself in your own language and with someone who speaks your mother tongue at the same level of fluency. Adopt German recipes from your new or soon-to-be mother-in-law but make sure you never forget to cook your comfort foods. Read German authors but keep abreast of the new writers and films from your own country.

Touch base at home as often as you can. Adjusting to a new culture is difficult for an individual, let alone in a relationship. According to experts, like anthropologist Kalervo Oberg, there are four stages of cultural integration for ex-pats/migrants/immigrants:

1) The honeymoon phase (initial excitement/euphoria of the newness of it all

2) Culture shock (when you start focusing on the differences and what you hate about them, they are no longer cute or funny)

3) Gradual adjustment (your sense of humour comes back, you gain some perspective and don’t feel so threatened)

4) Adaptation (you start to feel comfortable here, and even your home country starts to feel different)

I did not think about this then, but my soon-to-be German husband was not going through these phases with me. He was just in love, in his country, speaking his language, and living in his familiar culture.

In other words, when you move to another country for love, you are not on the same level as your partner. You cannot express yourself on a daily basis as readily as your partner can. If you eventually have children, you are raising them in country where you were never a child yourself. A supportive and loving relationship should be able to overcome these hurdles, but it is important to acknowledge them, because rarely do they simply go away.

Loving a person from another culture is a wonderful opportunity to step outside of your comfort zone and learn about a new side of yourself. But remember: to thine own self be true. Because once you are no longer at the stage of wanting to breathe the other person’s air, you are forced to reacquaint yourself with another version of you. And any psychologist will tell you that a healthy partnership needs two strong individuals.

 

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For members

RETIREMENT

Reader question: Can I get a retirement visa for Germany?

Unlike in EU countries such as Portugal or Spain, Germany does not have a visa specifically for pensioners. Yet applying to live in the Bundesrepublik post-retirement is not difficult if you follow these steps.

Reader question: Can I get a retirement visa for Germany?
Two pensioners enjoying a quiet moment in Dresden in August 2020. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Sebastian Kahnert

Due to its quality of life, financial security and health care, Germany snagged the number 10 spot in the 2020 Global Retirement Index. So just how easy is it to plant roots in Deutschland after your retirement?

Applying for a residency permit

As with any non-EU or European Economic Area (EEA) national looking to stay in Germany for longer than a 90-day period, retirees will need to apply for a general resident’s permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) under which it will be possible to select retirement as a category. 

READ ALSO: How does Germany’s pension system measure up worldwide?

This is the same permit for those looking to work and study in Germany – but if you would like to do either after receiving a residency permit, you will need to explicitly change the category of the visa.

Applicants from certain third countries (such as the US, UK, Australia, South Africa, Japan, South Korea, Israel, Canada, and New Zealand) can first come to Germany on a normal tourist visa, and then apply for a residency permit when in the country. 

However, for anyone looking to spend their later years in Germany, it’s still advisable to apply at their home country’s consulate at least three months in advance to avoid any problems while in Germany.

Retirement visas still aren’t as common as employment visas, for example, so there could be a longer processing time. 

What do you need to retire in Germany?

To apply for a retirement visa, you’ll need proof of sufficient savings (through pensions, savings and investments) as well as a valid German health insurance. 

If you have previously worked in Germany for at least five years, you could qualify for Pensioner’s Health Insurance. Otherwise you’ll need to apply for one of the country’s many private health insurance plans. 

Take note, though, that not all are automatically accepted by the Ausländerbehörde (foreigners office), so this is something you’ll need to inquire about before purchasing a plan. 

READ ALSO: The perks of private health insurance for expats in Germany

The decision is still at the discretion of German authorities, and your case could be made stronger for various reasons, such as if you’re joining a family member or are married to a German. Initially retirement visas are usually given out for a year, with the possibility of renewal. 

Once you’ve lived in Germany for at least five full years, you can apply for a permanent residency permit, or a Niederlassungserlaubnis. To receive this, you will have to show at least a basic knowledge of the German language and culture.

READ ALSO: How to secure permanent residency in Germany

Taxation as a pensioner

In the Bundesrepublik, pensions are still listed as taxable income, meaning that you could be paying a hefty amount on the pension from your home country. But this is likely to less in the coming years.

Tax is owed when a pensioner’s total income exceeds the basic tax-free allowance of €9,186 per year, or €764 per month. From 2020 the annual taxable income for pensioners will increase by one percent until 2040 when a full 100 percent of pensions will be taxable.

American retirees in Germany will also still have to file US income taxes, even if they don’t owe any taxes back in the States. 

In the last few years there has been a push around Germany to raise the pension age to 69, up from 65-67, in light of rising lifespans.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Could people in Germany still be working until the age of 68?

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